SAN FRANCISCO — The Brooklyn Nets hadn't even decided whether to sign 7-foot center Jason Collins to a contract, yet the mere possibility of the club adding the NBA's first openly gay player was already approaching a fever pitch Friday.
In the wake of the Nets working out Collins in Los Angeles a day earlier, point guard Deron Williams was already anticipating what he and his teammates would be in for if and when it actually happens.
“I think it definitely will be a media circus, just because of the situation,” Williams said. “It'd be a historic day. But with the type of veteran team we have, with so many people on our club who know Jason, I don't think it would be a problem.”
Even if Brooklyn were to sign Collins within the next 24 hours, it's unlikely he'd be in uniform when the Nets visit the Warriors on Saturday night at Oracle Arena. So the media circus won't stop here. That said, there was a large media contingent at the Nets' workout questioning players on the notion of the 35-year-old Collins, the one-time Stanford star who publicly announced he was gay at the season's outset, joining them.
“If he can help our team, I'm all for it,” said Williams. “I know he's a great role player because I played with his brother (Jarron) for five years in Utah, and they have similar games. And I've known Jason for years, too. I really think he could help our team.”
Williams believes Collins, who hasn't played since the end of last season, hasn't gotten a job before now because many teams have balked at the potential distractions. But he thinks the Nets could handle the distraction of having an openly gay player on the roster, even in the media fishbowl of the New York metropolitan area.
“It's not him being the distraction, it's just the media being on him,” he said. “Every city you go through, it's going to be a recurring thing. You can't just answer the questions once. But I don't honestly think that'll be a problem with us.”
Veteran swingman Joe Johnson knows Collins as well as anybody on the Nets, having played with him for three seasons in Atlanta. He also gave the potential move a thumb's up.
“I think it'd be great,” Johnson said. “He was a great teammate and a very hard worker. I don't think it'd be a problem. I think the guys on the team would accept it. We've got a veteran group, and I think everybody's pretty comfortable in their own skins. It's about what he can do to help us out.”
The Nets, who are 15-6 in their last 21 games after starting the season 10-21, have been in a depth pinch on their front line because of myriad injuries. That issue was exacerbated when they dealt power forward Reggie Evans, along with guard Jason Terry, to the Sacramento Kings for guard Marcus Thornton just before the trade deadline.
But with other possible options surfacing, such as Glen “Big Baby” Davis, whose contract was bought out by the Orlando Magic, Brooklyn isn't jumping to make a deal with Collins.
“I don't think there's a rush,” coach Jason Kidd said. “We have an opportunity to get better, so management has to look at all the different options. There has to be a decision if we're going to go with Jason or if there's an opportunity for another player. It's a process.”
Kidd believes Collins could help some NBA team down the stretch, though, and theorized that the lack of player movement throughout the league before this week probably prevented it from happening sooner.
“The league has been slow in making moves this year, but I think at some point, Jason will probably be on a roster,” Kidd said. “He's a basketball player, he's a great guy and he can help a team. I think that's the way any team is going to look at it.”
As for the social ramifications, Williams was blunt about the NBA and other professional sports leagues getting in step with the times regarding acceptance of gay athletes.
“It's 2014,” he said. “We have the situation with (Michael) Sam, who just came out in college and his teammates welcomed him. So it's time for the NBA to do it.”