The Detroit Pistons have reportedly become the latest NBA team to pass on signing recently out big man Jason Collins, according to SI.com’s Franz Lidz, the writer who co-authored Collins’ coming-out piece in SI earlier this year.
In deciding not to add Collins, Detroit joins the Brooklyn Nets on the short list of teams to publicly consider the idea of signing the veteran reserve before deciding against it.
There seems to be a growing sense that Collins won’t be on an NBA roster when the season opens this fall, and for most 34-year-old journeymen who have outlived their on-court usefulness, that wouldn’t be an issue. But in Collins’ case, the prospect of him not playing this season could be a dangerous one for the league and its teams.
Dealing with how to handle an active, openly gay player is uncharted territory for every team in the Association, and fair or not, Collins’ status as an out player with diminishing skills only complicates the matter.
Paul George will likely be next summer’s most sought-after free agent, and if he came out as gay tomorrow, he’d still have a contract at the start of the 2014 season because he’s Paul George. Ditto for Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, DeMarcus Cousins and most other top-flight players who will be on the market. No one with the skills to be on an NBA court would be blackballed from the league for being gay.
But suppose a player like Marcus Camby announced he was gay and then didn’t get a deal for 2014. Would it be because he was gay or because he was 40? Probably the latter.
There’s a legitimate thought that Collins — who has hardly played a meaningful minute of professional basketball in the last five seasons — is just done as an NBA player and wasn’t going to be on a roster this season, whether he came out as gay or not. But now that his sexual preference is public, every team that decides not to sign him is going to have the decision put under the microscope.
That’s not to say that there aren’t teams who have and will stay away from Collins because he’s gay, because there very well may be. But for teams who don’t want Collins the basketball player strictly because his best basketball days are behind him, it’s a heavy burden to have to prove.