Mardy Collins knows its going to be tough to get back to the NBA. But the former Temple star is willing to sacrifice another year in Europe to get back to where he started his professional basketball career.
After a minor set-back, Collins is on a mission to make it back to the NBA. But that mission includes stops in Turkey, Philly and another European destination to be determined.
A first round pick by the New York Knicks in the 2006 NBA draft, Collins spent two full seasons with the Knicks and was then traded to the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2008-09 season. He then spent the rest of that season and the 2009-10 season with the Clippers. In four NBA seasons, Collins averaged 3.9 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.
As an unrestricted free agent, Collins was invited to the Washington Wizards training camp last year. But a strained calf derailed his plans and he was out of the NBA for the first time in his career. It was the second time in a matter of months that he suffered the same injury.
It was frustrating, Collins said. I put in a lot of hard work last summer. After the Clippers season was over, I took a week off and me, Blake Griffin and Craig Smith were out in LA working out in the gym every day. Then, I came back here and was working hard every day. I happened to get injured at the end of the summer, so it was just bad timing. It was definitely a frustrating situation.
After recovering from the injury, Collins signed with Bornova in Turkey for the final two months of the season. He played seven games there and averaged 11.4 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
But for Collins, playing in Turkey wasnt the same as playing in the NBA. Collins said he wasn't quite as motivated as first, but after a while he got used to it and played his best.
You kind of do lose motivation at first, Collins said about his stint in Turkey. My goal was to play in the NBA, but at the end of the day its just competitive basketball anyway. When I went over I got a chance to play a few games and it took me a little while. But it was good competition and I learned a lot.
One minor calf injury changed everything. If it werent for that, he could've signed a contract with the Wizards last year and had a long, productive NBA career ahead of him. But that injury could potentially keep him out of the NBA for a while.
Collins is realistic and knows that he wont make the NBA this year because of the lockout. He plans on using the next year to work hard and improve while playing somewhere in Europe, and then use next summer to work his way back to the NBA, where he truly wants to be.
With this lockout, Im definitely going to go overseas and try to do what I can do, Collins said. And then next year Ill try to get back in the NBA.
Collins doesnt even think theres much of a chance at all that he could be back in the NBA this year.
I doubt it, he said. Depending on this lockout, if its over by September, Ill try to stick around and go to training camp. But if its not, I have to go overseas because I have a family.
In the meantime, Collins is spending the summer working out and playing in a few pro-am basketball leagues in Philly. In the Rankin-Anderson league at Gustine Lake Recreation Center, he had 26 points and six assists on Friday in a 114-82 win.
His team, T.Y.G.T.A.L., which includes former Temple teammate Mark Tyndale, defeated Hood Sports on Friday. In the Delco Pro-Am league, Collins also teams with former teammates Dionte Christmas and Dustin Salisbery. The summer time is a great opportunity for the former Temple stars to all play together against some of the citys toughest competition.
Of course its fun, Collins said about playing with Tyndale, Christmas and Salisbery over the summer.But its nothing. We play with each other all the time. Theyre my friends. We see each other and talk to each other every week, every day mostly. Its nothing. We enjoy it because we know we played for Coach Chaney and me and Mark played for the same high school.
Over the summer, Collins has been working hard on his outside jumper. And it has certainly improved. He was draining 3-pointer after 3-pointer on Friday, including a 30-footer just before the first quarter buzzer.
Ive just been working on my shot mainly and getting my body together, Collins said. Thats the two things that have been holding me back: my health and my shot. Ive been in the gym working with my shooting coach getting shots up. Its definitely working and Im injury-free.
Of course, Collins main goal is to improve as a player and work on certain aspects of his game over the summer. But hes also a competitor and hes tired of not winning any championships. After hearing some trash-talk around Philly, Collins is now more motivated than ever to finally win a title in the Rankin-Anderson league and the Delco Pro-Am league.
I just try to use the summer leagues to get in shape, Collins said, but the last few years Ive been losing and the guys around the city have been talking, so now I kind of want to win every one.
Ryan Feldman covers college basketball and the NBA draft for his website, TheHoopsReport.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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