Monday, April 29, 2013
Will Jason Collins be in NBA next season?
By Marc Stein
Of the first 14 teams reached by ESPN.com in an anonymous survey, six said they expect to see Jason Collins in the NBA next season in the wake of his revelation Monday that he is gay.
The other eight teams that expressed some measure of doubt all cited Collins' age and corresponding questions about his ability to make a productive on-court contribution as the overriding reason he wouldn't be able to find a job for his 13th season, not because of fallout from the announcement.
Although one Eastern Conference executive acknowledged that it's inevitable that Collins' newfound status as the first active player in North American team sports to come out as gay "would have to be discussed" internally by any team considering him, those eight teams expressing a degree of skepticism about Collins' hopes of finding future employment were unanimous in saying the decision would be overwhelmingly tied to his playing ability.
"The reality," said one Western Conference executive, "is that he's been an end-of-the-roster kind of player for the last couple years."
Sources close to the situation said that the Washington Wizards, who acquired Collins in February in a trade with Boston, don't have the 7-footer as a free-agent priority as they head into the offseason but have interest in bringing him back depending on how their 2013-14 roster unfolds.
Three teams consulted in ESPN.com's anonymous survey strongly expressed the belief that Collins will be able to secure a one-year contract in 2013-14 despite the fact that he has been relegated to end-of-the-bench duty for the past five seasons and hasn't averaged more than 15 minutes per game since 2007-08.
An executive from one of those three teams said: "[Collins] is such a good person and teammate. I still think organizations will like having him around for situational play and leadership."
Said an executive from another organization: "I think there's a 100 percent chance he'll be back in the league ... because he can still play."
Yet another front-office executive added that because Collins keeps himself in better shape physically now than he did in his 20s, coupled with the idea that this summer's projected crop for free-agent centers isn't the deepest, it will help his cause tremendously.
The Celtics, according to NBA front-office sources, tried everything they could in February to keep Collins from being included in the trade they made to bring Jordan Crawford to Boston on deadline day. Washington wanted Collins, but Boston tried to include Chris Wilcox instead, only to be foiled by Wilcox's ability to block the deal thanks to the one-year contract he possess and his upcoming free-agent status.
As for the eight teams casting doubt on Collins' chances, their concerns were almost unanimous.
Said one veteran general manager: "I don't think he was going to be in the league next season no matter what. I don't think [sexual orientation] is the issue. I think 'Can he still play?' is the issue."
"The chances are slim," another team executive said. "Only because of skill."