Nick Collison won't be complaining about carrying a veteran's bags this season.
It's a rookie ritual, and Collison is a rookie, even if he was an NBA draft pick 16 months ago.
A pair of shoulder surgeries got in the way of more than just rookie rituals.
"I had a built-in excuse," Collison said.
Collison couldn't carry much of anything last season as the surgeries added up to one busted season. He suffered torn ligaments in his left shoulder on the fourth day of practice. The operation to repair it was Oct. 14, and four months later his right shoulder was operated on in hopes of preventing a future injury in that joint.
Collison's second chance at his first NBA season began this week. The team scrimmaged for the first time Tuesday morning, and the former Kansas University standout showed what the Sonics expected from him.
After Ray Allen missed a shot, Collison went up and over Reggie Evans, using his 3-inch height advantage to grab an offensive rebound and score on a layin. A few possessions later, he outmuscled the taller Robert Swift -- the rookie drafted out of high school -- and tipped in a rebound off a missed free throw.
"He attacks the boards, both (offensive and defensive)," coach Nate McMillan said. "He really goes after the offensive glass. That's one of the strong points of his game.
"I haven't been disappointed with his effort going to the boards."
That's just what the Sonics expected when they chose Collison with the 12th pick after a senior season at Kansas in which he had two 20-rebound games. Since Collison didn't play a game last season, he is eligible for all rookie awards.
"He's the kind of guy who can score two points and have a big impact on the game," guard Luke Ridnour said. "Just second-shot rebounds. Just little tip-ins, deflections."
Wednesday, Collison stood hip-deep in a scrum inside Seattle's paint, which suddenly has become a dangerous place with the friction created by Danny Fortson and Reggie Evans battling for position.
"I just might need like a flak jacket by the end of the year," Collison said.
That's an easy joke. Don't think Collison will be in over his head in the paint. Athleticism, not strength, is a question about Collison. He's 6-foot-10 and carries his 260 pounds on a pair of legs as strong as fence posts.
"For a rookie or a second-year guy, he's a beast," Fortson said. "It's natural strength. It's not like weight-room strength too much, but natural strength, and that's what you're going to need in this league."
You also need some savvy, and Fortson was passing along some of that as soon as the team began practicing Tuesday. He talked to Collison about how to hold an opponent without getting called.
"Everybody has got to know the little dirty tricks, and I've got quite a few of them," Fortson said. "And I'm just showing a little bit. Whatever I can help him with."
Savvy Collison is the son of a high school coach. His X-factor might be his understanding of the game, which is why McMillan envisions him eventually able to play some small forward and act as an entry point to the offense.
During the first few days of Seattle's summer training camp, Collison's shot was off, but he said it felt as good as ever by the end.
"I'm completely back," he said.
That includes carrying bags or whatever else the veterans come up with.
"Ray said something about getting doughnuts," Collison said. "But so far no one has to do anything. Hopefully, they'll go to Robert Swift first and me second."