For a kid from a small town in Iowa, itís been quite a summer for Nick Collison. After spending the month of June working out for NBA teams, Collison was selected with the 12th pick of the NBA Draft by the Seattle SuperSonics. Shortly after reporting to Seattle, Collison was thrown into action with the Sonics summer-league team, averaging 13.0 points and 7.4 rebounds per game as the Sonics went 6-1. After less than a month off, Collison was on to New York to begin practicing with this summerís Team USA entry in the FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament. While Collison played a limited role for Team USA, he ended up shooting 75% from the field during the tournament. Now heís ready to focus in on his rookie season in the NBA Ė well, almost ready. Collison (and teammate Luke Ridnour) are back in New York this week going through the NBAís Rookie Transition Program. SUPERSONICS.COM caught up with Collison last week as he was working out at The Furtado Center to get his reflections on his summer and the upcoming season.
SUPERSONICS.COM: Itís been almost two months, but we havenít gotten your perspective on summer league. How was it for you?
Collison played well as Team USAís Ď12th maní.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty
: It was good. We had a real good team Ė we went like 6-1. We really played well together. Personally, I played alright. I got in foul trouble a lot, which I wish I didnít, but I played well. I got a lot better as the tournament went on, and thatís what I wanted to do. Overall, it was a real good experience.
Was it good to have the opportunity to test yourself against some other top rookie big men like Chris Bosh and Brian Cook?
Collison: Yeah. It was fun to play against those guys. We matched up a lot before the draft, and you kinda get real close to your rookie class because you spend so much time with them with that, pre-draft, and then the rookie transition. It was good to play against those guys.
How was the Team USA experience?
Collison: That was great for me, practicing especially. I had to face Jermaine OíNeal, Tim Duncan, those guys every day, and it was great for me. Now when itís time to get out onto the court Iíll just be ready to play, I wonít take any time to try to adjust to the talent and the length of the guys because Iíve already done that. It will help me a lot in my progression this year.
Were you pleased with your performance during the tournament?
Collison: Yeah, I played well. I obviously didnít get a lot of minutes, but when I got in there, I played well. I was happy that it was fun, it was a fun tournament.
Was it nice, given your international experience, to reach the senior menís team, the highest level of international competition?
Collison: Oh yeah. I was real surprised when they asked me to play. I never would have thought they would have picked me to play. When they did, it was great. All those summers, I think, paid off because they knew I was going to do a good job, I was going to play hard and do what the coaches wanted me to do. They knew that because of the summers I played. Part of it was a reward for playing all the time, but also I think they knew I would do a good job.
Team USA went 10-0 and won the gold medal. How do you think it compares to past incarnations of Team USA?
Collison: Itís right up there. Itís probably not as good as the í92 team. The rest of them, Iíd say itís real competitive. We had great inside play with Timmy, Jermaine and Elton (Brand). Jason Kidd, running the point, is probably the best point guard in the league. We had scorers on the wings, (Tracy) McGrady and (Allen) Iverson, and they all played real well together. It was a good group.
A lot has been made of the teamwork Team USA exhibited this summer. Did you see that up close?
Collison: Yeah, you could. Guys really did a good job of doing whatever the coaches wanted. If that meant not getting very many shots, it didnít matter. Guys really got along well.
Have you heard anything about the possibility of playing for Team USA next year during the Olympics?
Collison: I donít know what theyíre going to do. Iíd imagine theyíre probably going to try to get a couple of other guys. Theyíll see what happens with Kobe (Bryant), and Iím sure theyíll try to get Shaq (OíNeal) again. But they could also try to keep it the same because it was pretty successful team. One thing I do think is if a guy who had been a pro, an All-Star level player, was playing as little as I did and Richard (Jefferson) did, theyíd be pretty upset and it could hurt the chemistry. For a guy in my position, itís great for me to go just for the experience. Weíll see what they do either way. If they donít ask me, I definitely understand, but if they do, that would be a great honor.
Watching the pickup games today, you and Ray Allen hooked up for a number of easy baskets. Did you guys develop a strong relationship playing together for Team USA?
Collison: Yeah, definitely. I think Ray knows the things I can do now. He knows I can shoot a little bit, he knows Iíll run, so heís looking for me in transition. Off the court, weíve gotten to know each other. Heís going to be great, as a vet, to try to help us along.
During the tournament, Iverson was quoted as saying, ďThe guy who has impressed me the most is Nick Collison ÖThat's my pick for Rookie of the Year.Ē What does it mean to have him say that about you?
Collison: Oh, thatís great. A guy like Iverson Ė one of the best players in the league Ė a guy who doesnít have to say anything nice about you if he doesnít want to. For him to give me a compliment like that, it means a lot. I think I gained those guysí respect, and thatís basically what I wanted to do Ė in practice or whatever playing time I got. That made me feel real good.
Are you looking forward to starting training camp?
Collison: Yeah, I think so. Summerís been so hectic, itís crazy that itís here already, but Iím ready to get it started and start to establish myself as an NBA player. I think thatís what all rookies want to do. Theyíre sure that they can play in the league, but they want to get out there and really show it. Thatís kinda where Iím at now. Iím confident I can play, but I want to get out there and show it Ė that Iím going to be in the league a long time.
Are you trying to get a feel for how you fit into the team during these pickup games?
Collison: Yeah. Itís real good. I havenít gotten to know about but Ray and Luke, really, so playing with the other guys is great.
From a team chemistry standpoint, do you think itís important to have this many guys here already?
Collison: Yeah, I think itís rare for an NBA team to be like this, working together. One of the things about Seattle that I knew was going to be great was the guys relations. They get along well. A lot of young guys, and, like I said, guys that get along well and want to win. Thereís great attitudes on this team; itís a fun team to play with.