Nick Collison says he’s thrilled fellow Kansas University big man Cole Aldrich has joined the frontcourt of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.
“Cole’s a great fit for us,” Collison, Kansas University’s second-leading scorer and third-leading rebounder of all-time, said of Aldrich, KU’ s No. 2 shot-blocker of all-time.
“Cole’s the type of guy Sam (Presti, OKC general manager) usually likes to get. He’s a good teammate, works hard, is long, athletic and young. He’s the same age as most of our guys. He’s a good pick-up for our team.”
Collison’s Thunder acquired the 6-foot-11, 250-pound Aldrich in a June 24 draft-day trade with New Orleans. The Hornets had selected Aldrich at No. 11 overall.
“We’re a good situation for a young player,” said Collison, a 6-10, 255-pound seven-year veteran. “Our coaches do a really good job of developing young guys. You can look at our roster. Half of our guys are 24 or younger, 25 or younger. We’re really a cohesive group. Guys like playing with each other. In a lot of ways, it’s like a college or AAU team because we’re young guys, and we all hang out a lot.”
The Kevin Durant-led Thunder went 50-32 during the 2009-10 regular season and advanced to the playoffs, where the up-and-coming squad scared the world champion Los Angeles Lakers before falling, 4 games to 2.
“The city is great. We had great support there. With more success and making a playoff run, the whole city was excited,” Collison said of OKC.
He said Aldrich should vie for immediate minutes.
“I think so. We’ve got a lot of guys can play on this team,” Collison said. “The 4- and 5-spots are interchangeable. I’m sure Cole is in the mix. All our guys bring little differences to the table. It’s the way it is.
“In the NBA, you want to be on a good team. You’ve got to have good players to have a good team. We’ve got a really good team.”
Collison on draft day sent Aldrich a message on Twitter, warning the rookie about what’s in store in the NBA.
“I’m excited to have u on the squad,” Collison tweeted. “Even more excited 4you to bring me my newspaper &eggwhite; omelet every morning rookie.”
Collison laughed when asked about the tweet.
“He’s going to be a rookie. He’ll have certain chores he’ll have to do,” Collison said. “I know him pretty well. I’ve been back to KU a handful of times. I talk to him whenever I’m there.
“I’ve not been there a ton, but I’ve talked to him quite a bit. Cole has a pretty good skill-set right now. He’ll continue to get better.”
Collison is in the final year of a five-year, $33 million contract.
“I’d love to,” Collison said, asked about perhaps signing another multiyear deal. “Who knows? Obviously, everybody wants a big deal. All you can control is your own play on the court.”
His former KU teammate, Drew Gooden, this week agreed to a five-year, $32 million deal with Milwaukee.
Gooden is about to play for his ninth team entering his ninth season. Collison — who averaged 5.9 points, 5.1 boards and 20.8 minutes a game last season — has been with the same organization his entire career.
“Everybody has their own path,” Collison said. “Sometimes when you get moved once, you are more likely to be moved again. It’s the pattern. It’s the way it’s worked out for Drew. He’s been in situations where it’s not worked out or they’re rebuilding. He signed a great deal (with Bucks).
“I saw Drew actually (last week) at the NBA Players Association meeting. He’s doing well. He’s had a good career. He’s bounced around and had tumultuous times at times with all the teams he’s played on. But he’s played well. Now he’s in a slot hopefully for the long term.”
Collison’s younger brother, Michael, just completed his freshman season at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa.
The 6-10, 230-pound Michael Collison averaged 2.7 points and 3.2 rebounds while coming off the bench in 27 games for Briar Cliff (23-9).
“It’s the same place my dad played and Kirk’s dad,” Nick Collison said of father Dave Collison and Kirk Hinrich’s father, Jim. “(Michael) had a good year. He’s a half inch taller than me now. He’s really grown (since being a fixture at KU games during Nick’s career that spanned from 2000-03). He had a good year. He’s working hard.”
Nick likes his brother’s potential.
“He’s got good size and feel for the game. He’s trying to figure out how much work he wants to put in. If he really wants to go for it, he’ll be a really good player. It’s up to him.”