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.

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.