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John Collins provides bright spot for Hawks in loss against Spurs

One of the few positives in what was an ugly game...

Memphis Grizzlies v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks dropped their second game in a row as they fell to the San Antonio Spurs in Utah Summer League 103-81 on Tuesday night.

John Collins led the Hawks with 19 points and seven rebounds while Tyler Dorsey added 14 points. Trae Young scored 12 points.

An awful game and Lloyd Pierce’s sense of urgency

Let’s just say it how it is...

This game was absolutely terrible and I honestly — for the well being of your health and everything you hold near and dear — hope you didn’t watch it.

The Hawks were bad defensively and possibly worse offensively, as Derrick White (who was just toying with the Hawks on his way to 21 points and nine assists) and the Spurs just steamrolled the Hawks very quickly — trailing by as many 29 points in the first half. The Hawks went through a particularly rough patch in the second quarter where they were unable to make a field goal in over eight minutes of play.

They were just a mess on the floor, especially offensively where it was unclear what they were trying to do at times. With the Spurs, you could see what they were looking to accomplish — or, at least it looked somewhat fluid — but the Hawks just looked like they weren’t sure what they were going to do each trip and it looked easy for the Spurs to read it.

The Hawks shot 34% from the field, 21% from three (attempting another 33 of them last night) while allowing the Spurs to shoot over 51% from the field and 43% from behind the arc.

Postgame, Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce said his side lacked a sense of urgency, that his young players want to play at their own pace and that he’ll use all of this as ‘teaching points’ going forward, particularly the urgency his side showed/didn’t show.

“I thought we started off slow again,” said Pierce postgame via the AJC. “The attention to detail, the sense of urgency... We got young guys that all want to come out and play at their pace, and the game doesn’t work that way. For me, it’s all about lessons. There’s a lot of teaching points we’ll get, there’s a lot of teaching points that we’ll use and there’s a lot of teaching points we’ll keep talking about. A sense of urgency is the biggest thing we’re talking about for young guys, the attention to detail. That’s why we started off slowly — it takes a while to kick in and that’s what happened in the third quarter.”

This is all about learning as Pierce said and last night’s game illustrated how far his side needs to come in terms of mental growth as well as basketball growth. And it’s easy to say ‘It’s just Summer League’ but a number of the Hawks’ roster are actually featuring in Utah for Pierce.

Pierce also mentioned that the Hawks have ‘young guys that all want to come out and play at their pace’ which raises a good point. In Summer League you have lots of players who aren’t on a roster who are trying to earn a roster spot — be it with the Hawks or someone else. Some players — both under and not under contract — are coming out and trying to make plays to impress/trying to do too much and it’s detrimental to the team because they’re taken out of their offense somewhat and the right play isn’t always being made, and I thought that was definitely the case at times in this game.

But, yes, an awful game...

John Collins

Second year big-man John Collins — for the second game in a row — enjoyed a strong game as he scored a team-high 19 points while grabbing seven rebounds.

(I’m going to be using parts of this clip going forward here today but time-stamping what I want to show. So, you’re going to see the same thumbnail but when you click the video it’ll jump to what we want to see/what I want to show. #Efficiency.)

The Hawks have been encouraging (and wanting) Collins to expand his offensive game — and we’ve seen him take a few more threes as it is — but the bulk of Collins’ scoring work came in the paint/in the rim.

You can really see both Collins’ experience and skill shine through, and he just looks a cut above the competition.

Here, Collins spins after receiving the entry pass — displaying nice footwork — and positions his body very well to shield himself from the defender for the score at the rim:

Collins was also on-hand often to clean up after his teammates, following home the miss from Trae Young near the rim:

At the end of the second half, Robert Johnson’s perimeter shot is a little short but Collins catches and quickly sticks it back up, and in, as the first half comes to an end:

Johnson returned the favor for Collins salvaging his shot by connecting with him in a pick-and-roll, with Collins finishing the alley-oop:

Here, Collins bullies his way toward the rim using his superior body and then superior skill to finish through the contact for the ‘and-1’:

This next play might be his most encouraging from last night as Collins takes and makes a pull-up jump shot off of the dribble:

You have to love that — you have to love the confidence to take it and then the fact he made it.

More good stuff from Collins off of the dribble as he drives from the three-point line to the rim for the score:

This was a great play and a difficult layup to make as he has to adjust mid-air as well as take the contact.

Collins has been involved in quite a bit of ball-handling situations and making plays off of them — here is one of them as he drives from the three-point line before finding Omari Spellman in the corner for three:

However, Collins was involved in two injury scares this game, the latter coming near the end as he went to literally end another man’s life with a dunk but ended catching a blow to his nose.

Even before yesterday’s game there has been chatter that Collins should be sat for the remainder of Summer League, as he really does look too good for its level of competition and inexperience — last night brought up that question again, especially after he took the blow to the nose.

Postgame, Lloyd Pierce was asked if Collins would continue to play and, while seemingly not answering the question directly, seemed to suggest that perhaps Collins will sit at some point...

While it remains unclear for now if Collins will still play (I’ll be surprised if he features against the Jazz on Thursday) but what is clear is that he has looked great so far.

Trae Young: the bad and the good

After struggling from the field against the Grizzlies, it was another difficult outing for Hawks rookie Trae Young as he scored 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting from the field and 1-of-5 from behind the arc.

