Jazz still root for ex-mate Collins
Deron Williams laughed when asked who would recite the scouting report on Jarron Collins before tonight's preseason game. In fact, the Jazz should just save themselves the paper given the eight seasons Collins spent in Utah.
As Williams joked, it would read as follows: Flops on defense. Not athletic. Range to about 8 feet on his jumper. A couple of other things, too: Outstanding teammate. Hard worker. Embodiment of professionalism.
It's why the former second-round draft pick left Utah as one of only 10 players in franchise history to spend eight or more seasons with the Jazz and why his ex-teammates are rooting so hard for Collins to make the team in Portland.
"Of course, man," Williams said. "He's a good guy. We'd love to have him back, it just didn't work out. He was a great teammate, always worked hard, didn't say much, and I know coach liked that."
Although they opted not to re-sign Collins this summer as a free agent, the Jazz's affection for their longtime center by no means came to an end. As general manager Kevin O'Connor said Wednesday, "I root for Jarron Collins every day of my life."
"He's that kind of kid," O'Connor added. "He's going to be successful after basketball in whatever he does. He's going to be successful as a father and husband. He's just one of those guys you want to call a friend. And you know I don't say those kind of things often."
For one night, however, the Jazz will call him an opponent. Collins said he was looking forward to returning to EnergySolutions Arena, though he estimated that he'd been in the visiting locker room just two or three times, all in connection with "Leapin' Leaners" charity events.
"It'll be different," Collins said, "but I feel there's definitely a lot of players in the league who've had similar experiences, playing for different teams and coming back to where they played the majority of their career."
Since starting training camp, Collins has exchanged text messages with Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap. He was concerned enough to send another to C.J. Miles last week after Miles suffered a ruptured thumb ligament and underwent surgery.
After so many years playing for Jerry Sloan in Utah, Collins said he was surprised by how similar Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan was in style.
McMillan wants his teams to play physically, play hard and play together in the Sloan mold.
The biggest adjustment, Collins said, has come with making calls on defense, where the Blazers use different terminology than the Jazz. Collins did foul out of one game in just 10 minutes, but he noted that he took three or four charges in that time as well.
"He's going to flop everything," joked Kyrylo Fesenko, who formerly lived across the hall from Collins in the same apartment complex. "You know J.C. Shaq hates him."
Through two games, Collins is averaging 2.5 points and 1.0 rebounds in 8.5 minutes, backing up centers Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla.
"Part of why they brought me in was to do the things that I do," Collins said. "Play physically around the basket, take charges, play intelligently, just play hard and compete."
He also is fighting with forward Ime Udoka for Portland's 15th and final roster spot. Udoka started 75 games for the Blazers in 2006-07 and is a Portland native as well. He has averaged 6.0 points and 2.7 rebounds in 19.3 minutes this preseason.
Collins didn't want to comment on the race beyond saying that camp has been highly competitive, "roles have yet to be established" and he has been trying to make the most of his opportunity.
If McMillan were to ask, Sloan couldn't offer a stronger endorsement on Collins' behalf. Having originally come to camp with the Jazz as a rookie without a guaranteed contract, Collins spent the better part of a decade in Utah.
"What you consider talent sometimes is kind of overrated," Sloan said of the players drafted ahead of Collins in 2001. "A lot of guys have talent, but Jarron knew how to play basketball.
"He started for us and played some big minutes for us because he knew what was going on in the game. He understood the mechanics of what we were trying to do and did a great job for us."
Sloan went on to praise Collins as "one of those guys that you knew he was always going to be there, always give you what he had, and that's all you can ask anybody to do."
Although Collins clearly was a Sloan favorite, the Jazz were stuck entering this season with 13 players under contract and an $82 million payroll pushing them deep into luxury-tax territory, leaving no clear spot available to Collins.
"It just didn't work out," O'Connor said. "As a person and somebody that represented the Jazz and himself, there wasn't anybody better."
Mehmet Okur said he already missed Collins, adding, "He's a good friend and hopefully he's going to make the team and stay in the NBA." Andrei Kirilenko came in as a rookie with Collins and said the Stanford product earned everything in his career through hard work.
For his part, Williams smiled upon being reminded that Collins was coming to town with his new team. "I might have to foul him real hard," Williams joked. "You've got to be on the lookout for flops. Charges are going to be taken."
How Jarron Collins is doing so far in the preseason with Portland compared to the three young centers on the Jazz roster.
Today, 7 p.m.
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