Saturday, June 29, 2013

Nets looking to add openly-gay Collins to roster: Report

The Brooklyn Nets keep finding ways to keep their locker room interesting — and complicated. And the next potential Nets move might not be blockbusting but it would be trailblazing.

After announcing an NBA-rocking trade — to become official July 10 — that will bring seasoned veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Barclays Center, a source confirmed Friday that the Nets' organization has discussed signing free-agent center Jason Collins, the first openly gay male basketball player.

The 34-year-old Collins, who revealed his sexuality in a Sports Illustrated article last spring, is no stranger to the Nets' organization. He was teammates with Nets coach Jason Kidd for seven seasons in New Jersey, where they both played under current Brooklyn assistant Lawrence Frank.

Although the Nets may not need another big man, Collins' "name was brought up," said a well-connected source.

Collins, who advanced to two finals with the Nets, has bounced around the league as a backup since leaving New Jersey. He played last season with Garnett and Pierce in Boston, but was released before joining the Wizards.

Although the Nets have interest in Collins, there isn't much room on the roster for another physical presence in the paint. Not only did the Nets draft Duke center Mason Plumlee on Thursday, their blockbuster trade evolved Friday morning so that they are keeping bruising forward Reggie Evans and dealing swingman MarShon Brooks to the Celtics, a source said.

Collins has not played since announcing he was gay in April, so the next time he steps on the court will be a front-page event. And for the Nets, who have been making headlines lately by hiring Kidd and completing the trade for Garnett and Pierce, it's a chance to represent a different kind of Brooklyn — which is home to a large gay and lesbian community.

"It's certainly better than Utah or other communities that are not as cosmopolitan," said sports marketing expert Marc Ganis, adding that such a move could help the Nets win over Brooklyn residents who remain angry about the way the Barclays Center was imposed on the neighborhood.

"It is a demonstration that the Nets are a socially progressive organization. To people who opposed it (the Barclays Center) it could be a relevant factor."

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