The Triple Team: John Collins shed tears, showed true joy in emotional return to Atlanta

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz forward John Collins (20), in Jazz's Feb. 15 game.

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 124-97 loss to the Atlanta Hawks from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. The emotions of John Collins’ return

In the weeks, months, and years to come, I’m not going to remember this game for the forgettable basketball that was played. I’m going to remember it for John Collins’ return to Atlanta.

I asked Collins about the return after Sunday’s game, he said that he was “kind of excited a little bit.” I asked him who he was excited to see, and he said “the old familiar friends, family, you know, people in the arena. Maybe, you know, a couple of staff. Obviously, the players. Nobody or nothing too specific.”

I interpreted this incorrectly. I thought that it meant Collins, who knew so much movement due to his upbringing in a military family, felt blandly positive about his return, but not overwhelmingly so. I thought he was looking at his return as a checkbox to mark off. After all, he said he was “definitely anxious to just get the game started.”


“I was aware it was going to be very emotional for me. I was doing my best to not let it, but it did,” Collins said.

John wept. He cried hours before the game, before he started his warmup — seeing and greeting some arena staffers who were important to him. He elated with sheer joy, meeting his former teammates. Just watching him (the below is a must-watch video) makes you feel something.

John broke out in tears again after the game, reflecting on the path he’s taken. Changing teams, changing homes, has changed him.

“It completely changes how you look at things, the outlook, the perspective you have on basketball. Where you are, what you have. What it’s like somewhere else,” Collins said. “It just give me a lot of perspective, in helping me grow, learning, becoming a better pro.”

And then he concluded his thought: what it is that he learned. “It’s nice to know that what I did worked,” he said.

I’ve been quite critical of Collins this season. The analytics are not friendly towards his contributions to the team. But the man really, really wants to contribute, to play well, to make an impact on and off the court. That desire, and the emotional depth he displayed tonight, makes him really easy to root for — I hope one day Utah fans embrace him to the extent that Atlanta fans have.

2. Starting poorly

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