The 48-hour hiatus interrupting the 2020 NBA Playoffs in Orlando, Florida this week centered around issues of social justice. It began when the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the floor for the opening game on Wednesday afternoon. It ended with a joint statement from the league and the players’ union, indicating steps forward and a Saturday target for resuming play. In between came confusion, turmoil, and plenty of passion both inside and outside the Orlando bubble.
Today Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports summarized the proceedings, along with the angst that accompanied it.
Haynes indicates that tensions were heightened among players because the walkout was unexpected, initiated by the Bucks without notice or a larger plan.
Many were frustrated and emotionally drained after being caught off-guard by the Bucks’ refusal to take the court Wednesday for Game 5 of their first-round series against the Orlando Magic without informing anyone outside the team of their plans.
Players who were scheduled to compete in the ensuing games felt an obligation to sit out because the Bucks’ decision wasn’t part of an organized plan of action, sources said.
The Bucks, who are up 3-1 in the series, intended to force a forfeit and were willing to take the loss and forgo the opportunity to close out the series, but the organization did not anticipate being the catalyst for temporarily shutting down the league, sources said.
Among the frustrated parties was LeBron James, the face of the league and perhaps the single most important player in the union.
LeBron James was one of the many players miffed with the Bucks’ handling of the situation as well, sources said. To him and so many others, it put them in a no-win situation.
His frustration with Hill and the Bucks was because the players didn’t have a plan of action that would warrant players returning to play, sources said. James’ mindset, sources said, was if they’re refusing to play, then what’s the end game and what demands must be met to continue?
Despite this, the players heard pleas from many sources, including veteran Udonis Haslem. Tensions flared again between union leadership and Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley while James remained undecided. Haynes tells the story of the conclusion, brokered by Union President Chris Paul and others, culminating in a meeting with NBA owners that allowed the league and its players a path forward.
As always, Haynes’ work is worth a read.