Nope, this is not a joke article. On a team that has Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Josh Smith, Atlanta's success in the postseason this year could rest solely on the shoulders of center Jason Collins.
"Certainly you must be kidding," you may say. "He is only averaging two points and two rebounds a game!" But, having seen over 150 Hawks games over the past two and a half years, I think I have a perspective that most people do not.
Most of you probably remember Orlando's historic beat down of the Hawks in last year's playoffs. With Al Horford playing center, there was just no way Atlanta could effectively match up with the Magic. After Hawk's GM Rick Sund failed to sign Shaquille O'Neal or any other big time center in the offseason, it looked like more of the same would continue.
Enter Jason Collins.
Collins only played 115 minutes in the '09-'10 season. He mostly got scrub time or a few minutes when the team was in severe foul trouble. However, when Larry Drew was hired as coach in the offseason, Collins made a commitment to get in better shape and hoped to get more playing time. Thanks to a few injuries, it looks like Jason may have found a permanent spot in the starting lineup.
When Marvin Williams got injured early in the season, Coach Drew decided to experiment with the lineups a bit.
In a game against the previously mentioned Magic, Drew decided to go big and put Collins in to matchup with Dwight Howard. Atlanta lost that game by four points, but was a surprising plus-15 with "Twin" on the floor.
In the next two games that the Hawks had against Orlando, Collins was the starting center again. Atlanta won both of those games, which is a far cry from getting destroyed by 25-plus in the previous postseason.
Ever since Joe Johnson returned from elbow surgery on December 17th, the Hawks are 8-3 with wins vs. Orlando and at Utah. Once Marvin Williams is back from his injuries, I think that the Hawks will have the best lineup they have had ever since the turn of the millennium.
Being able to play Josh Smith at SF and Horford at his natural PF position are huge advantages for Atlanta, and that is before you include having both Jamal Crawford and Marvin Williams available off the bench.
Though Atlanta may not be one of the flashiest teams in the east, it looks like they have solved their biggest matchup problem. Unlike previous years, they will not roll-over in the playoffs and it looks like Jason Collins may be the reason why.
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