Kobe Bryant tries to explain why he’s taking so many shots

Beware, would-be purse thieves. Kobe Bryant is on the watch.
Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers were doused by the Golden State Warriors 136-115 on Sunday to fall to 1-9 on the season, despite Bryant scoring 44 points. The five-time champion, whose frustration has been simmering, dismissed questions about him taking 34 of the Lakers’ 99 field goal attempts in the loss.
“Obviously I’d rather get guys involved early, but if a purse gets stolen in front of you, how many blocks are you going to let the guy run?” Bryant told reporters, according to ESPN.com. “You going to chase him down and keep him in sight yourself or just wait for the authorities to get there, or decide to let him run and wait for the authorities to get there? It’s a tough thing.”
The Lakers are off to the worst 10-game start in franchise history, making it hard even for diehard fan Jack Nicholson to continue watching. Fortunately, even with Nicholson dozing off, Bryant remains vigilant. Because deep down, in places you don’t

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Phil Jackson Thinks Too Many People Are Focusing on NY Knicks’ Triangle Offense

Phil Jackson might want to ask J.R. Smith how he feels about untying another opponent’s shoe, because the New York Knicks need to create a diversion—and quick.

The same topics of conversation (and criticism) that have surrounded the Knicks since Jackson took over continue to dominate the New York news cycle, and the efficacy of the triangle offense is at the top of the list.

Even NBA commissioner Adam Silver has weighed in, per Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

‘Clearly, they’re still learning the triangle,’ Silver said with a laugh. ‘I still don’t understand it, but they’re learning it. But that’s what the game is all about. You have a new coach, you have a new president of basketball operations in Phil Jackson; you have a couple new players on the team.’

The Knicks dropped to 2-6 on the year after falling to the Atlanta Hawks in one of the team’s ugliest performances to date. Before the loss, Jackson told Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com

I wasn’t so humored by the commissioner actually jumping in on top of that, too. He doesn’t need to get in on that. There’s enough focus on [the] triangle. It’s not anything. It’s a system. It’s simple basketball. Just play the game. We’re over the triangle; let’s get to business and play the right way.

It’s understandable that Jackson would like to hear an end to the questions surrounding the triangle. New York’s problems go much deeper than its less-than-stellar grasp of a new offensive system. There are talent issues on this roster, and there’s an untested coach leading it while dealing with the growing pains of a new job.

Perhaps he’d prefer to hear comments on those topics.

Or maybe Jackson would rather the critics focused on New York’s defensive issues.

As justifiable as Jackson’s frustration is, he must have seen this coming. For one thing, this is New York we’re talking about. Of course there was going to be hyper-intense scrutiny—no matter how the Knicks performed.

Moreover, Jackson’s pet offense is viewed as a cure-all. And as long as the Knicks continue to bumble around in the triangle (they rank 21st in the league in efficiency, per NBA.com), the Zen Master will continue to endure jabs at his system.

Phil’s right about one thing, though; the focus in New York needs to be on playing the right way.

So much for that.

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Chicago Bulls’ Continuity Has Many Moving Parts

The postseason showdown between the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers seems like an inevitability to much of the league. And while the Cavs appear to be wealthier in talent than Chicago, one major advantage is often cited for the Bulls: their continuity.

With coach Tom Thibodeau in place for his fifth season in Chicago and Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler alongside him for much of that time, there’s a lot to that theory. But the Bulls’ continuity is actually much less smooth than you may think.

The primary complication to the team’s supposed year-to-year consistency is its most important player, Derrick Rose. Reintegrating Rose after he played just 10 games over the past two seasons won’t be easy. Especially when the superstar’s fragile body continues to keep his organization on edge—he’s already missed two games in November with two sprained ankles.

The Bulls’ rotation and chemistry are further complicated by their bringing in a 34-year-old Pau Gasol, new backup point guard Aaron Brooks and two rookies who look to be getting solid minutes in Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott. All are good additions, to be sure, but they’re also more pieces the Bulls need to correctly shuffle over the course of the season.

