Wednesday, October 30, 2013

4 comments Bruce Jenkins Smells a Conspiracy Surrounding Jason Collins

I kind of figured this was going to happen when Jason Collins came out of the closet back in May. He's currently not employed by an NBA team. His statistics from last season were 1.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.2 apg, 2.2 fouls per game in 10 mpg. That's right, if Collins played a full 48 minute game he would be on pace for just below 10.5 fouls per game. Also, Collins is 34 years old and will be 35 in December. He's old and unproductive, which isn't a great combination when it comes to wanting to continue an NBA career. Jason Collins is currently unsigned and is a free agent. Bruce Jenkins suggests Collins is unsigned because he is gay. There's no way to know for sure why Collins isn't signed, but even if he had not come out as gay then I would imagine he would have difficulty finding a job in the NBA given his statistics for the 12-13 season.

There was a similar issue recently in the NFL concerning Kerry Rhodes (who has not come out as being gay and it doesn't matter if he is gay...the perception is out there so there will be those who assume he isn't under contract with an NFL team because he is gay) and how he isn't signed by an NFL team. Jason Lisk of the Big Lead did a great job debunking this conspiracy. Rhodes is older, had certain salary demands and Quintin Mikell (a younger and more productive safety) wasn't signed until September. These are three explanations that don't require a lot of reaching to explain Rhodes being a free agent. I think the case with Jason Collins is easier. He's older and unproductive. That's it. Of course Bruce Jenkins sees more than that.

As teams prepare for the opening of training camp next month, time is running out on Jason Collins' chance to become the NBA's first openly gay active player.
If this historic milestone is bypassed, there will be no accountability, no villains, just an opportunity shamefully missed.

I'm torn on this issue. While I understand the importance behind an actively gay player on the court and playing against his fellow NBA players, I also have to wonder if the opportunity hasn't been missed in other ways outside of Jason Collins being on the court. What's wrong with the NBA hiring Jason Collins in a position they can create to foster awareness and help to break down stereotypes about gay athletes? Wouldn't this be beneficial like having Collins on the court as an active player? The NBA would be making a statement by hiring Collins and he could create awareness among all NBA teams as opposed to just creating awareness among the players on his current team and whichever opponent that team is playing on a nightly basis.

So I don't think the opportunity has to be missed. The NBA would have to step in (and we all know the NBA and David Stern has shown itself to be hands-on in the past) and say, "If no one will make Collins an active gay NBA player, then we will hire him." So I don't completely blame NBA teams for the opportunity being missed. It's on the NBA as well. But of course, David Stern is perfect and doesn't make mistakes so I'm completely wrong.

It was widely assumed he'd land somewhere as an unrestricted free agent to continue his career.

Not really. He is old and unproductive. He is excellent at committing fouls though.

Four months later, the wait drags on. The league faces unflattering introspection and a public-relations disaster if Collins goes unsigned. The gay community will not hide its extreme disappointment.

Bruce, I know. Those "gays." Always getting extremely disappointed and going off to cry like gay people do. It's not like any social movement has helped turn a setback into a way to further call attention to the movement's cause and successfully turned a negative into a positive.

And the worst of it is, we won't know exactly why. 

Without question, homophobia will be at the core of some teams' rejection.

Yeah, maybe. It could also be the fact Collins is 34 years old and not a very good NBA player. Look at the current free agent list in the NBA.  There are younger, more productive centers that haven't been signed by a team yet, so the idea a 34 year old center who averaged just over a point per game last year remains unsigned isn't too shocking. Look at the list and count how many players, even centers, you would take over signing Jason Collins. Professionalism in the locker room can only go so far.

So the idea of an unproductive center still remaining a free agent isn't unheard of. Ask DeSagana Diop. Possibly part of it is a team doesn't want all the publicity they will receive to sign the 11th or 12th man off the bench. Maybe it would be a smart PR move to sign Jason Collins, but it would also bring attention (the fear of the excessive attention is the issue, not the reason behind the attention) for a team to sign a player who will play sparingly. It's possibly not homophobia, but the fear of unwanted attention that could cause NBA teams to shy away from Jason Collins...assuming they would like to sign him as opposed to the other younger, more productive centers on the free agent market.

