Collison’s challenge continues vs. Clippers

Tuesday, November 17, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

If the daunting task of adjusting to the NBA level as a rookie point guard weren’t already enough, Chris Paul’s ankle injury has unexpectedly vaulted Darren Collison into New Orleans' first string. The UCLA product isn’t exactly getting to ease into his new role, either: In just the second and third starts of his professional career this week, he will be going head-to-head against the Clippers’ Baron Davis (tonight, 7 p.m., New Orleans Arena) and the Suns’ Steve Nash (Thursday).

“It causes an adjustment for everybody as far as style of play and expectations for their positions,” Hornets coach Jeff Bower said of the impact of Paul's absence. “It places a premium on relying your teammates, execution and ball movement, because that has to create a lot of the attack.”

New Orleans (3-8) will attempt to halt its three-game losing streak tonight against the Clippers (4-7), who are coming off an impressive road win at Oklahoma City.

Without Paul on the floor, scoring opportunities are less likely to come from penetration or by openings for other Hornets that result from opposing teams focusing so much attention on the two-time All-Star.

Although Paul’s injury was another discouraging early-season development for the Hornets, it’s created a chance for Collison to see extended minutes. The 6-footer is learning on a daily basis, about his Hornets teammates and the competition he will face in the NBA. After matching up with Davis and Nash in the next three days, later this month Collison will be able to measure his progress against fellow rookie point guards Brandon Jennings of Milwaukee and Tyreke Evans of Sacramento.

“His job as the point guard is to deliver pressure,” Bower explained. “That’s what we continue to talk to him about on both ends of the floor. His ability to set up his teammates is outstanding. As he plays more, he’s gaining a comfort level that he’s going to need, (including) how to best get the ball to his teammates, and where they like the ball. The only way he can grow is by playing through all of that.” postgame: Hornets 110, Clippers 102

The Hornets are accustomed to the 24-point, 11-assist stat line from the point guard position they received tonight. Of course, in this case, it required a combination of two players to accumulate those numbers, but New Orleans (4-8) will gladly take it, with two-time All-Star Chris Paul (ankle) sidelined. In just his second NBA start, Darren Collison (12 points, six assists) showed he may be able to handle the unexpected added responsibility. Bobby Brown, who was out of the mix as recently as a week ago, added 12 points and five assists, sparking New Orleans in the first half with accurate perimeter shooting.

Collison and Brown were also joined by Devin Brown in defending Baron Davis, holding the Clipper point guard to 3-for-13 shooting through three quarters.

Collison, who will start against Steve Nash on national TV Thursday, said of the matchups against top-level point guards, “that’s where you make your name. You have to go out and play like you have nothing to lose.”

The 6-footer from UCLA added that his poise on the court is partly due to his four years of college experience. He played in three Final Fours with the Bruins.

“You always want to be ready (to contribute),” Collison said. “I feel like after four years at UCLA, that helped me. (But) it just takes some time as a rookie to get some games under your belt. You learn from your mistakes and from every possession.”

New Orleans held a 51-36 rebounding edge and had some of its better ball movement of the season. “Sharing the ball and bringing the energy we did was the key,” Bobby Brown said. “That’s how we’ve got to play every night.”

Other news:
• Jeff Bower was presented with the game ball by Hornets players, after notching his first win as head coach. “It was a great moment,” Bobby Brown said. “It shows him that we care and that we’re all on the same page, and that we want to win as much as he does.”

Hornets Head Coach Jeff Bower

On the game: “There were steps and progress made in the game I think. The biggest thing we had to take care of was rebounding from a defensive standpoint. From an offensive standpoint we are trying to stress playing with the floor then moving the ball and making plays. For the most part every time the score started to tighten up we made a play for the ball and made a play for our teammates and that was a real good thing for us.”

On the game's pace: “We wanted to play at a faster pace. We didn’t want to get into a half court stationary type game and we were able to do that throughout most of the game. Some stretches we were able to get great ball movement as a result of it. The two things go together and I am very pleased with our progress we are making. ”

Hornets Guard Darren Collison
On the game tonight: “This is definitely a big boost to my confidence, to get that first win under my belt as a starter. I can really give thanks to David West and Devin Brown. They were looking out for me all night, trying to help me out. It makes the process a lot easier and the game slows down.”

Hornets Guard Devin Brown
On the game tonight: “We came out aggressive in the first quarter and established that we wanted to go out and get the win. When we come out aggressive, rebound and move the ball, we’re a pretty good basketball team. It’s going to be a slow process. We’re still working at it. We just have to come every day, listen to what the coaches are telling us, execute while we are out there, and we will go from there. This is a big win for us.”

Hornets Forward David West
On the game tonight: “We just did a good job of doing some of the things we’ve gone over the last couple of days of practice. We definitely wanted to get a win. We came out with a different mindset with a high level of concentration and a different focus. There’s some getting used to different terminology, but the things that we are doing are going to give us an opportunity to win.”