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Collison Adapting to Many Changes

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive

March 22, 2011


( Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Point guard is the toughest position in the NBA to learn, roughly equivalent to quarterback in the NFL. It generally takes a year or two for a young talent to learn the coach's schemes, his teammates' tendencies and the nuances of the pro game.

Darren Collison's transition, then, has been four times harder than most.

In less than two seasons, Collison is playing for his fourth head coach. At as a rookie in New Orleans, he spent his offseason preparation and training camp under Byron Scott, who was fired nine games into the season and replaced by Jeff Bower.

After being traded to the Pacers last summer, he prepared for Jim O'Brien's system, a major adjustment because it required the point guard to play much more without the ball. When O'Brien was replaced by Frank Vogel on Jan. 30, Collison had yet another philosophical shift.

"It's been a maze but I try not to make excuses or look upon that too often," Collison said. "Those things happen. That's part of the NBA. Sometimes you have coaches come in and go.

"I may not have the luxury of playing for one coach with one system, it's been four different systems. But I'm fine right now and I'm adjusting real well."

Indeed, Collison has come on strong in March. In the last six games, he has averaged 16.5 points, 7.7 assists and shot 49.3 percent from the field. The Pacers have won four.

Vogel's approach to the point guard's role is a near-total reversal from that of O'Brien but it suits Collison and backup A.J. Price.

"Darren Collison is really starting to run the team again," said Vogel. "When I took over, I wanted to re-adjust the role of the point guard on this team and we sort of got away from that a little bit. Our wings were looking for outlet passes or trying to bring it up themselves.

"I want our point guards running the team and I had a talk with Darren and A.J. and really with the whole team that those guys are to run the floor and the point guards are to run the team and set those guys up. So we're putting the ball back in their hands and they're taking advantage of it."

With opportunity comes responsibility. When Collison struggles to create, it affects the whole team. He had zero assists Saturday in Memphis and the Pacers scored just 78 in a 21-point loss. But he bounced back with 12 assists in New Jersey Monday night and helped secure a 102-98 victory by scoring nine of the Pacers' final 11 points, including six in a row at the line in the final 90 seconds.

"It's more responsibility, a lot more responsibility on my part," Collison said. "I've definitely got to be more an extension of the coach. As far as Jim's offense, it was more of a team offense. This one, the point guard has to mind his p's and q's to make sure everything is executed."

While change has swirled around him, Collison has done his best to adapt.

Maybe now he can simply do his best.