Collison Completes Landmark Season

The season isn't over, but all but one day's returns are in and it's safe to declare: Darren Collison will lead the NBA in both 3-point percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio this season, a feat believed to be accomplished just once before in league history.

As you were expecting him to do, right?

Collison escaped from the Pacers' season-ending loss to Charlotte on Tuesday with no blemishes on his pristine stats, providing a quiet but meaningful highlight to an otherwise meaningless and sloppy game. He hit 3-of-5 3-pointers and had four assists without a turnover, nudging his stats in both categories upward and enabling him to maintain his league leads.

Brian Taylor is believed to be the only other player to manage the unusual combination of category supremacies. Taylor, playing for the San Diego Clippers, led the NBA with a 3-point percentage of .383 and an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.93-to-1 in the 1980-81 season.

Collison outdid Taylor on both counts.

His 3-point percentage for the season stands at .468, a personal best and the best in franchise history. Chris Mullin was the former record-holder at .465, in the 1999 lockout season. Reggie Miller's best percentage was .429 and Billy Keller had the best season percentage in the ABA, .382.

Collison's assist-to-turnover ratio is 4.28-to-1, a personal best and a mark believed to be surpassed in franchise history only by Don Buse in the 1975-76 and 1981-82 seasons.

It's possible from a literal standpoint someone could surpass Collison in each category when the final NBA games are played on Wednesday. But Detroit's Reggie Bullock would have to go 13-of-13 from the 3-point line or Brooklyn's Spencer Dinwiddie would have to get 24 assists without a turnover for either of them to catch him.

In other words, Collison has won both categories.

Collison was one of just two starters to play on Tuesday, as coach Nate McMillan held out Victor Oladipo (who had a slightly sprained right foot), Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic. He wasn't given the option of sitting out but wanted to play anyway, despite having a head cold.

"Just to be out there," Collison said. "The last game of the season, I wanted to make sure I left it out there on the court."

Collison is most proud of his 3-point percentage. He's always been a good shooter, with a career percentage of .380 entering this season, but he far surpassed his previous single-season best of .417, set last year with Sacramento.

"When I first came into the league I was known as a driver, using my speed and quickness," he said. "The knock on me was I really can't shoot the three-ball. Sitting here telling you I led the league in 3-point percentage is big-time. There's a lot of good shooters in this league. To say you're one of them means a lot.

"It's unbelievable."

Asked if he was aware of his lead heading into the game, Collison's locker neighbor Alex Poythress interrupted.

"He's aware," Poythress said. "We talk about it all the time. We talked about it today."

Collison also talked about it with his wife, Keyosha, on Monday evening. He told her, half-jokingly, he wasn't going to attempt any 3-point shots in the final game to protect his lead, but that lasted all of 40 seconds after tip-off, when he hit his first 3-point attempt. It was ruled a two-pointer on the court but was changed to three after a video review at the first timeout.

Collison hit a second 3-pointer 21 seconds later, on the Pacers' next possession. He added a third with 9:34 left in the third quarter. All in all, he turned in a typical performance in his 20 1/2 minutes, with 13 points, four assists, and no turnovers.

The assist-to-turnover championship is a reflection of Collison's veteran status and chemistry with his teammates. He doesn't make great passes that show up on highlight segments, but he doesn't make dumb passes that show up in a defender's hands, either.

When that category was brought up to him, Collison smiled.

"We got that in the bag too, right?"

"You got that, too?" Poythress interjected. "First team, baby, first team!"

Poythress meant first-team all-NBA. Collison's name won't show up on that leaderboard, but he doesn't care. His statistical feats, combined with his leadership and solid defense — he ranked 29th in the steals entering Tuesday's games — have combined to bring the best of the nine seasons he's played.

Collison wasn't prolific in either of his league-leading categories. He hit 96 3-pointers and averaged 5.3 assists, neither of which would come close to the league lead for sheer volume. But he was efficient, which is all he ever wanted to be.

It's certainly the most satisfying season, one in which he quarterbacked a team predicted to win about 32 games to a 48-34 record and playoff berth amid the best locker room chemistry he's ever experienced.

Collison was beginning to talk about that camaraderie when former teammate Damien Wilkins stepped into the media huddle to shake his hand. The 38-year-old Wilkins had made the Pacers' roster without a guaranteed contract this season but was released shortly before the trade deadline. He was a major contributor to the locker room chemistry before he left, however, which is why he was invited by Pacers management to attend Tuesday's game.

"That's my guy right here," Collison said, pointing to Wilkins.

"This locker room has a lot of character and lot of chemistry," Wilkins said when asked to comment. "Everybody trusts each other and cares about each other and that's rare in professional sports. Them bringing me back here tonight says a lot about the organization. These guys here in this locker room..."

"He's being modest," Collison interrupted. "He had a big part in our season, too. We had some good vets. Him, Big Al, Thaddeus..."

"You're not young!" Wilkins interrupted, laughing.

"I guess you can say I'm a vet now," the 30-year-old Collison said. "It's been fun all year long. The best part about this season is this locker room. You had a chance to play with some good people. That makes its all the better. Everybody supported each other day-in and day-out."

On the other side of the locker room, "Big Al" Jefferson was lending support. He's been in the league for each of Collison's seasons, but got a first-hand look this time around.

"One thing about DC, he's consistent," Jefferson said. "He do his job night-in and night-out. He don't try to do too much, or not enough, he's just consistent. A true point guard who gets his team involved. Hits shots when he has to, gets physical on defense when he has to. He's been doing that his whole career."

But never better than this season.

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Mark Montieth's book, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," covers the formation and early seasons of the franchise. It is available at retail outlets throughout Indiana and online at sources such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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