Practice Report: Collison enjoys taking a good charge; Brooks on Durant, practice

He doesn’t close his eyes, hold his breath, say a prayer or try to protect himself.

He’s never been barreled over by Shaquille O’Neal or any other player of insanely mammoth proportions, nor has he ever stood there thinking, 'why the heck am I doing this?'

Because when Nick Collison plants his two feet and 6-10, 255-pound body firmly on the hardwood floor to take a charge, he’s already committed to the fact that there will be a collision, and it usually won’t be pretty.

“I’m always looking for opportunities to take them,” Collison admitted.

If that’s hard to believe, then know that Collison ranks second in the league in charges taken with 27, according to the website HoopData.com. Houston’s Kyle Lowry leads the league with 30.

Collison said he’s been taking charges on a regular basis since his days at Kansas, where he did so without the assistance of the semi-circle area that the pros use to differentiate between a charge and a blocking foul. Collison said his father, a longtime basketball coach, thinks the charge is the best play in basketball because it’s both a turnover and offensive foul.

Taking a charge is mostly about anticipating where an opponent will drive and beating him to that spot. A defender has to make sure he arrives early and his feet are outside the semi-circle. Collison said that because he’s not going to block a ton of shots, a charge is the best way for him to stop an opposing player from driving at the rim.

Taking a charge also speaks to Collison’s ability as a help-side defender, because it’s next to impossible to draw one on straight up, man-to-man coverage. Collison took 14 charges all of last season, and he thinks a main reason for his increase in charges taken has to do with the Thunder’s improved defense.

“We try to make guys drive a certain way at a certain position so it’s easier to anticipate and we’re doing a better job of that,” Collison said. “And when guys are under duress, they’re out of control more instead of just straight-line drives. When you defend and send them where they’re supposed to go it makes it easier.”

For all the 84 charges he’s taken throughout his NBA career, Collison said he’s never been hurt – nose, mouth, groin area or otherwise – because he’s learned how to break his own fall. He did get the wind knocked out of him one time when taking a knee to the chest from Chicago’s Tyrus Thomas, but Collison has never been pancaked by the likes of Shaq or Yao Ming.

Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said that there have been rare instances when he’s seen Collison pass up an opportunity for a charge, such as a play he might go for a block. Even so, Brooks said that Collison has always had the skill and toughness to take one for the team.

“You take a beating by taking a charge,” Brooks said. “Nick just doesn’t get up and it feels good to be ran over by a seven-foot, 300-pound Shaq….if it’s an easy thing to do you’d see a lot of guys take them. You have to have that skill and Nick has it.”

One thing Thunder fans might be proud to know about Collison:

“I’m a terrible flopper,” Collison admitted. “I can’t do it. I’ve tried before and it’s embarrassing because I’ll kind of crumble. I won’t commit to it. But for whatever reason the charges I’ve taken I’ve made a decision to commit to it.”

DEFENDING DURANT

Several New York media members made note of the box-and-one defense the Knicks appeared to employ on Kevin Durant during Monday’s game and how it was an odd call by the coaching staff.

The box-and-one defense calls for four players playing a zone defense in a box formation, with the other defender guarding the opponent’s best player. In Monday’s case, that was Durant, who got to the free-throw line 16 times against New York.

I asked Brooks about it after Tuesday’s practice.

“I think it was but I don’t know,” he said. “It looked like a double team when he touched the ball and they put a little guy on him. That’s not often. Not at all.”

Then Brooks had a little fun with it.

“I did it (box-and-one) in college. Teams did that against me in college,” he said with a smirk. “In high school, they triangle-and-two’d me.”

ON PRACTICE

Brooks said that Tuesday’s practice was dedicated to more fundamentals as the team went through a variety of layup drills. “You know how many layups you miss in a game?” he said. “We worked on a variety of layups. Overhand, underhand, left-hand, right-hand, reverse, reverse with your left hand, floater, running hook. We worked on all of them.”

Contact Chris Silva