Sources stressed to ESPN.com that, while no formal offer has been made, Detroit has opened a dialogue with Collins, who in late April became the first openly gay athlete in North America’s four traditional major sports leagues.
Leaguewide interest in the veteran center has nonetheless been somewhat tepid during the first six weeks of NBA free agency, sources said
The Pistons have 14 players under contract for next season, including just two who fit seamlessly at center: Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. Joe Dumars said the Pistons will seek to use its remaining roster spot on a big man, which makes a ton of sense. In most games, Drummond and Monroe can cover all 48 minutes between the two of them, but injuries, foul trouble and garbage time make a third center nearly a necessity.
That considered, the 7-foot, 255-pound Collins seems to be a decent fit. If Drummond and Monroe both get into foul trouble, that likely means they’re having difficulty guarding an opposing big man or two. In those situations, a defensive specialist like Collins would typically make a better replacement than an offensive-minded player.
However, Collins has been a replacement-level player most of the last several years, and he’ll turn 35 next season. He’s certainly not getting any better, which probably matters little to the win-now Pistons, but there’s a real concern he’s no longer roster-worthy at all.
Of course, none of these considerations explain why the Pistons are drawing national attention for negotiating with Collins.
Collins came out as gay last spring, becoming the first openly gay athlete in the four major sports who was at least quasi-active. The Wizards’ season had already ended at that point, but Collins’ step was courageous and monumental, and quibbling over whether he was then technically active misses the point.
Still, Collins playing in the league next year as an openly gay athlete would be another important step. Collins wearing a uniform on the benches of NBA arenas would be another important step. Collins sharing a locker room with other players would be another important step.
It would be an honor for the Pistons to play a prominent role in those historic events.
But they shouldn’t sign Collins for that reason, and I don’t think they would. Signing Collins for the publicity boost would be another, more devious, mistake, and again, I don’t think the Pistons would do that.
The Pistons should sign Collins only if they believe he’s the best player to fill their 15th roster spot, and as I wrote before, Collins might be out of the NBA next seasons for entirely basketball reasons.
I’m glad the Pistons are considering Collins, simply because he might be the best big man available. Personally, I doubt he is, but he’s at least a reasonable choice. There’s nobody else I’d say with certainty deserves the final roster spot over Collins, and I wouldn’t complain if they sign Collins.
But, in the end, the Pistons’ decision should be about basketball and nothing else. The rest will take care of itself.