Jason Collins: Numbers Sometimes Lie

Updated: March 1, 2014


Well that was uneventful, wasn’t it?

For all of the buildup and hype of the first openly gay athlete to play in a major team sport, it was pretty much the same thing we all grew accustomed to seeing from 2001-2007:  hard fouls, box outs, screens, and even a cameo from “Set Shot Willy”.  Despite all of the intrigue, Jason Collins was still Jason Collins.

Ho-hum…just a hard screen.

Although he hasn’t received much playing time in the past two games, many in the Twittersphere enjoyed mocking Deron Williams’s comment regarding the impact that Collins made in his 2014 debut. As I’ve mentioned once before, if you are solely looking at the box score to evaluate Collins, then you are looking in the wrong place.  Ask yourself this question: did you notice a difference when Collins was on the court against the Lakers?  Nothing too Earth shattering, but a few smart fouls, solid rotations, good post positioning, and that back tap to Paul Pierce on a missed free throw which resulted in a pivotal three point field goal.

Yes it’s easy to snicker at a stat line of zero points and 2 rebounds, but sometimes in sports there aren’t statistics to measure effectiveness.  How do we quantify the production of an offensive guard in football?  Unfortunately in basketball, every player is able to accumulate the same statistics; therefore on paper he appears to be one of the worst in the league.

To me, Collins is that baseball player who is willing and able to do the little things to help his team succeed, even at the expense of his own personal stats.  His batting average would probably be around .230 with no run production, but his manager would be able to count on him for solid defense, a sacrifice bunt, or a productive out to move the runners over.  Any savvy sports fan would know that these players do fill a role and are useful.  Unfortunately too many people just glance at a box score and quickly pass judgment.

Boxing out his defender usually helped Kidd get the rebound and get the break started.

The fear that this would be one big distraction, is also proving to be false.  Obviously there was going to be intrigue with his debut, but that has passed and things seem to be simmering down.  Yes, the Collins #98 jersey has been in high demand, but to the LGBT community and their families this is a big deal.  How else do you expect people to show their support?

Aside from this business story, the national media’s coverage has dissipated drastically.  This isn’t the lead story on SportsCenter or any other show, as ESPN is still preoccupied with anything pertaining to the NFL, Johnny Manziel, LeBron James, or Tim Tebow.  As Brooklyn Nets writer Lenn Robbins tweeted following their win over the Nuggets, “Collins has mentioned that the media attention is slowly starting to fade and he can see a day when questions will only be about hoops”.

As the days continue to pass, I expect this novelty to wear off and Collins will go back to being a relatively insignificant role player in the grand scheme of the NBA.  Assuming the Nets sign him for the rest of the season, I am sure he will go about his business and do whatever the team asks from him.  Just remember that those things won’t show up in the box score.

The reserve baseball player who hits the ground ball to the opposite side of the infield to advance the runners over doesn’t usually get the press coverage, and rightfully so.   From all of the years being a Nets fan and following Collins, I don’t think he will mind that treatment either.  After all, this is a professional basketball player we are talking about.