One of the most frequent subjects of NBA trade speculation in recent weeks, Hawks big man John Collins, made it clear on Tuesday that he’d prefer not to join a new team this week, as Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution details.
“I want to stay,” Collins told reporters. “I want my flowers here in Atlanta. I want to be true to Atlanta for my entire career, as corny or cheesy as it may sound to whoever. As a basketball player, as someone who takes pride in their job, me being drafted in the organization, and me living here, becoming a man and living my life in the NBA as a Hawk, it means something to me.
“It might not mean a lot to other people, but I want to be here. I want my future to be here. I want to think about my future here, but as I said, the reality of the situation is it’s not always, stuff doesn’t always go the way I want it to, and all I can do to make sure that my future is as good as it can be is to make sure that I’m the best player I can be, and wake up every day and figure it out.”
Collins and the Hawks discussed a rookie scale extension prior to the season, with Atlanta reportedly offering somewhere in the range of $90MM over four years. The 23-year-old turned down that offer, putting him on track for restricted free agency in 2021, but it sounds like he’s still interested in working out a new long-term with his current club. Collins said last March that he believed he was in “max contract contention,” but he clarified on Tuesday that a maximum-salary offer isn’t all he’ll accept.
“There has never been a single number,” Collins said, per Spencer. “I never said ‘I need a max,’ or I never said ‘I’m only taking a max.’ All I said was I feel like with my play and what I’ve done I feel like I should be in max contention, or I should be in the caliber, realm of guys, who do what I do on the court, and that’s all I said. There was no, ‘Oh, I need a five-year max,’ this and that, I never said any of that.”
If the Hawks believe a rival team will offer Collins a max-salary offer sheet this offseason and they’re wary of matching it, a trade this week would make some sense. But Atlanta has reportedly conveyed to teams inquiring on Collins that they’re comfortable matching any offer for him in free agency. As such, the odds of an in-season trade appear to be declining.
According to Chris Mannix of SI.com, the Hawks don’t seem willing to give up Collins for anything less than a package of young players and draft picks. Mannix adds that rival executives are saying Atlanta isn’t operating like a team eager to move the young power forward, while Collins said on Tuesday that he expects to remain with the Hawks through the deadline.
If the Hawks’ stance changes between now and Thursday afternoon, the Hornets are a team to watch, according to Mannix, who notes that Charlotte could put together a package headlined by Devonte’ Graham and draft picks and would have the flexibility to sign Collins to a lucrative new contract this summer.