NBA: Collins gets to play, and will get to stick around
By BRIAN MAHONEY
The Associated PressFirst published Mar 04 2014 10:22AM
New York • Jason Collins dealt with the ticket requests, handled the media responsibilities, then moved on to what he most wants to do in the NBA.
"Win basketball games," Collins said.
He will get at least a few more chances.
Collins played the final minutes of a winning home debut with the Brooklyn Nets, who cooled off the Chicago Bulls with a 96-80 victory Monday night.
Finally playing at Barclays Center more than a week after returning to the NBA as the league’s first openly gay player, Collins checked in to a standing ovation from a sellout crowd of 17,732 that included former commissioner David Stern with 2:41 remaining.
He committed a foul five seconds later, missed his only shot, grabbed a rebound and had one of the Nets’ NBA season high-tying 19 steals in their third straight victory.
"It was cool. It was a lot of fun to go into the game," Collins said. "The most important thing was that we got the win. Chicago’s been playing really well as of late and for us to come out and really be — I think we played more physical than they did tonight."
His first home game won’t be his last, because the Nets plan to sign Collins to a second 10-day contract, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
Collins signed his original deal on Feb. 23 and it expires Tuesday. The Nets then will re-sign him for another 10 days on Wednesday, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the plans haven’t been made public.
After that expires, the Nets would have to sign him for the rest of the season if they wanted to keep him.
Collins sat at the end of the bench for most of the game while the Nets built a series of comfortable leads, making the only intrigue down the stretch whether the 12-year veteran would get in during his first home appearance for the Nets since Jan. 29, 2008, against Milwaukee in East Rutherford, N.J.
A chant of "Jason Collins! Jason Collins!" broke out while Deron Williams was shooting a free throw with the Nets leading 90-73 with 3:27 remaining. Fans finally got their wish less than a minute later — though not because coach Jason Kidd was listening to them.
"No, the game was out of hand, so I wanted to get those guys some rest," Kidd said. "D-Will was shooting free throws. Couldn’t put Twin in at that time, so I told him after the free throws that he would come in."
Collins said before the game that he wasn’t aware of any second contract, leaving those details up to his agent. Kidd said those discussions were between management and Collins’ agent, but said his former teammate has been "great, on and off the court."
"Twin is a good friend of mine and he’s a basketball player, but he’s a great person and so that’s why we wanted him on this team and we felt he could help us win," Kidd said, referring to Collins by the nickname he had during his original stint with the Nets from 2001-08.
The Nets still practice in New Jersey even after moving to Brooklyn before last season, so that’s where Collins was Sunday after the Nets got back from their road trip that ended Saturday night in Milwaukee.
He spent part of the day shopping at Costco, wisely stocking up since he’ll be sticking around.
"It’s kind of funny. Yesterday on my day off I’m driving around Jersey on Route 17 and bringing back a lot of memories from when I was here before," Collins said.
He’s much more famous now after revealing he was gay in a Sports Illustrated article last April. He had been out of the NBA from then until signing with the Nets.
Collins said he had plenty of ticket requests from family and friends for Monday’s game, and also saw a number of familiar faces from the old days.
The pregame news conference and the overall media attention are new, and Collins believes it won’t last, but understands that for now his sexuality makes him a big story.
"Over time it will go down, but as far as doing interviews and talking about it, I’m getting comfortable with the microphone or the camera on me," he said.
He’s more comfortable on the court, even in the limited minutes he gets. Finally finished with his lengthy list of pregame obligations, he was looking forward to helping the Nets in whatever way he could.
"Now that that’s all settled, I’ll go out there and just try to focus as much as I can on the game," Collins said.
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