The Detroit Pistons have opened a dialogue with Jason Collins about becoming the team's backup center, according to a report from ESPN.
Collins became the first openly gay athlete in one of the four major professional sports in a high-profile, front-page article in Sports Illustrated in April. The question since then has been whether Collins would be able to land another gig in the NBA -- not because he came out but because he has been a marginal player for the past several years and is already 34 years old.
When discussing free agent big men, there was spirited debate at Detroit Bad Boys about whether Collins was good enough to fill out the end of the Pistons' bench as a reserve center.
If you're looking to put a positive spin on Collins, he is a legitimate 7-footer that can defend the post, set hard screens, isn't afraid to be an "enforcer" that will use all his fouls on any given night, would be a positive veteran presence behind the young core of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe and could provide some positive PR to the team -- or at least more than the 15th man on any other squad.
If you're being less charitable you'd note that Collins is literally a negative on the offensive end, hasn't posted a Win Share of more than 0.6 since the 2006-07 season, doesn't block or rebound particularly well, probably played himself out of the league a few seasons ago, shouldn't take up a roster spot that could go to a developmental player and who would bring attention that could prove distracting considering you're talking about a player who wouldn't see the floor on most nights.
I think I am more in the former camp than the latter, since I wouldn't mind a veteran big guy to show the young Pistons players how to be a professional off the court and in practice, and when you're talking about trying to sign someone to take the place of a player who played a grand total of 224 minutes last season (we miss you already Slava Kravtsov) it's hard to think many young guys would see Detroit as an attractive destination.
But I don't think the Pistons should or are interested in signing Collins just because he is the first openly gay professional athlete in the NBA. Just as I don't think lack of interest in Collins has anything to do with his sexual orientation.
The ESPN article touches on this, and I think makes an important point.
The 34-year-old signed a one-year deal with the Boston Celtics in mid-August before last season and had to wait until September 2010 to sign a one-year deal with the Atlanta Hawks before the 2010-11 campaign. Collins signed a one-year deal with the Hawks again in 2011 just a few days after the lockout was lifted in December.
Collins has continued to work out in his hometown of Los Angeles in hopes of a firm contract offer. Collins appeared in 38 games last season with the Celtics and Washington Wizards but averaged less than 2 points and 2 rebounds in 10.1 minutes per game.
"I look at it, honestly, like any other free agency in the past several years, where I know I have to stay patient," Collins told The New York Times in July. "And I know that at this point in my career, you remain hopeful that there's a job and an opportunity waiting for you once teams start to fill out their rosters."
Collins is waiting by his phone just as long as in previous seasons because his play is marginal at best. That being said, we are talking about the final spot on the roster on a team that have plans to give big minutes to two young, growing players. There just isn't a lot of playing time to offer and the available talent pool is pretty shallow. You're talking about a guy who is going to be putting a suit on more nights than he is going to suit up.
So I'm all for giving Jason Collins a shot with the Pistons. At least presuming that Ben Wallace wasn't interested in a return.
H/T to DBB user Boom Roasted who had it first as a Fan Shot.