According to ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk and Marc Stein, the Brooklyn Nets will sign the 35-year-old backup center for the remainder of the 2013-14 season once his second 10-day contract expires on Friday. Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play in one of the four biggest North American pro sports leagues when he signed with and made his season debut for the Nets against the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 23.
Collins has handled the attention that's accompanied his historic stint in Brooklyn with aplomb. Prior to his home debut against the Chicago Bulls on March 3, Collins graciously declined to compare what he's done as a member of the LGBT community to what Jackie Robinson accomplished with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
"I'm just trying to be Jason Collins," he told the attendant media, per ESPN. "What Jackie Robinson did for the sport of baseball and our society [is] tremendous. But I am just trying to be Jason Collins."
According to ESPN's sources, the Nets had anticipated keeping Collins on beyond those first two short deals when they picked him up on Feb. 23.
Not that they expect Collins to make major contributions to the team's efforts from here on out. In his first eight games in Brooklyn, Collins averaged 0.6 points and 0.8 rebounds in 9.8 minutes.
Collins' contributions, though, can't be easily be summed up with statistics. The Nets brought him in to provide some size, intelligence, toughness and leadership along a front line that's been depleted by injuries to Brook Lopez and Andrei Kirilenko, along with Kevin Garnett's annual bout with his own aging frame.
It certainly doesn't hurt Collins' case that the Nets have won seven of eight, including their last six in a row, since bringing back the 7-footer they first acquired in a draft-day trade with the Houston Rockets in 2001. At 32-30, Brooklyn currently sits in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, just three games back of the Toronto Raptors for the Atlantic Division lead that would guarantee the Nets a slice of home-court advantage in the playoffs.
Nor does it hurt Brooklyn's bottom line to have Collins around. He figures to stick with the Nets for a prorated share of the veteran's minimum. Moreover, his No. 98 jersey—chosen to honor the memory of Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old gay college student in Wyoming who was beaten to death in 1998—has been one of the NBA's top sellers since resurfaced with the Nets.
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