NEW ORLEANS – When Chris Paul went down with a severe ankle injury on Nov. 13, groans were heard across the Crescent City.
Little did anyone know DC2 was about to break out and become Paul’s equal.
Collison made big play after big play, hitting a game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation, coming up with several big free throws in overtime and willing the Hornets to a 102-99 win over Milwaukee.
Collison has made losing Paul a little bit easier to take.
The rookie isn’t playing like much of a rookie and assistant coach Tim Floyd has a good idea why.
“(He’s) very well-schooled and gained a lot of confidence playing at UCLA and that confidence has transferred to this level,” Floyd said. “I think the fact he stayed in college for four years has helped him also navigate his way early on.”
Collison has nerves of steel, hardened by three trips to the Final Four in four years at UCLA, the basketball paradise made famous for being a winning basketball program.
His parents were Olympians for Guyana.
His coaches have believed in him.
And now, after Wednesday night, his teammates are beginning to believe in him.
The 3-pointer sealed that.
“He took it as if it was the first quarter,” veteran point guard Devin Brown said. “You give him credit. He knocked it down. You can’t really tell that kind of stuff when we’re going through training camp. But if it’s going to be a close game and he’s going to step up and do stuff like that, we applaud him.”
Added captain and two-time All-Star forward David West, “In terms of pressure situations, he has been through this. Nothing is going to rattle him. He wants the ball in late-game situations. As the year goes on, as a team, we’re gaining more confidence in terms of putting the ball in his hands and expecting big things from him.”
For Collison, it’s jut like playing in college or on the playgrounds growing up.
To him, basketball is basketball, no matter what the level is he’s playing at.
“It’s no different for me from college, when you’re playing at the second highest level at a prestigious school,” Collison said. “That’s the situation that we were in pretty much the whole time. When the game was going down, coach put the ball in my hand to make plays. Even though it’s the NBA, it’s no different.”
And for that, New Orleans is ever grateful.
It will be for years.