Collison a guy who really gets the point

Dec. 29, 2011

The distinction seems subtle but is in fact profound: the difference between running an offense and running a team.

It is also the difference between being a point guard and being the point guard.

And it's something Darren Collison is showing a little more every day. In his third NBA season, Collison is emerging as much more than a guy that can run the pick-and-roll, stick the open jumper, beat his man off the dribble and lock in on defense. He is becoming a leadership force on the court and in the locker room.

"I got the chance to be behind Chris Paul (as a rookie with New Orleans) and see how he ran his offense and ran the team, as well," Collison said. "When you're running the offense you've got to make sure of who needs the ball, where they need the ball, how to make your teammates successful.

"As far as running the team, sometimes it's not just on the court it's off the court, as well. I get a chance to talk to all my teammates on and off the court, tell them how well they're doing or if they need to pick something up. That's part of being a leader."

Collison produced his fifth double-double since joining the Pacers in the 90-85 win in Toronto Wednesday with 10 points and 12 assists. In the first two games of the season, he has 17 assists against just five turnovers, not to mention four steals. Perhaps most importantly, the Pacers have outscored the opposition by 27 points in his 75 minutes on the floor.

Other guys are more likely to get the stats. With Danny Granger and Paul George on the wings and David West and Roy Hibbert up front, Collison has no shortage of targets. The measure of his progress as a point guard will be more evident in the standings than the box score.

"His leadership's been great ever since the lockout," Coach Frank Vogel said. "After the lockout, all the guys came back talking about how D.C. was the guy organizing our team for workouts and it's carried through training camp and onto the court. He's asked me for the freedom to call some plays, which I've given him, to sort of run his own team.

"The first thing is he wants to do it. Not a lot of point guards really want that responsibility and he wants it, and it's a sign of good leadership."

When Collison was acquired last summer, he was hailed as the point guard of the future, the long-term answer at a position that had been in question for years.

It was a lot to ask of a second-year pro, particularly one playing for his third head coach. After learning Byron Scott's system during the offseason and through training camp with the Hornets, Collison had to adjust when Scott was replaced by Jeff Bower nine games into the season. Traded to the Pacers, he had to start from scratch again with Jim O'Brien, a coach who is -- to say the least -- demanding of his point guards.

When O'Brien was replaced by Frank Vogel after 44 games last season, Collison had to adapt on the fly one more time. No one was more pleased when the Pacers removed the interim tag and made Vogel the full-time head coach than Collison. It meant, for the first time in his NBA career, he would begin a season with the same team and same coach as the previous year.

"I think that would help any young player," Collison said. "When you get to the NBA, you want everything to be stable. You know in this business you're going to have different coaches at times but unfortunately for me I had so many coaches it was hard for me to adjust pretty quick.

"But now we have the same coach, I'm comfortable with Frank, I'm comfortable with my teammates and I'm definitely ready to take on that leadership role."

The comfort level was further bolstered by the signings of forward Jeff Pendergraph, Collison's high school teammate, and West, his former pick-and-roll partner with the Hornets.

This may not be the year Collison puts up big numbers and makes the All-Star team. That's not the way the Pacers are built. His role in the team's success, however, will be greater than ever.

"I think we're going to do well this year," he said. "But I don't like to say things. I like to prove it with actions rather than words."

It is increasingly apparent this is a guy who really does get the point.

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