Why not Jason Collins? I’ll tell you.
Today I went on a mini-rant on Twitter to vent some of my frustrations regarding the Jason Collins-New York Knicks connection. Yes, the Knicks could use a big man after losing Tyson Chandler for 4-6 weeks to a broken leg. However, the Knicks decided to pass on Collins, and have reached out to other big men. One rumored interest is Lou Amundson, who the team looked at last year before bringing in Kenyon Martin.
But for some, this is more than the Knicks passing on a free agent. Why? Because Jason Collins, after coming out at the end of last season, hasn’t received much interest from NBA teams–besides working out for the Pistons this summer–since he told the world he is gay.
At first glance, one almost has to assume that the reason no team has brought Collins on board is because he is gay. But to me, there’s something incredibly wrong with that thinking.
Yes, the NBA players–along with those in the rest of the major sports in the United States–suffer from hyper-masculinity and homophobia. The idea of having a gay teammate, while some say it wouldn’t bother them, is an uncomfortable subject for most professional male athletes.
But has it occurred to anyone that maybe Collins just isn’t worth a roster spot?
For his 12-year NBA career, Collins has never had flashy numbers. As a legitimate 7-footer, the most rebounds Collins averaged in a season was 6.1 per game (04-05); for blocks (04-05) and steals (03-04, 04-05), those numbers are both 0.9 per game. He hasn’t played at least 15.9 mpg since his final year with New Jersey–a year they traded him to Memphis mid-season.
In other words, his numbers were never great. And he is well passed his peak. If we can all agree that the 04-05 season was his best–when he also averaged career-highs in points (6.4) and minutes (31.8)–that puts Collins eight years removed from his best season as an NBA player.
However, guys as big as Collins are hard to come by, so he bounced around a few years as a role player. Including the season he split with New Jersey and Memphis, Collins played for six different teams in the last six seasons–and he spent three of those with Atlanta. You do the math.
Personally, I just don’t think that a 34-year old Jason Collins is what NBA teams are looking for. As a veteran leader, perhaps; he did make the playoffs nine of his 12 seasons.
But the Knicks don’t need that. They need an able-body who can give them an interior presence, even in limited minutes. While it’d be silly to suggest they could replace Tyson Chandler’s production, having a guy who can come in and bang down low and make a few hustle plays isn’t what a washed-up Collins is gonna do.
And while some might feel that Collins deserves a chance to make an NBA roster, I will politely disagree. However, I wish him good luck in doing so–just not with the Knicks. They can do better.
In addition, here is what I posted on my personal Facebook page earlier today, a post that earned itself a slow clap from a friend:
“Just had a colorful debate with another person regarding currently unemployed NBA player Jason Collins, who came out as gay at the end of last season. I stated that I believe the reason Collins is currently out of a job isn’t because he’s gay–although I could certainly be wrong–but rather the fact that he is 34 years old and hasn’t made a meaningful contribution to a team in about six years. Teams will always look for a combination of price, youth, and productivity when it comes to filling out rosters. Yes, veteran leaders–who may sit on the bench–have value as well, but they’re not always necessary.
Being a big sports fan–and this applies to more than just sports–I often hear about teams not employing players, coaches, front office personnel, etc. for reasons other than their résumé. It’s either because their skin isn’t the “right” color, or they’re not the “right” religion, or they’re not the “right” sexual orientation, etc. I get it, prejudices exist. They are a huge issue that we shouldn’t even have to deal with in the first place.
But there’s no reason to constantly point to those issues as the reasoning behind a lack of a hire. The best man should ALWAYS get the job, regardless of race/religion/sexuality/etc. Otherwise, how is that any better than the prejudices that existed in the first place? What’re we, as a society, trying to do exactly? Make up for past–and some present–ills? Instead we should be teaching hard work and dedication.
I understand it can’t always be that cut-and-dry. Maybe I’m just an optimist who doesn’t believe people could be so evil in present-day society.
Or maybe I’m onto something. Who knows?
Ok, now I’m ready to be attacked by everyone who doesn’t agree. Bring it.”
So what does everyone think? Does Jason Collins deserve a shot at an NBA roster spot?