Nets interested in signing free-agent center Jason Collins

The Brooklyn Nets have been considering free-agent center Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in NBA history, for a return to the franchise, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

As the Nets bring Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the franchise via trade, the Nets need proven, dependable role players available at the veteran's minimum price.

Nevertheless, the tweaking of the Celtics-Nets trade package Friday to now include Brooklyn guard MarShon Brooks instead of forward Reggie Evans does lessen the need for another physical, frontcourt player on the Nets' roster. Nets coach Jason Kidd has been an advocate of the possibility of acquiring Collins, but how aggressively the Nets pursue Collins, if ultimately at all, will hinge on how the roster continues to take shape, sources said.

Collins, 34, has close relationships with Kidd and top assistant Lawrence Frank. They were together for seven successful seasons with the Nets when Frank was a coach, Kidd was the point guard and Collins provided a physical, defensive presence.

There's reason to believe that he'd have a strong comfort level returning to an organization that knows him well and values his tough, defensive-minded sensibilities.

Collins made public his sexuality in May, and wherever the first openly gay team player in major North American sports history decides to play promises to bring a level of scrutiny. The intensity of the story lines with the Nets – Kidd as coach; Garnett and Pierce as fading stars in a final championship push – would likely make Collins' personal life less of an everyday public focus.

Garnett and Pierce played with Collins in Boston last season, and one Celtics source told Yahoo! Sports that Garnett was extremely frustrated when Boston traded him to Washington at the February deadline. The Nets plan to re-sign backup center Andray Blatche to re-join starter Brook Lopez and Garnett in the frontcourt.

Collins was the 18th overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft and played a part in two NBA Finals appearances for the Nets until he was traded to Memphis in 2008. Collins has since had stops with Minnesota, Atlanta, Boston and Washington.

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