LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The NBA’s board of governors and the players still inside the NBA’s bubble at Walt Disney World Resort will each meet at 11 a.m. Thursday as both sides continue to discuss how to proceed with the NBA playoffs, league sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews.
The meetings will come after a historic day in the NBA, as all three playoff games scheduled to be played Wednesday — the Milwaukee Bucks vs. the Orlando Magic, the Houston Rockets vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Portland Trail Blazers — were postponed after the Bucks chose not to play Wednesday afternoon.
Milwaukee is about 40 miles north of Kenosha, Wisconsin, the city where 29-year-old Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times by police on Sunday. Blake was shot as he attempted to enter the driver’s side door of his vehicle with three of his children inside. Video of the shooting was distributed on social media.
After the Bucks eventually left the locker room some three hours later and read a statement explaining their decision, all players and coaches still inside the bubble held a meeting to discuss what will come next and whether the season would resume. Members of Blake’s family were connected with the meeting virtually, sources said.
While some in the meeting wanted to know why the Bucks made an abrupt decision without consulting any of the other teams inside the bubble — including the Magic, who were on the court inside AdventHealth Arena warming up until a few minutes before the scheduled tipoff before eventually going back to their locker room — Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown essentially said that wasn’t necessary and fully supported their decision, sources told Wojnarowski.
Eventually, teams were polled about what their preference would be, and the Lakers and LA Clippers both voted to end the season, sources told Wojnarowski, though sources stressed that no final decision on what will happen with the remainder of the season has been made.
Afterward, a source present for the meeting told ESPN there was “no sense of accomplishment” after the meeting, and added there would be a feeling of “uncertainty” until after Thursday’s meetings.
Sources said it seems unlikely there will be games played Thursday, either, when the six teams still inside the bubble that were not scheduled to play Wednesday — the Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks and Clippers — are scheduled to return to action.
Meanwhile, a source told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears that the league’s referees will hold a walk Thursday as a form of peaceful protest against the killing of unarmed Black men and women at the hands of police.
NBA legend Bill Russell tweeted Wednesday night that he was “moved” by the action taken by players for “standing up for what is right.” Russell, along with several of his Black teammates, boycotted an exhibition game in Lexington, Kentucky, during the 1961-62 preseason after the Celtics’ Black players were denied admission to several establishments during the road trip.
There has been a clear sense of frustration among the players inside the bubble over the past few days in the wake of Blake’s shooting. Raptors guard Fred VanVleet was the first person to publicly talk about the possibility of not playing on Tuesday, and then members of both teams met Tuesday night to talk about possible plans of action.
They had been scheduled to meet again Wednesday night, until Milwaukee’s decision changed everyone’s plans.
From the moment the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed to create the bubble everyone is now housed in at Walt Disney World Resort, attempts to address the ongoing issues of police brutality, social justice and racial inequality in American society have been top of mind.
The words “Black Lives Matter” were painted on all three of the courts used at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex to play the games, and players are wearing “Black Lives Matter” warm-up shirts before every game. The vast majority of players are wearing one of a series of words or phrases that were agreed upon to promote positive change in society. The NBA’s owners also launched the NBA Foundation, in partnership with the NBPA, which will have all 30 owners contribute a collective $30 million annually for 10 years in initial funding to support racial equality and social justice.
Coaches, players and referees are kneeling in solidarity during the national anthems before the games are played. Coaches are wearing pins that say “Coaches Against Racial Inequality” on them, and both the players and coaches have actively used their time with the media to speak about issues outside of basketball.
During Wednesday’s meeting, sources told Wojnarowski, several themes emerged. Those included the NBPA explaining the financial implications of ending the season; NBPA president and Thunder star Chris Paul wanting the group to leave the meeting unified; Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum on needing a plan of action and Clippers coach Doc Rivers on players using their platform, continuing to work on voting efforts and holding police accountable.