Q&A with TNT's Doug Collins

Doug Collins’ calling is the court. A basketball lifer who rose from relative obscurity at Illinois State University to be taken No. 1 by Philadelphia 76ers in the 1973 NBA Draft, Collins has been a part of the game at every trajectory. As a player, he teamed with Julius Erving in the 1977 NBA Finals. Later, as a coach, he mentored the second coming of Dr. J in a young Michael Jordan on the Bulls. Later still, as a coach, he tutored the supposed second coming of Jordan in Grant Hill on the Pistons. And even later still, as a coach, he guided the second coming of MJ literally in, well, an aging Michael Jordan on the Wizards.

Now an analyst for TNT Sports, Collins is able to sit at center court for the NBA’s biggest match-ups and offer his thoughts imbibed with the passion and experience of a man that has been married to the NBA game for 33 years.

NBA.com’s Dave McMenamin caught up with Collins at the NBA Entertainment Studios in Secaucus, N.J., where the former coach was on hand for the 2006 NBA Broadcast Meeting.

NBA.com: What are your thoughts on the NBA this season? We had a great playoffs last season and the game really seems to be gaining momentum right now thanks to the young guys and international stars stepping up.

"This will be my 33rd year with the NBA in some capacity, and I think last year and the playoffs – especially the first round – were as good as they’ve ever been.

Collins was one of MJ's four NBA coaches.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
"I mean the match-ups ... You talk about Cleveland-Washington ... LeBron and Gilbert Arenas ... the buzzer-beaters, the game-finishers.

"Miami-Chicago and all that went on in that series ... the suspensions of Haslem for throwing his mouthpiece and then Posey runs down Hinrich ... the series is 2-2 and Payton and Wade look like they’re getting into it and at that point and time I think you’d be hard pressed to find anybody who would have thought Miami would go on to win the championship.

"Obviously the Detroit-Miami series and watching Miami finally able to advance ...

"The Western Conference ... I had the seven games of Phoenix and the Lakers, I had the seven games of Phoenix and the Clippers and all the things that happened with that ... Dallas and Phoenix in the conference finals and the NBA Finals last year ... so we’re going in with such a high."

NBA.com: And this year?

"This year I think there is hope for a lot of teams. On paper, there are maybe two teams in the West that don’t have a chance for the playoffs and maybe two or three in the East. So, I think you have to say, ‘How is Miami? What’s their frame of mind entering into this regular season?’

"Last year they sort of coasted through the regular season. You have to be worried about Dwyane Wade, he played all summer. Now he’s coming back to play again. You have to be worried about his energy level. Hopefully he won’t suffer an injury from being tired from playing in the summer.

"Shaq I think is going to have to have a better year than he had last year. I know his production was down, and I know he made a valuable contribution to that team. But I think he has to stay healthy and have a little bit more impact on that team this year to help Dwyane Wade through that regular season.

"Detroit is going to go through an identity change. They lost their heart and soul in Ben Wallace. So, where are they headed this season? How much slippage will there be there?

"Chicago: can they get into the elite? They’ve added Ben Wallace and P.J. Brown to go with all those good young players that they have. That’s going to be exciting.

"Can LeBron continue to take Cleveland to those heights he took them last year and maybe further?"

NBA.com: What about the West?

"In the West we’re seeing a change in San Antonio. They’ve always gone with two big guys. Well, they’ve traded Rasho, they’ve traded Nazr Mohammed. Are we going to see small ball from San Antonio? That’s what they had to play in Dallas when Dallas went to the small lineup.

"Can Dallas finish the deal? Can Dirk stay fresh? They’ve got to keep their guys healthy. Stackhouse got hurt last year. Devin Harris, Josh Howard, those guys got to stay healthy but they have a great chance to repeat.

"What role is Kobe going to take this year? He was such a dominant scorer all season long and then the last five or six games he went into this ‘get everybody involved’ or whatever. He played that way basically in the first round. Which Kobe are we going to see this year? Are we going to see that Kobe or are we going to see the dominant Kobe that scored all season long?

"The Clippers. Are they going to be a one-hit wonder? Are they going to build on last year? I think Shaun Livingston is going to be key to that team. I think he has a chance to have a break-out year and I think he is ready for stardom.

"Just so many stories and its going to be so much fun to watch.

"I think the Houston Rockets are going to be a big story. Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady last year had a disappointing season for the Rockets. Shane Battier is going to be a big help to them. Add in Bonzi Wells, but you got to have a healthy Tracy McGrady.

"Don Nelson returning to Golden State: the last time they made the playoffs was when he was there in ’94. Can they make the playoffs? You know, storyline after storyline. That’s the exciting part about my job because in about three weeks, I’m going to be sitting at half court and every night I’m going to get two of the best teams and some of the best players and get a chance to talk about something I love. So that’s very exciting for me."

NBA.com: What were your thoughts on this summer and having your son being involved with USA Basketball? (Editor's Note: Doug’s son, Chris Collins is an assistant coach to Mike Krzyzewski at Duke University):

"Well my son, it was a tremendous experience for him. He would call me every day after the practices and just talk to me about being on the floor with the players and being out there. Initially he thought that maybe he was going to go out there and maybe just be a rebounder and help guys with individual work. But Coach K, because of the defense that they wanted to play, got Chris and Wojo very involved. It was such a great experience.

"Chris was overwhelmed, and he’s grown up in it now. He was on the practice floor with me in Chicago when he was a young kid with Michael and Scottie and all those guys.

Collins was the head coach of the 1997 East All-Stars.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images/NBAE
"The one thing he talked to me about over and over about was how hard the players were working and how committed they were to doing things the right way. It was disappointing that we lost, but I think that Coach K and Jerry Colangelo, the leadership there, they’ve made it known that this is a process.

"Winning this summer was not the end all. This is a process. I think the one thing you worry about is the attrition. How many guys are going to play again next summer now that they have to qualify and then play another summer for the Olympics?

"So, you might see Kobe next year, Amare Stoudemire, Michael Redd, Chauncey Billups, some of the guys who didn’t play maybe playing next year. So that’s why I think that pool of players was so good. But I think they’re heading in the right direction.

"I think they have very good team chemistry and I know Coach K’s whole philosophy in that situation was just he wanted to win, but more importantly he wanted to develop a team camaraderie where guys enjoy playing with one another, they trusted one another and I think he feels good about that. Now they need to continue to grow and understand the nuances of the international game."