Darren Collison hasn't received nearly the amount of attention several point guards selected in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft have garnered, players such as Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings and Jonny Flynn. Collison wasn't given much consideration when the names were announced this week for the annual Rookie Game, either. But you could put what he did tonight up against just about any other single-game performance by a rookie so far in this 2009-10 season (well, other than Jennings' 55-point outburst vs. Golden State in November).
Filling in for Chris Paul (knee), Collison posted 17 points and 18 assists, the latter a Hornets franchise assist record for a rookie. If the game had gone to another overtime period, he may have threatened the Hornets' all-time record for assists in a game by anyone (21, set by Paul during the 2007-08 season).
There is nothing easy about serving as a fill-in starter for one of the NBA's best players, but the Hornets are now 5-4 in games missed by Paul this season. Collison's impressive showing tonight in Memphis helped New Orleans (26-21) overcome a 21-point, third-quarter deficit. That rally from 21 points down equaled the second-largest comeback in franchise history.
We felt embarrassed in the first half, Collison said of the comeback. We didnt come out with any energy. Memphis was out there just doing whatever they wanted. In the second half, we wanted to at least compete. I thought we did a good job of that.
Collison played 47 minutes, 18 seconds of the 53-minute game, but said afterward that the experience of starting eight games in November benefited him tonight. With Paul sidelined and Bobby Brown recently traded, the Hornets do not have any other true point guard available. Marcus Thornton was the primary ballhandler for most of the stretch when Collison rested tonight.
It was very comfortable playing all these minutes, said Collison, who also grabbed six rebounds but had five turnovers. Coach told me I wasnt coming out. It was important for me to take care of the ball. I made a few silly mistakes, but watching Chris over the last month, it definitely helped my game out, because I got a chance to see how he does it, and I can go out there and perform.