NBA: Openly gay Collins joins Nets, plays

By Bernie Wilson
ASSOCIATED PRESS  • 
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LOS ANGELES — History? Pressure? Jason Collins would have none of it after becoming the NBA’s first active openly gay player.

After all, it was almost game time.

“Right now, I’m focusing on trying to learn the plays, learning the coverages and the game plan and the assignments. So I didn’t have time to really think about history,” Collins said at a crowded news conference less than an hour before his Brooklyn Nets faced the Los Angeles Lakers last night.

Collins signed a 10-day contract with the Nets earlier yesterday. He didn’t score in 10 minutes, had two rebounds, a steal and committed five fouls in the Nets’ 108-102 victory. Collins, a 35-year-old center, revealed at the end of last season that he is gay, but he was a free agent and had remained unsigned.

“I know that I can play in the NBA and it felt good to be out there tonight,” he said after the game.

Collins said he was aware of the magnitude of his signing, but repeatedly said he was most concerned with learning the Nets’ systems.

“The pressure is playing in an NBA game tonight, and last time I played in an NBA game was last April,” Collins said. “So I think that’s enough pressure right there.”

With a need for another big man, the Nets turned to Collins, a 7-footer who helped them reach two NBA Finals in the early 2000s.

“The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision,” general manager Billy King said in a statement. “We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice.”

Collins has played 12 NBA seasons, including his first seven with the Nets, when they were in New Jersey and Jason Kidd was their point guard. Kidd is now the Nets’ coach.

“(Collins) told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team. Today, I want to commend him on achieving his goal,” commissioner Adam Silver said. “I know everyone in the NBA family is excited for him and proud that our league fosters an inclusive and respectful environment.”

The Nets worked out Collins during the All-Star break and met with him again yesterday.

The news on Collins comes as Michael Sam, who recently revealed he is gay, is taking part in the NFL draft combine. Sam’s on-field workouts in Indianapolis are scheduled for today.

Collins was asked whether he felt the tide is turning regarding gay players coming out.

“I hope so. What Michael said was it was about him being a football player and me being a basketball player, and going out there and trying to help our respective teams win,” Collins said.

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