When Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti included a $6.5 million signing bonus with Nick Collison's four-year contract extension last November, the extra cash essentially was a reward for services rendered.
This is the only franchise the 30-year-old Collison has ever known as a pro. Since being drafted 12th overall in 2003, the Kansas product has endured double-shoulder surgery his first season, franchise relocation from Seattle, four straight losing seasons, and all while busting his tail without making a peep.
"He embodies what we're trying to do," Presti said of Collison. "A lot of things we're always talking about, he's been that."
Collison is still rendering his services, particularly during this Western Conference semifinal against the Memphis Grizzlies, a best-of-7 playoff series that figures to be a shoving match until the final bell.
The series stands 1-1, largely because Collison still works hard for his money. If not, the Thunder very easily could be trailing 2-0.
In Game 1, Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph (34 points, 10 rebounds) and center Marc Gasol (20 points; 13 rebounds; four assists; three blocks) overwhelmed OKC with a 114-101 domination at Oklahoma City Arena.
Collison played 15 minutes in the contest, which Thunder coach Scott Brooks publicly admitted was a mistake.
In Game 2, Collison wound up playing 25 minutes for multiple reasons, the most significant being his ability to force Randolph away from his comfort zone and into 2-for-13 shooting from the field.
"I just wanted him to get his catches further out on the block, try to be physical with him," Collison said of his success against the 6-foot-9, 260-pound, left-handed Randolph. "He's going to score. He's going to make shots. He's going to be tough the rest of the games. I'm sure he feels like he could play better.
"He's as good as there is in the league in getting position and playing physical. You have to be ready at all times and not be surprised by that physicality."
53 – Nick Collison
8 – James Harden
3 – Russell Westbrook
2 – Nazr Mohammed
1 – Serge Ibaka, Eric Maynor, Thabo Sefolosha, Royal Ivey
Source – Thunder coaching staff