NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — As Jason Collins started walking from the bench to the scorer’s table, fans rising out of their seats all around Barclays Center.
He committed a foul five seconds after entering. His only shot barely hit the rim.
Collins’ performance may not have been pretty, but everything else was great.
Collins played the final minutes of a winning home debut with the Brooklyn Nets, who cooled off the Chicago Bulls with a 96-80 victory Monday night.
“It was cool. It was a lot of fun to go into the game,” Collins said. “The most important thing was that we got the win. Chicago’s been playing really well as of late and … I think we played more physical than they did tonight.”
Finally playing at home more than a week after returning to the NBA as the league’s first openly gay player, Collins checked in to a standing ovation from a sellout crowd of 17,732 that included former NBA Commissioner David Stern with 2:41 remaining. He grabbed a rebound and had one of the Nets’ NBA season high-tying 19 steals in their third straight victory.
Deron Williams scored 20 points and Joe Johnson had 19 for the Nets (29-29), who got back to .500 for the first time since they were 2-2 after beating Utah on Nov. 5.
A chant of “Jason Collins! Jason Collins!” broke out while Williams was shooting a free throw with the Nets leading 90-73 with 3:27 remaining. Fans finally got their wish less than a minute later — though not because coach Jason Kidd was listening to them.
“No, the game was out of hand, so I wanted to get those guys some rest,” he said. “D-Will was shooting free throws. Couldn’t put Twin (Collins) in at that time, so I told him after the free throws that he would come in.”
Collins’ original 10-day contract will expire Tuesday and the Nets plan to sign him to a second deal on Wednesday. A Nets player from 2001-08, he has appeared in all five games since he signed on Feb. 23.
Earlier Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio noted Collins’ homecoming on Twitter on Monday.
Nets fans entering Barclays before the game said they are more concerned with Collins’ skills on the court than they are about his sexual orientation.
“The way he played back in the days, he’s still doing the same thing and just bringing his defense to the game,” Carlos Correa told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell.
Some fans, however, said they found what Collins is doing to be courageous and uplifting.
“It’s good that he came out with this and everything,” George told 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten. “And it’s good for the Nets, good for the NBA.”
But other fans said they were attending the game despite Collins coming out as gay.
“I’m not really a supporter of gay rights,” one woman said. “I’m not really a supporter of it. I don’t believe in it.”
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