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Jason Collins signs with Nets, becomes NBA's first openly gay athlete

Jason CollinsJason Collins has been out of the NBA since the end of the 2012-13 season. (Bruce Bennett/NBAE/Getty Images)

The Nets announced the signing of Jason Collins to a 10-day contract on Sunday, making him the first openly gay athlete in NBA history.

"The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision," Nets GM Billy King said in a statement. "We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract."

Collins will be available when the Nets face the Lakers in Los Angeles on Sunday.

"Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "Today, I want to commend him on achieving his goal. I know everyone in the NBA family is excited for him and proud that our league fosters an inclusive and respectful environment."

The signing, which was first reported by ESPN.com, drew praise from Athlete Ally, a non-profit organization that fights against homophobia in sports.

"We are entering a new era of inclusion with Jason Collins, the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA at the forefront," Hudson Taylor, Athlete Ally's executive director, said in a statement. "Jason may be the first, but he's not the last. It's because of him and the unprecedented leadership of professional leagues like the NBA that we'll see more and more LGBT athletes at all levels of competition."

SI magazine: Jason Collins explains decision to come out (05.06.13)

The Nets had been mulling the decision of whether to sign Collins for days, but were waiting to see whether Glen Davis, who was recently bought out by the Magic, would potentially sign with them after clearing waivers. But according to Shelburne, Davis has given the Los Angeles Clippers "a sense that he's decided to join them."

As The Point Forward noted earlier, it’s been almost nine months since Collins made his announcement to Sports Illustrated that he was gay, yet the 35-year-old has remained unsigned despite being in shape and a 13-year NBA veteran.

PHOTOS: Jason Collins over the years

But the Nets seem like a logical landing spot for Collins. With Brook Lopez out for the season and the team failing to make a move for a center at Thursday's trade deadline, the team is in need of size. At 25-28, the team is clinging to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but needs to move up in the standings in order to avoid a first-round showdown with Indiana or Miami.

Brooklyn has had significant success of late playing small ball — moving Kevin Garnett to center and Paul Pierce to power forward — winning 15 of its last 22 games after a disastrous start to the season. But with the playoffs on the horizon, the team’s front office likely realizes it will need some size to compete against the East’s powers. Outside of Garnett, the only other big men on the roster are Mason Plumlee and Andray Blatche.

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While both Plumlee and Blatche have been solid offensive contributors off the bench, neither has the experience or defensive prowess possessed by Collins, a 7-foot 255-pound pivot who has defended some of the best centers in the league over the past decade. He provides little on offense (career 3.3 ppg scoring average), but his skills as a defender, screener and playoff veteran make him an attractive option to size-needy contenders.

Collins also has familiarity with two of the Nets' biggest stars, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, whom he played with on the Celtics during the 2012-13 season. He's also a former teammate of head coach Jason Kidd, dating back to their time with the New Jersey Nets in the early 2000's.

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