One of the biggest criticisms from real human beings about the Brooklyn Nets signing Jason Collins is that the team wouldn't know how to handle a gay athlete, that players would just flat-out be uncomfortable with an openly gay teammate. That's fully on display right here, when Collins hits the ground hard after trying to get a rebound and his teammates scatter away in fear that they might...

Oh, wait. No, correction: Alan Anderson, Deron Williams, and Andrei Kirilenko, three of Collins's Nets teammates, immediately rush over to help him up off the floor. It's almost like whether or not he's gay doesn't affect the fact that he's a professional basketball player and teammate.

What's also worth noting: the three teammates that helped Collins up all come from widely different backgrounds; Anderson was born in Minneapolis and attended school in Michigan, Williams went to high school in The Colony, Texas, before going to school in Illinois, and Andrei Kirilenko was born and raised in Izhevsk, Russia.

Collins played 11 minutes in a mundane debut.

 

Jason Collins

Jason Collins with the Nets in 2007 (AP)

The Nets may become the first team in NBA history to sign an openly gay player to their roster, and the players don't seem to have any issue.

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.

 

Check out Brooklyn Nets forward Reggie Evans's top plays of the 2012-13 season. Most of them are rebounds and left hooks. Do what Reggie Evans do.

 

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Joe Johnson, Jimmy Butler

The Nets showed the most life after the whistle, and it cost them in the loss. (AP)

Hello, Gary. Thank you for your continued support of The Brooklyn Game. As we head into the All-Star break, take a look at some funky hoodies at The Brooklyn Game Store. Your support keeps us going. Thank you, you lovely unicorn.

Here's a roundup of last night's Nets festivities.
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Kevin Garnett, Joakim Noah

Kevin Garnett and Joakim Noah have a history. (AP)

In 11 chances to play on the second half of a Brooklyn Nets back-to-back this season, Kevin Garnett has sat out in four of them. It's part of coach Jason Kidd's plan to rest Garnett during the season, to keep him fresh for the playoffs.

But he'll play tonight against the Chicago Bulls, as expected:
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Andray Blatche, Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Al Jefferson

Andray Blatche & the Nets dunked the Bobcats with ease in Brooklyn Wednesday night. (AP)

Hello Isaac. Thank you for your continued support of The Brooklyn Game. Become one of the cool kids and pick up a shirt at The Brooklyn Game Store. Think of it as a donation to keep your favorite site chugging along, and you get a pretty cool piece of memorabilia as a thank you. Your support keeps us going!

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Mason Plumlee

Mason Plumlee has shown flashes of success this season. (AP)

If you watched the Brooklyn Nets beat the New Orleans Pelicans 93-81 Sunday night, you saw the type of player Mason Plumlee can become.

With 22 points and 13 rebounds, Plumlee epitomized everything a modern NBA center should be and in turn gave the Nets a new dimension: vertical weaponry.

If you’ve been following the NBA over the past decade, you’ve seen a best case scenario for Plumlee’s career. Plumlee is the Nets’ cross-Hudson counter to Tyson Chandler: a freakishly tall human being who also happened to be blessed with freakishly good athleticism. That rare blend of size and power allows him to attack in ways on the basketball court that few others can and as a byproduct in areas that few others can: vertically.

A player unlike Plumlee, and thus bound to the laws of gravity, may spend their time attacking the horizontal space on a basketball court. Brook Lopez is one example. Lopez is tall enough to dunk, and does so often, but plays a below-the-rim game about as much as any successful center could.

At present moment, Plumlee’s greatest skill that he brings to an NBA game is his ability to simply set a screen, roll hard to the front of the rim and, most importantly, finish the play. That’s a skill no Nets big man has possessed since Kenyon Martin left town.

First let’s look at the roll: if basketball is a game of trying to create one-second advantages, then Plumlee’s roll to the hoop -- just the roll alone -- after setting a screen creates valuable advantages for the Nets.

Because he is such a threat to catch a lob or to throw down a thunderous dunk (as he did several times vs. the Pelicans), Plumlee’s roll attracts lots of help-side defensive attention, meaning long closeouts for those same defenders as the ball swings around the Nets’ perimeter. These long closeouts and one-second advantages Plumlee creates are immeasurably valuable.

The other element is Plumlee’s finishing. Plumlee lacks traditional back-to-the-basket post moves and his offensive game can be summed up by the words run-catch-finish. But there’s beauty in that simplicity. Plumlee demands no touches on offense, and on a team that’s ripe with players that do, its refreshing to have someone who can still be effective without the ball.

According to NBA.com, 84 of Plumlee’s 90 made field goals have come at the rim. 84! Of those 84, 84.3% have been assisted on.

Run, catch, finish.

The added aerial dimension that Plumlee brings makes his finishing all the more ominous. The option to catch and finish over the rim opens up all sorts of angles for Nets passers. Why try and thread a needle through an assortment of arms, when you can simply flip a pass over the top?

Plumlee still has a long way to go before he can be declared a game-changer, but as glimpses of potential turn to long, sustained images, the airspace above the Nets’ basket become that much more hostile for defenders.

 

Greg Monroe, Paul Pierce

Greg Monroe & the Pistons were just too big for the Nets, winning 111-95. (AP)

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Here's a roundup of last night's Brooklyn Nets festivities:
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Against the Brooklyn Nets Friday night, Josh Smith did something pretty amazing. With Smith loose on a fast-break, Mirza Teletovic didn't get back in time to defend him, and half-heartedly threw his hand out to contest from a few feet behind.

Unfortunately for Smith, Teletovic's hand hit him square in the face as he was rising up. Unfortunately for Teletovic, Smith was able to slam it home through the contact.

Smith immediately reacted after coming down from the dunk, and Teletovic went over to make sure he was okay. Teletovic was assessed a flagrant-1 foul for hitting Smith above the neck.

I don't know about you, but I think that's an incredible play. Smith got hit in the face, couldn't see, and still put the dunk down. That's a dunk-contest level dunk. Just ask Cedric Ceballos.

 

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