Collison ready to step into spotlight
For much of his career, Darren Collison has been the other guy in the backcourt.
When he first arrived at UCLA, Jordan Farmar was the man. Even when he moved into the starting lineup, Collison was considered less of an NBA prospect than backcourt mates Russell Westbrook (drafted No. 4 overall in 2008) and Jrue Holiday (taken No. 17, four spots ahead of Collison, in 2009).
When Collison was drafted at No. 21 last year, he went to New Orleans, which happened to have a guy named Chris Paul holding down the point guard position.
But a funny thing happened on his way to NBA anonymity. Paul got hurt, Collison seized the opportunity and now the shadows are gone and he has stepped fully into the spotlight.
The central figure in a four-team, five-player trade that also brought James Posey to Indiana, Collison is expected to solidify the team's historically fluid point guard position for years to come. He and Posey were introduced Tuesday in a media briefing at Conseco Fieldhouse.
"Pretty much through my whole career, I've been an underdog," Collison said. "I never had high expectations so I always had to work. Nothing's going to change for me. I'm going to continue to work on my game and stay humble and whatever happens, happens.
"With all these expectations, it doesn't change my game, it doesn't change my mental (approach) at all. I've always been a player that works hard, listens to the coach and does what I've got to do to win games."
Collison finished fourth in Rookie of the Year balloting in 2009-10, averaging 12.4 points and 5.7 assists for the Hornets. But it was in a 37-game stint filling in for the injured Chris Paul that Collison became a hot commodity, averaging 18.8 points, 9.1 assists and 3.5 rebounds.
But with the Hornets' new front-office regime renewing their commitment to Paul, it became clear Collison would have to move on to get the opportunity to start full-time.
Enter the Pacers, who traded Troy Murphy to New Jersey, with the Nets sending Courtney Lee to Houston and the Rockets shipping Trevor Ariza to New Orleans.
"I didn't think (the opportunity) was going to come this fast," said Collison. "I could only imagine playing behind, in my eyes, the best point guard in the league for so long and just learning a lot from him. But opportunity comes quick and once you have the opportunity you've definitely got to take advantage of it. I am happy to take control of the team as a point guard."
Intriguing nucleus of young talent
With Collison at the point, Brandon Rush, Paul George and Danny Granger on the wings, Tyler Hansbrough, Josh McRoberts and Magnum Rolle at power forward and Roy Hibbert at center, the Pacers have assembled a talented young group that could form the nucleus of a competitive team for years.
It's an exciting prospect for Collison.
"It's going to be a fun experience," he said. "I think we have a lot of good things coming for the future, a lot of young guys in the core that's really going to be gelling together and I'm definitely excited to be working with them. …
"I got a chance to play with Danny for the last three summers because he comes out to L.A. and more importantly he's a good person. That's where it starts. In order to build a good team and have a successful team you need a lot of good character on the team. I'm happy for Danny, I'm happy for Roy. Those are two guys that are going to be succeeding in the NBA for a long time, up-and-coming players, too. I'm excited to play with them.
"And another player I'm excited to play with is Brandon Rush. I know he has a lot of potential. I feel like a lot of people really haven't seen what he can do. He's a real good player and I think he's going to be a really good player for us in years to come."
Hand injury "nothing serious"
Collison was sporting a protective partial cast on his right hand, which came as something of a surprise. He banged the outside of the hand during a workout while with the Hornets, resulting in a fracture. He characterized the injury as "nothing serious" and said he likely would miss 3-4 weeks.
"It's funny, on the day of the trade I was going to get an X-ray, then I found out I got traded, and then I was like, 'I might as well get an X-ray and see how serious it was' and they told me it was a fracture," he said. "I won't be out too long. I'll be back before training camp."
Posey brings championship experience
Posey, 33, is at the other end of the career spectrum but could play an important role for the Pacers, who will be his seventh team in 13 seasons. A strong defender and solid 3-point shooter (.351 for his career), Posey can bring the experience of two championships (2006 with Miami, 2008 with Boston) to a locker room otherwise devoid.
"At the end of the day it's about winning at this level and I know I'm a winner," Posey said. "I think this franchise right here is making moves to show they're into winning and it's about winning so for me, it just starts the process again."
Posey averaged 5.2 points and 4.3 rebounds in 77 games last season, the first since 2004 he missed the postseason.
Diener heading to Italy
One of the many players in the revolving door at point guard in recent years, Travis Diener will continue his career in Italy.
Diener told his hometown newspaper, Fon (Wis.) Du Lac Reporter, that he would play for Dinamo Sassari on the island of Sardinia.
Diener made just 11 appearances last season, four with the Pacers and seven with Portland after a midseason trade.
"The decision is probably the toughest decision I've made," Diener said. "I had the opportunity to stay here and play here, but in the end I wanted to play again, and if I stayed here I'd go in as the third point guard; the only way I'd play is if somebody got hurt. I'm just ready to play again."
Diener will compete against his cousin Drake, a four-year veteran of play in Italy.
Follow Bruno on Twitter