"Life is so much better for me. I don't have to hide who I am. Just be my normal self," Collins said. "The past 10 months have been incredible. A lot of really cool experiences, learning a lot, making new friends and hearing peoples' stories. Overall, it's been really positive."
The Nets are an organization filled with Collins supporters and experienced players less likely to be fazed by the likely media blitz that the signing will inevitably spark. Over the last couple of days, several Nets players have publicly voiced their support for signing Collins.
"Guys know what to expect from me," Collins said. "They're not like 'he's magically gonna have a 40-inch vertical and shoot 3s.' My game has been pretty consistent. I'm a defensive player first, and that's what I pride myself on. Now it's just a matter of getting comfortable with coverages and assignments."
Collins is reunited with Nets coach Jason Kidd, who played with the defensive-minded big man in New Jersey from 2001-08, making two trips together to the NBA Finals. Collins also played with Nets guard Joe Johnson for three seasons in Atlanta and spent half of the 2012-13 season in Boston alongside Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett before being traded to the Wizards. Collins also is friends with injured Nets center Brook Lopez, who like Collins played alongside his twin brother at Stanford.
"Great competitor, plays team basketball, is for the team, great guy, great character," Garnett told reporters on Saturday morning about Collins.
Garnett also scoffed at the notion that Collins' orientation with the Nets would be any sort of issue with the team.
"I think it's important that anybody who has the capabilities and skill level [gets] a chance to [do] something he's great at," Garnett said. "I think it would be bias, and in a sense, racist, if you [were] to keep that opportunity from a person."
The Nets' signing of Collins comes not long after University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam announced he is gay earlier this month in an ESPN "Outside The Lines" interview. Sam, though, can't make his official NFL debut until the fall. Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay male athlete to play in a U.S. professional sports league when he made his Major League Soccer debut in May 2013, just three months after coming out. And John Amaechi, who spent five seasons in the NBA with Orlando, Utah and Cleveland, disclosed his sexuality three years after his playing career ended in a 2007 book entitled "Man In The Middle."
Sam reacted to Collins news on Twitter.
Congratulations to my friend @jasoncollins34 - excited to see you do work out there #courage #groundbreakingRogers also tweeted about Collins.
- Michael Sam (@MikeSamFootball) February 23, 2014
Very excited to watch @jasoncollins34 tonight more importantly I am proud to call him my friend.
- Robbie Rogers (@robbierogers) February 23, 2014