Darren Collison scoring points as Mavericks' new floor leader

LOS ANGELES -- One of the first things Darren Collison did when the Indiana Pacers traded him to the Dallas Mavericks over the summer was immediately request some video on his new teammates.

Known for being exceptionally prepared, Collison wanted to know who he was playing with, and where his new teammates like to get the ball on the court. The 6-foot-1 point guard has always been a student of the game, and a player who always wanted to stay one step ahead of the game.

"Before I got here I already knew the plays, and I knew what coach wanted," Collison said. "Being an extension of the coach as a point guard, it's important to already know the things ahead of time.

"I was able to tell other guys where to go on certain plays even though this is my first year. That's just me studying and trying to learn as much as I can, because I've got a lot on my shoulders as far as being the point guard, but I'm accepting the challenge."

It's a challenge coach Rick Carlisle is more than delighted to know that his "coach" on the court was willing to accept.

"He's always been a guy viewed by his coaches and guys he played with as super-prepared, a student of the game and a leader," said Carlisle, whose team plays the Jazz at 8 tonight in Salt Lake City. "There are things that we're working with him on an ongoing basis.

"But you look at our exhibition numbers in terms of plus-minus and he's been one of our more effective players."

A lot of eyes will be on Collison because he's the player who replaced future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd in the Mavericks' backcourt. Collison, however, doesn't believe he has to make any adjustments from what Kidd afforded the Mavericks.

"I think Rick's done a good job of letting me play my game, and my teammates have definitely been in my ears telling me to play my game and just be myself," Collison said Tuesday. "So every game I've been more and more comfortable with the system and more and more comfortable with the style of play and my personnel."

Guard Dahntay Jones, a teammate of Collison in Indiana the past two seasons, noted that Collison always displayed extensive leadership qualities.

"That's a guy that I worked with every day when I was in Indy," Jones said. "He's growing and he works extremely hard, so we just come in here with the mindset just to work, and good things come with hard work."

All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki, who might not return until the first week of December after undergoing arthroscopic right knee surgery on Oct. 19, is looking forward to the day when he'll get to run up and down the court with the speedy Collison.

"He's one of the fastest guards I've ever played with," Nowitzki said. "Obviously, he's got to use that speed to our advantage.

"He's got to push the ball off makes, misses -- it doesn't really matter -- he's got to fly up the court and get the wings running with him.

"And he's got to penetrate for us, make some stuff happen, collapse the defense, kick it out to shooters. We expect him to be our motor every night, like J-Kidd was."

Collison likes the fact that in Carlisle's flow offensive system, the point guard is allocated untold freedom.

"The point guard gets to pretty much call his own plays and go out there and try to make sure everybody's doing what they're supposed to do," Collison said. "He's not necessarily controlling the team.

"He's saying, 'Hey, look, you guys go out there and play.' I think that's when guys are at their best, when they're playing their games, and that's the most important thing I like."

That and being overly prepared for whatever happens on the court.

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760

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