It’s the 14th NBA season for Nicholas John Collison, the only player left on the Thunder roster from the team’s Seattle days. With the end of his career approaching, Collison says he’s just enjoying the moment.
Big changes during this offseason.
Nick Collison: Yeah, a lot of new faces. The attitude in training camp has been really good, very positive. There’s a lot of young guys that are really hungry. We’ve got a lot of guys that know how to play. So it’s been a little easier that you might think plugging guys in because these guys have a really good understanding of the game.
No more Kevin Durant as a teammate. How did you learn about his decision?
NC: He texted me… Well, first I heard that he was leaning that way and then he texted me that morning before he announced his decision.
How did you feel?
NC: I was disappointed, for sure. We played together for a long time, we came a long way from where we started. So yeah, it’s disappointing. It’s always tough when teammates leave, that’s the way the business works. It was a different thing with Kevin because of how much time we spent together, and obviously because of the great player he is.
Victor Oladipo is clearly one of the key players to help fill Durant’s void.
NC: Yeah, he is a player who can create his own shot. Kevin was a big part of our offense, and Victor is a guy who can play with the ball, create opportunities for himself, get in the paint, create for other guys… So he’ll be very important for our season.
You, Dirk Nowitzki, Udonis Haslem, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are among the veterans who have played for just one team. Are you proud of that?
NC: Yeah, it’s always worked out for me. You know, it’s been like they wanted me around and I always wanted to be here. Contract-wise, it’s always worked out. I always got fair deals so I never had a reason to go anywhere else. I think as a player, it’s good to know that you’re wanted. I appreciate the opportunity I’ve had to stay in one place, build a lot of relationships… I realize that that’s rare nowadays and I feel blessed.
Three legends retired this season: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett… Which one will you miss the most this year?
NC: Probably Duncan, you know because I played against him a lot more than the other two. I played playoff series against him. Actually when I was in college I practiced on the USA Team that he was on, so I got to know him better. It was back in 2004. He was always very friendly with me during that time. But you know, all of them will be missed a lot. I played against Garnett a lot too. Played less against Kobe. These guys… It’s not easy to do what they did, to play at such a high level for so long. Incredible careers. It’s been cool to compete against them all these years, guys that I actually admired before I started playing in the NBA.
Well, you’ll be 36 at the end of the month… Have you thought about being close to the end of your career?
NC: I’m just enjoying this year. As you do get closer to the end, I start to like appreciate just being on a team, more hanging out with the guys. I enjoy playing with this group. I’m just trying to really enjoy the year because I don’t know how much longer it’s going to last. It’s a fun group, I’m trying to stay healthy, ready to go when I get opportunities.
But your contract expires after the season. If the Thunder go in another direction, do you want to play anywhere else?
NC: Well, the thing I’ve learned all these years in this league is that you never know what’s going to happen next. It’s just the way it goes, so to commit to anything is really… Things change. I enjoy playing here, obviously I’ve been here a long time. I’m just trying to have a good year and re-evaluate when the season’s over.
You still have ties with the city of Seattle, right?
NC: I go back every summer since we left.
What is the feeling right now in the city about having an NBA team again?
NC: I feel for those fans. It’s tough for them. They loved the Sonics and there’s no team now. I don’t know what’s going to happen but it would be great to have a team again in Seattle. I know that there’s a lot of dominoes that would have to fall for that to happen. I played there, they do have a real passion for basketball.
Chris Ballard wrote a great article about your former teammate Robert Swift a few days ago.
NC: I haven’t reallly been in contact with Robert in a long time. I read the article and it seems that he’s doing better and I hope that he’s able to do well and find peace. He was a young guy when we got him and things didn’t necessarily go well for him, but he was always a really good person. That’s what I always remember about Robert, he had a really good heart, a good guy.