When the Brooklyn Nets decided to sign Jason Collins, making him the first openly gay active professional athlete in the four major American professional sports, this past Sunday, many people either overlooked or simply forgot one of the most important details of his contract.
It was only for 10 days.
After nearly a week on the job, recent reports indicate that the Nets do intend on signing Collins through the end of the season, meaning this feat won’t be short-lived in all likelihood.
Whether that turns out to be the case or not, the Nets need to receive just one thing from Collins in order to completely dismiss the naysayers who believe that the signing was nothing more than a savvy public relations move intended to give both the team and the entire league the clean, tolerant image society expects these days.
For those who have played with or closely watched Collins play since signing with Brooklyn, the stats don’t tell the whole story. They don’t need to. The 35-year-old may have a grand total of just three points over three games, but scoring is the very last thing he was brought in for. His physical style of play both defensively and setting hard screens both on and off the ball is how he makes an impact when on the floor.
But for many fans, especially those who aren’t watching Nets games to visually see how Collins is performing, physicality that doesn’t translate into stats isn’t enough. They want to see numbers. With box scores being so easily accessible nowadays, quick glances are usually how fans evaluate players who they don’t watch.
And standing at seven-feet tall, people assume Collins will make his money on the boards. But after three games, he’s pulled down just — wait for it — two.
After 26 minutes of action, a seven-footer shouldn’t have only two rebounds to his name. It’s unacceptable. Collins’ teammates probably think the same thing, and no one could blame them.
Collins has never rebounded like the big that he is. His career-high was an average of 6.1 per game back in 2004-05. Over his career, he’s been good for just 3.8 a night.
This isn’t to say that Collins has to become a rebounding machine the rest of the season, but pulling down somewhere between three and five should make his signing a little less suspect to the skeptics.
The Nets probably woudn’t mind the added benefit either.