With the departure of Eric Bledsoe, the Los Angeles Clippers were faced with a dilemma requiring them to find a replacement for one of the most explosive players in the league at the point guard position, one of the most vital roles on an NBA roster. A team facing this ordeal usually searches for a “serviceable” guy who can give you good enough minutes to get by and hold the fort while the starter (Chris Paul) gets a breather. When the Clippers signed Darren Collison to be their backup point guard, they got a whole lot more.
Collison began his NBA career with the New Orleans Hornets in 2009-2010. Collison’s potential was evident from the start. Standing at a compact 6-foot-0 and 175 pounds, with a fantastic first step and a polished jump shot, Col
lison had lucked out and would be learning the tricks of the trade from the best floor general in the association, Chris Paul.
In an unfortunate turn of events, CP3 suffered a left knee injury which sidelined him for the remaining 37 games of the season. Collison answered the bell with surprising poise which translated to instant success. He averaged 19.2 points per game, 8.4 assists per game, and by the final month of the season he cut down his turnover average from 5 to 3 per game when starting as a rookie. Collison started 36 games and tallied 9 plus assists in 21 of those outings.
During timeouts coach Byron Scott would have his team in the huddle and beside them Coach Paul was coaching up his protege, noting areas of needed improvement and applauding the young man’s successes. Paul was Collison’s greatest critic while being his number one cheerleader and this contributed to Collison’s quick maturity.
Paul is a fantastic game manager and if you look at stats of players who played with him, their points per game and shooting percentages are some of the best when stacked up against other years of their careers. Tyson Chandler averaged his highest career point total (11.8) in his second season with Paul, and his shooting percentage of 62 percent was almost 10 percent higher compared to his career shooting percentage.
The key for Collison is to once again find this ability to make everyone around him better and never force up bad shots, and this is the quality which is used to define elite point guards and many young PG’s are challenged with this early in their careers.
The thought that if you completely subdue your mindset to the pass-first mentality your ability to score will be hindered. This is completely untrue for both Paul and Collison. The years in which they both averaged their highest career assists per game totals, they also averaged their second highest career scoring years(Collison also had career highs in shooting percentage, FGs and 3PFGs). Eventually Collison was traded to Indiana, where he played 79 games. His averages fell significantly. averaging almost six fewer points per game and three fewer assists per game as this led to the leveling off of Collison’s play. He lost his confidence and at times looked lost in Indiana and Dallas. A change for the one they called DC2 was in order.
Now four years removed from his rookie season, Collison’s game has not drastically slipped, yet his straying from the pass-first mentality has attributed to the slight decline in his play. Luckily for him he and his former mentor are reuniting. Paul’s role of teacher now becomes that of a guiding force as Collison is no longer a rookie. Don’t expect much of a learning curve for Collison as Paul will use his well documented vocal leadership to give Collison as much of an edge as possible before the season arrives. Darren Collison’s understanding of his role will be crystal clear, the coaching of Chris Paul and Doc Rivers will ensure that. He will know teammate tendencies before he even touches the floor in regular season action and he will once again become a pass first point guard in the city where being a pass-first point guard is the most fun: Lob City.
Come November and the season begins to unfold, their is no doubt in my mind that the Los Angeles Clippers will have the strongest 1-2 tandem at the point guard position in the entire league with CP3 and DC2.