Rod Thorn: 'I'm very proud' of Jason Collins

April, 29, 2013
4/29/13
5:30
PM ET
Sixers executive Rod Thorn, who made a draft-day trade for Jason Collins as president of the New Jersey Nets in 2001, said Monday he is proud of the veteran NBA center for revealing he is gay and for developing into a model representative of the Nets franchise.

"Jason was a total professional, a tough, hard-nosed player who always did the right things," Thorn told ESPNNewYork.com by phone. "He wasn't very athletic, but he always boxed out so someone else could go in to get the rebound. He was always in the right spot, a very smart player, a guy who did all the little things that helped you win.

[+] EnlargeJason Collins
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesJason Collins spent 6 1/2 seasons with the Nets.
"Everybody loved playing with Twin because you knew what he was going to do. He was always there backing up a teammate. He got the maximum out of his ability, and he's really one of my all-time favorite guys."

Thorn acquired Collins in a draft-day trade with Houston, sending Eddie Griffin to the Rockets for the Stanford center, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Armstrong. Collins' twin brother, Jarron, was also drafted in 2001, by Utah.

As a valued role player, Collins helped the Nets make two consecutive trips to the Finals, where they lost to the Lakers and the Spurs.

"Other than taking Michael Jordan once upon a time in Chicago, Twin was part of one of my best drafts," Thorn recalled. "I'm very proud of him."

Thorn said he was caught by surprise Monday when he saw Collins' announcement pass on his TV crawler.

"During his time with us, for the biggest part of it, he had a steady girlfriend and I think everybody anticipated he'd get married at some point," Thorn said. "So from that standpoint his announcement came as a surprise to me."

Thorn said he does not believe that executives will avoid drafting or signing players who are openly gay.

"It's so hard to get good players, and tough enough keep them once you get them, that I think virtually everybody looks at players now and asks, 'Can he help us?'" Thorn said. "I just don't think his sexual orientation matters in today's world."

Ian O'Connor

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Ian O'Connor has won numerous national awards as a sports columnist and is the author of three books, including the bestseller, "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." ESPN Radio broadcasts "The Ian O'Connor Show" every Sunday from 7 to 9 a.m. ET. Follow Ian on Twitter »

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Brook Lopez
PTS AST STL MIN
20.7 0.9 0.5 31.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsK. Garnett 6.6
AssistsD. Williams 6.1
StealsD. Williams 1.5
BlocksB. Lopez 1.8