Thunder’s Nick Collison not ready to retire; Drew Gooden in town for graduation

By Gary Bedore

Nick Collison would love to return to the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder next season … as a player, not an assistant coach.

“I’m getting All-Star votes, so clearly I’m a player,” the 36-year-old former Kansas power forward said jokingly in a recent interview with the Oklahoman.

Collison — his current two-year, $7.5 million contract has expired making the 13-year veteran a free agent on July 1 — received two player votes for the 2016-17 NBA All-Star game despite the fact his playing time last season was the lowest it has been in his pro career.

“I felt like I would get more votes than that though,” Collison added with a laugh.

There has been some media speculation that Collison, a friend of 40-year-old OKC general manager Sam Presti, might be interested in joining the Thunder front office or Billy Donovan’s coaching staff as an assistant coach in the wake of Thunder assistant Anthony Grant becoming head coach at University of Dayton.

Emphatically no.

“I plan to play for sure,” Collison said in his exit interview with media members after OKC was eliminated by Houston four games to one to in the first round of the playoffs.

“I wasn’t sure going into the season how I would feel at the end of the year, but I still enjoy playing, and I enjoy being around the group. I enjoy being on the team and I still think I have something to offer. I’ve been treated great here. I’ve had great experiences here. It’s been the best basketball years of my life for sure playing here. Hopefully it’ll work out.”

Collison averaged 1.6 points, 1.6 rebounds and 6.4 minutes a game in a career-low 20 contests for the Thunder last season.

“Since I started YMCA basketball in 1988, this will be the second season I’m not 100 percent sure what’s going to happen next,” Collison said. “I was going to play for the Iowa Falls (High School) Cadets and then play for the Jayhawks and then the one year I didn’t know was the draft, and then I’ve had all (contract) extensions. It’s a little different.”

There are only 15 players in NBA history who have played with just one franchise longer than Collison.

The Seattle SuperSonics, who drafted Collison No. 12 overall in 2003, moved to OKC for the 2008-09 season. Collison was in Seattle five seasons; OKC ever since.

“I think it’s just first class,” Collison said of the Thunder organization.

GM Presti told the Oklahoman he’d love to bring back Collison, who has earned about $57 million total in his career.

“Obviously everybody knows how we feel about Nick. We had a really positive conversation. He wants to play again,” Presti said. “This would be the first time he’s been a free agent. We’ve been able to extend him twice now. If there’s a way to make that happen on our end of things, we’re going to look to try to make that happen. That’s just how we feel about him.”

As far as maybe working on the coaching staff or in the front office someday, Collison told the Oklahoman: “If they’re interested, once post-career comes they’ll talk to me. Like I said, I’m a player now.”

Drew Gooden graduates Sunday

Former KU forward Drew Gooden, who completed work on his Communication Studies degree in December, will walk down KU’s Campanile Hill during graduation ceremonies Sunday. He’s in Lawrence for the special occasion with family members, including his 4-year-old son, Andrew Gooden IV. Several of his former KU teammates are expected to be at the ceremony, as well, including Collison.

Gooden, 35, who left KU after his junior season (2001-02), vowed at that time to continue work toward his degree.

Gooden — who lives in Orlando, Fla., and works in the basketball operations department of the NBA — last played for the Washington Wizards in 2015-16. He had a reported estimated earnings of $60 million in 14 seasons.

Is he fired up for graduation weekend?

“Absolutely!” Gooden exclaimed to The Star in a text message. 

Self camp, Roundball Classic info

KU has announced that former players Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins, Darnell Jackson, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Russell Robinson, Tyshawn Taylor and Conner Teahan will be back for Bill Self’s summer camps for youths (June 4-8; June 11-15) in Lawrence. Several of those players will compete in the ninth-annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic set for 7 p.m. June 8, at Free State High. Tickets are on sale at the 23rd St. Brewery in Lawrence, AAA on Wanamaker in Topeka and the KC Soda Co. at Legends in KC. All proceeds benefit five pediatric cancer patients.

Coleby to graduate; Svi update

KU coach Bill Self told The Star on Friday that KU fourth-year junior forward Dwight Coleby would be graduating on Sunday. The Bahamas native’s degree is in Communication Studies. Coleby, a transfer from Mississippi, who sat out one season then played sparingly last year at KU, still has a year of eligibility remaining. … KU junior Svi Mykhailiuk did not participate in the second day of NBA combine drills on Friday because of the ankle injury he suffered during drills Thursday. Self told The Star on Friday that at this time he “did not know” if Mykhailiuk would remain in the draft or return to school. The senior-to-be will return to Lawrence this weekend. He fared well in shooting drills at the combine before getting injured … Self on Friday night attended the Dick Vitale pediatric cancer benefit in Florida. Up to 70 celebrities were in attendance. Self will be back in Lawrence for graduation ceremonies Sunday.

Gary Bedore: 816-234-4068, @garybedore

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