DALLAS Elton Brand has known of Jason Collins and his twin brother, Jarron, for approximately half of their live.The trio used to compete against each other on the AAU circuit while they were in high school. But when Dallas Mavericks center Chris Kaman sent a text to Brand on Monday morning to alert him that Washington Wizards center Jason Collins had announced to the world that he was gay, Brand was taken aback."Im shocked because I played against him in high school -- him and his brother, Brand said. "Ive known them probably 15-18 years, and known of them."I competed on the AAU circuit against him, so Im somewhat surprised. And then I feel kind of bad for him, just for the fact that he had to hold something in for this long.In a soon-to-be-released Sports Illustrated article, Jason Collins admitted that hes gay. Thus, he has become the first athlete in any of Americas top four professional sports to admit that hes gay while hes still playing that particular sport."Jason and [twin brother] Jarron Collins have been pure class on and off the court since I met them and worked with them at a camp over a decade ago," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "I applaud Jasons announcement and view it as a further demonstration of the strength of his character."Brand concurred."Im proud of him because I know it had to be tough for him dealing with that and coming out, Brand said. "He can be ostracized by the public and society. Im proud of him because what he did had to be tough.Brand said he supports Collins and wouldnt have any problem sharing a locker room with Collins or any other gay athlete."It wouldnt bother me, especially if theyre bringing something to the team and helping us win, Brand said. "Hes been a gritty player and played well for many teams -- went to the Finals twice (in 2002 and 03 with the New Jersey Nets)."But you know the locker room, theres definitely going to be jokes. The guy, whoevers locker is next to his, theres going to be jokes and stuff like that, but as time passes Im sure all of that is going to go away.As a whole, Brand believes Mondays revelations by Collins mirrors whats transpiring in all walks of life. And he admires his courage for coming out of the closet, and even admits there are gays in his family."I always felt like its a microcosm of society, Brand said. "I have a family member, or two or three (thats gay)."I know two for sure. I dont ostracize them or look at them with any disrespect or any type of negative manner. Its just the way they are and the way they choose to live their life.Brand, as is Jason Collins, is a 34-year old who will become a free agent on July 1. He doesnt believe NBA executives will shy away from signing Collins because of his sexuality."I dont think general managers are going to think negative or hold it against him or use his sexual preference as a determent not to sign him, especially in this day and age, Brand said. "I dont know if theyll view it as a positive or not."I know if a guy can help my team, I dont care what his sexual preference is. I think Id want him on my team for sure, because he can still play.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @dwainprice