Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/4/14
BOSTON — When someone thinks of Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan, Jason Collins does not usually come to mind. Yet he has battled all of the great big men of his era over the years, digging in and giving fouls while knowing he is not the player who people paid to see. Now in his 12th year as a pro, Collins is finally playing with one of those great big men, rather than against him. Collins drew his first start of the season on Wednesday, manning the Celtics’ frontcourt with Kevin Garnett, with whom he formed an imposing front line. “It’s better being on his team than against him,” Collins said of Garnett. “He’s obviously a great defender. He talks out there, which is so important. I pride myself on being a defender first, as well.” Collins is intelligent, and not just from a basketball IQ standpoint. The Stanford graduate drew chuckles during training camp with his self-deprecating comments about his noticeably slimmer 255-pound frame, an unusually self-aware joke in a profession where athletes often treat their weight and dietary habits like state secrets. He finished Wednesday’s 103-91 win over the Cavaliers with one point, two rebounds and six fouls, including a flagrant foul on Tristan Thompson to punctuate his night, and was somewhat sheepish about answering reporter’s questions following an underwhelming performance on paper. The biggest contribution Collins made could not translate to the box score, at least not directly. Celtics coach Doc Rivers started Collins as a ploy to get Cleveland to defend Garnett with a player other than their center, as banging with fives for 30 minutes a game is taxing on Garnett’s 36-year-old body. The gambit did not entirely work, as Cavs center Tyler Zeller still guarded Garnett most of the time. Still, it paid off defensively, where Garnett had a partner in his efforts to protect the rim. “J.C.’s guarded some of the premier post guys since he’s been in the league, he and his brother,” Garnett said, referring to Collins’ twin brother, Jarron. “He knows how to guard. He plays with oomph, if that’s even a word. What I mean by that is, he plays power basketball. He’s firm. I think sometimes we lack that. He was firm not only in his fouls but in his shows [on screens] and we communicate really well, so it was good to work with him.” Collins and Jason Terry, who also drew the start against the Cavs, formed an odd sort of difference-making duo. Terry aided the offense by knocking down six of his nine shots en route to 15 points and spreading the floor for Paul Pierce, who became the oldest Celtics player to score 40 points in a regulation game, while Collins facilitated the offense by opening up the Celtics’ scorers off pin-downs and screen-and-rolls. Collins did not have much time to digest the news that he was starting and prepare, though. He learned of it about 50 minutes before tip-off, although perceptive as he is, he admitted that he felt a change coming. Rivers acknowledged that he had thought about starting Collins, but he had planned to wait until Avery Bradley returned from his shoulder injuries to make the move. Coming off a winless three-game road trip, Rivers apparently decided it was time for a change to be made. Terry, who found out he was starting about the same time as Collins, credited his teammate for staying ready despite playing only 57 minutes total entering the day. “He carries the same mentality, the same attitude, as me,” Terry said. “We’re going to come in, we’re going to grind, we’re going to work every single day and when we’re out there, we’re going to do our job. Whatever that is that night, I’m going to do my job and tonight was more evidence. With his screens, he opened up Paul Pierce on so many of those shots that he hit. He took several hard fouls. I don’t know what his line was, but you knew he was in the game. He made an impact.” When Collins delivered the hard foul to Thompson that ended his night, he was greeted at the bench by high-fives and fist-pounds by thankful teammates. It was sort of strange to see a guy get congratulated for fouling out, but that was part of Collins’ duties on Wednesday. He manned the paint, he set some bone-jarring screens and he committed a few fouls that will require ice later for the unfortunate recipients of the contact. In other words, he did his job. Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Jon Jones facing felony charge for leaving scene of crime

Josh Hamilton officially traded back to Rangers

Report: Landing Adrian Peterson too costly for Cardinals

Report: Antonio Brown joins Steelers voluntary work outs

Charles Barkley: JR Smith should be suspended 10 games

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Kelly Olynkyk: I'd probably get killed if I went to Cleveland

Report: Redskins likely to pick up Robert Griffin III's option

Eagles trying to trade Marcus Smith for another duck?

Chris Paul-Blake Griffin no longer a fragile relationship

Adam Wainwright injury leaves innings void for Cardinals

Report: Cowboys not in running for Adrian Peterson

John Angelos, Orioles got it right with Freddie Gray protest

Belichick's girlfriend fine with coach checking out Teigen

V. Stiviano posts birthday message to 'BFF' Donald Sterling

Mark Cuban and the inevitable playoff peril of the Mavs

Wizards made Raptors look bad while remaking themselves

Previewing Game 7 showdown between Islanders and Capitals

WATCH: Rick Carlisle tapes mouth shut so he can't rip refs

NFL Draft 2015: Ranking the quarterbacks

Greg Hardy faces teammate, Cowboys locker room leak

Top 10 storylines for the 2015 NFL Draft

Paul Pierce burns Raptors fans with epic troll job

Yes, ESPN2 is airing video games

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Jon Jones facing felony charge

Worst picks ever by every NFL franchise

Report: Cowboys not in on Peterson

NFL Draft 2015: Ranking the QBs

Top 10 storylines for the 2015 NFL Draft

Paul Pierce trolls Raptors fans

Yes, ESPN2 is airing video games

Darko Milicic is enjoying life

Pitcher throws perfect game, still loses

Will Aldridge leave the Blazers?

Alex Gordon leaps into stands for catch

Dana White: No more WWE for Rousey

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.