NBA notes: Jason Collins now faces free agency obstacle

Posted Tuesday, Apr. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Jason Collins’ stunning announcement that he was a gay athlete in a major sport won overwhelming support from other players, coaches and executives — even a phone call from the president.

But it also came after the season ended for the 7-foot center and his Washington Wizards.

The 34-year-old journeyman becomes a free agent on July 1 — meaning that he will first have to sign with an NBA team and wait until next season to see if teammates, coaches, opponents and fans will treat him any differently.

“I think the real response will be once he gets a job,” said Brooklyn Nets veteran Jerry Stackhouse, who has called Collins a friend for years.

“It’s not like he’s under contract next year and guaranteed to go back to a team. I think once that happens, then public opinion or whatever or players’ opinion will start to loom a little larger then. But right now we’ve got the summer to kind of digest what has happened, and I’m pulling for him.”

Perhaps only when he starts seeing offers from teams will he get an idea of what coming out will mean for his career.

He only played in 38 games last season — his 12th in the NBA — with averages of 1.1 points, 1.6 rebounds and 10.1 minutes per game for Boston and Washington.

He may not be an All-Star, but he has built a career by being a big, smart, physical player who can come off the bench and help defend some of the few remaining dominant centers the league like the Lakers’ Dwight Howard, Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez and Marc Gasol of Memphis.

His basketball skills were praised by President Barack Obama at a White House news conference Tuesday, a day after he telephoned Collins to offer his support.

According to Obama, Collins was “a role model” who was unafraid to come out as gay and to say, ‘I’m still 7-foot-tall and can bang with Shaq and, you know, deliver a hard foul.’”

Collins’ potential for future employment appears to be strong.

“Jason’s the kind of guy who might only play against five of the 30 teams in the league,” TNT analyst and former Phoenix Suns executive Steve Kerr said. “But you need him in those five games, those five matchups. He’s definitely worth adding to your roster.”

Briefly

• Nuggets: Forward Danilo Gallinari underwent surgery Monday to repair the meniscus in his left knee and will later have another procedure to fix his ACL. Gallinari was injured April 4 against the Mavericks. He averaged career-highs in points (16.2) and rebounds (5.2) this season.

• Lakers: Forward Antawn Jamison was scheduled for wrist surgery Tuesday to repair ligament damage suffered in March, according to the Los Angeles Times. Jamison played on a one-year contract and isn’t expected back next season.

• Knicks: Guard Jason Kidd became the first player to win back-to-back NBA sportsmanship awards. He received 91 first-place votes from league players. Three-time winner Grant Hill is the only other player to win the award multiple times.

• Raptors: Phil Jackson is expected to hear a proposal from Toronto about a leading role in the team’s basketball operations but also wants to explore options with other potential suitors, according to CBSSports.com.

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