Speaking with reporters at the team’s practice on Friday, Brooklyn Nets players were bullish on the team signing free agent center Jason Collins if the fit was right, with guard Deron Williams in particular expressing his support for the big man.
Collins, who played for the Nets for six and a half seasons from 2001-2008, became the first openly gay male athlete in one of the four US major professional sports last year. He has yet to sign a contract with a professional team since coming out, drawing speculation that teams are wary of signing the first openly gay player.
From Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN:
Deron Williams addressed the Collins situation directly, saying, “If it can help our team, I’m all for it. I think he’s a great player, great role player. You know I played with his brother for five and a half years and they have similar games, and I’ve known Jason for years.”
Williams posited that media attention may have driven teams away from signing Collins. He also asserted that such a concern wouldn’t deter the Nets.
“He’s a solid role player, I think it’s just the distraction thing, that might the thing that’s deterring teams. But like I said, with us, I don’t see that being a problem.”
Further elaborating on the distraction factor, the Nets point guard said, “It’s not [Collins] being a distraction, it’s just the media coming along with it, because every city you go to, it’s not just like you answer a question once and it’s over with. It’s a reoccurring thing. But like I said, I don’t see it being a problem with us.”
Williams even alluded to signs of progress on this issue outside of basketball, mentioning how prospective NFL draft pick Michael Sam just came out as openly gay.
“It’s 2014, you know. Michael Sam just came out, his teammates welcomed him. They’re in college. It’s time for the NBA as well.”
ESPN New York — D-Will: If Collins can help, I’m all for it
Nets general manager Billy King confirmed yesterday that the team had worked Collins out, and that Collins was “in shape,” but added that the team is looking at big men from the D-League and China as well as free agents. King said that Collins’s sexuality would not be a factor in whether or not they signed him.
Much of the Nets organization publicly supported Collins when he came out last year.