Look around the NBA, and you’ll see plenty of scorers at point guard.
That’s not what the Kings want.
They want a point guard who will push the pace on offense, avoid dribbling out the shot clock, get teammates involved and defend.
And yes, make shots when they are available.
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That’s what the Kings expect from Darren Collison, their biggest free-agent pickup during the offseason.
Collison is in line to replace Isaiah Thomas, who was as popular as any King over the previous three seasons.
Thomas averaged career highs of 20.3 points and 6.3 assists last season, but the Kings did not attempt to re-sign him.
They believe Collison, playing for the fifth NBA team of his six-year career, can usher in an era of ball movement and unselfishness on offense and tenacity on defense.
Sacramento, which has missed the playoffs for the last eight seasons, has been known for dribbling – a lot – and playing selfishly on offense and indifferently on defense.
“He’s not a ‘me’ guy,” Kings coach Michael Malone said of Collison. “That’s not to say Isaiah Thomas was. Isaiah Thomas has been a scorer his whole career. Darren’s been a point guard his whole career, a playmaker.
“He can score, he can get his offense, he can make shots, and he’s an improved three-point shooter. But I love that he’s a two-way player and he’s very comfortable and effective at making plays for his teammates and getting guys involved.”
Collison, 27, isn’t the only addition at point guard. The team signed Ramon Sessions, and more will be expected from Ray McCallum in his second year.
But it’s Collison, who has known Malone since they were together in New Orleans during Collison’s rookie season, who figures to be scrutinized most after signing a three-year, $16 million deal.
Collison, however, isn’t bent on proving he’s a worthy upgrade.
“I know what I can do – I’m not worried about that,” Collison said Saturday after his first training camp practice with the Kings. “The one thing I got from being on last year’s team with the Clippers, you don’t got to prove nothing. Your game is going to show regardless.
“You work on your game, your hard work is going to show, but you’ve got to be able to put the team (ahead) of you. If we can give ourselves up and do whatever it takes to help the Sacramento Kings win, your game is going to show. So there’s nothing to prove individually.”
Collison averaged 11.4 points and 3.7 assists last season for the Los Angeles Clippers. He backed up All-NBA guard Chris Paul.
After Collison’s rookie season with New Orleans, where he also backed up Paul, he spent two seasons in Indiana and one in Dallas. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle benched him, saying he thought Collison was better as a reserve.
Malone believes Collison’s time with the Clippers last season will serve the Kings well. Los Angeles won the Pacific Division with a 57-25 record and reached the second round of the playoffs.
“He goes to L.A. and plays behind Chris Paul, plays with Doc Rivers and their staff, and he’s coming off a great run,” Malone said. “He knows what winning is about – that’s what I like about him. He’s been a winner.”
At one point last season, Malone could look around the locker room and realize most of his players had never been on a winning team in the NBA.
“Last year, we had the fewest amount of playoff games played in the NBA,” Malone said. “So to get a guy like Darren Collison who’s been to the playoffs with quite a few teams is only going to help us. He knows what it takes, he knows how to build the proper work habits every day, and I’m looking forward to him being one of the leaders of this team.”
Collison began assuming his role as a leader shortly after signing with the Kings in July by reaching out to his new teammates.
He also has been in town for most of September, working out and learning Malone’s offensive sets to get a head start on training camp.
“Leadership is so big right now for this team because we have some young guys that are on the verge of being really good and we have a chance of doing something special as the year progresses,” Collison said. “... Guys have got to be outspoken. Whatever we learned from our previous team, we’ve got to bring it back here.”
Exactly what the Kings want from their point guard.