This is much of the same reason Tim Tebow remains unsigned by an NFL team. It's not because NFL teams don't like him as a person, but it's too much drama around him to justify signing him to be the backup or third-string quarterback.

Fear and prejudice remain evil partners in every aspect of American society, leaving Collins as that brave individual who dares become a pioneer.

This is usually how this type of writing goes. The writer wants to reach a conclusion in order to explain an issue. Unfortunately, that conclusion is one of many possibilities or explanations for that issue, but the writer chooses to go ahead and ignore the other possibilities and then runs off at the keyboard pretending his conclusion is the only real possibility. That's what Bruce Jenkins is doing here. Sure, Collins remaining a free agent could be explained by his lack of productivity and age, but that explanation certainly doesn't help Bruce Jenkins write a column.

It's possible, however, that NBA teams are making judgments based strictly on talent and/or financial restrictions. The league's increasingly oppressive luxury-tax constraints have become a major issue, and because the 34-year-old Collins is of limited value - a defense-and-rebounding presence off the very end of the bench - teams have legitimately addressed their concerns with younger, cheaper, more valuable players.

One thing I love about modern sportswriters are those sportswriters who will write down, in an eloquent and convincing fashion, the opposing point of view. Then the sportswriter will absolutely ignore this opposing point of view and how this point of view is very convincing, while being completely unable to counter this point of view. It's as if Bruce Jenkins thinks because he acknowledges that Collins is expensive and non-productive then his mere mention of these facts is the counter to these facts being the real reason no NBA team has signed Collins. This isn't how it works. To create a strong counter-argument as a writer you actually have to counter the argument you are attempting to refute. Mentioning the opposing point of view and then just moving on only goes to show how weak your argument may be.

The Bay Area is a haven for tolerance and understanding, and team president Rick Welts, one of the league's most respected executives, is the highest-ranking openly gay man in American sports.

The fact that Rick Welts wouldn't sign Jason Collins I think speaks to the real reason Collins hasn't been signed by an NBA team. Sure, Welts would love to support a cause he believes in, but he isn't going to support the cause if it doesn't improve his team.

It's not known how coach Mark Jackson truly felt about adding Collins, given his less-than-jubilant reaction to Collins' announcement: "We live in a country that allows you to be whoever you want to be. As a Christian man, I have beliefs of what's right and what's wrong. That being said, I know Jason Collins. I know his family. And certainly I'm praying for them at this time."

It's absolutely outrageous that Mark Jackson's point of view may not be the same point of view of Bruce Jenkins. How dare Mark Jackson have an opinion that Bruce Jenkins doesn't find to be socially acceptable!

I doubt if Jackson would have blocked the path to progress if it meant improvement on the court. 

And herein might lie the answer as to why Jason Collins doesn't have an NBA job. It may not be bigotry or the fear of a homosexual in the locker room, but it very well could be based entirely on performance (or lack thereof).

There's an element of blatant desperation on the big-man front, considering that Miami gambled on Greg Oden - who hasn't played since 2010 in the wake of five major knee surgeries - 

Comparing the risk the Heat took on Greg Oden to Jason Collin is very misleading. Greg Oden has the skill set to be a starting center in the NBA and the Heat only took a one year risk on Oden. There is desperation on the big man front, but Oden has a high ceiling if he is able to stay healthy that Jason Collins simply does not have. That's why the Heat signed Oden, because if he is healthy from his knee injuries he provides skills that Jason Collins doesn't possess.

and Houston signed 39-year-old Marcus Camby.

In nearly the same amount of minutes per game, Camby had superior statistics over Jason Collins in nearly ever category. It's close, but Camby was better.

Assuming Collins is in shape - he's been working out regularly in Los Angeles, while avoiding interviews - there's no reason he couldn't help a contending team, and he has long been known as a strong, much-admired presence in the locker room.

I'd love to know from Bruce Jenkins which contending team should sign Jason Collins and would like to know which player this contending team signed instead. I've already established Greg Oden is a much better player than Collins when healthy and Marcus Camby is a slight step-up from Collins for the Rockets. Of course, we don't get an idea from Bruce on which contending team should sign Collins, but he knows one contending should sign him.

But as Collins' Atlanta Hawks went up against Orlando in the first round of the 2011 Eastern Conference playoffs, Collins' work on Dwight Howard was a major story line.