Gasol’s presence and acclimation period, along with Noah’s slow-going recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery over the summer, mean Chicago’s frontcourt play is still far from where the front office would like it to be. The team’s rebounding deficit is the most telling sign in this category—after nearing the top of the league at getting boards for every year of the Thibodeau era, the Bulls are just No. 15 in rebounding percentage through their first five games.

The defensive end of the glass is especially worrisome. From Blog a Bull’s Kevin Ferrigan:

The Bulls entire team has been pretty bad at snagging defensive rebounds and keeping their opponents off the offensive glass. This was most glaring in the Bulls lone loss of the season against LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers, as Tristan Thompson snagged [twelve offensive boards in the game] as the Bulls just could not finish their defense by securing the basketball.

Chicago optimists should hope Gasol’s adjustment to Thibodeau’s intense, principle-driven defense is a big part of his struggles to end defensive possessions by getting the rebound. Gasol wasn’t asked to defend the rim with this kind of fervor by his last Los Angeles Lakers coach, Mike D’Antoni, so it may take him some time to balance all his new responsibilities.

Just like it’s probably that the Bulls won’t know which Rose they have for quite a while. The explosive Rose everyone remembered appeared against Cleveland, but in Rose’s return game against the Milwaukee Bucks he looked to be bothered by his health, favoring a cerebral general’s role to that of the lane-penetrator the Bulls will eventually need.

They’ll also the need the volcano version of Noah, who stormed the league last year while grabbing a Defensive Player of the Year trophy, if they’re to compete for a title. After a summer spent resting his repaired knee, Noah has looked gassed early on—he wasn’t able to get into the playing shape he needs to be in to overwhelm the enemy. The Bulls’ continuity doesn’t mean much until their best player of the last two seasons starts looking like himself again.

And though Aaron Brooks’ scoring has been encouraging thus far, his defense for the Bulls is definitely a work in progress. Brooks was torched by the CavsKyrie Irving in both the preseason and regular season. He’s undersized at a skinny 6’0″, and despite athletic highlights like this block on the monstrous Orlando Magic big man Nikola Vucevic, Brooks could be a problem for the Bulls against bigger guards.

Mirotic and McDermott have also turned heads early on, displaying growth in each game they play. But they’re still a long ways away from being defenders that Thibodeau will want to depend upon when the opposition gets tougher—the Bulls have had a soft early schedule, which has allowed them to develop both rookies a bit, but whether they can add to the Bulls’ depth come springtime remains to be seen.

Noah and Rose’s health, Gasol’s adjustment period and Brooks, McDermott and Mirotic—three bench players looking to learn Thibodeau’s schemes while finding opportunities in a surprisingly crowded offense—add up to a Bulls formula that suddenly looks to hold a whole lot of variables. While we know we’ll always get tenacious effort from them, all their health issues and new pieces make it hard to say we can depend on much else being continuous in Chicago.

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New Mexico returns with many questions (Yahoo Sports)

FILE - In this March 9, 2013, file photo, New Mexico's Hugh Greenwood, right, looks to pass while covered by Air Force's Michael Lyons during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Air Force Academy, Colo. New Mexico does have two returning starters back in senior guard Hugh Greenwood and swingman Deshawn Delaney. And the coach's son, guard Cullen Neal, saw significant minutes and is the squad's leading returning scorer at 7.1. But the remainder of the squad remains long on question marks and short on experience. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — There are no catchy mottos and no inspirational slogans to mark this season for the New Mexico Lobos.


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How many superstars has Kobe cost the Lakers?

Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest NBA players to ever live, but he also has a reputation for being a tough teammate. Kobe holds everyone he plays with accountable, sometimes to a fault. Has that attitude resulted in the Lakers missing out on a number of superstars that could have helped them win over…Read More

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How Many NBA Players Does Each 2014 FIBA World Cup Team Have?

