For years, Darren Collison’s body was like an old, trusted car.
It would do just fine once he got going, but he needed a few minutes to warm it up.
When getting loose before games became harder, Collison thought some extra stretching and pregame exercises would suffice. But in February, his discomfort was linked to a core muscle injury that required surgery, and he missed the rest of the season.
Collison said he feels like a new man and has looked the part throughout training camp and the Kings’ preseason opener Monday, when he had 22 points and 10 assists in a 109-105 overtime victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I’m able to just go out there and just play,” said Collison, who believes he’s in for a big season. “Times in the past, before the game, it would take me forever just to try to get ready, even overlapping into the first few minutes of the game – I’d feel tight. But my body feels good. I’m able to really go out there and perform the way I really want to perform.”
Collison’s game consists of speed, quickness and constant movement to push the offense and pester on defense. He unknowingly played through his nagging injury, which doctors said should have been surgically repaired three or four years ago. After the operation, Collison felt the difference.
Entering his seventh season, the 28-year-old Collison said he’s thankful to be healthy and back on the court.
“My body feels a lot looser,” he said. “I’m able to move out there freely the way I want to move.”
Kings coach George Karl, who was hired after Collison’s injury was diagnosed, thought the point guard would be a good fit in his system. Karl now takes it a bit further, saying Collison has looked like the Kings’ best player at times.
“Collison, I’m happy to say, is as good or better than I thought he would be,” Karl said. “I’m excited about how good he can be. I think the way we play helps him maybe open up a window in his career that he hasn’t had before.”
Despite the injury, Collison averaged a career-high 16.1 points last season. With renewed health, Collison believes he can live up to Karl’s expectations.
“Most definitely,” Collison said. “I can’t wait. People have no idea how I feel. And on top of that, the system definitely helps me to go out there and just play.”
Karl wants Collison to do what he did last season but at a higher level and increased pace. Though the Kings signed veteran point guard Rajon Rondo, Collison remains important.
While Collison and Rondo have played on opposing sides during training camp, Karl experimented by playing them together Monday.
Karl has a history of giving point guards a lot of freedom, which excites Collison.
“It’s a point guard system,” Collison said. “Go out there and create, not just for yourself but for others. Every point guard would love to play in this system. You’ve just got to try to take advantage of it. Use your speed and quickness and try to make the right plays.”