SACRAMENTO -- Darren Collison is tailor made for George Karl’s system. The speedy point guard loves to push the tempo and initiate the offense early. He can take his opponent off the dribble, knock down an open jumper and get his teammates involved.
But in order to do any of these items, he has to be on the court. After missing the last 33 games of the 2014-15 season with a core muscle injury that required surgery, the 28-year-old is struggling with a strained left hamstring that has kept him out of five straight contests for the Kings this season.
“I feel better, I just think it’s a day-to-day process for hamstrings, you never know when you’re going to be fully ready,” Collison said before Sunday’s win over the Raptors. “When I go on the court, the symptoms and everything that I’m used to feeling with the hamstring injury is going down. So that’s a good sign.”
Collison is a major cog in what the Kings hope to accomplish this season. The former UCLA star is averaging 15.8 points and 5.2 assists in 30.7 minutes per game off Karl’s bench and the Kings have no one that can step in and provide even a watered down version of what he brings.
In his absence, veteran Rajon Rondo has stepped up both his minutes and his production. In five games without Collison, Rondo has averaged over 45 minutes a night. He’s posted three triple-doubles in that span, but the last thing the team wants to do is wear him down this early in the season.
Luckily, Collison’s return is just around the corner and for only the second time this season the Kings hope to have a full roster as they begin their longest road trip.
“Wednesday seems like more of the target date,” Collison said. “Tonight was going to be the night where I go out there and play, but after working on it yesterday, we decided to give it one more game and go from there.”
Collison and the team have taken a cautious approach to the injury. It’s a long season and there is a real possibility of aggravating the injury and having to begin this process all over again.
“It’s better, but it’s one of those things where you’re feeling a little something after,” Collison said. “We don’t want this to linger. Hamstring injuries - talking to a lot of people, if you let it linger it’s something that can nag you throughout the whole season. I think we have high hopes of doing some things special this year, so there’s no point in me letting it linger.”
After winning their third straight on Sunday, the Kings sit at 4-7 on the season and the negativity surrounding the team last week has all but dissipated. A major piece to the puzzle is on it’s way back, which can only bolster an already strong Kings bench.