Concluding the Thunder's season, The Transcript is running a player evaluation series, looking at a new player every Monday through Friday. This week, it's the big men. Today’s player: power forward Nick Collison.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Nick Collison isn’t done playing. At least, that’s what he says.
“I plan to play [next year] for sure,” Collison said. “I wasn't sure going into the season how I would feel at the end of the year, but I still enjoy playing, and I enjoy being around the group. I enjoy being on the team, and I still think I have something to offer.”
The then-Seattle Sonics drafted Collison way back in 2003. He’s played for this organization every day since. And in all those years, he’s never been a free agent, extending at each opportunity instead of hitting the open market.
Now is his chance. And considering he wants to keep playing, considering the directions both Collison and the Thunder are heading, a return to Oklahoma City is no guarantee.
“I've been treated great here, and I've had great experiences here, and it's been the best basketball years of my life for sure playing here,” Collison said. “Hopefully it'll work out, but that's the way it goes. There's no answers today.”
It would certainly be odd to see Collison wearing another uniform. San Antonio’s Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, Miami’s Udonis Haslem and Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki are the only active players who have played for just one organization in their careers for at least as long.
He’s become part of the Thunder culture. He’s someone every younger player looks to for help. And — don’t tell this to Collison — but every Thunder player this past season was younger than him. He heard jokes from them about that all year.
Yet, the Thunder didn’t give him much playing time this season. And that’s something which could lead to an amicable breakup this summer.
“This will be the second season I'm not 100 percent sure what's going to happen next,” Collison said. “I was going to play for the Iowa Falls Cadets and then play for the [Kansas] Jayhawks, and then the one year I didn't know was the draft, and then I've had all extensions.”
The organization would never say a bad word about Collison.
“Obviously everybody knows how we feel about Nick,” general manager Sam Presti said.
Yet, if another team were willing to offer playing time, that could give Collison incentive to head elsewhere.
Collison and Thunder coach Billy Donovan came to an agreement before this year that the OKC vet would receive long stretches of minutes instead of short bursts of playing time throughout the year. So, Collison would get into blowouts with seven or eight minutes to go in fourth quarters instead of at the very end. He would occasionally come in for rotation minutes against veterans who he had a history of guarding well, like Nowitzki or Memphis’ Zach Randolph.
He may have to sign onto a similar situation if he were to come back next season. Heck, his role could be even more limited with anticipated improvement from young bigs like Jerami Grant, Steven Adams and Domantas Sabonis, all of whom are yet to reach their primes. If he were to return to OKC, it may have to be as the 15th man, the token veteran on the end of the bench whose value comes not mostly, but completely off the court. And because of that, there’s always a chance Collison ends up in another uniform next season, even if that's neither the team's nor his preference.
“It's a little different,” Collison said. “I think about it, but I've got really good relationships with all the people here...I think both sides just have to find the best thing, and we'll figure it out.”
Join The Transcript on Monday when we evaluate Victor Oladipo.