In a whirlwind day of courage, outrage, and compassion by its players, the NBA announced that all three of Wednesday’s playoff games will be postponed after the Milwaukee Bucks became the first NBA team to sit out a game in the bubble over social justice issues when they did not take the court for the scheduled 4 p.m. tipoff against the Orlando Magic.
Later Wednesday night, a meeting was held by the players and according to ESPN, discussions will continue into Thursday. The Lakers, with the league’s greatest star in LeBron James, and Clippers reportedly are in favor of canceling their seasons, according to reports. The NBA’s Board of Governors have called an emergency meeting for Thursday, sensing that the ball is now in the court of the owners.
ESPN also said Thursday’s playoff games are in doubt, and that includes Game 1 of the Celtics-Raptors series.
The NBA players were angered by the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot seven times by police in Kenosha, Wis., prompting outrage across the nation and powerful reflection among players in the NBA bubble.
Bucks guard Sterling Brown, who has a federal lawsuit pending against the city of Milwaukee alleging he was targeted because he was Black and that his civil rights were violated in January 2018 when officers used a stun gun on him after a parking violation, and teammate George Hill read a statement when the team emerged from its locker room nearly 3½ hours after its game was to begin.
Brown called the video of Blake being shot “horrendous.”
“There has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball,” Brown said, as he and Hill were flanked by their teammates in an arena hallway.
The players did not take questions.
The two other games set for Wednesday were Game 5 matchups between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers.
The NBA said all games will be rescheduled, but did not say when. NBA players are meeting at 8 p.m. Wednesday to discuss further steps.
The WNBA, which was scheduled to play three games on Wednesday, will also postpone its schedule. The players of the six teams – the Mystics, the Dream, the Sparks, the Lynx, the Sun, and the Mercury — instead gathered on the court and locked arms. Some wore shirts with seven dots on the back, signifying the seven shots fired at Blake.
On Wednesday afternoon, Magic players and referees were on the basketball court for the game but Milwaukee never took the floor. Eventually everyone else left and the arena staff soon took the balls, towels and tags that go on player chairs back inside.
“We weren’t given advanced notice about the decision but we are happy to stand in solidarity with Milwaukee, Jacob, and the entire NBA community,” Orlando guard Michael Carter-Williams said. “Change is coming.”
The Celtics and Raptors are still weighing the possibility of boycotting the first game of their second-round playoff series on Thursday, players said Wednesday.
“Obviously, if we sit out a game or the rest of the playoffs, we understand how big of an impact that will have,” Celtics wing Jayson Tatum said Wednesday. “Everybody’s going to have to talk about it. We don’t want to just keep playing and forget about what’s going on in the outside world because it’s affecting us. It’s affecting everybody.”
On Twitter, NBA star LeBron James chimed in as the news of the boycott trickled out.
“WE DEMAND CHANGE. ... SICK OF IT,” he wrote.
Alex Lasry, the senior vice president of the Bucks, said on the platform that “some things are bigger than basketball.
“The stand taken today by the players and org[anization] shows that we’re fed up. Enough is enough. Change needs to happen. I’m incredibly proud of our guys,” he said.
Some things are bigger than basketball. The stand taken today by the players and org shows that we’re fed up. Enough is enough. Change needs to happen. I’m incredibly proud of our guys and we stand 100% behind our players ready to assist and bring about real change— Alex Lasry (@AlexanderLasry) August 26, 2020
In Florida, National Basketball Players Association President Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder and guard Russell Westbrook of the Houston Rockets were seen emerging from a conversation, not long before it became known that their teams also decided to not play their scheduled game Wednesday.
Demanding societal change and ending racial injustice has been a major part of the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” is painted on the arena courts, players are wearing messages urging change on their jerseys and coaches are donning pins demanding racial justice as well.
Many players wrestled for weeks about whether it was even right to play, fearing that a return to games would take attention off the deaths of, among others, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in recent months.
Bucks guard George Hill said after Blake's shooting that he felt players shouldn't have come to Disney.
“We’re the ones getting killed,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who is Black, said in an emotional postgame speech Tuesday night. “We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that we’re denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. And all you do is keep hearing about fear. It’s amazing why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back. And it’s just, it’s really so sad.”
The postponed NBA games came on the fourth anniversary of Colin Kaepernick’s very first protest of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before an NFL preseason game. Kaepernick sat through the anthem for his first protest, which he said was to protest racial inequality and police mistreatment of minorities. then famously kneeled during the anthem going forward.
Smith walks off TNT set
Kenny Smith walked off the TNT “Inside the NBA” set as a show of solidarity with NBA players who are not playing games as a form of protest because of the Jacob Blake shooting.
Smith, one of the analysts on “Inside the NBA” with Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, said he had trouble finding the right words to succinctly put how he and the players are feeling following Sunday’s shooting.
“This is tough. I mean right now my head is ready to explode,” Smith said. “Like just in the thoughts of what’s going on. I don’t even know if I am even appropriate enough to say it, what the players are feeling and how they are feeling. I haven’t talked to any of the players. Coming in and even driving here, getting into the studio, hearing calls and people talking … And for me, I think the biggest thing now as a Black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight.”
- Three Game 5s PPD after Bucks won't take floor
- Players across the NBA and sports offer support for the Bucks’ boycott
Pacers fire coach McMillan
The Indiana Pacers fired Coach Nate McMillan, exactly two weeks after news broke that he had agreed to a one-year contract extension.
“This was a very hard decision for us to make; but we feel it’s in the best interest of the organization to move in a different direction,” Kevin Pritchard, the Pacers’ president of basketball operations, said in a team-issued statement. “Nate and I have been through the good times and the bad times; and it was an honor to work with him for those 11 years (in Indiana and Portland).”
Pritchard and McMillan previously had worked together with the Trail Blazers.
McMillan led the Pacers to the Eastern Conference playoffs in each of his four seasons in Indianapolis, though the team never advanced beyond the first round, went 3-16 in the postseason under McMillan and have lost a franchise-record nine straight playoff games, the 11th-longest postseason losing streak in NBA history. Most recently, Indianapolis was swept by the Miami Heat in a series that ended Monday.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni will be a top Pacers target if he leaves Houston, ESPN reported. He’s in the final year of his contract.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.