The Brooklyn Nets signed center Jason Collins for the remainder of the season on Saturday, the team announced. Sources previously told ESPN.com that the Nets, who feel they’re getting everything they expected from Collins when they signed him for front court depth on Feb. 23, were already operating under the premise that the 34-year-old would finish the season with them even though his second 10-day deal didn’t expire until after Friday.
“It’s cool. Thank you to the Nets organization, coaches and players, the team is playing really well right now, and I’m glad to continue to be here,” Collins said.
Sources said that the internal expectation all along was that Collins would be a Net for the rest of the season, from the moment he signed his first 10-day deal, as long he proved that he could still be an effective defender, which he did immediately.
“We always focused on basketball,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “We let you guys do all the other stuff. But having him on the team was always about basketball.”
Collins is averaging 9.8 minutes per game off the bench in eight appearances since his historic debut against the Los Angeles Lakers last month, which made him the first openly gay athlete in North America’s four recognized major team sports. He most recently provided the Nets with some meaningful minutes defending against DeMarcus Cousins, logging 20 minutes in a 104-89 win over Sacramento last Sunday.
The Nets and Collins have handled added media attention exceptionally well. Before playing in his first home game in Brooklyn on March 3 against Chicago, Collins was asked about comparisons between him and Jackie Robinson breaking barriers in Brooklyn. “I’m just trying to be Jason Collins,” Collins said. “What Jackie Robinson did for the sport of baseball and our society [is] tremendous. But I am just trying to be Jason Collins.”
Collins has said repeatedly that he wants the focus to be about basketball and not his sexual orientation. He is grateful for the positive reaction he has received from the Nets, opposing teams and fans and has embraced his role.
Collins’ No. 98 jersey has become a top-seller and he has expressed pleasant surprise and gratitude toward the fan reaction. Collins chose the number to honor Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay college student who was beaten, tortured and killed in 1998.
Information from ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, Ohm Youngmisuk and ESPNNewYork.com’s Mike Mazzeo was used in this report.