Jason Collins still waiting by the phone. Why?

Jason Collins still waiting by the phone. Why?
October 10, 2013, 6:30 pm
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John Wall knows the Wizards have much to work on

Washington Wizards center Jason Collins against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Wizards defeated the Suns 88-79.

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

The Wizards can survive should Emeka Okafor's neck injury keep him out another month, meaning a return early into the regular season. For now that time frame seems legit, though the team hasn't provided a specific return date.

However, should the forecast prove stormy and Okafor were to miss additional weeks, the Wizards could ponder adding another defensive-minded big man.

Actually, they had another such option just last year. His name, Jason Collins. Remember him? Of course you do, though not because of the six games he played with Washington. Rather his brave announcement about him being a gay professional basketball player, becoming the the first active male in one of the four major North American team sports to reveal he was gay.

Guess what, Collins remains available for work. Some interest came the 34-year-old center's way over the summer, but he remains a free agent even as preseason games have begun.

Based purely on basketball terms, this is a non-story. Even the 7-footer cops to journeyman status throughout his career. As Collins cracked upon joining the Wizards following a trade with Boston, he stuck around so long because of "being able to foul people." In 12 seasons, Collins averaged 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds. Over the second half of his career, he typically finished with more fouls than points.

Of course, the tale of Jason Collins is no longer simply about basketball, a notion he discussed this week with the New York Times:

The question Collins has to ponder is why he has not been signed as a free agent. Is it because he is at best a marginal player with modest career statistics (3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds a game) nearing the end of his career, one who would cost more than a younger player based on the league’s collectively bargained pay scale? Or is there something more sinister at work related to the new role he would play?

Collins did not dismiss the latter notion or address it.

“You don’t want to speculate — I don’t go there,” he said, while picking at a bowl of greens in a cafe in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, near where he lives. But while conceding he would at this stage of his career be at the lower end of a team’s depth chart, he admitted being perplexed because, he said, “I feel there are players in the league right now that, quite frankly, I’m better than.”

In fairness to NBA teams, they know what Collins the player brings and it's not upside. At this point on the NBA calendar, that might not be enough. Expect a significant media crush for any team adding the social pioneer. 

Even with the Okafor scenario, don't expect the Wizards to be one of those teams. Collins wasn't part of the Wizards plans at the end of the season. With a league-maximum of 15 players under guaranteed contract, Washington would have to make a trade or eat money in order to sign another player. While there isn't a pure replacement on the roster for Okafor, who led the Wizards in rebounding and blocked shots last season, coach Randy Wittman can mix and match with Nene, Kevin Seraphin, Al Harrington and Jan Vesely depending on game situation. 

Once additional injuries pop up over the preseason - and assuming Collins the player remains interesting, teams will call. If they don't, then loud calls for a discussion about why not will begin.

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