That was almost three years ago when Collins guarded Dwight Howard in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Committing fouls at a rate of 10.5 for every 48 minutes means Jason Collins isn't exactly built to stop Dwight Howard at this present time.

"The key was not just that he limited Howard's points and periodically got him out of the game entirely with his penchant for drawing charging fouls," wrote John Hollinger on, "but that his single coverage took away Orlando's three-point game." Stan Van Gundy, the Magic's coach at the time, called it "the best defense on Howard all year. He didn't even get good shots. Collins is big, he's physical, and he doesn't give Dwight anything easy."

I'm not saying an NBA team should not sign Jason Collins, but stating Collins should be signed by an NBA team because nearly three years ago he played 85 minutes in a six game playoff against Dwight Howard and "held" Howard to 27 ppg and 15 rpg is ridiculous. After all of the positive comments that flowed from Van Gundy and Hollinger about Collins' play during that series, the fact remains that Howard shot almost 15 free throws per game and put up 27 points and 15 rebounds per game in the series. So I'm sure Collins played Howard physically but he in no way shut Howard down.

(Atlanta won the series in six games.)

All because of Jason Collins and that's why three years later it is mystifying no NBA team has signed him?

It seems imperative that Collins sign before the start of the season, as a full-time roster member. Teams signing him to a 10-day, midseason contract would only become vulnerable to nasty speculation if the arrangement didn't work out. And it certainly doesn't help that a couple of teams (Detroit and New Jersey) were interested, according to published reports, only to back off.

It's not just on NBA teams to sign Collins, the NBA could offer him a position within the NBA if they chose to do that. Maybe the NBA has done this, I don't know, but there are other ways for an openly gay player to make an impact on athletics despite not being an active player. I don't know why Jason Collins isn't signed, but his performance on the court certainly gives an indication part (or all) of the reason is performance-based.

This is David Stern's final season, certain to be all about his legacy and contributions to the game. Employing an openly gay man would mark a signature stroke, never to lose its impact.

Then David Stern should offer Jason Collins a job with the NBA. Help foster awareness and make sure there is an openly gay NBA employee if there can't be an openly gay NBA player. 

There's no way of knowing if there is a conspiracy to keep Jason Collins off an NBA roster as an active player, but taking a look at Collins' statistics and age certainly gives a good indication as to why teams may not be banging down the door to sign him.


Snarf said...

I'm not saying it won't happen or that it's a bad idea, but I think a part of the problem with the NBA hiring Jason Collins as the "gay employee," is that it is somewhat counterproductive. I'm not a homosexual, so I'm not in a position to say what Jason Collins or any homosexual wants (nor do I think they think as one comprehensive bloc), but many (I'd venture to say most) that I know just want to be treated normally and not be paraded around as a token. There may be some issues with employment law in general hiring someone and making their sexuality the most highlighted aspect of their role. I'm not saying it is a huge issue or a problem, but just speculating why the NBA may be treading cautiously here. I'm sure he could serve as some sort of VP of outreach or something all-encompassing rather than VP of "hey we have a gay guy working for us!" and it wouldn't be problematic.

Also, who knows if Jason Collins even wants a figurehead position like this, especially if he still thinks that he can play.

Fully agree, though, that his exclusion from NBA rosters is likely due to his skills, rather than any kind of prejudice.

Keep up the good work. I thoroughly enjoy your blog.

Bengoodfella said...

Snarf, that's a good point. I think the NBA could potentially step in and hire Jason Collins, but of course he would have to be amenable to it and not feel like he's the "token gay guy" whose only job is to highlight his sexuality.

I can understand your opposition to the NBA hiring him. The bottom line is that if Jason Collins wants to continue his NBA career, he may have to do it in a non-playing capacity because he's old and non-productive. Teams just may not want the attention it would get to sign Collins to be the 11th/12th man off the bench.

I did enjoy Jenkins' use of Collins' work against Dwight Howard when Howard seemed to dominate the Hawks in that series.

Snarf said...

Let me clarify. I'm not opposed to him working for the NBA, just raising a potential issue that might not make it as slam dunk idea as it may look like on the surface.

Bengoodfella said...

Snarf, I get it. I was just floating that idea in my post in order to show there are other ways Jason Collins could make an impact and raise awareness (if he chose to) in the NBA.