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Happy or not, Darren Collison can help Mavs

DALLAS – Point guard Darren Collison understandably doesn’t like losing his starting job less than a fifth of the way through the season.

But coach Rick Carlisle really likes the way Collison has performed in a reserve role.

Give Collison credit for performing like a pro despite admittedly feeling that he didn’t get a fair shake as the Mavs’ starting point guard, a job it appeared that he lost for good with the arrival of 17-year veteran Derek Fisher.

Collison had 12 points, six assists and five steals in his first game off the bench, when Dominique Jones started at point guard in last week’s loss to the 76ers. In Fisher’s first game, Collison played a key role in the win over the Pistons, contributing five points, eight assists and no turnovers.

“Regardless of how I feel about the whole situation, at the end of the day, it is what it is,” Collison said. “I can thrive in any situation as long as I’m playing basketball and I’m trying to help us win the game, I can be effective.”

Whether Collison is happy about his role really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. The Mavs just care about how he handles the situation.

So far, Carlisle is thrilled with his not-so-thrilled new backup point guard.

“Listen, this is all about competition and winning,” Carlisle said. “I thought he played great the other night. His response the other night was very positive, and I was very impressed.”

Carlisle calls Collison one of the Mavs’ “starting eight,” and the point guard’s minutes really haven’t dropped off much as a reserve. The Mavs still need Collison to play well to have a chance to make the playoffs, much less do any damage during the spring.

“Who starts and who finishes is not nearly as important as our collective effort toward winning,” Carlisle said. “That’s what we’re all looking at.

“And he and I talk every day. We have good conversations every day about our style of play, things that he can do to improve, things that he sees during the game that have helped me understand what he’s thinking a little bit. Hey, it’s all good and going forward, communication is the key to everything.”

It’s not like Collison is a newcomer to this kind of situation. He lost his starting job in Indiana last season when the Pacers opted to stick with George Hill after Collison returned from injury.

Collison contributed to the Pacers’ two-round playoff run then. The Mavs are counting on him to be a key contributor now.

“All I can do out there is play and when I go into the game try to make an impact, like I did tonight,” Collison said. “I’ve been through enough adversity. Nothing surprises me. You just got to keep plugging and do what I can for the team.”