Darren Collison recently had successful surgery to repair a core muscle injury that effectively ended his season with the Sacramento Kings. It also prevented him from starting fresh with his teammates under newly hired head coach George Karl.
Karl has expressed how much he wished he had Collison in the lineup to help push the pace of the offense and for his playmaking abilities (the team is 5-10 in Collison's absence). The 27-year-old point guard has been in Vancouver recently rehabbing with a specialist as the Kings continue an eight-game road trip. While he waits for the team to get back to Sacramento so he can rejoin them, he took some time to speak to Sactown Royalty over the phone.
So talk about your rehab and trying to get that core strength back.
Just trying to continue to walk and do more core exercises. I think I want to be able to get my core stronger, that's probably one of the main reasons why I had this injury ... I've been playing with this injury for so long so I want to be able to make sure my core is right and make sure I do what I have to do.
Had this been bugging you before this season or is it something that you started to feel this season?
I actually had something similar like this when I was in Indiana and I missed a couple of weeks right before the playoffs with the same injury, but it was on the left side. I ended up coming back to play two weeks later, but I think ever since then I have been managing and tolerating somewhat of the tightness and the pain that came with it. I could just never get right there, the way I want to get right, healthy. I've just been kind of managing it, stretching it ... and then during the Dallas [Mavericks] game this past year that's when I really pulled something and the specialist said that I had tore something. And then that when he realized that I have been damaging this for like a very, very long time even going back to my Indiana days. So it is just something that I learned how to deal with it ... but I'm glad that I'm getting it out of the way so I don't have to deal with it anymore.
When you go through an injury like this and it is something that ends your season, is that scary for you as a player or do you just view it as ‘OK, I will be fine once I rehab and I will be back to normal'?
I had got hurt in college, I had an ACL sprain, but for me personally I have never been scared that I wasn't going to get back. I always took that as a process and I just have to take each day, just like I work on my game, I have to take each day to rehab stronger. And I look at it after every injury you become a new player anyway because your body is telling you that something that wasn't working before so it Is just something that I just have to refocus on … My wife and my parents know how sad I was not being able to play anymore, but at the same time I know I have to get better and get healthy.
How are you spending your time these days when you aren't rehabbing?
In the past, I used to go crazy. I used to really go crazy, but I think the older you get and now that I have a son now, I try to focus my attention on him and my wife and my family as well. So I think that just takes up the time from me not being around my teammates.
The team has struggled a little bit on the road trip. How difficult is it for you to watch games without being out there and what do you make of how the team is playing right now?
There are some positive things. We actually have a system. We actually have spacing and guys know exactly where they're going to be. So there's a purpose and that's always a good thing. I think before we weren't playing with a purpose, we just had talent and we would win one game with our talent, but you can't win that many games off your talent in this league. So the good thing when George Karl came is that now we can establish an identity and I think we're slowly, but surely establishing that identity. But it's going to take some time, we are struggling a little bit, but for the most part I see good times. I think the guys are playing hard. I think George Karl has them playing at a very, very good level right now even though we're not winning games. But I think we're going to be in every single game from here on out.
Ray McCallum has a chance now to show what he can do as he has taken over the starting role. What do you think about how he has done?
I'm impressed. But kind of not surprised because I always thought that Ray could be a good player in this league. He's still growing and he's growing really, really well right now and he's getting better each day. He's probably one of the main players that continued to work on his game despite his playing time being slim at the beginning of the year. But I'm extremely happy for him, I think he's going to do a good job for us for the second half of the season, and he's playing well. I can't ask anything else of him.
When Andre Miller joined the Kings, Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins kind of joked about his age but expressed that they were glad to have him. What are your thoughts on what he brings to this team as a veteran, especially with them not having you in the fold.
I think he is another coach on the court. You say that the point guard is always an extension of the coach but Andre Miller has been around for a very, very long time and the way he plays with so much knowledge of the game and he's always patient, he's always making the right plays is something that we can use. It's something that we can learn from ... he's always been good to me, he's always been a good advisor to talk to about certain things and he's always been positive.
