On May 11, 2010, Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Nick Collison underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
On May 11, 2011, Collison held arguably the league's premier low-post scorer to nine points in the Thunder's 99-72 domination of the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals.
In between, Collison took an interesting ride to what some consider to be the apex of his career.
"I wouldn't say it was a roller-coaster year, because it mostly just went up," said Collison, holding his arm at a 45-degree angle, "but I went through a lot this year, for sure."
Collison went from rehabbing his right knee throughout the summer; to injuring his left knee in August; to missing training camp; to missing the first eight regular-season games; to signing a four-year contract extension that came with a $6.5 million thank-you card; to becoming an integral component with the arrival of two new centers; to being perhaps the team's most valuable player in the second and third rounds of the playoffs.
On a team featuring All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Collison commanded the playoff spotlight with his physical enforcement while defending Memphis power forward Zach Randolph and Dallas uber forward Dirk Nowitzki.
Collison's defense on Nowitzki was so sound, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle suggested it was illegal and should be reviewed by the league.
Carlisle eventually lightened up and gave Collison his due. “It's phenomenal,” Carlisle said. “You're talking about a guy that's one of the best post defenders really in basketball. He's proven that in three playoff series now.”
Collison signed through the 2014-15 season and is the lone original franchise member since Sam Presti became general manager four years ago.
Presti is a numbers guy, a man with stats that help put a player's worth into its proper context. Quantifying Collison's value is an all-encompassing study.
Presti's appreciation for the seven-year man out of Kansas became clear when he included a $6.5 million signing bonus eight months before the NBA's expected work stoppage. “I don't think you can boil it down numerically,” Presti said of Collison, “but I think efficiency is a very, very important part of the game.”
Collison has had better seasons statistically. He nearly averaged a double-double the final season in Seattle (2007-08) at 9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds. Collison averaged roughly half that this season at 4.6 points and 4.5 rebounds, both career lows.
During training camp, Collison spent more time in a rehab pool than he did on the court.
“I didn't know what to expect,” Collison said. “I think you're always a little apprehensive if you have surgery and (you're) not being able to do training camp and those kind of things. In the back of your mind you're always wondering, ‘Am I able to come back the same?'