Saturday, February 20, 2010

The maturation of a rookie and the success of a team

Posted By on Sat, Feb 20, 2010 at 4:16 AM

click to enlarge Darren Collison is good

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Photograph by Jonathan Bachman

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Coming off a tough home loss to the Utah Jazz two nights ago, the New Orleans Hornets sat three games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With more than two-thirds of the teams left on their schedules sporting winning records, New Orleans needed to take advantage of a weak Pacers team to keep their playoff hopes alive.

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Led by surging rookie Darren Collison's first career triple-double, the Hornets put on just the effort they needed in their 107-101 win. Contributions came from all over the floor - David West put up 29 points and notched a career-high seven assists, Emeka Okafor had a double-double, all five Hornets starters scored in double figures and 12 points off the bench. The Hornets led by as many as 21 points and, though the Pacers made a late surge in the fourth to bring the game within four, the game was never really in doubt.

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"We made some very good plays, some very good basketball reads," head coach Jeff Bower said. "We did some instinctive things throughout the game that we're really happy with that showed signs of guys making progress."

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Hornets fans would be hard-pressed to remember the last time their team put forth such a complete effort that led to such a dominating win (on the heals of a rough loss against a conference foe, no less). But while the whole team won the game, the highlights had to go to the Hornets' two rookies. Forced into extended minutes because of the injury to Chris Paul, both Thornton and Collison have responded with veteran-like performances. Collison is averaging 17.4 points, 8.2 assists and 3.9 rebounds a game and managing his team (almost) as well as Paul.

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"I was just going out ther and playing and my teammates were just telling me what I needed and being supportive," he said. "My teammates kept telling me that I was close and reiterating that I was close to a triple-double and that I kept stealing their rebounds."

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Talented and humble. But that's what happens when your teammates make you walk around with a Disney princess backpack (Morris Peterson's brilliant idea) and they find ways to keep you grounded even when you're playing out of your mind. When Collison nearly had a triple-double a few games back, it was Paul pointing out how he came up short. This time, Collison's teammates pointed to his eight turnovers.

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So long as the Hornets keep winning and Collison keeps putting up All-Star numbers, the rookie should be able to take everything his teammates say in stride.

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