Thunder coach Scott Brooks said if reserve forward Nick Collison logged more minutes, he would become a serious candidate for the NBA's second- or third-team all-defensive squad.
Has Collison ever thought the same?
“Yeah. In my Nike contract, I get a bonus for it. It'd be great if I could,” Collison deadpanned with a smile. “I'm not sure (how big the bonus is). I know I get a little bump, though. I don't get much.
“Sometimes I think the defensive awards get awarded to guys who have good statistics. I'm not going to have those. I'm not going to have a lot of steals or blocks. I just want respect from our coaches, teammates and other coaches and players around the league. I think I'm a good defender.”
This is a condensed season, but based on Collison's performance last year, perhaps it's time for his playing time to grow rather than shrink.
Collison averaged 21.5 minutes last season and has averaged 23.5 minutes in his seven-year pro career. If the Kansas product had logged more minutes and made more starts (169 in 525 games), he might have become a fixture on the all-defensive team.
Respect from his peers has never been a problem for Collison. Brooks could talk for hours on what he appreciates most about the 31-year-old Collison.
Brooks' lengthy list includes Collison's overall systematic knowledge of help and recover; how to defend pick-and-rolls; low-post positioning; effort; toughness; how to block-out properly; and Collison's forte' of drawing charging fouls.
Collison has taken 108 charges the last two seasons, which leads the league. Collison, who plays power forward and center, is followed by two point guards in that category – J.J. Barea with 106 and Derek Fisher with 102.
Asked if he ever follows the overall standings on charges taken, Collison said: “They (coaches) tell me about it sometimes. I'm trying to draw a charge every chance I get anyway. I like to be up there in the tops in the league, for sure.”
A strong argument could be made that Collison was the Thunder's Most Valuable Player during the playoff run last season.
If Collison doesn't belly-up to bulky Memphis power forward Zach Randolph, the Thunder probably doesn't survive the second round against the Grizzlies.
If Collison doesn't at least impede a runaway train in Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki, the Thunder likely would have been swept and thoroughly embarrassed by the Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals.
There is no need for OKC fans to start an all-defensive team campaign on behalf of Collison, however. Your respect will suffice.
“That's the least of my concerns,” Collison said of being selected. “It'd be nice, but I'd much rather be able to defend well enough to help us win.”