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Jason Collins says he is leaning toward retirement

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What Jason Collins did last season was important because in the 22 games and 172 minutes he played the second half of last season, he helped change perceptions and start a conversation. He was the first openly gay player on a major professional sports team in the United States. That matters more than basketball.

But in terms of just basketball, Collins days may be done.

The Nets didn’t bring him in to score (which is good, he had 25 total points on 24 shots), they brought him in to do the little things — set a big screen, be physical inside and not be afraid to pick up fouls, rebound, be a veteran and professional presence in the locker room. He did all that fairly well. But the Nets had found their identity going smaller (with Kevin Garnett at the five) and that left Collins on the bench many nights and playing a very limited role. No team really has a big role for him anymore.

Collins basketball days may be behind him and he’s realizing it, reports Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group, who caught up with Collins and heard him speak in San Francisco.

“I used to be able to jump and touch the top of the white square behind the rim with ease,” Collins, 35, told the crowd of nearly 600 Monday night at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre for the Commonwealth Club’s latest Inforum conversation.

“As the years go by, you watch your hand go lower and lower on that square. Father Time is undefeated against us all. … I’m really grateful for my Stanford degree now. On the other hand, I can still dunk.”

As noted in the article, Collins can make more money now on the speaking circuit and with his Nike contract than he can on the court.

Collins was a fringe NBA player by the point in his career that he came out — and that revaluation didn’t help him land jobs, some teams were concerned about the distraction. The Nets took a chance because they had a need they thought he could fill, but even then he didn’t get many minutes. It’s possible he gets another mid-season call from a team or teams that are interested, but it’s not likely.

But Collins will still be around the NBA. He spoke at the recent rookie orientation about LGBT issues (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) and that showed why he is needed on the speaking circuit.

While discussing the need for a change in locker-room language, a player’s question let him know how much work remains to be done.

“I had to explain what LGBT stands for,” Collins said.

Report: Patrick Beverley to drop fro All-Star Saturday Skills Challenge title

Patrick Beverley
Associated Press
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Last season, the Rockets’ Patrick Beverley won the NBA All-Star Saturday skills challenge because of his jump shot. In head-to-head battles with the Hawks’ Jeff Teague and the Bucks (now a Sun) Brandon Knight, Beverley fell behind on the passing part of the competition but made up the ground by knocking down his jump shot at the end.

He was set to come to Toronto to defend his skills title but has been forced to back out due to injury, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

After tweaking his ankle Wednesday night in a loss to Portland, Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley will not travel to Toronto to defend his skills competition title at All-Star Weekend, league sources told The Vertical.

Beverley wants to rest the ankle over the All-Star break for the Rockets’ final push to make the Western Conference playoffs.

This has yet to be confirmed by the NBA, nor has a replacement been named, but no doubt Woj is accurate on this. No player would risk further injury for a skills competition.

The Rockets have lost six-of-eight, and with the loss to the Blazers Wednesday night have fallen out of the playoffs in the Western Conference. They will need all their players healthy, including Beverley, but they will also need a lot more than that to climb back in the race — they need to start playing defense, they need to stop becoming disinterested for large stretches of the game, and they need someone in that locker room to step up and be a serious leader of men.

Report: LeBron James might not play for Team USA in 2016 Olympics because Kobe Bryant won’t

Kobe Bryant (L) and team mate Lebron James of the U.S. sit on the bench during the game against France during their men's Group A basketball match at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Basketball arena July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar
REUTERS/Mike Segar
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LeBron James admires Kobe Bryant.

How much?

Kobe pulling his name from 2016 Olympic consideration (perhaps an informed preemptive gesture just before the roster finalists were announced) might keep LeBron off Team USA.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Bryant not pursuing a spot on the U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer is a very real reason James might also not join the team, according to NBA sources.

James is that disappointed the Rio Olympics will not serve as the final, ultimate celebration of Bryant’s career—and more so that James won’t have the priceless honor of being Bryant’s co-star teammate when it ends.

I don’t buy this.

Kobe said during the 2012 Olympics those would be his final Olympics. Two weeks later, LeBron said he wanted to play in 2016.

Did playing with Kobe on Team USA become more important to LeBron over the last few years?

I suppose it’s possible. Many got behind sending Kobe to Rio as a sendoff into retirement. Perhaps, LeBron got attached to the idea and became bitter once it fell through.

I just have a hard time believing LeBron would tie his decision so strongly to another player. Remember, he left one of his best friends, Dwyane Wade, in Miami to sign with the Cavaliers. Would Kobe’s presence really dictate LeBron’s outlook?

LeBron has been mum on his plans for Team USA. I’m sure the length of Cleveland’s playoff run and the toll it takes on his body will factor. He might not yet know what he’ll do.

The ball is in his court, which can be challenging. There has been backlash from media and fans against players who turn down Team USA, and LeBron could be trying to avoid that.

I trust Ding was told LeBron felt this way, but nobody – including me, including Ding – can know what’s in LeBron’s head. But this report strikes me as LeBron setting up the ability to attribute his absence to Kobe’s rather than facing the full brunt of reaction that comes to turning down Team USA.

Did the Clippers reenact Paul Pierce being stabbed during pregame introductions? (video)

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The Clippers got hyped for Paul Pierce‘s potential last game in Boston by… reenacting the time Pierce got stabbed there? If not, it sure looks like it.

Mock fighting is the norm for the Clippers’ pregame, but I haven’t seen a single player targeted like this. Whatever gets you pumped, I guess.

Markieff Morris flips off Suns fan (video)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris reacts to a call during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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Markieff Morris‘ frustrations last night didn’t end with his scuffle with teammate Archie Goodwin. They didn’t end with the Suns’ loss to the Warriors, either.

As Morris was leaving the court, a fan heckled him: “Markieff, you f—ing suck. I can’t wait until you’re traded.” Though Morris probably agrees with the second sentence, he flipped off the fan:

Though it’s difficult to confirm that video was from last night, it jibes with a previous report of the incident.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7

Morris will likely at least be fined. Considering his previous behavioral problems this season – he threw a towel at Jeff Hornacek – I wouldn’t completely rule out a suspension. But a fine seems most likely.