Though there are plenty of fantastic basketball players who haven’t played in the NBA and likely won’t for either their entire careers or a significant portion of them—Argentina’s Facundo Campazzo and Brazil’s Marcelo Huertas immediately spring to mind—the Association tends to have the sport’s largest collection of talent. 

So, how is that being distributed out among the 24 teams set to play in Spain at the 2014 World Cup, an international competition that begins at the end of August?

As John Schuhmann explains for NBA.com, “With the four free agents and 46 guys under contract, there will be a total of 50 current NBA players, representing 22 different teams and 18 different countries, at the World Cup, unless there’s an unexpected roster change in the next four days.”

Let’s break those players—as well as the dozens who used to play in the sport’s top league—down by country, using some visual aids. 

Will any team come close to touching Team USA’s number of NBA talents?

 

The Argentines would normally have Manu Ginobili on their side, but without the crafty 2-guard who has retired from international competition, they’re left without as much NBA talent.

Though Walter Herrmann and Andres Nocioni both have experience in the Association on their resumes, Pablo Prigioni and Luis Scola are the only current players. Yes, that means there are no projected NBA starters who will suit up for Argentina at the World Cup. 

 

We’re being generous here. 

Dante Exum hasn’t played for the Utah Jazz yet, though the lottery pick will likely have a large role with his new team when the NBA season kicks off. Aron Baynes (currently a free agent) and Cameron Bairstow (another rookie, this time with the Chicago Bulls) are also included as current NBA players, joining Matthew Dellavedova to make it four. 

In the realm of former players, the Boomers are limited to David Andersen and Nathan Jawai, neither of whom should resonate with anyone but the most hardcore NBA fans. 

 

It’s all about the strength of the frontcourt, as Tiago Splitter, Nene and Anderson Varejao will all be sharing time at center for Brazil throughout the 2014 World Cup. Though all are capable starters for their respective teams—the San Antonio Spurs, Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers—they aren’t All-Star-caliber players at this stage of their careers. 

Leandro Barbosa, though he hasn’t yet found a home for the 2014-15 season, counts as a current NBA player, but Raul Neto does not as there’s been no indication he intends to play in the Association, despite being controlled by the Utah Jazz. 

As for former players, that pool is limited to Alex Garcia and Marcus Vinicius, whom you might know better as Marquinhos.

 

Damjan Rudez and Bojan Bogdanovic both count as current players, as they’re under contract with and expected to play for the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets, respectively. Though he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers and is certainly an NBA talent, Dario Saric does not gain eligibility for that classification yet. 

Sadly, he doesn’t count as a player with NBA experience either, unlike Roko Ukic, Oliver Lafayette and Damir Markota

Consider this one of the graphs that’s a bit misleading, given the inability to qualify Saric as anything but a non-NBA player thanks to his decision to remain abroad for at least one more season. 

 

Alphabetically, the Dominican Republic is the first participating nation with only one player who has ever suited up in the NBA. 

That would be Francisco Garcia, who spent an injury-plagued 2013-14 campaign with the Houston Rockets. He’s a veteran and has fared well during prior international competitions, but he’s literally the only NBA talent on the roster. 

 

Make it two in a row.

With Drew Gooden failing to gain clearance on his dual citizenship in time for the World Cup, per Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post, the NBA connections are just dwindling. 

As a kid you always dream of winning the gold medal,” Gooden told Castillo prior to his ineligibility ruling. “You think you’re going to be on the Dream Team or one day it be possible that you can do something like that during your career.”

Perhaps he’ll have a chance somewhere down the road, but for now, Erik Murphy (part of the Cleveland Cavaliers) and Hanno Mottola (played two seasons with the Atlanta Hawks over a decade ago) will have to do some heavy lifting for Finland. 

