Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Brooklyn Nets are “targeting” NBA free agent Jason Collins. Collins is no ordinary veteran, of course — he’s looking to become to the first openly gay man to play in the league (he would be the second in American sports behind Robbie Rogers of the L.A. Galaxy). This is a perfect fit.
The Nets need low-cost contributors because they are more than maxed-out on contracts: They’re already paying 11 guys $95.2 million in 2013-14, putting them tens of millions of dollars over the luxury tax threshold ($71.6 million). They need to pay their 12th man the league’s veteran minimum, which is exactly what Collins was expected to command this summer as a 34-year-old backup.
And from Collins’ perspective, Brooklyn could not be a better situation. Basketball-wise he’s coming to a loaded, veteran, professional team, filled with guys he’s used to playing with (Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Boston, Jason Kidd in New Jersey) and for (Lawrence Frank).
Culturally speaking? Brooklyn and gay go together like… Brooklyn and pizza. Coney Island and hot dogs. Hipsters and the L train. I could go on. The Barclays Center sits at the junction of several different Brooklyn neighborhoods, including several known for their gay-friendliness such as Park Slope (where I, [the author] am from) and Fort Greene. Sure, Chelsea or the West Village in Manhattan rival any NYC neighborhood in this regard, but that’s Knicks territory.
Collins is sure to find great support, as well as unfortunate scrutiny, from the fans of any team he signs with. But certain cities are just better suited for embracing the NBA’s first gay player than others, and Brooklyn tops them all. Look at how awesome the Brooklyn Pride Parade is.
The Nets, to this point, have felt more like the New Jersey Nets of Brooklyn than the borough’s own team. Signing Collins would go a long way toward helping the Nets claim the new surroundings as their own. You might even make a Nets fan out of this life-long Brooklynite. (Not really, but it couldn’t hurt.)
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