Nick Collison, Making it a Decade with the Thunder

Last Friday, much to the delight of the Thunder organization, General Manager and Executive Vice President Sam Presti and fans both statewide and worldwide, veteran forward Nick Collison agreed to return for his 10th season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and his 15th season overall in the NBA.

Moments after the paperwork was signed, okcthunder.com had a chance to sit down with the Thunder fan-favorite to debrief on his decision to remain with the team, his insight in to the Thunder’s new offseason additions and his anticipation for the upcoming season.

… and still going . #ThunderFWD

A post shared by Oklahoma City Thunder (@okcthunder) on Jul 21, 2017 at 12:50pm PDT

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Returning to the Thunder

Collison is one of just five active players in the NBA to spend 14 or more seasons with one franchise, an absolutely remarkable accomplishment for a role player. On Friday, the Thunder’s #4 reflected on being a free agent for the very first time in his career, why he chose to return and what Oklahoma City has meant to him.

NC: “It was interesting. It would have been a different scenario if I was 26 instead of 36. I was open to listen, but this is where I wanted to end up. I wanted it to work out for (the Thunder) and for me and it did. I’m really happy about it. A lot of things happened with the team over the summer that I’m excited about, the group coming back and some of the new guys. I think it’s going to be a fun year.”

NC: “The city has embraced us since the day we got here. The first season we were here we weren’t a very good basketball team but they were very consistent and they’ve stayed consistent throughout. You really feel the love when you’re out in the city. It seems like everybody is a Thunder fan. They want to support you and it’s really great to be able to play here, spend a big chunk of my career here and to play in front of fans like that.”

NC: “I think (the fans) can tell that I play hard and try to do the best thing I can to help us win. They appreciate that. It’s cool to be able to be somewhere long enough that the fans can get to know you and appreciate what you do. Especially not being a star player. That doesn’t happen for guys a lot. A lot of players who have a similar career to me statistically, or minutes-wise or the role usually bounce around quite a bit. I’ve been really fortunate to be in one place, to get to know the fans and have the fans get to know me. I’ve been lucky.”

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Scouting His New Teammates

Over the past few seasons, Collison has been one of the elder statesmen of the group – a steady leader whose experience has been an excellent guide for not only himself, but the team. This season, thanks to some well-struck offseason additions, Collison will have some fellow veterans in the mix. Here’s his take on what Paul George, Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton add to the group:

NC: “I think (Paul George) is a perfect fit for us because he can do so many things. He’s a good shooter, catching and shooting, which is huge for us to get some spacing. He can definitely go get his own shot and he can really defend. He’s a versatile, big defender, which is important now with teams playing so many lineups with 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9, wing type players. He’s able to switch and guard different guys. He’s a guy with a lot of experience. He’s played in a lot of high level games and we need a lot more of that. You could almost go through the whole league and not find a better guy to match up with our team.

NC: “(Patterson) is a skilled player. He can do a lot of the dribble hand off stuff. He can spread the floor and shoot threes. He’s a smart guy who plays the right way. He’s a winning-type player. It’s good to have as many of those guys as you can. And he’s an experienced guy too. It’ll be good to have that.”

NC:(Felton) is a competitor. Again, more experience which is something that we need. He’s played in big games too. The thing about him, I’ve been impressed with him as he’s aged. He’s still playing really well at this age. He gave us a ton of problems in the playoffs when he was with Dallas and he had a good year last year. For us, we welcome him to the team with open arms. For us, it’s good to have more guys with experience who have played in a lot of big games, in playoff games.”

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Nick’s Role

Collison didn’t play as many minutes or in as many games last season as he had in years past, but he and the team are confident he has the ability, toughness and intelligence to play a role for this group. As the frontcourt takes shape, it remains to be seen how much time the additions and subtractions to the roster leave Collison for an on-court role. Regardless, the ever-reliable Thunder efficiency standout will be ready to deliver what he always has both on and off the court:

NC:I’ll do what I’ve always done and try to find ways to help guys out, to move the ball, screen, look for shots when they’re there for me, defend and communicate. A lot of the things I’ve been doing for years. Whenever you get new guys in, you have to get to camp and get to work. I think when you play with guys who really know how to play, it makes it a lot easier.”

NC: “I don’t necessarily set out to be a mentor or pick someone to mentor. When things come up, you try to help when you can. That’ll be the case. That’s just what being a good teammate is, and being a good player is, trying to do what it takes to win. A lot of that can be off the court, trying to help other guys. Early, it’ll be trying to communicate to the new guys some of the stuff we do strategically. As things come up throughout the year, you want to have as many guys trying to help out and trying to do the right thing as possible. I think we’ll have a good group for that.”

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A Vision for 2017-18

NC: “Defensively we need to be really good and really consistent. We had a decent year defensively last year but we made a lot of mistakes. The consistency wasn’t there. We’re capable of being a really good defensive team but it has to be who we are every night. To really have a chance to win in the playoffs, we need that every night. We need to know that defensively we’re going to be really good every night. That’ll be big. Some of the personnel that we’ve added helps.”

NC: “On the offensive end, we’ve gotten better. We have shooters and guys who can play. Obviously a guy as good as Paul George makes a huge difference. So just figuring out the right way to play: move the ball, be tough to guard and be consistent on the other end.

NC:I think we’re going to be really good and it’s going to be another fun year. A lot of the guys I’ve played with before and it’ll be good to see those guys grow. Some of these new players will give us a chance to do some different things and be really good. It’ll be exciting.”

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Collison will spend the rest of his offseason training and getting his body prepared for yet another NBA grind. Come September, he’ll be in Oklahoma City ready to attack his work in training camp with the same diligence, conscientiousness and attention to detail that he has ever since the Thunder arrived in town.


Watch the Full Interview: 1-on-1 With Nick Collison

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