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NEW YORK -- Jason Collins has been warmly received in his historic return to the NBA.
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NEW YORK -- Jason Collins has been warmly received in his historic return to the NBA. Jakob Silfverberg Jersey . Now its time for his own fans to welcome him back. More than a week after becoming the leagues first openly gay player, Collins will finally get to play a home game Monday night when the Brooklyn Nets host the Chicago Bulls. "It will be a lot of fun," Collins said. "I have some family and friends coming to the game. Im looking forward to seeing them and obviously the first home game." He has played hundreds in a Nets uniform, though it was a white, red and blue one, and the home games were in New Jersey. Plenty of fans and employees of the organization remain from when Collins played there from 2001-08, so he will likely be greeted by a loud ovation if he gets into the game. "Ive always said Im not worried about the reaction," said Nets coach Jason Kidd, who played with Collins when the franchise reached consecutive NBA Finals in 2003-03. "I think they will always support a Net. Hes been a Net before. I think theyll be excited to have him, but the big thing is him being able to help us defensively." Collins and the Nets have kept the focus as much on basketball as possible. They all view him as a big man who will willingly defend and foul -- he has racked up 10 of them already in four games -- who can help pass along 12 years of NBA experience to younger teammates such as Mason Plumlee and Andray Blatche. The fact that hes gay makes him much more than that outside the Nets locker room, but he thinks that story line will die down soon enough. "Theres only so many ways you can write the story, or tell the story, and then it will just be about basketball," he said during the middle of last week. Collins thought it had already reached that point, mistakenly believing that Saturdays victory in Milwaukee would be the first time reporters didnt want to talk to him after the game. Not quite yet. Collins may just be a 14th man on the roster to the Nets, but hes still far more than that to the fans he inspired from the moment he decided to come out in a Sports Illustrated article last April. "I think it is a big deal. Hes showing a lot of courage. Youre talking to a guy who was around when Jackie Robinson came in. Whats the difference? Its just as groundbreaking. I just hope hes judged as a basketball player," said Butch Pye, 69, of Castle Rock, Colo., who attended the Nets victory in Denver on Thursday. Collins debut is currently his only guaranteed home game. Hes nearing the end of the 10-day contract he signed on Feb. 23 before facing the Los Angeles Lakers. NBA rules allow teams to sign players to two 10-day deals, then have to sign them for the rest of the year if they want to keep them. There are plenty of reasons to retain Collins. He has brought plenty of positive attention and is making an impact in the gay and lesbian community, with the NBA pledging to donate at least $100,000 from sales of his No. 98 jersey to the Matthew Shepard Foundation and the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. But those having nothing to do with basketball, and the Nets stressed in the press release announcing Collins signing that the move was a basketball decision. He can still do enough to make it a wise one, even with just one basket so far. With Brook Lopez lost for the season and Kevin Garnetts minutes being monitored, Kidd needs a big man he trusts to fill in for a few minutes. And a guy like Collins can help even when hes not in the game. He has defended Shaquille ONeal and Tim Duncan in the NBA Finals, so knows what it takes to guard even the biggest stars, even if hes rarely the one doing it. "When I was a younger guy, I learned from Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning. Its a cycle," Collins said. 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After three-time reigning mens titlist Novak Djokovic lost here on Tuesday, fifth-seeded Pole Agnieszka Radwanska took down two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 on Wednesday to set up a semifinal match with Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia. "Im so happy and pleased, especially that I beat one of the best players in the world," Radwanska said. "Was not easy draw, not easy quarterfinal. Im very happy that I made my first semifinal here." The second-seeded Azarenkas 18-match winning streak in Melbourne came to a halt on Day 10. She was trying to become the first woman to win the singles title here in three consecutive years, or since Martina Hingis turned the trick from 1997-99. Radwanska, who ended a streak of three consecutive quarterfinal defeats at the Aussie Open, committed just 15 unforced errors compared to 47 for Azarenka. "She was aggressive. She was making everything. She was guessing right. I was just playing a little bit too predictive, you know," Azarenka said. Azarenka had been a dominant 12-3 lifetime against her fellow 24-year-old Radwanska, including a come-from-behind Aussie quarterfinal victory two years ago. Meannwhile, the 20th-seeded Cibulkova cruised past 11th-seeded Romanian Simona Halep 6-3, 6-0 in a match that lasted just 60 minutes to secure her spot in the final four. Anaheim Ducks Jerseys. The 24-year-old Cibulkova, who stunned No. 3 seed Maria Sharapova in the fourth round on Monday, is the first woman from Slovakia to reach the Aussie Open semis since Daniela Hantuchova in 2008. The diminutive Cibulkova improved to 2-3 in quarterfinal matches at Grand Slams, with her other win coming at the 2009 French Open. "That time I was 19 years old. I was pretty young. I would say also a different player. You know, I am much more experienced," Cibulkova said. 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