You mentioned spacing and having a system now under George Karl. Can you elaborate on what you see out of his system so far and why you think it can work moving forward?
I think in today's game, it's a lot more high pace. Guys are playing at a fast-paced level... if you look at today's game I think everybody is starting to run more and I think running more is the way everyone is playing because the teams are just so good I think you need to know how to score as much easy points as possible. Everybody is trying to mimic what the San Antonio Spurs are doing. So I think he has that DNA in him. He has that going out in transition and running when he's played well, when he coached the Denver Nuggets and the Seattle teams … it's going to take some time right now, its always time to adjust to a new system but I think once we get the hang of it I think we're going to be a lot more successful than we were in the past.
And that is kind of different approach or style than what you came into the season with. Do you think the transition is what the team is experiencing right now?
Yeah, we've actually kind of been through three training camps throughout the year ... every team in training camp is going through a learning experience and is just trying to get the hang of it. And then once you get the hang of it, then you get more comfortable with it. But we didn't expect to go out there and just start doing well all the sudden. I think we are improving, our practices have been great, our effort has been great ... we're playing with a purpose now and I think we're starting to understand how to play the right way and understand the spacing.
Some of the chatter as of late has centered on the fact that DeMarcus and Rudy have been seen sort of jawing at each other a little bit during games. As a teammate of theirs, is that normal and is it just being competitive or is it a cause for concern?
Rudy and DeMarcus they're the best of friends off the court ... so whenever they're off the court, you can't tell anything happened on the court so I'm not concerned. I think during the games, they're very competitive, they both want to win and you're going to always have those things. It's just like any family. Any good family, any family that's really close you're going to step on each other's toes here and there but at the end of day we understand that we're still together, we're still brothers. That's what is special about our team, despite what we've been through our chemistry has been really good. This is like the first year I've been on a team where you haven't necessarily had a good record, but our chemistry has been great. We have a bunch of good guys on the team, so I'm not worried about it.
You are dealing with the injury now, but with the opportunity that you got with the Kings, has it been fulfilling for you?
Yeah, I think before I got here ... there was talk that I'm not this, I can't do that. You hear the chatter, but it was just more fuel to me because I knew in the back of my mind that I was a starting point guard, and not just any starting point guard, I was a really good starting point guard ... I came here because the team wanted me more and I felt comfortable coming here, and I just happened to start and I just took off with that opportunity.
What would be a good goal for a win total next season for you? Is it whatever it takes to get into the playoffs or is there a win total you have in your mind?
I think a good starting goal would be to just make playoffs, and not only to make playoffs, but have some success in the playoffs. I just don't want to be the team that says, ‘oh yeah, we made the playoffs.' For me personally, no matter what team I've been with … I want to win a championship in my career. And if it's with the Kings, it's with the Kings, but that's what I want to do and that's my goal. I don't think you play just ‘we need this amount of wins.' I think you play to try to win a championship and that's always been my mentality for the last couple of years. If we say 40 wins, that may not even do it in the West because the West is so tough ... so I think for us we just have to get to the playoffs and we have to go from there.
You have played in other small markets, you played in Indiana. What would you say is unique about playing in Sacramento?
Their fan base - I think I mentioned that regardless of how we're playing or what our record is, they always seem to be in the game and they really care. Some fans they are only there for your success, when the team is doing well ... but these fans, they are there every night.
So it was announced that you were going to be out for six weeks. Is there a chance you may come back at some point this season or is it still the six weeks (the rest of the season) time frame?
I don't know. I think the biggest thing right now is to take each day by itself and go from there ... I don't know how my body will respond. I do know if it's only like three more games left, there's no need to play, you've got to let the young guys finish that season out. If it was the playoffs, of course, I think I would be a way more concerted effort to try to be with team during that time period, but as of right now, I just got to take my time and just try to get as healthy as much as possible.