Darren Collison seizes Mavs' PG reins

SALT LAKE CITY -- There seemed to be plenty of reasons for Dallas fans to lament over the summer when the Mavericks lost out on the Deron Williams free agency sweepstakes.

Williams, a D-FW native, seemed like a perfect compliment to Dirk Nowitzki that seemed to assure the Mavs a shot at one more NBA title run, at least.

If Darren Collison can continue to build on the promise he has shown through two games, fewer Dallas fans will be longing after the point guard who got away.

Collison has been a huge bright spot for the Mavs in the team's season-opening road trip. Through two games, he is averaging a team-high 17 points and is shooting 58.3 percent from the field. Collison is also averaging a respectable 5.5 assists and 2.0 steals per contest.

He tallied 17 points and seven assists in a 113-94 loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.

"Two solid games," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "He's done a good job and he's going to get better."

For his part, Collison is determined to push himself to be worthy of his role. With predecessors such as Jason Kidd and Steve Nash as past floor leaders, he knows it will take more than a couple of good games to even ponder joining their company in the minds of fans.

"I can get better," Collison said. "I judge myself on our record and, right now, we're 1-1. There's some things I can get better at. I'm still a work in progress."

That's why nights like the one the Mavs suffered against the Jazz sting. Dallas held its own through the first half and Collison was the major driving force behind it. He had a direct hand in two big runs late in the second quarter.

The first came with the Mavericks trailing 47-39. Collison drilled a 3-pointer to kick off an 11-2 run. Dallas took a 50-49 lead when he capped the spurt with a driving layup. He found teammates to ignite the second run. Collison assisted on all four shots that composed a quarter-ending 11-0 run that gave Dallas a 63-55 halftime lead.

"We were pretty efficient in the first half moving the ball offensively," said Mavs center Brandan Wright, who finished with 15 points. "We ran the ball and Darren had some really effective screen-and-rolls."

But all of the shots stopped falling in the third quarter. Dallas made just 5-of-22 field goals and the Jazz took full advantage of the situation. Mo Williams buried a pair of 3-pointers and drove for a layup to score eight straight points to fuel a decisive 18-2 run that put the game out of reach.

"We had a good run coming into the second half," Collison said. "When we come into the third quarter we have to push the tempo off. Keep pushing and keep pushing our will on them. We kind of let it get away from us."

Collison came to Dallas in a sign-and-trade deal with the Indiana Pacers over the summer. So far, it looks like a smart acquisition for the Mavs. He brings a great deal more athleticism than an over-the-hill Kidd showed last season. Collison isn't afraid to attack the rim off the dribble and he is a much more accurate shooter than his predecessor.

"That's what I was brought here for," Collison said. "I play my game and try to go out there and have as much fun as I can. And make sure we win ball games."