Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 12/20/12
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.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Greg Jennings: Ryan Tannehill has had his hands tied by coaches

Josh McDaniels 'happy' with Pats but wants to be a head coach again

WATCH: Jim Harbaugh in cleats throws out first pitch at Cubs game

Why Rickie Fowler will win the PGA Championship

Warren Sapp bitten on arm by shark


Fitzpatrick, Jets agree to one-year deal

Baker considering removing Papelbon from closer role?

Greg Hardy struggling to find work, reportedly even in CFL

Jets players told not to discuss Ryan Fitzpatrick situation

Brock Lesnar won't be punished by WWE for UFC drug test

Report: Cowboys to be fined up to $250K for suspended players

Report: Ravens WR Mike Wallace failed conditioning test

WATCH: Kobe Bryant drives Ferrari around Italian racetrack

Terrelle Pryor shouts out Ohio State after ban ends

Justin Timberlake advocates for Memphis to join Big 12

Poll: Las Vegas residents don’t support public funds for NFL stadium

Conor McGregor talks trash to Nate Diaz on ‘Conan’

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Real Madrid can’t train at Norwegian school because of the kids

Newspaper uses Michael Jordan ‘crying face’ as image

Equipment manager Blake Griffin punched no longer works for Clippers

Report: Nicks signing one-year deal with Saints

Reds 'picking up the pace' on Jay Bruce trade talks

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.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker