Nets’ Collins becomes NBA’s 1st openly gay player

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“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 for a 10-day contract.”

The Nets are owned by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov of Russia, where a law banning so-called gay “propaganda” was the subject of protests and controversy at the just-concluded Sochi Winter Games.

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 and Collins has been a teammate of several other current Nets.

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

The Collins signing comes as Michael Sam, the SEC co-defensive player of the year from Missouri who recently revealed he is gay, is taking part in the NFL combine. Sam’s on-field workouts in Indianapolis are scheduled for Monday.

Collins was asked if he felt the tide is turning regarding gay players coming out, including Sam.

“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.

He played 38 games last season with Boston and Washington and averaged 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds in limited minutes. For his career, the 7-foot Collins averages 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds.

Collins’ announcement last spring was followed by numerous NBA players insisting he would be welcomed in the locker room. Collins has played for five other teams and is respected inside and outside the league - he attended the State of the Union as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama.

Former Suns player Kevin Johnson, now Sacramento’s mayor, said he saw Collins two weeks ago at the White House “and I thanked him for his courage and being strong and wished him well and to keep fighting hard.

“I think it’s incredible for him. I think it’s incredible for the league. If I’m on the Nets, my commitment is I want to get in the playoffs and I want to go far. All that is fine, but I need him to win games and I think he’s up for that challenge.”

The Nets had an opening for a big man after trading Reggie Evans along with Jason Terry to Sacramento on Wednesday for guard Marcus Thornton. King said Thursday that Collins would be among the players they would look at, insisting they wouldn’t be concerned about any extra attention the signing of Collins would provide.

“We’re going to bring in a basketball player,” King said. “It’s not about marketing or anything like that.”

The Nets posted a photo on their Twitter account of Kidd watching Collins sign his contract, encouraging followers to retweet it to welcome Collins to Brooklyn.

Collins is third in Nets history with 511 games played, and also ranks in their top 10 in minutes played, and offensive rebounds and total rebounds. A limited offensive player, the Nets hope he can still provide a presence defensively and on the boards.

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