After playing his first six-and-a-half NBA seasons in New Jersey, former Stanford center Jason Collins found himself filling out change of address forms when in early February, the Nets shipped him to Memphis. In a flash, Collins went from playing for a team who had made the postseason in each of his first six seasons to one regarded as one of the worst teams in the Association. But instead of dwelling on this fact, Collins is instead viewing the change of scenery with a glass half-full mentality. The Bootleg caught up with Jason after a shootaround in Dallas and here's what he had to say.
Collins admits that he wasn't totally shocked when he learned he was being traded but how quickly it all went down was surprising. "No, it wasn't totally out of left field because I knew the Nets were talking about changing the team," he said. "How quickly it all went down was a little surprising. Playing in the games after I knew the trade was going to happen was a little weird."
Between the time he learned of the swap and was actually traded, Collins played in two final games with New Jersey. "The last two games were back-to-back," he said. "It was weird but I'm a true professional and whichever team has me in their employment knows that they're going to get 100% of my effort. I went out and helped them get a win in Miami and then Coach [Lawrence] Frank rewarded my years of service with the Nets and let me start my last game there. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the coaching staff and my teammates there are a bunch of good guys. I'm very fortunate to say that I played a significant part of my career with a Hall of Fame point guard in Jason Kidd."
Once he arrived in Memphis, Collins wasn't exactly coming to a team full of complete strangers. Fellow ex-Cardinal Casey Jacobsen is also on the Grizzlies' roster and Jason also knows a member of their training staff from their days in the Garden State. Collins is clearly glad to have another fellow Stanford product in the Memphis locker room.
"It's great," Collins said. "I've already been over to Casey and Brittney's house. She graduated the year that I did and has already made me a home-cooked meal here. It's good that he and I already know each other. Drew Graham, the trainer here, was our equipment manager in New Jersey for a long time. During one of my knee surgeries about three years ago, he was in the operating room. I know both of their families pretty well."
Jacobsen was equally glad to see Collins join the Grizz. "It (having another Stanford guy for a teammate) hasn't happened since Brevin Knight and I were teammates for about two months in Phoenix," Jacobsen said. "It's nice. I was excited for Jason to join the team. We have a good relationship and it's good to catch up. He will be a good addition to our team because he's very sound fundamentally and is a great positional defender. Our defense hasn't been very good this year and I think that's why our coaches wanted to get someone like him on our team."
Right away, Collins noticed one pretty major change between his former team and his current one. "It's a lot younger team [here in Memphis]," he said. "I feel that I can definitely provide the experience factor. I've played in two [NBA] Finals and have been to the playoffs every single year of my career. I've been on a winning team every single year of my career and know I have a lot to offer this team as far as experience and advice to the younger guys."
Collins was originally a first-round pick (18th overall) of Houston in the 2001 NBA Draft but was shipped to the Nets on a draft night trade. His best season in New Jersey was in 2004-05, when he started 80 games and averaged 6.4 points and 6.1 boards per game. Jason also turned in a solid performance in the 2003 NBA Finals, averaging 5.9 points and 6.3 rebounds.
Even though this is his seventh season in the Association, Collins still remembers what his biggest adjustment was when he entered the league back in '01. "The biggest adjustment for me was that there are no Cal-State Bakersfields or Cupcake Universities on the schedule," he said. "Every team in the league has a superstar on it and has great players. You have to prepare yourself to go out there at 100% every time you step out on the court to get the win."
When asked how playing in the NBA has changed him, Collins stated that he didn't think being a professional had changed him much, if at all. "I don't think I have changed too much [since coming into the league]," he said. "You have to have a strong support system around you and my family and friends pretty much keep me grounded and balanced. I think that in times of adversity, your true character will come out and you will show your true colors when things are at their worst."
For now, he is focused on the ins-and-outs of NBA life, which includes preseason, 82 regular season games, countless practices, team meetings, travel and shootarounds. But that doesn't mean that Collins doesn't still think about the future. He would like to get into the broadcasting side of roundball once he hangs up his sneakers for good.
"Yes [being a broadcaster is something that still interests me]," Collins stated. "Once people get to know me, I think all my teammates can vouch for me being a funny guy. I can be entertaining. I would be a little like Charles Barkley and just tell it how it is."
Going to a Western Conference team like Memphis means that Jason will now get to play more against twin brother Jarron, who is in Utah. The Collins brothers talk every day and Jason still answers to the nickname "Twin". "Yes, that nickname has kind of stuck," he said. "I don't have a problem with it. It's been my nickname for the past seven years."
During the offseason, he and Jarron run a number of basketball camps and Jason could be adding one in Memphis in the future. "Yes [we still do our camps]," he said. "Jarron and I still do camps together except I do one in New Jersey by myself. We have a camp in Los Angeles, another in upstate New York and I have one in Jersey. I might do one in Memphis next summer."
In his first nearly seven seasons in the NBA, former Stanford center Jason Collins hasn't posted big numbers but that wasn't why he hung around for so long in New Jersey. Collins was brought in to be a defensive force for the Nets in the paint, a job he did with incredible efficiency. A big reason why he was recently traded to Memphis was to help give the young Grizzlies, one of the Association's worst defensive teams, some pointers on what it takes to play good defense in the pros.
Collins went from one of the league's more veteran squads to one of its youngest. But don't expect Jason to hang his head. After all, he does have another fellow former Cardinal on the Grizz roster in Casey Jacobsen and also knows one of the trainers from his days as a Net. Whether the Grizzlies can get it together this year or not, they knew what they were getting when they acquired Collins, a tenacious defender who doesn't know the meaning of giving anything but his absolute best every time he hits the hardwood.
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