Jason Collins caught a lot of attention last spring when he publicly came out as gay through an essay published in an issue of Sports Illustrated. Collins was considered by many to be the first active openly gay athlete playing in one of the four major American sports; he did not actually play any games after coming out, however, as he was a free agent at that time and was not picked up by another team during the off season.
That all changed last night when Collins inked a ten-day deal to once again play for the NBA team he spent the first half of his career with, the now Brooklyn Nets. During his tenure with the then New Jersey-based team between 2001 and 2008, Collins took the court 510 times (including 404 starts), averaging 4.4 point, 4.5 rebounds, and 24.5 minutes played per game. He appeared in 75 playoff games as well, including the 2002 and 2003 NBA Finals.
Collins’ return to the Nets comes during a season in which the team has been ravaged by injuries—including a broken right foot that cut star center Brook Lopez’s season short—but a weak Eastern Conference has put Brooklyn on pace for a playoff berth and allowed the team’s 26-28 record to be good enough for the sixth seed at present. The ten-day deal is a sort of trial period for Jason as the Nets attempt to fortify their position and move up in the rankings.
“The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision," said Brooklyn General Manager Billy King. “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 veteran center is listed as 7’0” tall, and could provide the Nets with an extra defensive boost. Though he was not a member of the Nets organization when he woke up Sunday morning, Collins was in Los Angeles and in uniform by nightfall as his team prepared to take on the Lakers.
Jason Collins played for just under 11 minutes during his 2013-14 season debut, during which time he missed the only shot he took but managed both an offensive and defensive rebound, as well as a steal early in the second quarter. He also tapped out a missed foul shot which led to a significant three-point shot for Paul Pierce midway through the fourth quarter in the Nets’ 108-102 victory over the Lakers.
“Right now I’m focused on trying to learn the plays, trying to learn the coverages, the game plan assignment—I don’t have time to really think about history right now. I just have to focus on my job tonight,” Collins said in a pre-game press conference.
Jason Collins will presumably make his second appearance on Wednesday as the Nets stay on the West Coast to play the Portland Trail Blazers at 10 PM Eastern Time.