NEW YORK (AP) — NBA players insisted since last spring there would be a place in the locker room for Jason Collins.
There will always be room on the court for what he provides.
Rather than focus on his sexuality, players thought first about what Collins could do for the Brooklyn Nets after he signed a 10-day contract Sunday and became the league's first openly gay player.
"I just think about basketball," Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant said. "Physical, physical center that plays his tail off for his team."
With a limited offensive game, Collins is best known — perhaps only known — for his solid defense and frequent fouling. Dwyane Wade joked Sunday that he knew Collins "fouls very hard."
But that's a need on a Nets team that already has scorers such as Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce. Collins is the kind of guy who will throw his body around to create space for his teammates or help stop his opponents, always valuable and appreciated traits.
"Jason was one of the best teammates I ever had. When you talk about being a good teammate, it's being prepared and doing your job every night, being able to be counted on. That's a good teammate," said Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn, who played with Collins on the Nets.
Collins joked in a TV interview after the Nets' victory over the Lakers in his return about getting to foul people, but he's not just some enforcer or hockey goon out there. The 12-year veteran from Stanford is an intelligent player, which means coaches might like him even more than peers.
Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek played in Utah with Jarron Collins, Jason's twin brother, and said the Suns would've signed Jason if they needed a big man.