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Celtics’ Brad Stevens calls John Collins the ‘difference-maker’ for Hawks

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Atlanta Hawks third-year power forward John Collins returned two weeks after serving a 25-game suspension issued by the NBA for violating the league’s performance-enhancement drug policy. In the time back from the suspension, the 22-year-old Wake Forest product has averaged 20.0 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game, shooting 50.7% from the field and making his presence known in four games.

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens called the former nineteen-overall pick from the 2017 NBA Draft a “difference-maker” ahead of the two Eastern Conference clubs’ tilt on Friday night.

Per NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg on Twitter:

“He’s a difference-maker. I think he’s one of the best rollers in the league, if not the best. … Collins is a guy that takes them and puts them at a different level.”

John Collins, who made the All-Rookie Second Team in 2017-18, had a splendid sophomore season last year, averaging a near double-double 19.5 points and 9.8 rebounds a game in 61 appearances. His suspension had derailed what was thought to be an important season in developing chemistry with Hawks rising star point guard and last year’s Rookie of the Year runner-up Trae Young.

Young missed the past two games for the Hawks but returned to face the Celtics alongside Collins on Friday. The 21-year-old ex-Oklahoma Sooner is on track to reach his first All-Star Game selection in 2020 with his high-volume scoring and playmaking despite Atlanta going through a rough patch this season under second-year head coach Lloyd Pierce, going 7-27 entering today’s contest with Boston.