The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers were against finishing the NBA restart, two people familiar with Wednesday night’s players meeting told USA TODAY Sports.
They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the sensitive nature of the situation.
NBA players and coaches met for more than two hours to discuss next steps after the Milwaukee Bucks chose not to take the floor for Game 5 against the Orlando Magic, leading to the postponement of the rest of Wednesday’s playoff games.
Some players have said they feel disconnected from family and friends, and they are struggling in the confined format. They discussed what they want to do in the wake of another police shooting of a Black person — this time in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where police shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the back seven times on Sunday.
There isn’t a consensus, at least not yet, and players are expected to meet again on Thursday. One person, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions, described an emotional meeting in which some players wanted to continue playing and other players preferred to not finish the season.
In the meeting, Lakers star LeBron James never said he didn’t want to play but that he did want to hear from owners on how they can help the players enact the change they want to see, a person told USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity.
The NBA’s Board of Governors has an 11 a.m. ET meeting on Thursday to discuss its next steps.
The Bucks, some of whom have talked with Blake’s family members, are also struggling with the decision to continue playing, a person told USA TODAY Sports, because the Blake shooting happened just 40 miles south of Milwaukee. The person requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the situation.
Thursday’s three scheduled games also are in jeopardy of not being played. They include Boston-Toronto in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal, and Denver-Utah and LA Clippers-Dallas in Game 6 of their first-round matchups. The Celtics and Raptors were the first to publicly talk about the idea of not playing in protest of the Blake shooting.
The Bucks’ protest set off a wave of postponements across sports, from the WNBA to some MLB games, from MLS to former No. 1 tennis player Naomi Osaka pulling out of her semifinal match at the Western & Southern Open.
After the Bucks’ initial decision, the NBA released a statement saying the remaining playoff games Wednesday — including Houston Rockets -Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers-Portland Trail Blazers — had been postponed.
James said on Instagram that the players were boycotting, not postponing, play.
Bucks players released a statement calling “for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable. For this to occur, it is imperative for the Wisconsin State Legislature to reconvene after months of inaction and take up meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform. We encourage all citizens to educate themselves, take peaceful and responsible action, and remember to vote on Nov. 3.”
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The NBA restarted in late July in a bubble in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, in an attempt to finish the 2019-20 season put on hold March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Initially, some players expressed concern about returning to play basketball games amid the upheaval in the nation and the call for social justice reform after multiple killings of Black men and women, including George Floyd on Memorial Day.
Play resumed July 31, and the league and players worked together to build a platform on which the players could express their concerns and continue to drive reform. The league also allowed players to wear pre-approved social justice messages on their jerseys, including Black Lives Matter, Education Reform and I Can’t Breathe.
Contributing: Mark Medina