Can Darren Collison thrive in reserve role?

Darren Collison has made it clear he doesn’t want to come off the bench.

Rick Carlisle has made it even clearer that he’s not particularly concerned after hurting his players’ feelings when it comes to his decisions with the Mavericks’ rotation.

All indications are that Collison will be coming off the bench – if not Saturday night, then soon – with 38-year-old Derek Fisher arriving in Dallas. Carlisle at least tried to cushion the blow to Collison’s pride by noting the point guard played well off the pine in the Mavs’ loss to the 76ers on Tuesday, when Collison had 12 points, six assists and five steals.

“I loved the way he played in Philly,” Carlisle told reporters. “I think that’s a great role for him right now. I think Fisher can help us as a starter. This is a great opportunity for Darren to develop into a true starting point guard in this league.

“I really like Darren Collison as a player and I like him even better as a person. But putting him in a position to be the starter on this team right now isn’t fair to him. With Derek coming in, it’s a great opportunity for Darren to learn from one of the greatest winners in the history of the game.”

Never mind the long-term outlook for the 25-year-old Collison, who is older than about half of the starting point guards in the league. If the Mavs believed he was a potential foundation piece, they probably would have given Collison more than a month before stripping him of his starting role.

Can Collison really thrive coming off the bench?

Collison had mixed results during his limited time in that role for the Pacers last season. He struggled at the end of the regular season, when he returned from injury and the Pacers decided to stick with George Hill as the starter, averaging 4.5 points on 35 percent shooting with 12 assists and 12 turnovers in four games.

However, Collison seemed to settle into the role in the playoffs. He averaged 8.7 points and 3.0 assists in 18.6 minutes per game during the Pacers’ two-series postseason.

The Mavs need Collison, who missed Wednesday’s loss to the Bulls due to a sprained middle finger, to be a spark with the second unit. His opinion of the role is not really relevant.