A Weekly Dose of Pacers Postivity #2: Darren Collison is new and improved

For A Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity, I will bring a short column that highlights something about this team that gives me hope. The season is long. We need to focus on the positives whether in the midst of a winning streak or the depths of a rough patch. This week’s topic: Darren Collison.

I cannot lie. Well, I can, but not about my first thoughts when I learned the Pacers signed Darren Collison. I was confused, sad, and a little disappointed. I knew Collison had been in the news for some less than ideal reasons (domestic battery), and I could not shake his shaky play against the Heat series from six seasons ago. 
In fact, I wondered if I had some weird, false memory about how very much not good he was in that series, so I checked.

Things rarely went well when he was in (and the second unit, in general, to be fair), with zero games containing a positive +/-. Game 6 sported a healthy -25. My memory had not betrayed me. I did forget about his one good game in that series where he went 7 for 8 from the field while the Pacers continued to shed points (-10). Credit where credit is due.

But Darren Collison, in 2017, gives me hope.

Through six games (I’m writing this while Indiana tortures George Hill, former usurper of Collison’s starting job, at the Fieldhouse in game seven), Collison is averaging 14 points and eight assists. He’s scored in double figures in every game but one, scoring eight against the Spurs. 

But I’m most impressed by how little Collison turns the ball over. His 4:1 assist to turnover ratio is exciting enough to make me want to write Mrs. Weezet, my fourth grade math teacher, and tell her I finally get it! (Editor’s Note: As a 5th-Grade teacher, I can say the struggle with ratios is real.)

Collison is moving the ball and making good decisions. Against the Timberwolves, he made 16 good decisions in the first three quarters that led to assists. His early season high in assists will be tough to beat (his career high is 20 in 2010), but I am hopeful he will try. 

Collison is much improved from his original time with the Pacers, mostly as a shooter. The original DC was like all the recent DC Comics movies until Wonder Woman. You mostly wished you were watching Marvel (some other point guard) instead. His percentages have steadily improved from 33% in his second season to 41.7% last season with the Kings. He’s off to a slow start at just 30.4% this year, but his career average is at 37.8% and will improve as the season goes on. 

Collison has also made some assists that I don’t remember him even looking for in his first stint, particularly in transition. He’s found Oladipo many times on the break or with him beating the defense down the floor. One in particular looked like Aaron Rodgers throwing the go route to Jordy Nelson through a tight window for a touchdown (about 45 seconds in on video).

The Pacers as a team playing faster and sharing the ball more effectively, averaging the 7th-most team assists so far. The Pacers are running more and more offense through Domas Sabonis, who continues to give me hope, so while Collison’s assists may go down, the team’s focus on passing should remain.

I’m hopeful the Pacers can remain a top-10 assist team. Last year, they finished tied with the Bucks at 13th. If they do finish in the top 10, Collison will have played a large role…for as many games as he is here…because there is another reason, a more devious reason, I am hopeful.

DC could be traded. Next season his contract is only partially guaranteed, and so far, he is showing that he is a solid starting point guard that could help a team making a playoff push or one that needs an above average backup because of an injury. If the Pacers were offered a first-round pick for DC and/or a young player on a rookie-scale deal, they would have to seriously consider at it. Because of Collison’s deal, strong play, and lack of any recent off court issues, there is no rush to do anything, but he is reminding the NBA that he can play. 

People tend to forget about what happens in Sacramento. It’s like the NBA’s “Upside Down.” Darren is Stranger Things lost child Will. He escaped. He probably still has psychological problems because of his time there. (For George Hill’s sake, let’s hope he’s not Barb).

But with the Pacers winning like they are, they might want to see what this team can do if it stays together.

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