 

Interestingly enough, France doesn’t have any former NBA players other than Mickael Gelabale, who last played for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2012-13. 

But even without Tony Parker suiting up for his country this offseason, choosing to rest and prepare for 2014-15 instead, the French boast a bevy of current members of the Association—Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw, Evan Fournier, Rudy Gobert and Ian Mahinmi

That’s not including Joffrey Lauvergne, who was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 2013 and should eventually make his NBA debut sometime down the road, though it won’t come this next season. 

There are no All-Stars who call France home, but Diaw is coming off a sensational run with the Spurs, and Batum is versatile enough that he could sneak onto the team in the future if he continues improving for the Portland Trail Blazers. 

 

It’s three current players and one former for the Greeks. 

Andreas Glyniadakis, the 33-year-old 7-footer who played a baker’s dozen games with the Seattle SuperSonics back in 2006-07 (you knew it had to be awhile ago, given that he played for the Sonics) counts as the former, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nick Calathes and Kostas Papanikolaou make up the current group.

Antetokounmpo is the most exciting of the bunch, given his rising stock with the Milwaukee Bucks, but the other two can’t be overlooked.

Calathes was a valuable piece for the Memphis Grizzlies before a drug suspension knocked him out of the playoffs, and Papanikolaou—in addition to torturing American spellers—is set to join the Houston Rockets in 2014-15. 

 

The Iranians only boast the services of one former NBA player—Hamed Haddadi

A 7’2″ center, Haddadi last played for the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns during the 2012-13 season, averaging 2.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game during his split time with the two squads. He’s a big presence in the paint, and at 29 years old, he should have plenty left in the tank for the World Cup. 

Arsalan Kazemi should eventually make it to the Association after becoming the first Iranian-born player to be drafted into the NBA when he was selected at No. 54 in 2013 and traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. However, he’s not there quite yet. 

 

Somewhat surprisingly, given Lithuania’s profile in the international world and the enjoyable nature of the team, there are only two NBA players on this squad. 

The first is Donatas Motiejunas, a big man on the Houston Rockets who hasn’t really blossomed in the NBA quite yet. Then there’s Jonas Valanciunas, a promising center on the Toronto Raptors who should one day be an All-Star, perhaps as soon as this coming season. 

But that’s it. 

There aren’t even any former NBA players on the roster. Not a one. 

 

The Mexican team might not be as strong as the Lithuanian squad, but there’s just as much NBA talent on the roster. Well, at least from a quantity perspective. 

Motiejunas and Valanciunas win the quality battle in a landslide, of course.

But at least Jorge Guttierez and Gustavo Ayon are players in the Association, though the latter technically remains an unrestricted free agent. 

 

New Zealand is another country with only one NBA player to its credit. 

Unfortunately, it’s one of the former variety.

Kirk Penney is the lone representative, as the roster is primarily comprised of NBL talents, NZNBL players and three guys in the NCAA—Isaac Fotu (Hawaii), Rob Loe (St. Louis) and Tai Webster (Nebraska). As for Penney, he played a combined six games during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons.

That’s it. 

 

 

Believe it or not, the only NBA player on the Philippines roster is…wait for it…Andray Blatche

The former Brooklyn Nets big man is still working to find a home for the 2014-15 season after an up-and-down 2013-14 campaign, but we’ll consider him an NBA talent for all intents and purposes. After all, he hasn’t played anywhere else between then and now. 

Other than Blatche, though, there are no other NBA players, whether current or former. 

 

J.J. Barea may be a bench player in the Association, but he’s a superstar whenever he puts on that Puerto Rico uniform. 

Seriously.

He’s consistently averaged impressive figures in international competition. At the 2014 Centrobasket Championship, he put up 17.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Before that, he averaged 15.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.2 dimes at the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship and 18.2 points, 4.0 boards and 7.8 assists per game at the 2013 Tuto Marchand Continental Cup. 

