BOSTON - Part Deux of the Paul Pierce return to Boston is in full swing, but both locker rooms host players having their own reunion as well. Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins makes his return to face the Boston Celtics for the first time since leaving the club in a midseason trade in 2013.
That's the main thing that happened between then, right?
There's also the whole being the first professional athlete in a major American team sport to come out of the closet, but that story is starting to dwindle down now.
"It's less now," Collins said Friday. "There's only like three or four of you guys this morning. It started out huge. I think there's only so many ways you can write the story about the off-the-court stuff."
Which is funny, considering former Net and current Celtic Chris Johnson had a large media contingent sticking microphones and iPhones in his face before the game. Johnson, who had a brief stint with the Nets in the preseason before getting called up from the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, has played in relative anonymity since securing a multi-year deal. But Johnson continues to play hard and be effective, a quality that was catalyzed by the Nets.
"Hall of famer guys, a half of fame coach and veteran guys; All-stars who have been there and played this game for a long time. All you can do is pick their brains and get better and get better to improve yourself."
Johnson did improve himself, developing a more effective deep-range shot and developing a motor that would make Henry Ford proud.
"Just prove myself every day," Johnson said. "I'm on the court just giving 100-percent effort, trying to put myself in the best situation for this season, the rest of this season and for my future. "
He went back to the D-League, developed himself, and finally got his chance. Much like former Celtics Gerald Green did over the years, who scored a career-high 41 points for the Phoenix Suns Thursday.
"Opportunity is given to you," Johnson said. "Not just [Green], but Terrence Jones was down there last year and he developed his game. Kendall Marshall, you know, guys like that. It's good to see guys from the D-League doing good things up here and just getting better every year."
Collins is at the point of his career where being effective at his main objective is the preeminent focus. Luckily for him, that is using his six fouls up.
"I wake up and probably have three fouls already," joked Collins. "I check into the game, the ref cleans his whistle off to get ready: âOK, 98â²s coming in!' I'm one of those players that's physical, that's going to use my fouls."
He will have the chance to use those fouls on a former mentee, Jared Sullinger, Friday night. Hopefully, he will get to at least use the three the refs have left for him.