In five days, NBA players will have to tell their teams whether they plan to play when the league resumes in the Orlando “bubble” next month. So far, there’s no indication yet on who —or how many — will choose to opt out.
Nor is there any indication where those who opt out will be motivated by Kyrie Irving and Avery Bradley’s call for more social justice or by the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Florida.
Ian Begley writes that it looks like some players will indeed decide to stay home.
A handful of players involved in Friday’s call over concerns about plans to restart the 2019-20 season expressed strongly that they would consider not playing, according to a source familiar with the call.
Irving, of course, won’t play because of his injuries. Dwight Howard, Lou Williams, Donovan Mitchell and Avery Bradley have all hinted they may not join teammates in Orlando.
However, as Begley also revealed, some of those same players want to see more of a plan from those organizing for social justice.
“They were asking, ‘What’s the plan?’” a source familiar with the call said of the response of some veterans on the call. “Even the players who supported the idea of sitting, they were asking about a plan of action. There was no plan.’”
Four days ago, the group supplied Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews, who covers the Nets for ESPN, with a statement whose authorship is not specified, but whose content, language and cadence is similar to what Irving has said and written in the past.
“This is not about individual players, athletes or entertainers. This is about our group of strong men and women uniting for change. We have our respective fields, however, we will not just shut up and play to distract us from what this whole system has been about: Use and Abuse.
“We are all fathers, daughters leaders and so much more. So what is our BIG picture? We are in this for UNITY and CHANGE!”
The group has said it wants to meet with league officials and the league has expressed a willingness to do so. Bradley in an interview with ESPN laid out in terms both general and specific what players are asking, improved hiring practices for black front-office and head-coaching candidates — making it so the league’s management better reflects its composition of players; donations to organizations serving black communities; and partnerships with black-owned businesses and arena vendors.
As ESPN noted, the NBA has eight black general managers, but only four with final authority on basketball decisions. The NBA has seven black head coaches. Toronto’s Masai Ujiri has the title of president and full authority on basketball. (The top echelon of the Nets includes two black executives: Jeff Peterson, who’s one of two assistant GMs, and J.R. Holden, who’s the director of player personnel, traditionally the lead scouting position.)
How soon will any of this be resolved —and will Irving be part of it? There’s no indication how things will finally be resolved ... if at all ... and now the rising infection rate in Florida and Orange County, home of Walt Disney World is increasingly a concern.
There is, however, a deadline and it’s fast approaching.
- ‘What’s the plan?’: Insight into Kyrie Irving’s phone call and the NBA restart - Ian Begley - SNY
- Kyrie Irving isn’t being an agitator, he’s doing his job - Michael Lee - The Athletic NBA
- The NBA hopes to recoup revenue in the “bubble” at Disney World - Lukas Southard - The Marketplace