Full disclosure: This stupid column is named The Side Part partially because of the troubadour/quiff cut Collison had going late last season. This piece will lack objectivity. It’s the Internet.
A guy whose name I don’t feel like typing tweeted during the game last night that, “Nick Collison is the most overrated player I’ve ever laid eyes on”, which I would agree with if I hated goodness. I’d have linked to the tweet but the guy who wrote it subsequently yanked it down and put up this tweet about fifteen minutes later. He rattled the red clay cage.
To give more power to the initial tweet than it deserves, the good part about the comment is it prompts us to realize just how much we should appreciate Collison. He does special, unseen, ghost things that ought get more love than they do.
There is little flash, little pizazz, to Collison. At the risk of sounding, yawn, tired as ever, he only wants to win. He’s your grandfather who thinks you’re soft because you wear shorts. He wears the same Wranglers and work shirt every day and stares at you funny because those Nike Roshe Runs you asked for for Christmas just got opened and he finds them to be pretty damn ugly, son.
He’s on very few highlight reels and Casual Basketball Fan #1 doesn’t know who he is unless they were super into college basketball in the early 2000’s — Keith Langford and his all blue J’s, stand up — or they’re heavily into people who take charges. And understand something: As sure as Eric Bassey let thousands of Reggie McNeal led wide-receivers behind him, Nick Collison will draw a charge on your reckless self if you take some half-blind aggression fueled foray into the lane. He will take that contact and fall flat on his back and let the bench do the celebrating.
We forget about Collison, but that is because of our own short attention spans, only able to be affected by players that are constantly pouring it in, flailing around, or shouting. This is not an indictment of JR Smith, because I love that guy, but Collison is his exact opposite. Collison’s not innocuous, though, we’re just lazy viewers. We want to be entertained and Collison isn’t cleaning glass, taking the pill from one coast to another, and finishing with some traffic-and-arms-all-around-him yam. Collison is catching the ball sixteen feet away from the goal, making a dribble handoff to Durant, and rubbing Durant’s man off him to free him up for a wing three.
There is no vanity to him, and this is why in the grand scheme of The Top 10 Play Galaxy -Cue SportsCenter Theme Song and Neil Everett’s shrill- he’s a non factor. Course, I could argue that a dude who’s able to string together possessions as efficiently as he does should just get the whole Top 10 to himself. Play two minutes of any Thunder game he’s in and you’ll likely see something resembling beautiful basketball that you could tell your offensively challenged post playing son or daughter to watch very closely and observe how he/she could potentially affect the game if he/she plays the right way.
Granted, this is the purist mindset that frustrates some who are about that Anti-Life. To fans of Rasheed — again, not an indictment, Sheed’s a hero — and Darius Miles era Clips teams and anything Tony Allen tweets and dudes or gals who claim Kris Kristofferson was the best member of The Highwaymen. I get that. Liking Collison’s play is like liking “You Were Always On My Mind”. It’s a great song, but it’s a little yawn inducing to call it your favorite.
It’s boring to praise quality screening. It’s a very middle-school-basketball-coach-trying-to-make-a-point thing to do to talk about how great he is at boxing out. At a certain point it becomes no fun to talk about how solid Collison’s play is because, typically, to people in the know, it is an obvious thing. Of course he played solidly because that’s what he does. He has to play mistake free because if he doesn’t, then what good is he?
To that I’d say, you could put Michael Scott out there with him and he’d find a way to run an efficient two-man game, his passing instincts always as on point as you’d want them. James Harden was only half the reason Angle was such a dadgum terror for teams to deal with. Collison ran that play like it was a 1974 white Lambo Countach. I’d also mention he’s the Thunder’s best on ball defender in the post and his hedges are so pristine they should be featured in Southern Living.
But, you know, people think what they think and they like what they like and if Collison’s play isn’t your thing then it is what it is. If Collison was on a team I didn’t watch with regularity I’m sure his positives would be lost on me, too. Maybe it’s an acquired taste. I don’t know. But Thunder fans should thank their stars he’s on this team. He’s the glue, the nail.