Practice: Collison Preparing for Imminent Return

March 8, 2018 - Pacers point guard Darren Collison is now listed as questionable for Friday's game against Atlanta after missing 11 games to undergo minor knee surgery. Collison and others discuss the impact of his imminent return.

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Practice: Collison Preparing for Imminent Return

March 8, 2018 - Pacers point guard Darren Collison is now listed as questionable for Friday's game against Atlanta after missing 11 games to undergo minor knee surgery. Collison and others discuss the impact of his imminent return.
Mar 8, 2018  |  02:51

Blue-and-Gold Breakdown: Trevor Booker

March 8, 2018 - On this edition of the Blue and Gold Breakdown, Trevor Booker sits down with Pat Boylan to discuss adjusting on the fly, where he views his value, and preview the Pacers vs. Hawks on Friday.
Mar 8, 2018  |  05:00

Pacers Keeping Focused on Matchup with Hawks

March 8, 2018 - Coming off a loss to the Jazz, the Pacers aren't looking beyond Friday's matchup with a Hawks team that has lost eight of their last 11 games.
Mar 8, 2018  |  01:14

Collison on Collision Course with Return

by Mark Montieth Writer

Darren Collison was running with the reserves when the Pacers practiced on Thursday, still working his way back into playing form after a month-long absence following surgery on his left knee.

Soon, though, he'll be back with the starters in real game action, a return to be met with open arms by his teammates and coaches. The veteran point guard expects to play when the Pacers meet Atlanta at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday, although likely off the bench, and could start again as early as Sunday's game in Boston.

"It's just conditioning now," Collison said following practice at St. Vincent Center. "Throughout this whole week when I was getting up and down, I didn't feel any pain. It was about getting up and down and getting back into shape and just playing basketball."

Collison has been dealing with pain in his left knee going back to last season with Sacramento. It's bothered him sporadically this season, a fact not easily noticed during what's amounted to a personal revival, and then became too much to deal with in a game against Philadelphia at The Fieldhouse on Feb. 3. The original estimate was that he would miss two to three weeks, but it's turned out to be a full month. There were no setbacks in the rehab period, just an unpredictable healing process after cartilage was removed and a careful approach by the Pacers' training staff to improve the odds of him getting through the rest of the season without a real setback.

"There were so many things I had to do to make sure I was really ready to get back out there," he said.

Collison's performance in his last appearance was rather modest, but also important, typical and representative of what the Pacers have been missing in his 11-game absence. He scored 11 points while hitting 4-of-7 field goal attempts, 1-of-2 3-point shots and both free throws. He also had four assists, two steals, and just one turnover in his 32 minutes and 40 seconds on the court, as well as the best plus/minus among the starters.

The Pacers won by eight points.

He banged his knee on the floor chasing a loose ball in that game, however, which led to more pain, an MRI, and arthroscopic surgery. He figures it probably was best in the bigger picture, as he now has hope for a relatively pain-free finish to the season.

PLAYOFF PICTURE: Track the Pacers' Playoff Push »

"It was a struggle," he said. "Even when I shot, it was like a sharp pain in my knee. Somedays waking up and playing, especially on back-to-backs, it just didn't feel right. Once they got the MRI and saw the real cause, I was thankful to see that."

Cory Joseph has played solidly as the replacement starter and the Pacers have gone 7-4 without Collison, but they clearly miss his playmaking, decision-making and shot-making. Collison will resume his quest for the rare feat of shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the 3-point line, and 90 percent from the foul line. He's currently at .498, .432, and .897. He also ranks second in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio at 4.1-to-1, trailing only Spencer Dinwiddie (4.3).

"He has a knack for making the right play," Myles Turner said, putting it mildly and succinctly.

The Pacers could have used more of that in Wednesday's loss to Utah, a game in which they failed to establish a tempo that provided easy shots in transition and failed to move the ball well enough to get good shots in the halfcourt offense. Collison watched from the bench in street clothes as his teammates scored just 84 points on 39 percent shooting, and knew he could have done something about it.

"I'm a big believer in ball movement, body movement," he said. "Teams that have those two components win games and they score at a very high pace. We have to get back to scoring at a very high rate. Defensively they've been fine, but offense I think we can pick it up a little bit more.

"We're a really good team when we move the ball. When we move the ball and share we're a really good team. When the ball gets stagnant and we start playing one on one we get too one-dimensional and we're easy to stop."

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Mark Montieth's book, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," covers the formation and early seasons of the franchise. It is available at retail outlets throughout Indiana and online at sources such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.