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Collins Needs to Get Points

by Fred Kerber
New York Post (Not Online)

Jason Collins rebounded. He thinks. Then the Nets forward got nailed in the head inadvertently by Memphis' Stromile Swift. He believes. Then he gave an outlet pass to either Richard Jefferson or Vince Carter. He suspects.

See, Collins really doesn't remember exactly what happened during and immediately after the play that gave him a concussion Monday.

"I don't remember the exact plays after. I know I got a rebound, but I don't remember it. I stayed in the game afterwards," said Collins, whose face on the right side was about 20 percent bigger through swelling than his face on the left yesterday. "I passed to Richard or Vince." So what if Collins doesn't remember anything? ("I'm proud of that one. Pure instinct. Went into automatic mode," he said.) There is one safe bet Collins could have made, and that would be that he didn't score on the play.

Collins is averaging 3.0 points per game, making him the lowest scoring active starting regular in the NBA. Joel Przybilla of Portland, who has been injured and has played 10 games, is averaging 1.1 points.

"Everyone has a role. I mean we've got a bunch of guys who score. It's not like we say, 'Twin, we absolutely do not want you to score,' " said coach Lawrence Frank, whose Nets sought back-to-back wins for the third time this season when they played the Bucks in the Meadowlands last night.

"People don't really appreciate the value he brings to the team. This guy has been a cornerstone of what we've done. People just dwell on the numbers," Frank continued. "There's a reason the guy's always been on winning teams. The numbers, they don't tell the story. . . . His basketball IQ is very, very high. So what does that mean? On the defensive end, regardless of what scheme we're in, he's the quarterback behind it."

OK, it all makes sense. Still, you want your starting power forward to have a higher scoring average than the circumference of his ring finger. So despite Collins' considerable defensive worth, the Nets constantly are looking to upgrade the position. They sought Jamaal Magloire, Chris Wilcox, Melvin Ely and others who have athleticism and an offensive game.

"I'm a professional, I understand there's a business side to this; you go out there and play hard and try to help the team win, and that's what you focus on," said Collins, whose forte always has been defense, an area where he hasn't played as physically - physically yes, as physically as in the past, no - this season.

"He's getting bombarded down there. He needs a break every once in a while," said Cliff Robinson, who only can watch while his surgically repaired knee heals.

Collins always maintains the good-soldier approach. He left Stanford as a 14.5 ppg scorer and bottomed out at 3.6 points last season, his fifth in the league. Now he has gone lower. His rebounding is at 5.0 per game, but he has picked that up of late. He had 22 rebounds (including a seasonhigh nine) in the three games prior to getting conked in the second quarter by Swift. He only had one rebound - he thinks - in that Memphis game.

"The last couple of ballgames I've been active," Collins said. "The key thing for me is to set a tone at the defensive end. We have a lot of scorers on this team. The key for me is to focus on the defensive end."