Barea is the only current NBA player on the Puerto Rico roster, but Carlos Arroyo and Renaldo Balkman aren’t too far removed from their careers in the Association. The former last played for the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics during the 2010-11 season, while the latter was part of the New York Knicks in 2011-12. 

 

There’s one each for Senegal. 

Hamady N’Diaye did play for the Sacramento Kings in 2013-14, but he was waived by the team and ended up with the D-League’s Delaware 87ers. Here, we’re counting him as a former NBA player, but the 27-year-old 7-footer could certainly work his way back onto an NBA roster.

Gorgui Dieng doesn’t have to worry about that, though. 

The big Louisville product broke out at the end of his first season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and he should play far more for Senegal than he did under Rick Adelman, who notoriously avoided playing rookies. 

 

Remember how Bojan Bogdanovic is playing for Croatia? 

Well, Bogdan Bogdanovic—who isn’t related to Bojan—will be suiting up for Serbia. And he’s the better player, as the 22-year-old has consistently been one of the better scorers in European basketball for a few years now. 

Miroslav Raduljica, whom Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported was being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, is the other current NBA player who will be on the Serbian roster. 

In terms of former players, though, Nenad Krstic counts. The 6’11″ center has been one of his country’s better players for a while now, and that should continue even though he’s been out of the NBA ever since he played for the Boston Celtics in 2010-11. 

 

Slovenia really should be the first country with a 2013-14 All-Star on the roster. 

After all, Goran Dragic played well enough to earn a selection last season, but he was kept off the roster partially because he’s massively underrated and partially because the Western Conference was ridiculously stacked. Nonetheless, he was often a one-man team for the Phoenix Suns and deserves to be considered an All-Star-caliber talent. 

Alas, Dragic still has to be listed under current players, and he’s the only one who earns such a designation. Uros Slokar—who played 20 games for the Toronto Raptors in 2006-07—is the former NBA player, and that’s where the Association ties draw to a conclusion. 

 

Now we get to one of the big guns. 

Up until now, no team has had more NBA players than non-NBA players, even if you combine the current and former players to create one mega-category. But Spain changes that, as it has as many current NBA players as non-NBA guys, and the former Association members push that group over the top. 

Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are all All-Star talents, though none made the team in 2013-14. Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon and Victor Claver are lower-tier players, but they’re still on NBA squads heading into the next season. 

Even without Alex Abrines (drafted in 2013) and Sergio Llull (2009) counting, that makes six. And once the roster is trimmed to its final format, the current NBA players should take the lead. 

As for the former players, we’re looking at Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro and Sergio Rodriguez. 

 

Though Furkan Aldemir could one day join an NBA squad, there’s only one representative, whether talking about the current or former category. 

That would be Omer Asik, who sat on the bench for the Houston Rockets last year and will fill a much larger role for the New Orleans Pelicans during the 2014-15 season. The big man is a defensive specialist, and he’ll be quite adept at protecting the rim and pulling down rebounds whenever he’s on the court. 

Of course, he’ll be doing so without any other NBA talents alongside him. 

 

Between Pooh Jeter and Viacheslav Kravtsov, the Ukrainians have a pair of former NBA talents, though neither found too much success in the sport’s top league. The former played 62 games for the Sacramento Kings in 2010-11, though he came off the bench and wasn’t exactly a standout, while the latter played 20 games for the Phoenix Suns this past year before he was waived. 

Beyond that, there’s no one with NBA experience. 

Oleksandr Lypovyy, who last played for BC Donetsk in the Ukranian Superleague, and Sergii Gladyr, who was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 2009, are both worth watching, but neither qualifies as anything other than a non-NBA player. 

 

What’s that? A new color? 

Every player on the Team USA roster is a current NBA player, so we have to break things down even further. It’s time to separate them into All-Stars and players who weren’t able to earn that designation during the 2013-14 season. Remember, only 2014 All-Stars qualify in that category, so past berths are irrelevant for these purposes. 

