Jason Collins, Nets come home at last
March, 2, 2014
By Mike Mazzeo | ESPNNewYork.com
AP Photo/Jeffrey PhelpsThe circus has left town and the Nets return to Barclays on Monday night.Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd is not concerned with how Jason Collins will be received by the home crowd on Monday night, when the 35-year-old center makes his Barclays Center debut against the Chicago Bulls.
The Nets have not played a home game since Feb. 12.
“As I’ve always said, I’m not worried about the reaction,” Kidd said Saturday night following Brooklyn’s 107-98 victory in Milwaukee. “I think they will support a Net. He’s been a Net before, and I think they’ll be excited to have him, but the big thing is him being able to help us defensively, and being the good character person that he is.”
Collins, who became the first active openly gay player in NBA history last Sunday when he signed a 10-day contract with the Nets, played eight second-quarter minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks because rookie Mason Plumlee got in early foul trouble.
“He taught Mason how to foul tonight. So I gotta keep him away from Mason,” Kidd joked.
Collins enjoys his role as a mentor.
“Definitely. ... [I remember] with ZaZa Pachulia, my teammate in Atlanta, showing him how to guard Dwight Howard. That was one of the reasons we were able to beat Dwight when he was with Orlando my second year there in the playoffs,” he said.
“It’s important as a veteran to share what knowledge I have with the younger guys. When I was a young guy, I learned from Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning. It’s a cycle. Now that I am that old man at the end of the bench, that veteran, even though I might not be playing minutes, there still are ways that I can definitely help the team win.”
Since joining the Nets, Collins has made his impact felt both on and off the court. His No. 98 jersey is currently the top-selling jersey on NBAStore.com.
After Thursday night’s game in Denver, he met with the parents and brother of the late Matthew Shepard. Collins wears No. 98 in honor of Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 anti-gay hate crime.
The NBA announced Friday night that it is donating all proceeds from Collins’ jersey sales to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
Collins’ 10-day contract expires Wednesday, so the Nets will have to decide whether to give him another 10-day deal, sign him for the rest of the season or let him go. Based on what has happened so far, and assuming he doesn’t get injured, it would be a major surprise if they decided not to keep him around.