Indiana Pacers point guard Darren Collison, left, looks to pass the ball… (Nicole Sweet / US Presswire )
The checks that would make Darren Collison a millionaire were just starting to come in when the New Orleans Hornets rookie received some startling advice during the 2009-10 season.
Save your money. You never know if there will be an NBA season two years from now.
So Collison, then fresh out of dorm life and roughing it at UCLA, took a measured approach to moving into a new tax bracket in his first two NBA seasons.
He bought himself a two-bedroom condominium in Los Angeles. His mom got a new Lexus. Mostly, the roughly $2.4 million Collison would earn with the Hornets and Indiana Pacers went straight into his bank account.
"I've saved a lot," the Pacers point guard said Sunday at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, where his alma mater was playing Cal State San Bernardino in an exhibition game. "I don't really spend a lot. I don't really need a lot. I'm cool with the things I have."
That's a good thing since Collison isn't getting paid these days. The 131-day-long lockout has stretched into November, the month when NBA players typically start receiving paychecks.
Those who haven't secured employment overseas or endorsement deals are left to take out loans, rely on others or make do with what they have.
For Collison, that means resisting the urge to splurge.
"I don't think it's anything drastic, but you have to adjust," he said. "You can't spend as much as you want to. I'm buying the things I want to buy, but I definitely have to cut back on the things I don't really need."
"I would get me a big ol' mansion if it was up to me," he said.
A palatial home may be in Collison's future once the lockout ends. He is set to make $1,455,960 this season — if there is one — and $2,319,344 in 2012-13.
Collison, 24, concedes to an occasional spending binge, particularly when it comes to his parents.
"My dad's going out to eat whenever he wants and he's having a good time," Collison said. "My parents deserve every little bit of blessings that I've got."
Spending time with his parents at their Rancho Cucamonga home has been the biggest upside to the lockout for Collison. He also continues to work out in case he needs to book a same-day flight to Indianapolis should the lockout end.
The 6-foot, 160-pounder is coming off a season in which he started 79 games for the Pacers, averaging 13.2 points and 5.1 assists while establishing himself as one of the top young guards in the league.
But the only game being played since the NBA Finals in June has been a tug of war between owners and players regarding how to divvy up league revenue, among other issues.
"You're scratching every day hoping they can get a deal done," Collison said, "but you understand that you have to wait for that right deal — not just for the players but I want the owners to have the right deal for them."
Former New Orleans teammate David West advised Collison to prepare for the possibility of a prolonged lockout two years ago, a suggestion Collison said he wholly heeded by conserving his money.
Collison said he and other players who have collected at least one season's worth of NBA paychecks should consider themselves fortunate compared with recently drafted college stars such as UCLA's Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt.
"You think it's tough for us?" Collison said. "It's probably tougher for those guys because they worked hard their whole life just so they can have the NBA experience and they don't even get a check for it."
Collison said he considered playing overseas during the lockout but decided against it because the players' union has given indications at times that it could reach a deal.
Even if the 2011-12 season is wiped out, Collison said, he's in a good spot financially.
"I think so," he said. "But if we miss two or three seasons, I can't tell you that."