Jason Collins and the Brooklyn Nets made history as he became the first openly gay athlete in one of America’s four major sports when he took the court against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center on Sunday night. It was also the first win against the Lakers in Los Angeles since 2007 as they beat them 108-103 behind 30 points by Deron Williams.
Collins, who came out at the end of last season and has been a free agent ever since, was signed previous to the game by the Nets to a 10-day contract. He was solid defensively and his stats, zero points, two rebounds, 1 steal, and five fouls, hardly did him justice. He came off the bench and played 10 minutes including important fourth quarter minutes.
“He’s a basketball player so he knows all the language,” Jason Kidd said of Collins adjusting to the team. “It’s not difficult, the stuff that we ran for him was very simple and he kept us in there. I want to get him as quickly adjusted to playing, I trust (Mason Plumlee) and (Andray Blatche), but I just wanted to see what I could expect out of him.”
“You guys are the distraction, it doesn’t bother us,” Kidd said when asked if Collins was a potential distraction. “He was a good friend of mine, not just a teammate. He has my full support. It doesn’t change my feelings on him.”
After the game, Collins described playing in this game as “fun” and said he felt like he was in good game shape, but noted that his timing was off. Both he and Kidd talked about his five fouls. Kidd joked that he was surprised he didn’t use his sixth. As far as any of the historic stuff, Collins said he is focused on basketball and will think about the rest later.
“In life you are going to have challenges both physical and mental,” Collins said. “As an athlete there are times in your life where you just have to focus on basketball and that’s what tonight was like. I have to focus on basketball, focus on what I have to do and focus with that history stuff down the road.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “We have a good group of guys in there a lot of funny guys. I’ve been teammates with a lot of them. I’m just trying to add to the chemistry, be prepared and go out there and execute.”
It was the second game of a back-to-back, which usually means they play without energy, but the Nets played a good one. Paul Pierce got them started quickly with 14 points in the first quarter and D-Will kept the pace going. The Nets built up a 12-point lead in the first quarter and a 16-point lead at halftime. The second half wasn’t ugly, but the Lakers cut into that lead a good amount. They were within four with a couple minutes to play, but Joe Johnson came through with a clutch three that practically put the game away.
“I think we had 48 minutes we had a pretty good game,” Kidd saidl “Games are about runs, we got a good start on the second game of a back-to-back, which was pretty good, but it really matters how you finish. I thought Paul and Deron got going early. Joe, he was getting double teamed a lot, but everyone chipped in tonight for us. Deron had a great night and Pierce too. I didn’t even know that it was a back-to-back, guys came out with a lot of energy tonight.”
Kirilenko had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Joe Johnson was limited to just 10 points, but had eight assists. Plumlee started in his second game of the year. He did his typical high energy game and finished with six points and five rebounds in 17 minutes.