Only 9 games remain for the Sacramento Kings in a very turbulent 2016-2017 NBA season, and drastic changes are expected for the franchise this summer. A youth movement has begun in Sacramento, with general manager Vlade Divac loading up on rookie talent and draft picks after moving on from veteran all-star DeMarcus Cousins.
Many veterans are unsure if they will be a part of Sacramento’s future, and some, like point guard Darren Collison, will have the choice of where to go via free agency.
Collison’s eighth NBA season will come to an end in just a few weeks, along with his current contract. Rumors have followed the 29-year-old guard for the past few months, speculating on whether the Kings will offer him a new deal or if he would even be interested in returning.
Following Sacramento’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night, Collison spoke to Cowbell Kingdom about his future.
“I don’t think it’s the time to be concerned. At this point the league knows exactly what I can do. My biggest concern is being here for the young guys and helping them grow and get better each day. I am a competitor,” Collison said. “I want to be out there on the court at all times. I have to look at the bigger picture and have more patience.”
Collison recognizes that, at nearly 30 years old, time is no longer on his side. He appeared torn when questioned about choosing to stay and be a part of the Kings’ development or jumping ship for a playoff contender elsewhere.
“Everything is going to play itself out the way it needs to. I think for these next 11 games it’s about the young guys and about this team. Once the summer comes around I will assess what I want to do. It is definitely frustrating for me to sit back and not compete.”
One of the advantages of staying in Sacramento, besides already being established within the community and franchise, was the prospect of being able to remain a starter. Potentially only temporary, the role has been one that Collison has desired his entire career. Many other teams and scouts see his value as more of a scorer off the bench. They doubt his ability to lead a winning team.
“I can see why they may feel that way. I know this year I didn’t get as much starter minutes so you can judge off of that. They have seen me perform on really good teams off the bench,” Collison said. “That really doesn’t affect me because, when it’s all said and done, when you look at the teams I have played on, I was always in the game at the end of the game.”
While he understands the hesitation from other programs, and has made his desire to be a starter known on many occasions, Collison emphasized that it wouldn’t be a major part of the decision.
“No it doesn’t matter. I think you find more happiness in the most comfortable situation for yourself. If that’s starting, so be it. If that’s coming off the bench, so be it,” Collison said. “I understand in this league you can’t limit or pick your roll. You have to pick the best situation that’s going to benefit yourself with a team.”
There is a reason why many expect him to move on and take his chances with a contender. Such a move, at this point in his career, makes a lot of sense. Collison longs to compete in meaningful games, and there is a good chance that Sacramento will not be able to offer that in the next couple years.
“I just want to win. I think this is the time in my career when I need to figure out how I am going to do those things,” Collison said. “Whatever the situation may be, wherever I am the most comfortable, that’s where I will pick.”
Over his career, Collison has averaged just shy of 13 points, three rebounds, and five assists a game. His efficient shooting percentages (47% FG, 38% 3PT, 85% FT) are more than enough to attract suitors in free agency.
There are plenty of teams that could use a scorer like Collison in their rotation, recognizing that he very well could be a difference maker in a seven-game series.
However, despite his desires to want to win immediately, Collison has not shied away from the possibility to return to Sacramento. He appeared on Sacramento radio, Sports 1140 KHTK’s “The Drive” a couple of weeks ago, expressing his love and appreciation for the community he has called home the last three years. He spoke about that bond further on Wednesday night.
“I love Vlade, Peja, and what they are trying to do moving forward. I also respect the fan appreciation and how they opened me up since I got here. They gave me nothing but love and respect,” Collison said. “This is probably one of the best fan bases that I have been a part of my whole entire career in the NBA. We have a lot of good young guys that can do some things early on in their career. There are a lot of positives for me to come back. I don’t think that door is closed.”
Expect Collison to have a lot of options this summer as to where to take his talents. It would be surprising if the Kings allowed him to walk without putting any offer on the table. One thing’s for sure, Darren Collison will not be on the unemployment line by next October. It’s up to him what color jersey he will be wearing when the 2017-2018 season tips off.