Of the 12 players, five were on the roster for this past midseason classic—Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, James Harden and Kyrie Irving.

That’s a pretty impressive figure for the United States, and it bodes well for the country’s chances at a gold medal and a successful defense of the top honors that were earned at the 2012 Olympics. 

 

Note: Angola, Egypt and Korea were not represented here, as none of those countries has a single current or former NBA representative. 

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LeBron James rips heat for making ‘too many excuses’

LeBron James says the Miami Heat have “too many excuses.” The two-time defending champions fell to a seventh loss in 11 games after the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Heat 105-95 Saturday night. “It’s too many excuses. Everything is an excuse. We do something wrong, it’s an excuse,” James said, via ESPN.com. “We don’t get a stop, it’s an excuse. We turn the ball over, it’s an excuse.  What we’re doing right now ain’t good enough. “It’s very frustrating. We’re all frustrated,” James continued. “We just got to all get on the same page. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’ve got to figure it out.” James twisted his right ankle Saturday, but remained in the game and finished with 25 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. “Put another injury on my list,” James said. “It is what it is. I’m not using it as an excuse.” Chris Bosh, who had 12 points and six rebounds, said the team has no passion. “We suck,” Bosh said. “We need to turn it around

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Pau Gasol says Lakers have no discipline, too many individuals

Pau Gasol had some criticism for his club following a 20-point loss at Indiana on Tuesday night. Gasol scored 13 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in the Lakers’ 118-98 loss to the Pacers, and he was not happy with what he felt was selfish play by his teammates. “There’s just too many individual actions right […]

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From Many Angles, Jason Collins’ Debut as Openly Gay Player Is No Big Deal

Jason Collins seemed disturbed, and a tad embarrassed, by the amount of attention he received as a 35-year-old center on a 10-day contract logging 11 minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday night.

Me, too.

As soon as Collins, the first publicly acknowledged gay player in a major sport, signed with the Brooklyn Nets, I looked forward to seeing him play—and, yes, it feels odd admitting that. It wasn’t exactly appointment viewing, but a curiosity nagged at me enough that I looked up tip-off time and checked my watch through the course of the day.

I had seen Collins play countless times, both on TV and in person, but I’d never made a specific point to watch him. He’s a 7-footer who communicates well, doesn’t need to touch the ball to feel involved and is content to set screens and do a few minutes of yeoman’s work in hopes it will produce box score numbers under someone else’s name that tilt the outcome in his team’s favor. I’ve always appreciated his intelligence and unselfishness, but let’s face it: Swallowing your pride to draw an NBA paycheck isn’t up there on the scale of extraordinary human achievement.

Walking out onto a theater-lit court before nearly 20,000 as the first of anything, however, is. Or it feels as if it should be, especially when it’s something as socially volatile as being a homosexual in the macho world of men’s professional sports.

I don’t really know the level of courage that requires and neither do you, gay or otherwise. That’s the problem in giving it the appropriate weight; there’s only one person who knows and he’s not interested in putting it on a scale.

But should it be a big deal? Is celebrating Collins’ 11 minutes on the Staples Center floor as an achievement comparable to walking on the moon as wrongheaded as believing his sexuality violates some human law?

I reached out to John Amaechi, a five-year NBA veteran who acknowledged he was gay in 2007, four years after his retirement. Amaechi now works as a broadcaster of NBA games in the United Kingdom and an advocate of gay rights on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. He stayed in touch with Collins as he waited for his shot at returning to the league. What import did he place on the events of Sunday?

“I wasn’t too concerned about the game,” Amaechi said by phone from England. “It was the middle of the night over here. As he said, I was worried about his timing and how he’d play more than anything else. A crowd in L.A., or pretty much any major city in the U.S., wasn’t going to boo him off the floor so I wasn’t worried about that.”

So there it was—validation that this was far too much attention for a 35-year-old center on a 10-day contract. Only Amaechi didn’t stop there.

