Transcript of Jason Collins' Introductory Press Conference

Jeff Gross

Prior to the Brooklyn Nets' game against the Los Angeles Lakers, new acquisition Jason Collins conducted a press conference. Below is a transcript of the conference:

Question: Jason, when you first learned that the Nets were gonna sign you, can you just describe what went through your mind?

Collins: Well, I first found out this morning. I woke up around 8:15. I had a couple missed calls and a couple text messages, a couple missed calls from my agent and a couple text messages from J-Kidd, and it was "Ok gotta start the day."

Question: You make history here this evening. What does that mean to you?

Collins: Right now I'm focused on trying to learn the plays, trying to learn the coverages, the gameplan assignment. I don't have time to really think about history right now. I just have to focus on my job tonight.

Question: Jason what's your comfort zone right now? You haven't played basketball since April. How do you feel that you can go out there and jump into the game right away?

Collins: Well that's life (laughs). Sometimes in life, something happens and it's an opportunity. I'm very thankful for this opportunity and that's why I work so hard, why I train the way the way that I do so that when I do have an opportunity, I'm physically... I'm not worried about my conditioning, cardio or anything along those lines. Again, it goes back to not to learn plays, learn coverages, and learn my assignments. So that's where the adjustment for me is gonna be.

Question: Jason, considering as long as you've played this game

Collins: Yes, three decades.

Question: Exactly. It's 2014 and you sign a 10 day contract and look at this room. Is it almost crazy to you?

Collins: A little bit, but again that's life. I played for 12 years in the league so I know how to play basketball. It's just obviously getting timing back into your game and... so I'm ready. Let's do it.

Question: Jason, it's obviously been a long time since April when you made the announcement. Was there a time in the last year where you thought that maybe you wouldn't get this opportunity?

Collins: No. I always try to stay positive and try to control what I can control and that's like training. I always try to focus on being positive and staying ready. That's part of being professional.

Question: Jason you played with Jason Kidd. How much is that relationship part of this agreement and being with the Nets back again?

Collins: I played with J-Kidd, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce. My brother's (Jarron Collins) played with Andrei Kirilenko and Deron Williams. Very familiar with the guys on this team and I thank J-Kidd & the entire Nets organization for giving me this opportunity. And I also want to take time to thank all the fans, all the family and friends who've reached out to me today. Cell phone went crazy.

Question: Do you think, along with Michael Sam at the combine this weekend and the fact  that he's been saying  e's been getting positive response do you feel like overall the tide is turning on how professional sports in the United States views gay athletes?

Collins: I hope so and I hope that, similar to what Michael said, that it's about him being a football player and me a basketball prayer and going out there and trying to help our respective teams win.

Question: Jason, have you watched the Nets much at all this year and specifically, did you watch last night?

Collins: I did not watch last night, but yes I have seen a couple of games this year. But again, I wasn't paying attention to playcalls and how exactly they defend the pick-and-rolls. So I had to do all that today?

Question: Ok what do you think you can bring them?

Collins: Well first of all, my experience. I'm a solid veteran and hopefully I'll be in the right place, my mind will be in the right place, let's see if my body will be in the right place. And try to go out there and... I know how to execute a game plan.

Question: Jason, have you thought at all or worried at all about how you might be embraced by players or fans or anything like that?

Collins: No, my teammates have been great. Everybody this morning. Like I said, I've played with a lot of these guys or my brother. Throughout the league, my brother played 10 years in the NBA so we have 22 years experience between the two of so it's a lot of teammates, a lot of coaches, a lot of people we've cooled spots with.

Question: Do you feel that you need to be almost a crusader? Like people expecting you to

Collins: No, I need to be a solid basketball player. Again it's about focusing on the task at hand and not thinking about history or anything along those lines. It's about making it difficult for the Lakers tonight.

Question: You're not really trying to pressure yourself?

Collins: No (laughs). For me, the pressure tonight is playing in an NBA game tonight, and last time I played in an NBA game, it was last April. So, I think that's enough pressure right there.

Question: Well Jason, Robbie Rogers last year became the first soccer player in the US who is openly gay to play professionally. And I understand there is like a relationship, a close friendship

Collins: I spoke with Robbie earlier today.

Question: Do you guys talk, did he tell you how his experience went once he was playing?

Collins: Yeah I speak to Robbie frequently & again, I spoke to him earlier today. He was just offering advice just like friends do. He has an experience with going down this path and just like any good friend, talk about how's life.

Question: Jason there's some talk that you might go to number 98. If that's true, can you tell us what the symbolism is behind that?

Collins: Well I think I've already explained it in a Sports Illustrated article what that number means to me. With how quickly things happened today, it won't be tonight, but going forward after tonight, I think it'll be on for Portland's game.

Question: Both you and Coach Kidd have talked about how this is about basketball, but do you kind of appreciate the amount of inspiration people might derive from this moment?

Collins: Again, yes to a certain extent, but that can't be my focus. My focus is, again, executing the gameplan, learning the plays, going through the basketball stuff. I can't really focus on the off-the-court stuff right now.

Question: Jason, what have you changed as a person since coming out?

Collins: Um, wow. Change as a person? Life is so much better for me and I don't have to hide who I am and I can just be my normal self. The past ten months has been incredible. A lot of really cool experiences. Making new friends, hearing different people's stories, sharing experiences. It's just been, overall, positive.

Question: You mentioned early all the relationships you have on the team. Guys you've played with, guys your brother's played with, obviously you played with Jason for a long time. How helpful are those friendships and what are those built relationships in what's obviously gonna be a pretty chaotic couple of weeks?

Collins: Yeah, I mean guys already know what to expect from me. It's like, ok he's not gonna have a 40 inch vertical and shoot threes, so my game has been pretty consistent. I'm a defensive player first and it's something I pride myself on, so now it's just me getting comfortable with the coverages and the assignments.

Question: Jason you're in uncharted territory for the gay community at this point. What's your message to other athletes, whether they be younger athletes or athletes that are already playing and may not be out?

Collins: My message to other athletes is just be yourself. Be your true authentic self and never be afraid or ashamed or have any fear to be your true, authentic self.

Question: Jason, you're from here, the first Finals you ever played in was this arena. How special is it to do this in LA?

Collins: It's very special to me. I grew up in the Sacramento Valley, went to high school here in Los Angeles and I have a house here. So it's pretty easy for me just to come to the game tonight, drive down the 405, take the 10 and get here in 20 minutes.

Question: Jason, there were a lot of supportive quotes coming out of the Nets locker room in the past 72 hours. Did you see that? How much of that did you take into account?

Collins: Yeah, I saw a little bit of it. It's great. There's a good group of guys here and again, my brother and myself have been teammates with a lot of guys in this locker room so they're very familiar with what you're gonna get from the Collins twins. Thank you.

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