I set a goal to be out of here (the G-League) before Jan. 1, 2018, the first step, so now I got to build off this. —Kyle Collinsworth
DALLAS — Late Monday night, Kyle Collinsworth got the call he’d been waiting for: he was headed to the NBA.
It was Bob MacKinnon Jr., Collinsworth’s coach with the NBA G-League’s Texas Legends for the past year and a half, who delivered the news that the Dallas Mavericks were signing Collinsworth, 26, as a two-way player.
“I grew up a huge Mavs fan, so it’s kind of surreal,” he said Tuesday after his first regular-season NBA practice. “I was here last year in training camp, but being back here (again is incredible). Again, I’m just going to do what I do and just play hard.”
After giving Collinsworth the good news, MacKinnon then offered sage advice.
“He just said play tough defense and don’t back down from anybody, so that’s what I’m going to do — play tough defense, play hard and give it all I have,” Collinsworth said.
In 18 games with the Legends, Collinsworth, who was on the Mavs’ Summer League team and in training camp with Dallas in 2016, is averaging 11.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. Texas plays about 30 miles north of Dallas in Frisco, which means Mavs brass always has a watchful eye on how things are going with the club's G-League affiliate, but, he admits, he never saw this coming.
“I set a goal to be out of here (the G-League) before Januarh 1, 2018, the first step, so now I got to build off this,” Collinsworth said. “It’s cool to see some of my goals coming to fruition, my hard work and my visualization and all that stuff.”
Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle knows the ex-Cougar well from coaching him during preseason last fall, and the former NBA Coach of the Year remains a big fan.
“He’s a versatile guy that’s had a really strong year and a half in the G-League. He can make plays, he can play three positions,” Carlisle said. “He’s been one of the better defenders in that league. Guys that can make plays and know how to play the game are at a premium in the NBA, and this is a great shot for him.”
Collinsworth’s instructions for Tuesday morning were simple: Arrive at the Mavs' practice facility west of American Airlines Center by 9:30 a.m. After eating breakfast, he signed his new contract and started learning the Mavs’ offense and defense. After a full practice with his new teammates, he did some extra work before talking to the media.
As a two-way player, he can spend a maximum of 45 days in the NBA, which means he will again be playing the bulk of his games in the G-League, but being on the cusp of his NBA debut is something he’s always dreamed of.
“Yeah, obviously, this has been my goal, to get here, and I obviously have a long way to go from here, but it’s a first step,” Collinsworth said. “I’m excited and I’m just going to keep building off this, keep working hard and keep carving my way in.”
The Legends and Mavs run similar defensive and offensive systems, so Collinsworth isn’t facing a huge learning curve from the G-League to the NBA. Another plus for the BYU product is that both coaches, Carlisle and MacKinnon, share various similarities.
“(They’re) very straightforward,” he said. “They say it like it is, which I like. They tell you what you need to do, tell you what you’re doing well, tell you what you’re not. Those styles are very similar. That’s the first thing I noticed.”
After his first practice with the Mavs, he admitted to noticing differences between a Mavs practice compared to their G-League affiliate, but he has no doubt in his ability to adapt on the fly.
“Everything’s different. It was different than the practices we had (in the G-League), but it’s basketball,” Collinsworth said. “That’s how I’m trying to keep it in my mind, it’s just basketball, so I’m going to do what I do and just play hard.”
Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.