Why Nick Collison's current and former mates consider him the ‘ultimate teammate'

Nick Collison's standing as an ‘ultimate teammate' alone didn't earn him a contract extension from the Oklahoma City Thunder. But it sure didn't hurt.
BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Modified: December 9, 2010 at 11:15 pm •  Published: December 4, 2010
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Former Thunder coach P.J. Carlesimo, now as assistant with the Toronto Raptors, sat courtside an hour before tipoff Friday night and discussed Nick Collison at breakneck speed, trying to find the proper words to do the player justice.

“I love Nick,” Carlesimo began. “He's great to coach. He's a pro. He works his (tail) off. He comes to play every day, whether he's starting or coming off the bench ...”

Carlesimo paused mid-sentence because Collison suddenly was within ear shot, having exited the court after his pre-game warm-up. Carlesimo raised his voice and his mood immediately changed.

“Collison's a jerk,” Carlesimo barked as Collison broke into a wide smile, took a quick detour and sat next to his former Seattle/OKC coach. “Of all the jerks I've ever met, he's the biggest.”

And there you have it. Somebody who has worked alongside Collison finally said something bad about the guy. All in jest.

The Thunder's lone original team member since Sam Presti took over as general manager 3½ years ago, Collison likely will complete a 10-plus year career with the same organization. That rarely happens these days, particularly for a role player embedded in a turbulent franchise.

“He embodies what we're trying to do,” Presti said of Collison, the 12th player selected in the 2003 draft. “A lot of things we're always talking about, he's been that.”

That's why the Thunder gave Collison a three-year extension worth roughly $11 million and chipped in another $6.5 million – all the money the Thunder had remaining under this year's salary cap – as a signing bonus.

It takes someone uniquely ungifted to command that kind of payday at age 30 with career averages of 7.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 23.7 minutes.

Former Kansas teammate Keith Langford recently shared the following on Twitter: @keith_langford: I know I'm late, but hey I'm all the way in europe... Congrats to @nickcollison4 on ur deal... Still to this day best teammate I've had

Collison seemed embarrassed when asked if he saw the tweet. Why would Langford – and many others past and present – proclaim Collison as a great teammate if it weren't true?

“Because they're on retainer, so anytime the media asks questions about me ... Nah, I don't know,” Collison said with a shrug. “I feel I've always been just about winning, trying to help other people when it's my place to help. I've been able to avoid any ulterior motives. It's the way I was taught to play. The further I've gone, I've seen that it's valuable for me to be that way.”

Collison is a multi-tasker. He's a trash collector, cleaning up loose rebounds. He's an enforcer, doing all he can to keep the peace underneath at both ends of the court. He's a human sacrifice, taking 57 charges last season (second in the league to Jared Jeffries' 59) and has nine charges in 12 games this season. There's also a good chance Collison leads the NBA in floor burns and intangibles.

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