From Bruins to Clippers
Published Nov 15, 2013 8:00 AM
Their NBA careers have brought these former UCLA hoops stars back to Los Angeles.
Matt Barnes arrived in Westwood to play basketball for then UCLA Head Coach Steve Lavin 15 years ago, a small forward from Sacramento who also led the nation in touchdown catches on the football field. Ryan Hollins, a seven-foot center from Pasadena, joined the UCLA program a year after Barnes departed, first playing for Lavin, then Ben Howland. Darren Collison, a point guard from Rancho Cucamonga, was a freshman during Hollins' senior season; he played in three Final Fours.
Since they were Bruins, each of them has fashioned a journeyman career in the NBA. Barnes, now in his 11th season, has played for eight teams. Hollins, currently in his eighth NBA season, has played for six teams while Collison, now in his fifth pro season, has played for four.
Now, the three find themselves back in L.A. with the Clippers, the team some experts have picked as the best in the NBA’s Western Conference. Barnes and Hollins played for the Clippers last year; Collison signed with the team during the off-season after spending the 2012-13 campaign with the Dallas Mavericks. None of them stars or starts—the Clippers are led by All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin—but make their contributions in the team’s reserve unit. In a recent game against former Bruin Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves, they entered the game in the second quarter and helped turn a seven-point deficit into a two-point lead.
“As one of two returning members of the second unit (along with Jamal Crawford), my job is to be a leader with my actions and also vocally,” says Barnes. “We haven’t found the identity of the unit yet, with me being hurt for a few games, but last year our second unit made big contributions and we’re looking to get back to that.” Hollins says the group collectively focuses on defense when they enter for the starters. “We want to run the floor, change the pace of the game and push the other team in transition,” Hollins says.
For Collison, who’s been a starter for most of his career, the biggest change since joining the Clippers is coming off the bench. “It’s been a little different, I’ve had to adjust and sacrifice individual goals,” he says. “My job now is to help the team win by focusing on the defensive end. I want to be recognized as one of the best defenders on the team.”
The trio of Clippers represents a quarter of the dozen Bruins in the NBA. Hollins says all the former UCLA players in the league share a bond and check in with each other when their paths cross. He says there is definitely chemistry between the three when they play together, and all three say there is something special about playing together in Southern California. “There’s that bond you always had, whether you played together [at UCLA] or in the summer games on campus,” says Collison. Barnes adds, “It’s good to come back to play in my second home.”
See Don MacLean, UCLA alumnus, interviewing Barnes, Hollins, and Collison below:
(Courtesy of Fox Sports, originally aired 11/20)