“The vast majority of people‚and we now know it’s a vast majority because of the Gallup polls—are embarrassed that it’s 2014 and there are still people out there that treat other people’s sexuality as a concern,” Amaechi said. “But I rebuff those who say it shouldn’t be a big deal by simply pointing southwest. To Arizona.”

Amaechi was referring to the proposed law sitting on Arizona governor Jan Brewer’s desk, awaiting her approval. The law, which Brewer is expected to veto, would allow business owners to refuse service to gays and lesbians if they could prove doing so violated their religious principles. If passed, it would mean Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver, should he feel compelled, could go way beyond not signing Collins to a contract because of his sexuality. He could prohibit Collins from buying a ticket to watch the Suns play.

The mindset of the Arizona lawmakers was not evident in the Staples Center on Sunday night.

The response from the crowd and players was so tepid that I couldn’t help but immediately be amused at how much had been written and said in anticipation of the moment, along with my own curiosity. With all the Hollywood types in the building, the chance of an over-exuberant reaction seemed plausible, but while the friendly smattering of applause was certainly more than the typical opposing sub might garner, it was well short of thunderous. Collins took his place next to the Lakers’ center, Chris Kaman, who said, “What’s up, big fella?” and then passed on a hello to Jason’s twin brother Jarron, one of Kaman’s former teammates with the Clippers.

No doubt, as everyone from Kobe Bryant to commissioner Adam Silver has noted, the night represents a watershed event for those who have feared reprisal for acknowledging who they are. Amaechi said he knows of a Division I basketball player who has been thinking of “coming out” to his team who tuned in to see how Collins fared. “He watched with bated breath,” Amaechi said. “It was the most important game of his life.”

What that player failed to see and the highlights didn’t show, however, was the most important place of Collins’ acceptance: in the locker room, among his teammates. “There were a massive number of myths that exploded,” Amaechi said. “One of them was not seeing nine straight men run screaming from the locker room.”

I never expected that to happen, even though I know there are people in the league—players, coaches, executives—who believe homosexuality is immoral. They would play with and against Collins and perhaps even hang out with him socially, but they are convinced his lifestyle is a choice and a vice, the same way someone chooses to smoke or do drugs. I have yet to meet anyone, however, who would take a public stand against him and suffer the potential consequences. The NBA, by and large, is not filled with individuals who value social advocacy above the chance to be a millionaire. Few places are.

I still felt silly seeing Collins look as Collins always has looked and wondering exactly why I expected anything different. I especially had to laugh hearing the breathless description of otherwise mundane contributions. The subliminal message: Look, a gay man can box out! He can foul hard and dive on the floor! Collins’ tip-out of a missed free throw that eventually led to a fourth-quarter three-pointer was described as some master stroke, as if slapping a rebound out toward half-court that a teammate snared and then swung to another teammate for a three-pointer was a rare sort of genius.

Granted, to write about the events surrounding an openly gay athlete when you’re not gay feels akin to writing about racial prejudice when you’re not a minority. There’s the how-would-you-know card ready to be played by anyone in possession of one, along with the fear that saying or writing something perceived as insensitive could cost a writer or analyst his or her job.

So why address the topic? Maybe because a field or court, for me, has long been an egalitarian oasis where how you dressed or talked or looked melted away if you could play. Maybe because I suspect I’m not alone in sorting out how not to pay undue attention to something with a spotlight on it. Or maybe because Collins’ willingness to be who he is reminded me to do the same. I’m someone who loves the game of basketball—and appreciates anyone who can play it well, in whatever nuanced way that might be.

I’d prefer it not be any more complicated than that. Much like Collins, I’ve come to accept that sometimes it is.

 

Ric Bucher covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.

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Greg Monroe tops slumping Detroit Pistons’ many issues

The Detroit Pistons need to decide now whether they will keep Greg Monroe in the long term.

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