Darren Collison having his best season as a pro, but trying to keep 50-40-90 off his mind

Statistically, Darren Collison is having the best season of his professional career. His shooting numbers have never been better, his assists per game (5.3) lead the team while his turnovers are the lowest they’ve been (1.3) in his nine years.

And, until finally having surgery on Feb. 6, he did most of his damage while less than 100 percent.

Collison has dealt with soreness in his left knee for well over a year, but it wasn’t until his knee banged the hardwood in a home win over the Philadelphia 76ers (Feb. 3) that he truly required surgery. One day later he had an MRI and three days after the contact, he was in surgery at OrthoIndy Hospital.

The Pacers point guard, on his second stint with the franchise, rather not discuss is shooting numbers but that’s all anyone wants to do as he is ohhh … sooo … close … to becoming a member of the elusive 50-40-90 club.

Membership requires a player to shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from distance, and 90 percent at the foul line.

D.C. is right there. 49.7 FGs | 43.9 3FGs | 89.3 FTs

“Ah,” he says with a grin as he shakes his head. “I’m really trying to forget about that. It’s difficult. I don’t think you can do it by thinking about it every single (day). It just seems like everywhere you go, that’s something that they mention, people text me about it.

“I do not want to think about it. I just want to go out there and play my game. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, so what? I think the team success is definitely more impressive to me.”

It’s something only seven players have been able to accomplish, including two with ties to the Pacers: Larry Bird (twice), Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash (four times), Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, and most recently, Steph Curry (2015-16 season).

Collison returned on Mar. 9 and finished with 17 points, five assists, and zero turnovers in 21 minutes. Nate McMillan originally plan to play him 10 to 15 minutes, but Collison was feeling good and received the approval from head athletic trainer Josh Corbeil.

In the locker room after nearly every game, there would be Collison, at his locker at the end of stage left, seated with a bag of ice on his left knee. It was painful, it was annoying, but there is no such thing as minor surgery. There’s just not.

So if he could tolerate the pain, as D.C. did for more than a year, the 30-year-old kept on playing.

“Well the thing is, we didn’t think that it was that serious,” Collison explained. “It wasn’t until I bumped my knee on the ground when it really gave up on me and we had to go get an MRI. It showed some cartilage being loose.

“At the time I could play with it, [but] it was still with pain. It’s crazy because I was playing with pain for the last year and half and I’m asking myself ‘How did I manage to get through on it?’ The good thing is I get a chance to be healthy and play with my teammates at this pace.”

Collison scored 17 points in his first game back from knee surgery. [Frank McGrath/PS&E]

Out of his home state of California but away from the circus that is the Sacramento Kings, where he spent the last three seasons, Collison re-signed with the Pacers in the offseason and started in his first 52 games. He has come off the bench in his first two games back from injury, and is averaging 12.6 points, a team-high 5.3 assists, and just 1.3 turnovers per game.

While Collison was sidelined for just over four weeks, Cory Joseph slid into the starting role.

“He’s never negative, at all, and that’s always a good sign when you’re playing with somebody like that,” Collison said of Joseph, one of three Pacers to play in all 67 games this season. Thad Young and Lance Stephenson are the other two.

“He’s done a good job, of whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. He’s played with the Spurs, he’s played in big games, but one thing I like about Cory is he’s always trying to do the most unselfish thing for his teammates. It’s easy to play with guys like that. I thought KP [Kevin Pritchard] did a great job of bringing in guys like that, like Cory, into the locker room because we’ll have success with guys like that.”

I would say quietly, Collison has had a strong season but those watching are well-aware of his contributions to the 39-28 Pacers, who are third in the East for the first time this season. The Pacers have easily been the greatest surprise in the league. Vegas picked them to win 31.5 games. ESPN put them on national TV just once, TNT not at all.

Indiana needed an All-Star so Victor Oladipo became one. The individual contributions down the line, together, have helped this team blow past outside expectations and into the playoff picture.

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