Hawks’ Collins suspended 25 games without pay for PEDs

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John Collins, Kelly Olynyk

Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins (20) drives to the basket past Miami Heat forward Kelly Olynyk during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

ATLANTA (AP) — Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said the team will support forward John Collins following his suspension for a positive drug test.

Pierce insisted his first concern is helping Collins “get through this, not as a player but as a person,” but the coach likewise acknowledged that Collins let the team down.

“Of course it’s disturbing, that this is something you hope you can prevent, and we hope we can educate him on that, but he made a decision, or someone made a decision and somehow we got to this point,” Pierce said. “It’s our job to get to the information, to keep all our guys from making this decision or being in this position again, but it hurts our team.”

Collins, Atlanta’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, was suspended for 25 games without pay on Tuesday for a violation of the NBA’s anti-drug program after testing positive for a growth hormone.

The NBA announced that the 22-year-old Collins tested positive for Peptide-2. Collins apologized in a statement, saying he was “incredibly frustrated and disappointed in myself for putting all of us in this position,” but that he planned to appeal the suspension.

“I have always been incredibly careful about what I put in my body, but I took a supplement which, unbeknownst to me, had been contaminated with an illegal component,” he said. “I plan to fight my suspension in arbitration so I can get back on the court as soon as possible and continue to contribute to our 2019-20 campaign.”

Pierce spoke with Collins and said it was an emotional conversation. Guard Trae Young, the Hawks’ leading scorer, also checked in with his teammate.

“For me, it’s tough,” Young said. “For the whole team, it’s tough.I just told him I was here for him. I’m here to support him. I feel for my brother. I’ve got his back.”

Collins is the third player to be handed a 25-game suspension for drug violations this season.

The NBA announced Oct. 24 that Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton was suspended after testing positive for a diuretic. On Aug. 29, the league suspended Brooklyn Nets forward Wilson Chandler for testing positive for Ipamorelin, a drug that increases the release of growth hormone.

The suspensions of Ayton and Chandler also are without pay.

Collins’ suspension began Tuesday against San Antonio. He is allowed to practice and travel with the team but must leave the arena at least 2 hours before tipoff, at home and on the road. No jersey hung in his locker before Tuesday’s game.

Pierce said he told the team about the suspension earlier in the day. He added that Collins has not yet addressed the team and might do so at Wednesday’s practice.

Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said the team was “disappointed to learn that John put himself in an unfortunate situation and violated the league’s anti-drug policy.”

The 6-foot-9 Collins is averaging 17 points and 8.8 rebounds per game in his third NBA season. Jabari Parker replaced him in the starting lineup.

“Obviously you want to know why, you want to know how and you want to know what,” Pierce said. “I’m unfamiliar to any of the banned substance things, still don’t really know what it was and what it does. All I know is it’s not supposed to have been taken, and he failed the test, and that’s where the suspension comes.”

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