Jason Collins says he met with Michael Sam for a couple days before he came out as gay

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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.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.