by Dave D'Alessandro
Star-Ledger Staff (Not Online)
Lawrence Frank gave his annual impassioned defense of Jason Collins ysterday even though he knows the fans--who regard him as the most convenient target when the team is going bad--don't want to hear it.
"People don't appreciate the value he brings to the team," Frank said of the Nets forward before last night's 108-95 victory over Milwaukee. "The guy has been the cornerstone of what we've done. People just dwell on the numbers. There's a reason the guy's always been on winning teams and there's a reason why anyone who's coached him loves him.
"The numbers...don't tell the story. We've always said that. Some people want to hear it, some people don't.
But that's what we think. That's what his teammates think."
Help defense isn't exactly the most glamourous--or most quantifiable--apsect of the NBA game, but it's what Collins does as well as anyone in the league. His problem, of course, is that he averages only three points and five rebounds per game as a starting power forward, which won't endear him to state enthusiasts, who ignore the fact that he's more suitable for backup center chores.
But Frank is tired of allowing one of his favorite players being turned into a 7-foot bull's eye.
"It's not like we're asking people to erect a statue of him, but he's a very valuable guy to our team," the coach said. "His basketball IQ is very high. So what does that mean? On the defensive end, regardless of what scheme we're in, he's the quarterback behind it--constantly talking, helping. In any pick-and-roll scheme, he's going to execute it flawlessly. His technique is going to be great.
"And despite him not being a great athlete, he understands how to make up for it. When you have a guy who's rock solid, it's very comforting."
Collins won't admit that he hears the occasional jeer, but that's probably just a defense mechanism.
"I just keep playing," he said. "I think as a pro you have to tune people out. You focus on your teammates and coaches--there's enough yelling and talking to you. That's what you focus on more than anything else."
Cliff Robinson continues to make good progress, though for now, most of it is on the stationary bike. He won't know for sure whne he cna return until he begins court work, but that didn't stop him from making a prediction.
"It's coming along fairly quick," said the Nets forward, who had his knee scoped on Nov. 27. "I mean, I don't want to put a number of weeks on it, but I'm sure I'll be back by the beginning of the year."
Marcus Williams was expecting to play last night, but how well, nobody knew. he showed up at morning shoot around with a viral infection and was immediately sent home.
Collins did something remarkable against Memphis on Monday: He grabbed a rebound when he was only partly conscious. It was shortly after getting smashed across the right eye by Stromile Swift--the blow that caused the mild concussion--that he grabbed a rebound.
"I don't remember it," he said. "I'm proud of that one. Pure instinct. Went into automatic mode."