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.