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OAKLAND, Calif. – Free-agent center Jason Collins, who announced in May that he is gay, has received interest from a handful of NBA teams, but has yet to sign with anyone three weeks before the start of the 2013-14 season.
Collins, 34, became the first active athlete in one of the four major American professional team sports to announce he's gay. The Sacramento Kings are among four teams to have shown interest in signing Collins, but ultimately opted to add a younger center – Hamady Ndiaye – to compete for their final roster spot, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
"There would probably have been slight awkwardness in the beginning," Kings forward Chuck Hayes said. "But after a while, he's a man, he's a human being, he's a ball player. You'd just treat him like any other teammate."
Warriors president and chief operating officer Rick Welts, who is also openly gay, told Yahoo Sports that he spoke to Collins last week over the phone. Welts said Collins is in good spirits despite not being signed.
"I didn't know what to expect and I don't think Jason knew what to expect," Welts said. "I am rooting for him and I think a lot of people are rooting for him to find a job. But where that is going to be, how that is going to come about and whether it will, is an open question. There are a lot of basketball players looking for jobs right now. He just happens to be 7-feet tall and a good character guy.
"All I can do is encourage him. I just spoke to him this week and he just finished a two-mile trail run and an hour-and-a-half lifting in the gym. In his mind he'll be ready when the call comes. But the call has to come."
Welts and Warriors general manager Bob Myers said they would have seriously considered signing Collins if their roster didn't have so many centers. The Warriors are currently carrying centers Andrew Bogut, Marreese Speights, Jermaine O'Neal, Festus Ezeli and rookie Dewayne Dedmon. The New York Daily News previously reported the New York Knicks also had interest in Collins.
Myers, who was Collins' agent before joining the Warriors' front office, is hopeful Collins will get an opportunity to play this season.
"There are a lot of good players who are on the cusp of being in or out of the NBA," Myers said. "I think he will get a chance."
Collins played 32 games for the Boston Celtics last season and six games with the Washington Wizards. An NBA source said Collins is "stronger than ever" while waiting for a team to call. One NBA general manager said that if any team signs Collins, it will likely be in January after it has had more time to evaluate its roster.
"It's his age that you got to take into consideration," one NBA general manager said.
Even if Collins isn't signed, Welts doesn't think the center's impact on the gay community will be lessened.
"It doesn't diminish what he did in any way, shape or form," Welts said. "It doesn't diminish the courage it took and the long-term impact it will have. We all know what the end story is going to be. In an ideal world with all things being equal, he would have a job. There's a lot of factors that go with a player that could be the 14th player on a roster.
"Maybe it's naiveté. Maybe it's being in the NBA my entire life, but there is a team out there that thinks he can make a difference."