Saturday, April 5, 2008

Unsung Player: Jason Collins

With Malice has declared that today is NBA Unsung Player Day. Well, I am always completely in favor of random declarations, so I felt compelled to join in.

When rooting for a disappointing team that is mired in the bottom of the standings, you find ways to entertain yourself. One thing I have done is to pay closer attention to the subtle nuances of our young players like Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, Javaris Crittenton and Darko Milicic. However, when discussing C Jason Collins, the words "subtle" and "nuance" don't really fit the bill.

(AP Photo/Nikki Boertman)

When Collins came over in exchange for Stromile Swift, many people questioned why a team would trade an athletic F/C capable of crowd-pleasing dunks and blocks for a far less mobile big man who gets confused with his equally non-descript twin brother constantly. Well, Collins showed his value to me within his first few games in Memphis when he began to do something that the Grizzlies hadn't seen in quite some time. Quite simply, he told opponents: "No easy buckets."

This goes beyond the tough interior defense he is known for. He doesn't play dirty (I'm looking at you Bruce Bowen) and he doesn't give unnecessarily hard fouls, but opposing players know that he's not going to give them an easy layup if he's in the area. That might seem like a simple thing, and I'm sure on most NBA teams it is a regular occurrence. But the Grizzlies have been lacking that player for several seasons and it makes a noticeable difference now that they have that intimidating enforcer in the paint, even if he only plays 15 mpg. He averages almost as many fouls per game as rebounds, but his fouls are rarely ever of the ticky-tack variety that allow for an "And 1" situation to occur.

So even as I watch another season limp towards its inevitable finish with my team staring the lottery squarely in the face again, there is a one more thing I have found that provides some comfort -- the toughness of Jason Collins, our Unsung Player.

BallHype: hype it up!

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