Jason Collins played 12 largely anonymous NBA seasons, and will likely end up being known more for an announcement involving his sexuality rather than for his contributions on the basketball court.
Collins announced he was gay shortly after his season ended in April, but has yet to be signed by another team for the upcoming season despite his readiness to join an NBA roster.
It’s perfectly reasonable to use Collins’ lack of production as the reason he remains unemployed, but at least one league executive believes that the attention his signing might bring is just as much of a factor.
Several GMs said the aversion to Collins isn’t over concern about how his sexuality will play in the locker room, but over the relentless media attention it will generate. “If it were just an initial blast and you knew it would settle down after that, it would be one thing,” said one executive. “But you know this is something that he and his teammates are going to be asked about everywhere they go, all season long, and all it takes is one guy to say something a little off and it could really blow up. He’s still good enough to play in the league, but when you throw in the ongoing media frenzy, most teams are going to decide it’s just not worth it.”
Meanwhile, Zach Lowe of Grantland believes that Collins will eventually draw interest, but not until midway though the season.
Early January brings 10-day contracts and the drop-dead date (January 10) after which all partially guaranteed contracts become fully guaranteed for the season. Teams will cut players ahead of January 10 for some cap savings, opening up roster spots and generating some churn. A bunch of team executives have earmarked this period as the time at which one team will sign Collins for his veteran leadership, screening, and post defense — and to make sure Collins’s brave statement gets its due attention.
It honestly would be great if a team signed Collins just to show support of his courage, but sadly, the NBA (like all professional sports leagues) simply doesn’t work that way.
If Collins could still play meaningful minutes, he’d already have a place on a roster. And if you’re inclined to disagree, go ahead and substitute his name with that of an All-Star and see where that gets you.
The fact that there are additional circumstances in his case which complicate things can’t be ignored, but teams want to win. If a GM believed he would help that goal, Collins would be in uniform before the end of business the very next day.