Jason Collins proved in his return to the NBA this season that he no longer possesses the skills or athleticism he enjoyed when the New Jersey Nets drafted him in the first round thirteen years ago. He also proved that he still exudes class.
“I wouldn’t even call it a negative,” the Stanford graduate told reporters of the one harsh comment he received from an opposing player because of his homosexuality this season. “He stated an opinion and that was it. This is America, everybody is entitled to their opinion and that was it.” Collins, who earlier called the player a “knucklehead,” has thus far shielded his identity.
When asked if he endured any other anti-gay comments from the stands or opposing players, Collins answered that none came to mind. “I try to focus on control what you can control,” the Brooklyn Nets center explained. “That is what I kind of live by. So I didn’t really put any expectation on what to expect from fans or this and that. You just try to deal with each situation and keep that poise and posture about yourself.”
Collins struggled on the court this season, often registering more fouls than points. He finished shy of averaging a triple-single, scoring 1.1 points, pulling down .9 boards, and handing off .2 assists per game in limited play from the bench. But the Nets, in turmoil for much of the first half of the season, excelled after his arrival. The team appeared on the cusp of missing the playoff with a losing record prior to signing his first 10-day contract. The Nets enjoyed a 19-10 record after the seven-foot veteran presence joined the team.
Like Collins, the franchise’s future doesn’t seem clear after losing 4-1 to the defending champion Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs. With a bloated payroll and several aging veterans, the team that takes the court next fall, like the one that started this past season, may include several new faces. Collins says he doesn’t know if he’ll return for a fourteenth season.
If others sought to make a larger point regarding the first openly-gay athlete in the four major North American sports, Collins’s answers to Thursday’s questions show that he just wanted to play basketball.