Darren Collison was signed to add leadership, help an offense play at a faster tempo and pressure the ball defensively.
Where have we heard this before?
That was the gist of what the Kings wanted from Collison in July 2014, when he was signed to a three-year contract. But like many of the Kings’ plans in recent years, things didn’t quite work out.
Collison would play for four coaches, watch the team sign Rajon Rondo and relegate him to backup status. In his final season, he helped usher in the post-DeMarcus Cousins era by being held out of games so the Kings could increase the odds of holding on to their top-10 protected draft pick.
The Indiana Pacers signed Collison as a free agent this summer, and early returns are positive. Collison is the starting point guard, averaging 14.3 points and 8.0 assists per game.
He said his time with the Kings proved beneficial.
“After everything I’ve been through as a player with Sac and still coming to work every single day, despite everything we were dealing with, kind of helped me for this situation,” Collison said. “It’s like I’ve been through worse as a player. So just taking that same leadership, that same professionalism and bringing it over here and I’m much happier.”
The Pacers entered Tuesday’s game against the Kings at 3-3, even though center Myles Turner has been limited to one game this season because of a concussion and sore neck.
Collison has helped the Pacers remain competitive.
“He’s brought leadership at the point guard position. You need that,” said Indiana coach Nate McMillan. “He is the guy that’s really establishing our tempo for us, and I think that at the point guard position you need that guy to do that offensively and defensively.”
Collison, who also played for the Pacers from 2010-12, likes the feeling of Indiana’s settled situation. The proof is in his big smile while he talks about it.
“This is something I’ve been longing for, to have some type of stability and direction,” Collison said. “I thought KP (Indiana general manager Kevin Pritchard) has done a good job. When I first came over here, he talked to me pretty much every other day about what he wants, and this is something that I wanted.”
Collison is also excited about an opportunity to make the playoffs, which eluded him during his time with the Kings.
“That was the first thing that they said, ‘We’re not trying to rebuild, we’re trying to win,’ ” Collison said. “We’ve got some guys that have played and experienced (winning) basketball. Myles has been in the playoffs, Victor (Oladipo) has been in the playoffs and even our young guys have some experience. So I don’t think they’re here to rebuild, they’re here to win.”