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Text message from Billie Jean King buoys Nets' Jason Collins

Jason Collins waits to come into the game

Jason Collins waits to come into the game during the second half of a game against the Lakers in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. Credit: AP / Mark J. Terrill

LOS ANGELES - When packing a suitcase for his first road trip with his new team, the most essential thing Jason Collins probably needed to pack was his charger, given the abundant expressions of support pouring in since his debut with the Nets on Sunday.

Otherwise, the battery icon on his smartphone would rapidly change to red, indicating the power was at a critical level.

"Yeah, a lot of calls. I've tried to return emails, texts, [people] have been reaching out to me," Collins said before the Nets practiced at UCLA Tuesday. "Facebook, Twitter, all kinds of social media stuff. So I'm just tying to thank everyone for their support."

Perhaps nothing was as special as the text Collins, who's become the first openly gay male athlete to play in one of the top four American team sports, received from someone who's well aware of the challenges that Collins faces.

"I got a text message last night from Billie Jean King," Collins said. "She just got back from Sochi and with everything that's happening with the loss of her mother, she was great. It was really nice to hear from her."

But Collins opted not to divulge the details. "I prefer to keep that personal," he said. "But it was, yes, very meaningful and I very much appreciate it."

Collins said the reaction has been "overwhelming" and the majority of it has been extremely positive, although "of course on Twitter, you have some crazies." But he just hits the block button and doesn't respond. He isn't certain when or if the talk of his sexual identity will subside and the chatter centers more on his on-court contributions.

"I have no idea," Collins said. "It's up to you guys. It's not up to me. With regards to the media, again, there's only so many ways you can write the story, there's only so many ways you can talk about the off-the-court stuff until really the focus is on basketball and how the team is doing."

Under a glaring national spotlight the last two days, Collins is trying to concentrate on basketball and that's why Tuesday's practice was another step in doing just that.

His initial introduction to some of the team concepts came in a hotel room hours after signing his 10-day contract Sunday. No wonder he was relishing the opportunity to finally go over things with his new teammates, delving deeper into the intricacies of the Nets' schemes on both sides of the ball before their meeting with the Blazers in Portland Wednesday night.

"It's big," Nets coach Jason Kidd said. "We threw him in the fire with just the walk-through in the hotel. So to get a practice in, to get used to what we are trying to do, the more time spent with the guys, the better he'll be."

Even so, there's at least one aspect of Collins' game that apparently doesn't need polishing.

"We were joking that he's a professional fouler," Deron Williams said. "What did he have five fouls? How many minutes did he play? Ten minutes? See, he's a professional fouler. Play 10 minutes and use all five fouls wisely. Then you did a good job."

Notes & quotes: Shaun Livingston (bruised tailbone) practiced after sitting out Sunday and is listed as a game-time decision. Marcus Thornton (food poisoning) practiced for the first time since getting traded to the Nets from Sacramento a week ago and should make his debut Wednesday night.

As for the culprit for his sickness since Saturday: "Something I ate in San Fran, I guess it was mac and cheese [with] lobster or whatever didn't do too good with my stomach. I feel a thousand times better today. Terrible timing, terrible timing. Hopefully, it's gone."


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