Lakers' 108-102 loss isn't real story as Jason Collins makes history

The well-chronicled failures of the Lakers were pushed aside for a day, mercifully their fans would say, as national media members converged on Staples Center to cover Jason Collins, the NBA's first openly gay player.

He came out in a Sports Illustrated story in April and had not been picked up by any team until the Brooklyn Nets signed him to a 10-day contract Sunday, a handful of hours before the Lakers lost to Brooklyn, 108-102.

It was historic, it was lauded by seemingly all involved, and it kept a lot of people unexpectedly busy. The Lakers fielded 40 media credential requests shortly after Collins officially signed.

He hadn't played a game in more than 10 months, but he received warm applause from Lakers fans when he checked in with 10 minutes 28 seconds left in the second quarter.


Somewhere, ESPN and the NBA kicked themselves for deciding to drop this game from national TV two weeks earlier in favor of Houston-Phoenix.


Of course, neither entity could be blamed for lack of foresight. Nobody knew when, or if, Collins would return for a 13th NBA season.

"Being an L.A. kid, I can't think of a better situation than playing for the Nets and playing here and getting the win," said Collins, who was scoreless with two rebounds in almost 11 minutes. "I'm just glad Kobe and Shaq weren't out there."

Nobody on the Lakers (19-37) was close to being Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O'Neal on Sunday.

The Nets led by 19 in the first quarter and the Lakers never led, falling to 1-9 in their last 10 home games.

If nothing else, Lakers fans proved to have long memories, haranguing Paul Pierce whether he was handling the ball, shooting free throws or, most likely, hitting a three-pointer.

The former Boston forward had 25 points for the Nets (26-28), who remained in the mix for an Eastern Conference playoff spot despite season-ending foot surgery for center Brook Lopez and a disappointing season from power forward Kevin Garnett, who sat out Sunday's game in order to rest.

At least no sodas were spilled on the court, an "accident" that cost Nets Coach Jason Kidd $50,000 in NBA fines the last time the teams played.

There was one minor glitch for the Nets — Collins' pregame physical started slightly later than planned, pushing back his news conference with reporters by about 15 minutes. It maybe mattered to the people sitting in the crowded, surprisingly hot room underneath Staples Center.

In other words, it didn't really matter at all.

For the Lakers, another queasy trend unveiled itself — an inability to start well.

"The first quarter's just been a sieve out there," Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It happened the other night [against Boston] and we were able to overcome it, probably against a lesser team. You can't spot these [Nets] guys that many points."

Kent Bazemore had 17 points in 29 minutes of his first career start in only his second game since being acquired from Golden State for Steve Blake.

He was quick to take the ball to the basket and unafraid to shoot, though he had trouble defending Pierce and committed a team-high four turnovers, part of the learning curve for a player unaccustomed to more than a handful of minutes a night.

"It's definitely a surprise," Bazemore said of his large role so far. "I knew I was going to have an opportunity to play, but to be able to get out there for a boatload of minutes, it's fun."

MarShon Brooks, the other player acquired in the Blake trade, had a quieter night, scoring seven points on three-for-seven shooting.

Nick Young had 10 points after missing six games because of a non-displaced fracture in his left knee. Ryan Kelly and Robert Sacre, starters plenty of times in recent weeks, did not play Sunday.

Thankfully for the Lakers, they're hitting the road this week, possibly leaving behind their Staples Center futility.

Unfortunately for them, they play at Indiana on Tuesday. The Pacers own the NBA's best overall record (42-13) and home record (26-3). Good luck with that.

Then the Lakers play at Memphis, where they won a game back in December but lost Bryant to a fractured knee the same night. He still hasn't returned to action.

Neither have the Lakers, some would argue.

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan