The Kings signed Darren Collison not only to play point guard, but to add some perspective to a locker room where some of the key players never have been a part of a winning NBA team.
After the final practice before Wednesday night’s season opener against the Warriors at Sleep Train Arena, Collison is under no delusions that when the Kings step on the floor, chemistry magically will happen.
With that in mind, the Kings need to be focused every possession.
“I was telling my teammates we don’t have the luxury of making any mistakes,” Collison said. “All these other good teams, they come in here and make mistakes here and there. But us, we can’t make no mistakes, so we have to be conscious of that.”
Collison’s message must be heard by everyone if the Kings are to begin the season by knocking off a team that fancies itself a championship contender.
After spending the last three seasons trying to find someone other than Isaiah Thomas to start at point guard, the Kings will look to Collison to be the glue on offense who keeps the ball moving and the first line of defense against opposing point guards.
DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay are expected to be the big scorers this season, and it’s Collison’s job to make sure that happens while keeping everyone else happy as best he can.
Collison, who played for the Los Angeles Clippers last season, is slowly expanding his leadership role in Sacramento after signing a three-year, $16 million contract in the offseason.
“My teammates are definitely playing a big part in helping me lead this team,” Collison said. “I’m leading because I want to win, badly. I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll say what I have to say to win, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
Coach Michael Malone understands Collison isn’t stepping into a ready-made situation. The Kings have had a lot of roster turnover from last season, and part of the process will be Collison getting to know his teammates, many of whom never have played together.
Malone isn’t asking Collison to take over the locker room by yelling and calling out teammates.
“I think it’s going to take awhile,” Malone said. “I think when you have all these new guys still trying to find that chemistry and that bond, it’s not going to happen overnight, and I never expected it to happen overnight. Darren leads by example, and he’ll definitely communicate with guys, a little bit more one-on-one right now as opposed to a group setting.”
Publicly, Collison has been measured in his assessment of his teammates. Being the point guard for a team that ranked last in assists last season, Collison hasn’t taken to pointing out the selfish tendencies that have dogged the Kings for years.
Rather, Collison points out the progress the team has made. He’s repeatedly said that turning the Kings into a winner will take time, especially when much is expected of new players.
Collison said the assist problem has shown signs of improvement.
“The one thing that I can say is guys are making a conscious effort to get others involved,” Collison said. “That’s the first step. It’s not going to be pretty all the time; you might have turnovers here or there. But if guys are thinking to make that extra pass, that’s all you can ask for, and then you go from there.”
Collison’s thinking is in line with Malone’s. And starting tonight, Collison will see if he can lead the Kings further than most expect by the end of the season.
“He’s that coach on the floor, so when he’s out there, he’s running the team, and he and I will be in constant communication,” Malone said. “I know the players all trust him, but that’s only going to get better as the season goes on.”
That’s all Collison is trying to do, starting tonight.