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Jason Collins signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday. Until this weekend, Collins, who is a free agent, had not played since he came out as gay in April in Sports Illustrated.
Collins played for about ten minutes total on Sunday, helping the Nets beat his hometown Lakers 108 to 102.
— Jason Collins (@jasoncollins34) February 24, 2014
Brooklyn is not a huge adjustment for Collins — in joining the team, he reunites with Jason Kidd, a former teammate, and now his coach. At Sunday’s press conference Collins told reporters, “I’ve played with J. Kidd, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce. My brother’s played with Andrei Kirilenko and Darren Williams. [I am] very familiar with the guys on this team.”
When Collins suited up for the Nets, he became the first openly gay player to play any of the major league sports. On Sunday, he said he wasn’t concentrating on that. “Right now I’m focused on trying to learn the plays, trying to learn the coverages, the game plan assignment. I don’t have time to really think about history right now. I just have to focus on my job tonight.”
That is probably the smart move considering Collins’ 10-day contract is essentially a well-compensated audition — at a minimum he will make $18,000 per game, according to the New York Times. After 10 days, the Nets have the option to renew his contract for another 10 days, after which they either sign Collins for the reminder of the season or release him to be a free agent again. (Read the Times primer on these contracts.)
The press corps wouldn’t let Collins leave without answering a question about Michael Sam, the University of Missouri defensive end and NFL prospect who came out in February. Do you think the tide is turning in a way that will make major league sports more welcoming to gay athletes like yourself and Michael Sam, one reporter asked Collins.
“I hope so,” Collins said. “I hope, similar to what Michael said, that it’s about him being a football player and me being a basketball player. Going out there and trying to help our respective teams win.”