NBA: Collins sees whirlwind week after coming out as gay

MILWAUKEE -- Sitting comfortably in a courtside chair inside an empty BMO Bradley Center, Jason Collins let out a hearty laugh as he tried to sum up the whirlwind that has been his week.

MILWAUKEE -- Sitting comfortably in a courtside chair inside an empty BMO Bradley Center, Jason Collins let out a hearty laugh as he tried to sum up the whirlwind that has been his week.

Since signing a 10-day contract with the Nets a week ago and becoming the first openly gay athlete to play in one of this country's top four professional sports leagues, Collins hasn't had much time to reflect. He's been a very busy man.

"Obviously, things happened very quickly," Collins said before Saturday night's game against the Bucks. "The events over the past week have been very special, but right now, the focus is on the Milwaukee Bucks."

In a sense, that's Collins in a nutshell. The 12-year veteran, 35, has a tunnel-vision approach, focusing on the bigger picture and keeping such an even keel that nothing seems to fluster him. Nothing. Certainly not a jam-packed week filled with daily schedules that might rival that of a New York City mayor.

  • There was a standing-room-only news conference in his hometown of Los Angeles the day he signed.
  • And the flurry of congratulatory messages that flooded in during the 24 hours that followed last Sunday's debut, including a special text from Billie Jean King.
  • Having the NBA's top-selling jersey for three days on
  • Meeting in Denver with the family of Matthew Shepard, the gay hate-crime victim for whom Collins wears No. 98 in tribute, and presenting them a new autographed jersey.
  • Finding out that the league plans to donate all the proceeds -- and no less than $100,000 -- of his jersey sales to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network and the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Each precious moment holds a piece of Collins' heart, though it might be tough to top what transpired Thursday night after the Nets pounded the Nuggets. Carrying a black No. 98 jersey with his freshly penned signature in white on it, Collins presented it to Shepard's parents, Judy and Dennis, and his brother Logan. He even posted a heartwarming picture of them posing with it on his verified Twitter page.

    "It was a great experience," Collins said. "I was, again, very fortunate, and am very glad that they drove down from Wyoming, and glad to have met with them."

    Collins, a good friend and former teammate of coach Jason Kidd, was signed by the Nets to bring some size to the front line, particularly when Glen "Big Baby" Davis chose the Clippers after being bought out by the Magic last week. Collins' 10-day contract runs out Tuesday, and the belief among many is that at minimum, he'll be signed to another 10-day contract.

    No one expects the 7-footer to be a huge difference-maker, but he can be inserted against teams with massive front lines and do the small things -- setting screens, blocking out, rebounding, committing hard fouls, enforcing the paint -- that seem to go unnoticed.

    Then there's that other element.

    "Truthfully, it's been the greatest thing because he's taken a lot of media pressure off of me," Paul Pierce said with a chuckle, drawing laughter. "But Jason, he's a veteran, man. It's good having him. I've noticed at times, even in the game, him talking to the young players about different strategy and about different players before the game, because he's been around. He's played against a lot of different guys, so it's good just to have that kind of experience on your bench."

    And don't forget about those hacking skills. Collins committed nine fouls in the 26 minutes he logged in his first three games.

    "I forgot to warn everybody about that," Pierce said. "He's going to lead the league in fouls per minute. But hey, he understands his role."

    The fans have been receptive toward Collins when he checks into the game. Some even have applauded the first time the public address announcer has bellowed his name. That hasn't surprised Kidd in the least, given what he knows about the guy he calls "Twin."

    "I wasn't so much worried about the response because he is a very good person," Kidd said. "He's as good as they come."

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