For the first time in his NBA career, Darren Collison returned home to Southern California this summer in complete control of his own destiny.
Traded twice during his four seasons in the league, the Etiwanda High School graduate is a free agent following his lone season with the Dallas Mavericks.
The color of his uniform next season isn’t the only uncertainty for Collison, who is hosting his third annual summer camp Monday through Friday at Etiwanda. After stepping in for an injured Chris Paul his rookie season in New Orleans, Collison was a starting point guard until a late-season injury in Indiana last year. He came off the bench for the Pacers in last season’s playoffs and started 47 of 81 games this year after he was traded to the Mavericks in the offseason.
“There’s a lot of possibilities out there,” Collison said. “I think some teams see me as a starter and some see me as a bench player. I don’t really care. I just want to win an NBA championship.”
Collison joined the Mavericks a couple years late for that.
As one of nine players on the roster in the final year of a contract or entering an option year, the team chemistry this season wasn’t ideal for Collison. It didn’t help that Dirk Nowitzki missed the first 27 games of Collison’s tenure with the Mavericks, dropping the team into a hole from which it never recovered. Dallas narrowly missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years while Collison’s old team took the Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.
Collison remembers his two seasons in Indiana fondly — the longest stretch of his career with one team — but is in search of a destination where stability is a high priority.
“For a young player like myself, you want to stay put with one team and grow with that team,” he said. “It might be a young rebuilding team that fits my personality best or it might be a veteran team looking for one more piece. I just want to find a team that wants me.”
With career averages of 12.1 points and 5.2 assists to compliment the defensive prowess he developed under Dave Kleckner at Etiwanda and Ben Howland at UCLA, the 6-foot, 175-pound point guard has certainly established himself as an asset.
This season Etiwanda won its first CIF championship since Collison led the team to its first in 2005. His camp, which will be held in the Etiwanda gym, will look different this season.
In addition to teaching sixth through eighth graders basketball fundamentals today through Wednesday, this year Collison is welcoming a select few high school players to the camp. The final two days will be invitation only for some of the top high school players in the Inland Empire.
“I want to try and take it a step forward and treat it like the Adidas camps I used to go to,” Collison said. “There is a lot of talent in Southern California, especially the Inland Empire, and I want to promote that and try to be a local guy that can get to know some of these kids and help them out.”