Kings Q&A: Collison Part 1

New Kings guard Darren Collison dishes on his basketball journey and his outlook on Sacramento’s 2014-15 season.

How excited are you to be a part of the Kings organization?

“I’m extremely excited. I think the best part about this whole situation is we’re all being doubted. A lot of people feel like we’re not going to be able to do anything this year and I think it’s the best part about playing the game of basketball – you get to prove doubters wrong.”

Is it beneficial to be an underdog in this league?

“It makes it a little bit more fun – going in and you’re expecting to win. Any time you’re doubted, it makes the offseason that much easier because it motivates you. You’re constantly trying to work to prove people wrong.”

What were the advantages of staying close to home in college and playing at UCLA?

“Being able to invite my friends and family to the games was a blessing. It made my days a lot easier – going into the games with your family and friends there to support you. It just makes the game that much easier in so many different ways. It’s hard to explain, but having your family and friends right down the street and being able to go down there after the game made everything that much sweeter.”

Do you have one game at UCLA that stands out to you?

“It was against Gonzaga in the Final Four – that was probably my most memorable game. Individually, I don’t really get too caught up in that. To me, it’s more about team victories. When we played Gonzaga, we were down by 20 or so and we came back – it was a great team effort. That was the game I still remember.”

Have you always been a team-first guy or have you picked that up along the way? 

“I learned that trait in my high school days. I was from a city that was small, even though it was next to L.A. We were always the underdog. The only way we were [able to win] is if we came together as a team. My high school coach instilled that in me. Then, going to UCLA, we probably had three or four pros every year I was there, but our thing was, you won’t make it to the NBA, unless we come together as a team. That’s stuck with me into my NBA days.”

How do you think your team-first approach can help the Kings? 

“I think it should always be about the team. If you look at some of the contending teams, whether it’s the Spurs, OKC or Miami last year – these guys found a way to come together despite their talent. Everybody wants to talk about LeBron James or Tony Parker, but those guys will tell you, their team was just as valuable as them.”

What excites you most about joining this Sacramento squad?

“I’m excited to begin the maturation process with my teammates. We do have a relatively young team and there’s still going to be a lot to learn – there are going to be some road blocks and it’s not going to be easy where we want to go, but I’m excited to take on that role. I think a lot of players at my age tend to shy away from the rebuilding process because they want to win now. I think this team is not only young, but has the talent to win now – I think it’s going to be fun to watch everyone coming together and to be one of the leaders who makes sure we are all on the same page.” 

How competitive do you see the team being this year? 

“I think we can be extremely good if we put the work in. The thing about the NBA is that there are no guarantees. Even if you have the potential to do something, it doesn’t mean you’re going to do it. … We will just have to see how training camp goes and hopefully we can mesh together.”

How would you assess your new teammates?

“I’m excited to work with DeMarcus – I think he’s one of the best players in this world. To have his type of talent in the Playoffs, and to see the type of game he brings, is going to be very fun. I’ve spoken to DeMarcus a couple times over the past week and we’ve had good dialogue – I feel like we’re on the same page with things. We both know what to expect from each other – we’re going to be the leaders of the team – Cousins, Rudy and I.”

Is it difficult to step into a leadership position in just your first year with the team?

“Yeah, but you can’t just sit there and demand respect from your teammates right away. I’m not going to do that. Even though I’m going to embrace the role, I still have to prove I can be a leader. Whether it’s in training camp, when you see everyone working hard, it can be a time to earn respect. I’m not going to force any of these guys to listen to me – it’s something you have to earn.”

What intrigues you most about embarking on the 2014-15 season with your new teammates?

“I was watching a lot of our games during the summer – we have a lot of guys who shoot the ball extremely well. They’re young, but they have the ability to make my job easy as a point guard. When you look at a player like Ben McLemore, he’s athletic, he can run the floor and I think Ben can easily be one of the top defenders at his position right now. Nik Stauskas is going to come in and I know he’s going to produce right away. Ray did a great job leading the team this summer and he’s improving. We have a lot of young guys who are willing to work hard and buy-in.”

How will Nik’s style of play complement your game?

“He reminds me of J.J. Redick – he’s a guy who likes to move without the ball and he doesn’t always demand the ball, but when he moves without the ball he makes the game that much easier. You’re trying to make a play for him because you know how good of a shooter he is. Nik Stauskas reminds me a lot of him.” 

What style of play do you bring to the River City?

“I’m a scoring point guard. There are times when the defense allows me to get into the lane, and if I can score, then I’m going to score. If the defense allows me to create for others, then that’s what I’m going to do. As a point guard, your job is to get guys involved and put them in a position to score. There are a lot of players on this team who will make my job easier, like DeMarcus, Rudy and Stauskas.  I don’t think you can predetermine anything – you just have to play the game and see how it goes.”

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