Hinrich, Stackhouse have different reactions to Jason Collins’ news
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org April 29, 2013 6:37PM
Updated: June 1, 2013 6:39AM
NEW YORK – Two former teammates of Jason Collins, who announced today that he’s gay, had very different reactions at the Barclays Center Monday evening.
Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich didn’t have much to say and called it a distraction, while Nets forward Jerry Stackhouse insisted the news is bigger than the game itself.
Asked about the significance of Collins becoming the first male athlete to come out in a major sport, Hinrich said, “It’s really not significant to me.
“It surprised me but it’s just a big distraction right now. I was surprised after reading all that.
“It doesn’t really change what kind of person he is or anything. It’s just who he is.”
Asked what kind of teammate Collins was when they played together with the Atlanta Hawks, Hinrich said, “He was a good teammate, good guy.
“That’s about all I have to say about it.”
Stackhouse, who played with Hinrich and Collins with the Hawks during the 2011-2012 season, had a completely different take.
“There’s a lot of things bigger than a game,” Stackhouse said. “We live and die on a night basis because this is our job and this is what we do. But people are facing a lot bigger issues than whether they win a basketball game or not.
“Whether we win this game or we play a Game 6, or we lose and our season is over, this is an uncertain road for one of our brothers going forward, and I think that’s why we need to support him, not only as a league, not only as a union, and a body, but just as human beings. This is a big day for us.”
Coach Tom Thibodeau said the Bulls considered signing Collins last summer.
“I was very impressed with him as a person. Two close friends of mine have coached him, and they raved about him as a person, as a player, as a leader, so I didn’t think it was a big deal,” Thibodeau said. “In today’s society, that’s normal. I was very impressed with him, and my opinion of him hasn’t changed one bit.
“And I’m happy for him.”
The Bulls elected to sign Chicago native Nazr Mohammed instead of Collins.
Collins called Stackhouse today and informed him of his reasoning for coming out in a Sports Illustrated story.
“He said he was just tired of the half truths,” Stackhouse recalled. “I was like, ‘Bro, you’re one of the most courageous people that I can think of, because I don’t know if I would have the courage to do it.’ But the fact that he did, I’m going to support him 100 percent, and I’m going to encourage other guys to support him as well.”
Stackhouse admitted he might feel differently if he didn’t know Collins.
“I just totally support Jason. He was a great teammate. If there’s anybody who can carry that and the character to stand behind it and carry the flag for other players, it’s Jason,” Stackhouse said.
“At the same time, it’s a good thing because the fact that Jason has been in the league for 12 years and had so many teammates, he’s got people to vouch for him. During the whole time he’s been who he is, he’s never infringed on anyone’s private space,” Stackhouse said. “And I’ve shared as many laughs and as many good conversations with Jason as I have any other teammate that I’ve had.”
Collins is a free agent right now, but Stackhouse hopes he gets another NBA job.
“We’re going to hopefully rally around him,” Stackhouse said. “Our league, but our players’ union and our whole general body, we can educate each other. I think this is going to spark great dialogue.
“A lot of times, it’s a subject guys shy away from. But now we can have healthy dialogue and ease those fears and whatever.”