LAS VEGAS — Between his first and second seasons with the Utah Jazz, Jarron Collins played in a now-defunct NBA summer league called the Rocky Mountain Revue.
Collins, a 6-foot-11 center, skied for a rebound. On his way down, he caught an elbow from 6-foot-10 Michael Stewart.
The blow to the pinnacle opened up a cut near Collins’ left eye. It required six stitches to shut. Collins was asked if he could proceed playing. He said yes.
“I loved to play,” Collins said. “I loved the chance. For me, that was my opportunity to indicate what I had. I spent a few years in Utah. Great years.”
Twenty years later, Collins — the Pelicans’ lead assistant — is coaching Recent Orleans’ summer league team. He’ll oversee a roster that features Trey Murphy and Jose Alvarado, No. 8 pick Dyson Daniels and second-round selection E.J. Liddell.
Collins was hired 11 months ago to be the highest lieutenant under Willie Green, whom he worked alongside for 3 seasons on Steve Kerr’s staff with the Golden State Warriors.
Although Collins was a middle and Green was a guard, the 2 have rather a lot in common. They were each second-round picks who lasted a decade-plus within the NBA. Each overcame ACL tears early of their careers.
“There have been no shortcuts,” Collins said. “It wasn’t just going to be on talent. We each needed to think the sport and execute at a high level to achieve success. Lot of hustle plays.”
Collins was the 53rd pick within the 2002 draft. He spent his first eight years with the Utah Jazz. He played for Jerry Sloan, the fourth-winningest coach in NBA history, during his entire Jazz tenure. Sloan became a hugely necessary mentor for Collins.
“He had this expression,” Collin said. “If you wish to stick out like a sore thumb, just be the toughest employee on the ground. That was type of my thing. Just go on the market and set screens. If I led the team in scoring, we were probably going to lose the sport. Just go on the market and help my teammates win a basketball game. Quite a lot of the little things.”
The Jazz made the playoffs five times while Collins was there. He played with John Stockton and Karl Malone for 2 seasons within the twilights of their careers, and he remained with Utah while it retooled with Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams.
Last season, the Pelicans lost 12 of their first 13 games. Initially, they spiraled without injured superstar Zion Williamson. Yet their slow start didn’t prevent them from sneaking into the play-in tournament and earning beneficial playoff experience in the primary round against the Phoenix Suns.
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Collins said he has never been a part of such a dramatic in-season turnaround. This season, he said the Pelicans won’t give you the option to sneak up on anyone.
“I’m expecting it to be just a little different,” Collins said. “There may be a whole lot of momentum built up, a whole lot of excitement. There may be expectation. We all know that getting in. We’re excited, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Collins’ decision to turn out to be Recent Orleans’ lead assistant a “no-brainer.” He and Green had worked together in Golden State for 3 seasons, and Collins had a relationship with executive vp David Griffin from the season he spent with the Phoenix Suns as a player.
Murphy, the Pelicans’ rising second-year forward, described Green and Collins as “pretty similar.”
“Very chill,” Murphy said. “Chill demeanors. Really good guys. They are attempting to make sure that we’re playing team basketball and playing defense.”
Collins admits he has a soft spot for role players who’ve needed to grind to make it. The Pelicans have two of them in Herb Jones, a lock-down perimeter defender who was the thirty fifth pick in last yr’s draft, and Alvarado, who went from going undrafted to taking on Recent Orleans’ backup point guard minutes by the tip of the season.
“They stick out like sore thumbs,” Collins said.
In Collins’ sixth season with the Jazz, they drafted power forward Paul Millsap with the forty seventh pick. Millsap became one of the vital productive second-round picks in NBA history. He’s a four-time All-Star who has averaged 13.4 points and seven.4 rebounds across a 16-year profession. Collins remembers clearly a compliment Sloan paid to Millsap after a Jazz win.
“He said, ‘I didn’t draw up one play for you, and you find yourself with a double-double,’ ” Collins said.
Collins values selflessness. It was an enormous component in how a second-round pick reminiscent of himself lasted a decade within the NBA.
“The entire goal of it’s to make a profession out of playing at this level,” Collins said. “You may have to search out what you try this goes to be effective. You understand the expression ‘star in your role’? Whatever your role is, be a star in it.”