Posted December 15, 2011 on AP on Fox
Darren Collison understands better than anyone what David West's addition could mean for the Indiana Pacers. Two years ago, Collison was West's point guard in New Orleans while Chris Paul recovered from an injury. With West as his top scoring option, Collison averaged 18.8 points and 9.1 assists in 37 starts as a rookie. West averaged 19 points and 7.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists that season, one of the best of his career. The combination was so good that it launched Collison's career and helped him land as the starting point guard for the Pacers the next year. Now that they are reunited, Collison expects the Pacers to improve immediately. ''We struggled in late-game situations last year,'' Collison said. ''I don't think they're going to be much of a problem this year, adding him on the team.'' Collison also is excited about the draft-night addition of guard George Hill. ''He can shoot the ball and he can bring the ball up while I run the court too,'' Collison said. With those options added to Indiana's young core of Danny Granger, Paul George, Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert, Collison is looking forward to the season. ''It's great,'' he said. ''As a point guard, you want to have as many options as you can, and you never want to be limited in the options you have on the team. I think with this team, we're very versatile.'' Collison said West will help the Pacers as a scorer, distributor and leader. ''He can be a closer for us, but he can also make sure that we're in the right positions at all times,'' Collison said. ''His ability to pass out of the post and be a good passer, period, is definitely a key that can help us as well.'' West, back after having ACL surgery on his left knee late last season, practiced with the Pacers on Tuesday. ''We threw him in there last night on the fly,'' Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. ''I taught him our entire offense in about seven minutes, which is the beauty of having a simple offensive playbook.'' West said he doesn't expect to play in Friday's preseason opener against Chicago, but he expects to be ready for the start of the season. Vogel said West's knee looked fine in practice, but he needs to get into game shape. ''He's going to take a little time,'' Vogel said. ''His knee is very strong, but because he was a free agent, he hasn't been doing a lot of full-court playing, so it's going to take a little time to get him up to speed with his conditioning level, up to speed with all the nuances of our offensive and defensive package. Once he's really ready to go, he's going to really help us.'' Vogel said West's approach to the game should help the entire team. ''He plays the style of play that we are trying to implement. He fits in with our identity of physicality, playing through the post, crashing the glass, attacking the basket.'' Hill can play the point guard and shooting guard spots. He doesn't mind if Hill takes some minutes at the point, along with A.J. Price. ''You've got to think, it's a 66-game season,'' he said. ''If a guy gets hurt, you've got another guy coming off the bench that's very talented. It's actually good problems to have.'' Collison also worked on becoming more versatile this offseason. The ultra-quick guard primarily is known as a slasher and distributor. ''I definitely tried to work on my 3-point shot, tried to extend my range out more so teams will have to not only respect my drive, but you have to respect my shot, too.'' Collison said the team has the right approach, even with all the new pieces and the expectations that come with them. ''I think you're going to see a young and scrappy team,'' he said. ''I think we understand that nothing has come easy. Just because we made it to the playoffs last year doesn't mean we're going to make it to the playoffs this year. We're going to fight for every game that comes our way.'' -- Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cliffbruntap
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