Big Easy Buzz Blog - December 21, 2009

Collison adapts to return to reserve role

Monday, December 21, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer,
There is no bigger determining factor for a rookie’s success in the NBA than playing time. Most first-year pros aren’t consistently on the floor, but for those who are fortunate enough to be in a team’s rotation, the individual accolades usually come quickly.

Darren Collison’s early experience with the Hornets provides a telling example. Through the first two weeks of the season, he barely played, but after Chris Paul’s severe ankle sprain on Nov. 13, the UCLA product stepped into a starting role. In eight games as a starter, Collison averaged 14.9 points and 6.9 assists in 31.0 minutes, climbing to the fourth spot in’s “Rookie Rankings.”

As expected though, upon Paul’s return from injury on Dec. 4, the 22-year-old’s playing time has dipped. Over eight games since being back in the second unit, Collison’s averages are 2.1 points, 2.6 assists and 13.1 minutes. He’s no longer listed by in its weekly review of rooks.

The 6-footer’s approach changes somewhat in the different roles. Based on the stats and observing the games, he’s had more of a pass-first mentality as a backup than when he was a first-stringer.

“When you’re getting a lot of minutes (as a starter), you can kind of afford to work yourself into the game,” he said. “On the second unit, you have to make sure everyone is involved in the offense, but you only have a little bit of time. I’m OK with the role. And it’s not all about me.

“I didn’t expect to start in place of CP, but things change, obviously. My only concern is winning games, but that’s everyone’s concern. I appreciate the position I’m in right now.”

Despite the early-season inactivity as a Hornet, Collison has logged 425 minutes so far in 2009-10, which is nearly half of what he played in full college seasons at UCLA.

“I’m doing cool physically,” Collison said. “I don’t know how your body Is supposed to feel (at this point of an NBA season), but as of now I’m good. The season is going to be a little bit harder and harder, but that’s why you’ve got to take care of your body.”

Better Hornets bowler: CP3 or Julian?

The debate raged on among Hornets players at Peja Stojakovic’s third annual Charitabowl, which was held Thursday: Who’s the best bowler on the team? Is it guard Chris Paul, who once appeared on the cover of US Bowler Magazine? Or is it forward Julian Wright, who claims an impressive high game of 278?

“Chris takes bowling very seriously, but so does Julian,” assessed Stojakovic, trying to provide an impartial opinion. “I can’t really pick. I might give a small edge to Chris because he’s been bowling a lot longer. But both of them are very serious players.”

Stojakovic, Paul, Wright and numerous other Hornets were on hand at All-Star Lanes in Kenner, to sign autographs, mingle with fans and fellow bowlers, as well as roll a game or two. Stojakovic opted not to bowl at his Charitabowl event, preferring to spend more time meeting and talking with other attendees. He stood nearby as Paul began one of his games.

“Chris has his own bowling ball that he brings, his own bowling shoes and a bowling bag,” Stojakovic noted. “This is not just a game to him.”

“Any time a guy shows up with a couple of his own bowling balls and shoes, you’ve got to give him the edge,” a grinning Sean Marks said, weighing on the Paul-Wright bowling debate. “I’ve bowled with both Chris and Julian, and I’ve got to go with Chris.”

Hornets guard Morris Peterson hesitated when he was asked to pick the best bowler on the team.

“You mean behind me?” Peterson joked. “Well, I went to Chris’ bowling tournament and he turned his game up. He’s the kind of guy where if someone else rolls a strike, he’s going to get one himself. He’s clutch. Julian tends to fall off a bit.”

Meanwhile, forward Darius Songaila told another story that was damaging to Wright’s claim to be the preeminent roller on the team. When Hornets players held a team-wide bowling event in Lafayette during training camp, Wright was outscored by both Songaila and Marks, who rolled a team-best 198.

“I was on the same team with JuJu,” Songaila remembered, laughing. “But I carried our team that night. So I don’t know about (Wright). He kept (using the excuse) that he didn’t have his ball with him. You know how that goes...”

With several teammates leaning toward Paul, it was only fair to let Wright make his case.

“Chris has some really big games, but then he’ll have those 160s and 170s,” the third-year pro said. “I’m a little bit more consistent. Chris is more official with his gear by having the shoes and a bowling shirt and things like that, but I’m more official on the lanes.”