There is no bigger determining factor for a rookies success in the NBA than playing time. Most first-year pros arent consistently on the floor, but for those who are fortunate enough to be in a teams rotation, the individual accolades usually come quickly.
Darren Collisons early experience with the Hornets provides a telling example. Through the first two weeks of the season, he barely played, but after Chris Pauls 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 NBA.coms Rookie Rankings.
As expected though, upon Pauls return from injury on Dec. 4, the 22-year-olds playing time has dipped. Over eight games since being back in the second unit, Collisons averages are 2.1 points, 2.6 assists and 13.1 minutes. Hes no longer listed by NBA.com in its weekly review of rooks.
The 6-footers approach changes somewhat in the different roles. Based on the stats and observing the games, hes had more of a pass-first mentality as a backup than when he was a first-stringer.
When youre 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. Im OK with the role. And its not all about me.
I didnt expect to start in place of CP, but things change, obviously. My only concern is winning games, but thats everyones concern. I appreciate the position Im 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.
Im doing cool physically, Collison said. I dont know how your body Is supposed to feel (at this point of an NBA season), but as of now Im good. The season is going to be a little bit harder and harder, but thats why youve got to take care of your body.
The debate raged on among Hornets players at Peja Stojakovics third annual Charitabowl, which was held Thursday: Whos 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 cant really pick. I might give a small edge to Chris because hes 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, youve got to give him the edge, a grinning Sean Marks said, weighing on the Paul-Wright bowling debate. Ive bowled with both Chris and Julian, and Ive 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. Hes the kind of guy where if someone else rolls a strike, hes going to get one himself. Hes clutch. Julian tends to fall off a bit.
Meanwhile, forward Darius Songaila told another story that was damaging to Wrights 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 dont know about (Wright). He kept (using the excuse) that he didnt 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 hell have those 160s and 170s, the third-year pro said. Im 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 Im more official on the lanes.