Jason Collins makes NBA return


LOS ANGELES -- Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play in North America's four major professional team sports Sunday when he played 11 minutes in the Brooklyn Nets' 108-102 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.

Collins, 35, entered the game to a modest applause from the Lakers' crowd with 10:28 to go in the second quarter and finished with two rebounds and five fouls. He missed his only field goal attempted and did not score, but played nearly seven minutes in the decisive fourth quarter and showed he can still play defense and set bruising screens that free up his teammates.

"It was a lot of fun to get back out on the court and set screens and hard fouls," Collins said afterwards. "I didn't take any charges tonight, that'll change. I'll get in position next time. But it felt good to get back out there on the court.

"The most important thing is, the team got the win. I don't care about scoring, I care about my team winning, helping my teammates get open, and making their job easier."

Collins held news conferences before and after Sunday night's game, which was something of a novelty for a player who has been a role player in his previous 12 NBA seasons.

And on Tuesday, the NBA will start selling Jason Collins authentic and replica jerseys in all sizes, as well as T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts, a practice not common for players on a 10-day contract.

But neither he nor his teammates felt the hoopla surrounding his return to the NBA after revealing his sexual orientation last April had been a distraction.

"I don't think it'll be like this every single day," Collins said of the attention surrounding his return to the court. "There's only so many questions you guys can ask."

Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams, who played with Collins' twin brother Jarron as a member of the Utah Jazz, said that he was proud to be a part of a historic night but ultimately didn't think it felt all that different from any other game he's played in.

"It's definitely a big moment," Williams said. "I'm happy for him. I know he's been sitting around waiting for a job, so I'm happy to see him on a team and happy that he's on our team.

"He was huge for us tonight. He made some big plays on defense, I thought he played great defense on Pau [Gasol]. He's a heck of a screener. I played with his brother and they play similar. He's a heck of a screener and he gets you open. He was instrumental in this win tonight."

Once he got back out onto the court, Collins said those screens were the highlight of his night.

"My favorite part of the evening, I think it was Jordan Farmar was complaining to the refs that I was setting an illegal pick," Collins said.

Asked if he was frustrated that it took until this late in the season for him to get an opportunity to play in the NBA again, Collins said simply, "I know that I'm capable of playing in the NBA. I think I showed that tonight."

Collins said he kept himself in shape these last 10 months with five-mile trail runs, sprints, extensive work in the weight room and skill work.

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