Monday, February 24, 2014

Jason Collins opens the door

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- History? Pressure? Jason Collins would have none of it after becoming the NBA's first openly gay player.

After all, there was a game to play.

"Right now I'm focusing on trying to learn the plays, learning the coverages and the game plan and the assignments. So I didn't have time to really think about history," Collins said at a crowded press conference less than an hour before his Brooklyn Nets faced the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.

Collins signed a 10-day contract with the Nets earlier Sunday and played 10 scoreless minutes with two rebounds and five fouls in the Nets' 108-102 victory.

"I know that I can play in the NBA and it felt good to be out there tonight," he said afterward.

The 35-year-old center revealed at the end of last season he is gay, but he was a free agent and had remained unsigned.

Collins said he was aware of the magnitude of his signing, which made him the first openly gay player in the four major U.S. professional sports leagues, but repeatedly said he was most concerned with learning the Nets' schemes.

"The pressure is playing in an NBA game tonight and last time I played in an NBA game was last April," Collins said. "So I think that's enough pressure right there."

With a need for another big man, the Nets turned to the 7-foot Collins, who helped them reach two NBA Finals in the early 2000s.

"The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision," general manager Billy King said in a statement. "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."

Collins entered the game with 10:28 left in the second quarter and the Nets leading 35-26 after Nick Young made the first of his two free throws. The crowd welcomed him with a nice ovation when public address announcer Lawrence Tanter announced his name.

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