The shot selection was a bit better last night from Young — who, again, saw quite a bit of defensive pressure — but still struggled, generally speaking. He took contested shots, he had floaters blocked and floaters fall short.

One bright spot in terms of Young’s own scoring was that he had success at the rim in the second half.

Here, Young gets a great screen from Collins, gets inside and quickly flips up a shot off of the glass and in:

Without the assistance of a screen, Young penetrates, gets to the rim and finishes with a very nifty layup:

In his own half, Young manages to come up with a steal before streaking away to finish at the rim with the layup:

And for one of his best plays of the game, Young drives inside and, somehow, manages to adjust himself to finish at the rim:

“I got into a rhythm finishing,” said Young postgame. “I did pretty well today finishing around the rim...”

All of that aside, Young’s greatest contribution to this game was his passing, which I thought was excellent. Young only finished with three assists but could have easily finished with seven or eight assists — three is not a fair reflection of his passing last night.

On the drive, Young initially loses the ball before reclaiming it and whipping a nice pass to the corner for a three-point attempt by Jaylen Adams that misses:

Off of a miss from Omari Spellman on the tip after a three-point attempt, the ball ends up with Young, who makes a nice, quick pass — showing his awareness of his surroundings — to Antonius Cleveland for a three-point attempt:

As the first half ticked to a close, Young drives inside and kicks the ball out to the perimeter for a three-point attempt which, again, is missed:

In the fourth quarter, Young weaves his way around neatly before finding Spellman, who loses the ball as he winds up for the dunk:

Here, Young comes off of a horns screen, giving him options to either go with the roller in Collins or finding the pop-man in Spellman — which is what Young does in the end and Spellman hits the three:

And finally, coming off of a screen, Young finds the shooter in the corner for a three-pointer with a beautiful pass:

So, you can see that while Young struggled to score himself, he was able to find teammates on a regular basis — like I said, he could’ve easily had seven or eight assists.

This ability to find teammates despite struggling from the field was a theme postgame for both Young and Pierce.

“My main thing right now is to make the right plays,” said Young postgame via the AJC. “As a team (we) aren’t knocking down shots that we are going to eventually hit. I’m excited that we’re getting to looks that we’re getting, we’re just not knocking down shots right now. Eventually it’ll come, and when it does it’ll come fast.”

Young is adamant that the shooting will come as it did in college but is getting used to playing 5-on-5 again, something he hasn’t done frequently since college.

“I’m getting shots I usually hit but it’s just my second game playing five-on-five since college,” said Young. “I’ve got to get it going again. It’s going to come.”

Despite shooting 5-of-16 in this game and 9-of-36 in two games, Pierce says Young isn’t necessarily struggling, instead, simply looking at if he’s making the right plays.

“The shots aren’t falling but I wouldn’t say he’s necessarily struggling,” said Pierce of Young. We charted a lot of things. We are looking at how he is facilitating and getting other guys involved. For me, the biggest thing is: is he making the right plays? There were a ton of possessions last night where he made the right plays. There were ton of possessions tonight where he made the right plays. Shots aren’t falling. We are not going to look at the stat sheet and say he played good or bad. It’s a matter of is he playing the right way, is he doing what we are looking for and is he facilitating and getting his teammates involved? That’s the key component for him.”

Young has obviously seen some defensive pressure early on here and he has a lot to learn about being an NBA point guard, and it was very interesting to hear Lloyd Pierce asking the rhetorical questions — what you do when in those situations as Young has found himself in when it comes to facing pressure? Pierce wants to get as much film as possible throughout Summer League so that the Hawks can teach Young how cope better with the defensive pressure and perform better in it — both for himself and for his teammates.

“I think for us it’s: what can we get on film?” said Pierce. “Last night they were pressuring him full-court, and it’s just ‘How do you create leads? How do you get yourself open? How do you use your teammates and slow the game down so you can use screens?’ Tonight it was similar, ‘How do you play in the half court and get our team organised and structured, and when the shots aren’t falling can we continue to put pressure at the rim?’ We want to be able to get it on film (so) we can educate him and we can watch it and we can learn from it. That’s the biggest we’re getting out of it right now.”

Money quote...

Look, at the end of the day you should not panic when it comes to Young. Yes, in terms of shooting/scoring it hasn’t been the greatest start but he has been able to make an impact in other ways — either with his defense or his passing. I’ve seen the term ‘bust’ thrown out there already and that...that just needs to stop. It’s game two (TWO) of SUMMER LEAGUE.

Even if Young had lit it up thus far, I’d be telling you to temper your expectations — it’s about not getting too high when he does well and not getting too low when he struggles (peaks and valleys), and for now it’s the latter.

Summer League success doesn’t guarantee any future success and neither, to a degree, does it doom you if you’re in a boat like Trae Young is in.

Hey, Glen Rice Jr. won Summer League MVP once upon a time...any guesses where/who he is playing for right now? Caciques de Humacao, who play in Puerto Rico. Otto Porter was bad in his first Summer League, he turned out alright.

So, just stick with it and, for everyone’s sake, don’t overreact to a few games that aren’t going to mean a thing in the very near future...

The Hawks (0-2 in Utah) will wrap up their Utah trip with a game against the hosts themselves — the Jazz — on Thursday night.

Hopefully it’s better than this game...

Until then...