DALLAS — Darren Collison resumed the season as Derek Fisher‘s backup, a coaching decision he doesn’t like, but will have to live with.
Collison, benched Tuesday night after 14 games, said he didn’t receive a fair shot as the Dallas Mavericks’ starting point guard.
“I don’t think so, and we all know that; my teammates, they feel the same way, everybody feels the same way,” Collison said prior to Saturday night’s game against the Detroit Pistons. He made his first appearance midway through the first quarter and finished with five points and eight assists in 27 minutes.
“But, at the end of the day, coach, he makes the decision,” Collison said. “There’s nothing you can do about it but go out there and do your job.”
The Mavs went 7-7 with Collison running the point. He started the season on fire, leading an up-tempo attack and Dallas to a 4-1 record. He’s struggled since with a flat jumper and too many turnovers, as well as with individual defensive matchups.
Coach Rick Carlisle, apparently had seen enough and benched Collison Tuesday at Philadelphia, and then Collison missed Wednesday’s game at Chicago with a sprained right middle finger. It was Dallas’ third consecutive loss and its eighth in the last 11 games.
On Friday, Dallas signed Fisher to take over as the team’s starting point guard. Carlisle called the acquisition “a great situation” for Collison because the fourth-year point guard out of UCLA will be able to learn under the 38-year-old veteran, owner of five championship rings with the Lakers.
Collison said he’d prefer to learn through playing.
“I feel like at this point in my career, if there’s anything I need to learn it’s just go out there on the court and just learn from my mistakes,” Collison said. “That’s what a lot of young guards do, you go out there, you learn from your mistakes. As far as Derek Fisher, I think I can learn from him. He’s a great leader on and off the court. I’m looking forward to playing with him.”
Fisher hasn’t played since Game 5 of the last June’s NBA Finals with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He remained unsigned until Friday and went through one practice with his new Dallas teammates. Depending on Fisher’s conditioning, Collison could still be called on to play starter-type minutes.
Still, Collison didn’t hide the frustration of losing his job before December. It’s the second time in eight months that he’s dealt with moving to the bench. He lost his starting job at Indiana to George Hill after a late-season injury, a scenario Collison said was easier to swallow than this performance-based demotion.
“This is a little bit unique because I’ve never had a situation like this before,” Collison said. “I got hurt before, but not this type of situation. I know how to deal with it. I’ll be all right.”
When Dallas made the July trade with Indiana to get Collison, 25, they quickly tabbed him as Jason Kidd‘s replacement in the starting lineup. Carlisle said he has told Collison that he remains a major part of the team’s plans.
“Darren’s still one of our best players and I’ve made that clear to him,” Carlisle said. “One of the reasons we’ve had success here in recent years is we’ve had starting-caliber players playing off the bench. There are areas where Darren’s going to get better. I see him as a guy who is still developing and I can’t imagine a better situation for a point guard than being at practice every day with Derek Fisher.”
Collison is averaging 12.9 points on 43.8 percent shooting (31.6 percent on 3s), 6.3 assists and 2.5 turnovers. All 14 of his starts came without the benefit of Dirk Nowitzki, who remains out after knee surgery on Oct. 19.
“I’m mentally tough,” Collison said. “I think I’ve been through everything throughout my whole career. I pretty much know how to deal with adversity pretty well. As long as I don’t let it affect me than I should be all right.”