2009-10 Season in Review: Darren Collison
By: Jim Eichenhofer,
May 21, 2010 continues its look back at the 2009-10 season with player-by-player analysis of the team:

What happened:
No one, including Collison, imagined that the UCLA product would make the impact he did as a rookie, particularly with him entering 2009-10 as a backup for three-time All-Star Chris Paul. However, Pauls multiple injuries caused CP3 to miss 37 games, which elevated the 21st overall draft pick to a starting role in each of those 37 contests.

After logging DNPs in four of the seasons first five games, the 6-footer initially displayed his readiness for the NBA over eight starts from Nov. 14-Dec. 1. With Paul sidelined, Collison sparked the Hornets to a 4-4 record, averaging 14.9 points and 6.4 assists. He also showed a knack for delivering in the clutch, most memorably during an overtime victory vs. Milwaukee on Nov. 25, when he forced OT by sinking a three-pointer with 7.5 seconds remaining.

Collisons minutes fluctuated throughout the season based greatly on Pauls availability, but during the final month, he proved effective in both a starting and reserve role. From March 24-April 2, Collison was a second-stringer for seven consecutive games, but still averaged 15.0 points and 4.9 assists in just 29.0 minutes.

As the season progressed, he noticeably upgraded his performance in several categories, including his perimeter accuracy. Through Jan. 31, Collison shot 29 percent from three-point range, but from Feb. 1 through the end of the regular season, he upped his rate to 44 percent. Overall, he connected on 40 percent of his looks from beyond the arc (46-for-115), outstanding for a rookie point guard.

Hes improved his three-point shooting from the first day I worked with him, lauded New Orleans assistant coach and former NBA point guard Robert Pack. It was something where I told him, this shot will get better. The shot is going to be open for you a lot. Youre not going to shoot it well early in the season. As you start to see a few go through the net, youll get more and more confidence.

Now hes shooting with a high level of confidence, and being able to hit that shot, its opened up his game a lot. Now he can use what we already know he has that quickness and ability to get into the paint.

Best game:
Twenty-four hours after Paul was injured vs. Chicago on Jan. 29, Collison received the starting nod at Memphis and earned his way into the franchises record books. The 22-year-old established a Hornets rookie mark by handing out 18 assists. New Orleans rallied from a 21-point second-half deficit against the Grizzlies to post an overtime victory, the second-largest comeback in franchise history. In just his ninth pro start, Collison was a few rebounds shy of a triple-double, finishing with 17 points, 18 assists and six rebounds. He was also 9-for-10 from the foul line, part of a rookie season in which he made 85.1 percent of his free throws.

In addition to the record performance in Memphis, Collison notched a triple-double vs. Indiana on Feb. 19, with 18 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. His 20-assist game vs. Golden State on March 8 was the second-highest single-game assist total in franchise history.

What's next:
A first-team All-Rookie selection in 2009-10, Collison has targeted a few specific areas for improvement in Year 2. Pack is working with Collison to improve his in-between game, including integrating floaters and tear drops in the lane (a la CP3), so that Collison does not always have to drive all the way to the rim when he penetrates. As 2009-10 progressed, he improved his decision-making in terms of when to attack the basket and how to read defenses.

His timing and patience have improved, Pack said late in the season. Hes seeing the floor a lot better. Early on, it was like, I see a lane Im going to hit it. Now hes playing at a pace where can get into the lane and get some uncontested shots, or hes able to take the contact and finish at the basket.

Another objective for Collison will be to curtail his turnovers, probably his biggest weakness as a rookie. Packs goal for Collison is a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio next season (his ratio was 2.1 in 2009-10).

We talked about reducing his unforced turnovers, Pack said. Hes an aggressive player, so youre going to live with that. But some of it is he gets caught picking up his dribble.

You see some of the great point guards, like Chris Paul or Steve Nash, they keep their dribble alive until they make a play. DC hasnt gotten comfortable to that level yet. When you pick your dribble up among the trees (opposing big men), thats when you get in trouble a lot. Thats something Ive been in his ear about a lot. Its something hell get more comfortable with as his career goes on.

Collison agrees that some of the turnovers are unavoidable, but that he will focus on being more efficient running the offense next season.

Turnovers really haunt me. They really make me angry as a point guard, Collison said. But at the same time, the most aggressive player is going to get turnovers. Every game I try to be aggressive. Not to say that I dont care about turnovers, but as long as I am making them as part of aggression, then I can live with it. But I dont think its going to continue to happen. Thats something I am going to look at. Definitely I will be more conscious of my turnovers next season.


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