Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  By DAVE HOGG  |  Last updated 8/10/13
It isn't a secret that the Detroit Pistons are planning on using their 15th roster spot to get a veteran big man, someone who could play a few minutes a game at center when Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe need a rest. It wasn't expected to be a big deal -- we're talking about someone who will fill Slava Kravtsov's roster spot -- but the Pistons might have one more interesting roster addition after all. ESPN has reported that the Pistons have opened discussion with Jason Collins, who played 38 games last season for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards. Collins, who will turn 35 in early December, is a 12-year veteran who's used to playing a limited role. The last time he averaged more than 16 minutes a game was in 2007-08 with New Jersey. Normally, a team signing a veteran who's averaged 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds in his career would barely rate a line deep in the transactions page of the newspaper; however, this wouldn't be that kind of signing. Collins, of course, made worldwide news this spring when he announced that he's gay. That made him one of the first active athletes in a team sport to come out of the closet. If he suit up for any NBA team this season, Collins would become just the second openly gay male to play in a major North American league. Soccer player Robbie Rogers, who retired from English soccer upon announcing he's gay, began playing with Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy in May. Several WNBA players have come out of the closet during their careers, but Collins would be the first to play in one of the "Big Four" North American leagues: MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL. There's been a great deal of doubt as to whether Collins would get a job this season in the NBA -- a poll of general managers showed that fewer than half expected him to get a contract -- but the ones who voted "no" stressed it's because of his age and his diminishing skills, not because of his sexual orientation. What's even more unclear is what kind of reception Collins would get in an NBA locker room. Although most athletes have said they would be OK with having a gay teammate, there have been a few exceptions across sports. Former NBA star Larry Johnson said it would have made him uncomfortable to be in a locker room with an openly gay man. Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter made headlines last winter when he said playing with a gay teammate would be "difficult and uncomfortable" because of his religious beliefs, but Justin Verlander strongly disagreed. "I don't think one of our players would be scared to come out," Verlander said in March. "We've got 25 guys, and we're a family with the goal of winning a World Series. What your sexual orientation is -- I don't see how that affects the ultimate goal of our family." Former NBA great and now TV analyst Charles Barkley concurred with Verlander. "Everybody has played with a gay teammate, and it is no big deal. I think it is an insult to gay people to think they are trying to pick up their teammates" The most outspoken advocates of making pro sports more welcoming to gay players have been in the NFL, including Raiders punter Chris Kluwe, free-agent linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and recently retired linebacker Scott Fujita. Ayanbadejo, who won the Super Bowl with Baltimore in February, is of mixed race and sees gay rights as the next step of the process that allowed his parents to get married. "It made me smile," Ayanbadejo said when Collins made his announcement. "It warmed my heart. The LGBT movement is the continuation of the civil rights movement. Now is the time for LGBT rights." At the end of the day, Joe Dumars is going to pick the player who will best help the Pistons on the court. Collins was never anything close to a star, but he was starting playoff games for Atlanta two seasons ago and has been never been afraid to use his six fouls. It would be a move that would make the Pistons' offseason even more interesting than anyone could have expected.
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