- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 17, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - New Indiana Pacers point guard Darren Collison is thankful for the chance to lead an NBA team after just one year in the league.

Collison had an outstanding rookie season in New Orleans before being traded to Indiana last week. He averaged 18.8 points and 9.1 assists in 37 starts for New Orleans last season while All-Star Chris Paul was out with an injury.

Collison said Tuesday that he expected to back up Paul for years and was surprised by the trade. Now, he’s the man.

“I didn’t think it would come this fast,” Collison said. “I could only imagine, in my eyes, playing behind the best point guard in the league and learning from him for so long and learning a lot from him.”

Uncertainty ruled in New Orleans for much of the offseason. The team had a change in management and hired a new coach.

Collison never expected to be the one to get moved.

“I had no idea,” he said. “I really thought I was going to be on that team for a long time. This trade came out of left field for me, but it’s a good thing.

Collison will join forward Danny Granger and center Roy Hibbert to form the team’s young nucleus. Granger averaged 24.1 points last season and is on the USA team that will play in the world championships in Turkey. Hibbert emerged last season as a rising star, averaging 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds.

“Once I heard about the trade and the players I was going to be playing with, it definitely brought excitement to me,” Collison said.

Pacers president Larry Bird described Collison last week as the missing piece the Pacers needed. Collison said he’ll take such compliments in stride.

“Nothing’s going to change for me,” he said. “I’m always going to continue to work on my game and stay humble, and whatever happens, happens. With all these expectations, it’s not going to change anything for me.”

Collison toughened up last season while working with Paul.

“Anytime you play against one of the top players in the NBA and you practice against him every day, you’re going to have to get better,” he said. “My mentality was: ‘I know I’m not going to beat him out for his spot, but if I can compete and play hard every day in practice, I’m going to get better.’”

The Pacers also got veteran forward James Posey in the four-team swap that sent Troy Murphy to New Jersey.

Posey wants to make it tough for the Pacers coaches to sit him down. He has won championships with the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics, and wants to bring his winning approach to Indiana.

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