It was quite an interesting off-season for the Dallas Mavericks. The franchise had salary cap space to sign a big name free agent for the first time in the Mark Cuban-era, and the big name on the market was Nets free agent point guard and The Colony native Deron Williams, who narrowed his choices to coming home to DFW or staying with Brooklyn. When Williams spurned the Mavs, point guard Jason Kidd -- who had verbally agreed to re-sign with Dallas -- bolted for a similar contract to join former Mavericks center Tyson Chandler with the New York Knicks. In desperate need of someone to run the point, president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson pulled off a trade with the Indiana Pacers to acquire Darren Collison.
Collison was a familiar name to basketball fans. He played alongside future NBA stars Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook at UCLA, and made three consecutive trips to the Final Four. Collison was selected in the first round of the NBA Draft by the New Orleans Hornets, and he set a Hornets rookie record with 18 assists in one game and later 20. As a rookie, he averaged 12.4 points and 5.7 assists per game and earned NBA All-Rookie First Team honors.
With the Hornets already having superstar Chris Paul in their backcourt, Collison became the centerpiece of a four-team, five player trade that saw him wind up with the Indiana Pacers. When he was acquired by the Mavericks in the 2012 off-season, Dallas instantly became younger at the point as Collison, who was born in 1987, was six years old when Jason Kidd was drafted by the Mavs.
Collison arrived in Dallas with a reputation as one of the "good guys" in the NBA and he has backed it by being involved in the community, including a visit with the 6th-8th graders at Florence Middle School to tipoff the Mavs Academic All-Star program.
He sat down with me following a grinding practice at American Airlines Center for a chat ranging from his favorite food to his role in a major Hollywood movie and his strategy on shooting free throws.
JB: When you played at UCLA, the team had an amazing success rate with multiple Final Four appearances. Being that we are in the middle of March Madness, do you ever get nostalgic at this time of year?
DC: It's cool to get a chance to watch your old school in the tournament and get to relive that moment. This time of year, college basketball is always fun.
JB: What was it like getting to play in the Final Four? Did you get to soak up the atmosphere or was it all business?
DC: It was a great experience, more serious at the time but looking back on it, it was definitely a magical time.
JB: Let's talk about your NBA career that began in New Orleans and continued with Indiana and Dallas. Compare the three cities from a NBA player's perspective.
DC: It keeps getting better and better. New Orleans is a great city, I love the "home cooking" food. Indianapolis is cold, but the people are great. Now I am in Dallas and the food is good, the people are great and the weather in the winter is not too bad either.
JB: It's not often you meet someone who is the absolute best at what they do, but you are the top free throw shooter in the NBA. Do you practice them all the time or is it a particular mindset you use?
DC: Free throws are such an important part of the game and I do practice as seriously in the off-season as I do during the year. As far as the mindset, I have been put in those pressure situations like that often enough that I really do have to take them one shot at a time and just block out the noise of the crowd.
JB: Do you have a favorite arena to play in on the road?
DC: I would have to say Madison Square Garden and the new arena in Brooklyn, the Barclays Center is probably the nicest now.
JB: You have free agency coming up after this season. Are you excited to have the ability to pick whichever team you would like to play for?
DC: Definitely. It is an exciting time because I think a lot of NBA teams know what I have done over the last four years, so it is an exciting time for me and my family, but Dallas is where my focus is and where I want to be in the future.
JB: What is your favorite kind of food?
DC: I would have to say steak.
JB: Do you have a favorite restaurant?
DC: I don't have a favorite spot in Dallas yet, but my favorite overall restaurant is Copeland's in New Orleans.
JB: Do you have a favorite vacation spot in the off-season?
DC: Atlantis in the Bahamas, it is one of the best spots. I just lay on the beach and relax.
JB: During the season, do you have time for a favorite TV show?
DC: I really enjoy Southland on TNT.
JB: What's your favorite movie?
DC: The original Friday starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker
JB: Speaking of movies, you appeared in Think Like a Man. Is acting something you are interested in for the future?
DC: It's funny the way that even happened was somebody I knew asked me about it and told me to show up at the high school gym. I didn't believe him at first, but it ended up being really cool. As far as in the future, we'll see, but I did enjoy it.
DC: Absolutely, I will definitely try to be in it
JB: Who do you admire most and why?
DC: My parents, they have been the most supportive since I was little. Anytime I could remember, they were there for me.
FOLLOW JAY BETSILL ON TWITTER @THEFAMOUSJAY