GM: Jason Collins a 'basketball decision'

Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King, speaking at length for the first time since signing Jason Collins to a 10-day contract, reiterated that bringing in the NBA’s first openly gay player was a “basketball decision,” while adding “it was the right time and the right fit for us.”

Collins made his Nets debut in Sunday night’s 108-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center, playing 11 effective minutes off the bench.

“As we were putting together the team from the beginning of the season and needed bigs Jason brought his name up. Then as we signed other guys, there was not a need,” King said on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” Monday morning.

“And then as we were going through the season, [coach] Jason [Kidd] talked about our interior defense. When Kevin [Garnett]’s not out there, he’s our anchor. When he’s not, we have Mason Plumlee who gets the rookie whistles, so he gets a lot of quick fouls, and some of our guys are not as good at interior defense, so we had been looking for someone, and Jason’s name had always been surfaced there. We tried to do [an upgrade] via trade before the deadline, and obviously wasn’t able to get that done.

Listen to the complete interview:

Play Download“Knowing on this trip that we were going to have a back to back with L.A. and KG most likely may not play, the goal was if we didn’t find someone (by the deadline), we’d probably need to bring someone in, and with Jason being in L.A. we had worked him out during the All-Star break, it was the right time and the right fit for us.”

King said ownership had no problem with the decision to add Collins to the roster. Mikhail Prokhorov is known to be supportive of gay rights in-spite of the anti-gay laws that were just passed in his native Russia. Prokhorov declined comment through his spokesperson, though it’s clear that he supports Collins.

“I bring up players that we’re looking to acquire, and [ownership] asks for my thoughts and input, ‘What’s Jason think?’ And then they say, ‘OK, if you guys think it’s good, let’s go for it,’ King said. “It was a ‘We’re thinking about this,’ and ‘OK, sounds good.’ It wasn’t a lengthy political debate.”

King said Kidd discussed it with the veterans on the team. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson are all former teammates of Collins.

“Jason had had some conversations with the veteran guys before the All-Star break, just broaching the idea with them and getting their thoughts on it,” King said. “I had spoken with ownership just to get their thoughts. We went at it with the thought process to make the best decision for the basketball team and everybody involved. So this conversation had started before the break, and then that’s when we worked him out after the break also.”

Said Pierce: “In a society we live in, this was going to happen eventually. This is the normal. He is a guy who is going to open the door for athletes. Maybe not just in America but all over the world, the sports world. That’s going to be key. It doesn’t matter your race, your gender, your sexuality, or any of that. It’s about being part of a team. It’s about caring for one another. That’s all that matters at the end of the day. ... It’s great to have him here to open the doors for so many athletes to feel comfortable to come out and not be embarrassed and to be part of something.”

Despite all the media attention it’s received, King reiterated that the decision to add Collins was for basketball reasons, not marketing reasons. The Nets needed an interior defender, and that’s just what the 35-year-old center gave them Sunday night, doing a nice job defending Pau Gasol after Mason Plumlee and Andray Blatche got in early foul trouble.

King confirmed that the Nets did in fact pursue Glen “Big Baby” Davis before turning to Collins once Davis committed to signing with the Los Angeles Clippers and reuniting with his former coach, Doc Rivers.