No QB controversy with Collison, Hill
March 27, 2012-- Everybody loves a good quarterback controversy. Just ask Tim Tebow. Or, for that matter, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.
That's why, when the Pacers acquired Leandro Barbosa and shifted George Hill into the backup point guard role, it looked like there might be another alteration in the offing.
Rather than supplanting Darren Collison as the starter, however, Hill has complemented him. Turns out, it is not a matter of either-or. It's both. No controversy in that.
"George Hill is a terrific basketball player, would be a starter on most teams, and obviously Darren Collison's one of the best point guards in the league," Coach Frank Vogel said. "I absolutely feel like we have two starting point guards on our team."
Collison put together one of his best overall games in two seasons with the Pacers Monday, racking up 20 points and four steals to spark a 105-90 victory over Miami. Defensively, he applied relentless ball pressure that disrupted the Miami sets and contributed to the Heat's 17 turnovers. Offensively, he was constantly attacking in transition, using his speed to beat the defenders and produce easy buckets.
"When D.C. plays the way he played (Monday), it's really going to be tough to beat us," Danny Granger said. "He brings so much and when he's making threes, getting steals, getting out in the open court making layups, it's really the difference in the game for us."
This emergence has been percolating for a while. Collison got off to a similar start in Milwaukee Saturday, scoring eight in the first half as the Pacers went to work on a blowout of the Bucks. Hill took over in the second half and finished with a game-high 24 points off the bench.
All of which leads to the inevitable question: why doesn't Collison play like that all the time?
"I just think … I don't really know, to be honest with you," Vogel said. "We just have to stay on him to continue to use his speed as a weapon. When he does that he's very, very tough to guard.
"Sometimes guys don't run with him and that sort of changes his mindset. Guys were running with him (Monday) and that helps him out. It's something we have to continue to challenge him to do and when he does it, he's a pretty darned good point guard."
One of the most popular players in the locker room, Collison is one of those guys teammates root for because of his dedication to the game and his sincere commitment to trying to improve. They also see his talent and know what he can mean to the team if he puts it to full use as he did against the Heat.
"When D.C. brings it at that level, it's almost contagious," Paul George said. "Everybody feeds right off of that."
It's sometimes easy to forget Collison still is a very young player (24) in just his third NBA season trying to master the game's most difficult position both mechanically and mentally. During his rookie season in New Orleans, it looked easy when he stepped in for the injured Chris Paul and put up big numbers.
It isn't uncommon for young point guard to make a splash right away because, truthfully, they aren't expected to understand the nuances of the game, their teammates' tendencies or coach's preferences. They are free to follow their instincts. The longer they play, the more they are expected to evolve into more complete professionals.
Collison is starting to believe he is turning the corner on that process.
"This is my third year and I'm still learning," he said. "I've got a lot to learn. I know much is expected but I'm definitely comfortable, my teammates are talking to me, telling me what I've got to do to win games and I'm going to try to go out there and do it.
"I'm trying to take control of this team. I'm definitely trying to be a leader. I'm the point guard. This is my team, so to speak, so they're going to feed off of me as far as my defensive intensity."
This is not to say Collison is going to start scoring 20 a night or leading the league in steals. There will be games when Hill has it going and proves to be the better option.
Vogel's luxury is that Collison and Hill like this tag-team and are committed to making it work, even if that means individual sacrifice.
"I'm not complaining," Vogel said with a broad smile. "It's a good thing."