Jason Collins became a member of the Wizards by chance and not by choice.
The Boston Celtics shipped him to the Wizards because his salary was needed to facilitate the Jordan Crawford trade, but also because the first player they sought to include in the deal, Chris Wilcox, invoked his no-trade clause. The Celtics weren’t looking to sever ties with a valued reserve who made seven starts for them this season, and the Wizards didn’t exactly need Collins as much as they took back whatever they could to get rid of Crawford.
Those awkward circumstances placed Collins in a difficult position of contributing to a playoff team that needed a physical, 7-foot big man and riding the bench for a lottery team that has two quality front-court starters and is developing recent draft picks as their primary backups.
“I think this is my biggest test of being a professional, dealing with unexpected situations and accepting my role and accepting everything that’s happened to me and going out there and being professional, still,” Collins said. “Whether it’s working with Kevin Seraphin or giving my input to young guys, even to John [Wall]. That’s my role on this team. I’m the veteran on this team. I have the most years here, so to be vocal, say what I see.”
Collins was acquired, along with the injured Leandro Barbosa, on Feb. 21 and has only appeared in five games for the Wizards. They have won four of them, including two starts in Phoenix and Los Angeles that resulted in their only road wins last month. He has scored two points, grabbed five rebounds and committed nine fouls in 38 total minutes.
The Wizards (29-47) will face Collins’ former team on Sunday at TD Garden as they attempt to win, which would give them at least one against all eight Eastern Conference playoff teams — and 14 of the 16 teams that currently are in position to reach the postseason. Collins can’t predict whether or not he will see the floor, but he is excited about returning to Boston.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Collins, who averaged 1.2 and 1.6 rebounds in 32 games with the Celtics. “It’s an honor, any time you play with an organization like the Boston Celtics, all that history there. To put on that uniform, it’s a big deal.”
Collins still keeps tabs on the Celtics and admits that he was rooting for them to break the Miami Heat’s winning streak last month. But those hopes were dashed around the time LeBron James dunked all over Jason Terry and stared him down.
“Obviously, it was a great game but Miami kept it rolling,” Collins said with a shrug. “So yeah, I do see how they’re doing.”
After making the playoffs with Atlanta the past three seasons, Collins will have to adjust to having his season end early for the first time since 2008-09, the last time he played for Randy Wittman as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He signed with the Celtics last summer, hoping for the opportunity to play for a contender.
“This is my 12th year, but I’ve been in the playoffs nine out of [the first] 11 years of my career and that’s what it’s all about, is competing to win,” said Collins, who started at center in the NBA Finals for the New Jersey Nets in each of his first two seasons in the league.
At 34, Collins would like to continue to play and have the opportunity to compete for a championship. Though he hasn’t played much in Washington, Collins believes that he still has more to offer a team beyond this season.
“I definitely do,” Collins said. “I still feel that. I was the starting center for the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day against the Brooklyn Nets. I might not be a starter in this league but I still feel like I can help this team win and help an organization in a lot of ways. So I’m still looking to continue my career after this, definitely.”