Nick Collison didn't do a lot of leaping last season. Injuries made it difficult. Wasn't the jumping that hurt so much. It was the landing.
Collison was beat up. Ankle. Hand. Lower leg stress reaction, whish sounds awfully severe. Collison looked like the poor sap in “Operation,” the old board game.
So Collison played a mean game of NBA paintball with his feet planted firmly on the ground.
That was then. Now, Collison is leaping like a lord on the 10th day of Christmas.
Collison scored 10 points in a 31/2-minute span Sunday as the Thunder routed the Spurs 108-96 downtown. He flew through the air with the greatest of ease.
Collison dunked for two of the five baskets. Tipped in a missed foul shot. Maneuvered for a reverse layup. Drove for another layin.
We've made a big deal, and rightfully so, about how different Kendrick Perkins looks this season. But Collison is transformed, too.
“I've got confidence in jumping,” Collison said. “Hard to play in this league if you can't get off the floor.”
Also hard to win in this league if you don't get some balanced scoring.
The Thunder got it Sunday night. Thabo Sefolosha scored nine points in the first quarter. Rookie Reggie Jackson, thrust into the backup point guard role by Eric Maynor's season-ending injury, scored 11.
The night before, in a squeaker over Houston, Nazr Mohammed scored 17 points, including 10 in a spree of four minutes, seven seconds.
If the foot soldiers keep scoring like this, the load will be lessened for Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
“That's our job,” Mohammed said. “Our job is to complement those guys. They're going to attract a lot of double teams. We gotta be ready to score.
“Tonight was a great night for Nick. He was dunking on people.”
This was an interesting intersection of the season. The finale of the Thunder's only back-to-back-to-back assignment, coupled with the first game since the news that Maynor is gone for the season.
The Thunder responded well, against the venerable Spurs.
In the 8-2 Boomers' only two losses, they've been scoring deficient past the big three: only six players total scored at Dallas; only Durant, Harden and Westbrook reached double digits against Portland.
But with five minutes left in the second quarter Sunday night, Durant and Westbrook had combined for just five points, yet the Thunder still led 44-37.
“I think it makes a big difference,” said Sefolosha. “If we rely too much on Russell and Kevin and James to carry all the load, we become predictable.”
Harden and Collison, in particular, have become quite the tandem in the pick'n roll, especially when Collison has the ball and Harden still runs around a Collison screen. Once, Collison faked the handoff and zipped straight to the basket for a dunk.
“My points usually come when we're playing well as a team,” Collison said.
And the Thunder usually plays well as a team when Collison is on the court. Or flying through the air, now that he's been cleared for takeoff.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.