2013-14 PLAYER CAPSULES: DARREN COLLISON
Eric Patten, Clippers.com
Over the next few weeks, Clippers.com will take a look back the 2013-14 season for each member of the Clippers’ roster and look forward to the offseason and what may be in store for 2014-15. The next installment in our series of player capsules is guard Darren Collison.
Games the Clippers won in March when Collison started. They went 12-1 overall with Collison next to Chris Paul in the lineup, including wins over the Warriors, Mavericks, Rockets and two over the Suns. Collison averaged 15.5 points, shot 44.7 percent from 3-point range and had 54 total assists (4.2 per game) in his 13-game March span as a combo guard.
Minutes played. It was the fourth time in five seasons that Collison, who has only had a season and a half as a full-time starter, topped 2,000 minutes played. He’s only missed three games in the past two seasons, including two in 2013-14 due to illness. Otherwise, Collison has been as durable as any guard in the league. With the Clippers he played through a painful toe injury for most of January and fought through a number of other ailments during the season.
Points scored in the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Collison led the charge for the Clippers’ Game 4 comeback, which was their best, and arguably most dramatic, of the season. He had a dozen points, missed just two shots, had three rebounds and a plus-14 on-court rating in the fourth quarter alone. It helped the Clippers wipe away an early 22-point deficit and a 16-point deficit with 9:19 to go. Collison scored the first points for the Clippers after Reggie Jackson put the Thunder up 82-66, and added eight of the final 14 to seal the game.
When Collison signed with the Clippers last summer, the move was lauded as one of the best situations possible for both parties. Collison was coming off a disappointing season with the Mavericks and the Clippers needed to replace Eric Bledsoe, who was dealt to the Phoenix as part of the J.J. Redick trade. At the time, Collison said the decision to return to Southern California, a place he grew up and attended UCLA, was more about winning than coming home. It’s fitting then, that Collison helped the Clippers do so much of that.
Collison played 80 games, suiting up for 56 of the Clippers’ franchise-record 57 victories in 2013-14. He played the role of a utility man. He was a starting point guard when Chris Paul went down, a starting shooting guard when Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick went down. He was a combo guard, a backup point guard and helped change the tenor of games as a small-ball guard in a lineup that Doc Rivers did not fully utilize until late in the season.
He finished the season averaging 11.4 points and 3.7 assists and was on a rare list of players who started at least 30 games and shot at least 46 percent from the field, 37 percent from 3-point range, and 85 percent from the foul line. Moreover, Collison essentially did anything Rivers asked. He was precisely the kind of players the Clippers needed, particularly after the injuries began mounting in the backcourt in February and March.
The Clippers were stuck what seemed like neutral in a game they needed to win against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center. It was the opposite of how their previous two matchups with Houston had gone. It was a slugfest, the kind of games that Dwight Howard was brought in to win. But Collison and the Clippers had other ideas. After Crawford left the game with a strained left calf at the end of the second quarter, Collison was forced to guard James Harden for 20 second-half minutes. He held the All-Star shooting guard, who stands 4 inches taller, to 2-for-6 shooting (five points) and on the other end torched the Rockets. Collison had 17 of his 19 points after halftime and personally turned the game around.
Collison has a player option on his contract for next season, but after one of the best years of his career it’s unknown if he’ll decide to exercise it. Even if he opts out that does not mean his stay in Los Angeles is over, per se. He could still re-sign as an unrestricted free agent this summer. As for his offseason, Collison is expected to stay in California. It is first offseason with his son, Kinston, who was born in October. He’ll also host a three-day youth basketball camp at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga.