Last summer, after a dozen seasons playing in the NBA Jason Collins came out as gay. It was certainly a milestone step and Collins was widely heralded as the first active athlete in a major professional sport to come out as gay.
Except he wasn’t an active player — Collins was a free agent last summer and as of now has yet to even land a 10-day contract with a team. Part of that is tied to the fact that he is an aging NBA veteran with a limited skill set — he is still good at defending in the post but in a league where the teams are going small and bigs have midrange games. His being gay would have been a discussion topic for the handful of teams that should have considered him, it likely not have helped his cause in some organizations. Some teams sadly may not have considered him because he came out, even though they would have come up with other excuses (somehow the 12-year veteran considered a pro’s pro at every stop would suddenly be a locker room distraction). That said Collins was a guy near the end of his career before he came out.
Michael Sam, the Missouri defensive lineman came out as gay Sunday prior to the NFL draft, is different all together — he is just embarking on his NFL career.
Collins tweeted he spoke with Sam before Sam made his announcement.
Collins heard a lot of things about himself after he came out, most of it good but of course there was the expected backlash from people trying to stem the tide of history. Collins was the right guy — maybe the only guy — for Sam to really talk to about what he was about to experience. (For my money, Joe Posnanski nailed what is happening. I’ll add while a handful of players seemed opposed to a gay man in the locker room the main reaction I heard from players was “if a gay player is good enough and can help this team then get him a jersey.”)
Sam is hearing a lot of talk about his draft status (although that is a pre-draft game anyway) and Collins was simply lending an ear and offering a little advice. It’s also completely in character with who Collins is as a person — a pro’s pro who would mentor younger NBA players on the fine points of the game now can help mentor a guy breaking far larger, more important ground.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.