Lakers’ Danny Green says playing is best way to help push social issues
As he spoke Friday afternoon, Danny Green was careful to illustrate the many nuances of the previous 48 hours.
Yes, the Lakers were willing to walk out on the bubble if that was the right thing to do.
No, they had no intention of forcing rest of the NBA’s hand if that wasn’t what other teams wanted.
“We’re obviously in here,” Green said. “So, we’re all here. We all want to play. We know we have a chance to do something special too. But we know there’s things that are more important than that — than winning a championship. Because we’re going to be Black men forever. And that’s not going to ever change.
“So, if it comes down to winning a championship or doing something better for people or for our communities, we’re going to pick that first, and if we need to make a powerful statement with walking away and we felt that was the best thing to do, then we would do that. But we’re still here now because this is probably the better way to do it.”
The NBA playoffs resume Saturday, and the league and its players are increasing their efforts to fight racial injustice after the shooting of Jacob Blake.
On Friday, the Lakers resumed their normal routine. They prepared themselves mentally and physically to face the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 5 of their first-round series Saturday night. The Lakers have a 3-1 lead in the series.
The game was scheduled for Wednesday before all of the day’s postseason contests were postponed when the players joined the Milwaukee Bucks’ protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wis. They resumed basketball Friday with one eye toward their social justice goals.
“It was a heavy couple of days, but our group, we have a PhD in handling adversity by now,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We’ve been through a lot this year. It was good for our guys. I wanted to have a mentally light day today, where we really hit the floor and got right to playing. Right to scrimmaging. I feel like it was good for our guys to just get back on the court.”
Green, who is the team’s primary player representative, remembers a banging on his hotel room door that woke him up from his pregame nap Wednesday. It was Randy Mims — the team’s executive administrator of player programs and logistics, as well as LeBron James’ longtime friend and associate — going up and down the hallway announcing an emergency team meeting.
There was so little time for the Lakers to formulate a plan or figure out how they wanted to react.
“We’re still trying to talk as a team to figure out our route,” Green said. “And also we have a lot of veterans on our team, so if things were to shut down, I feel like a lot of our guys would be OK, but we don’t think it would be fair for the younger guys, the younger generation, so we want to take all those things into consideration. We want to take care of all the guys coming after us. So we were waiting to see what the majority was saying. We weren’t trying to make a decision for the whole league.”
The Wednesday evening meeting between union leadership and all the players in the bubble started and stopped many times, Green said.
Thursday’s work was involved as well. The team woke up and had a meeting , before another group meeting with all the players in the bubble that began at 11 a.m.
A look at how the players’ walkout went from the precipice of shutting down the NBA to coming to an agreement to continue the playoffs.
Later that afternoon, a smaller group meeting took place. The Lakers had five representatives — Green, James, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo and JR Smith — veterans who wanted to be clear on what was to happen. In the evening, the teams met with owners, with Jeanie Buss as the Lakers’ representative. They wanted to see action from the owners and got a commitment from them that they would promote voting, working on converting arenas into polling places for elections and run advertisements during games about social justice issues.
The Lakers began the process of promoting legislation they felt aligned with these issues, starting with AB 2147, a bill that would improve employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated people who fought fires while in prison. They also plan to support California Senate Bill 203, which would increase the rights of juveniles before they are arrested.
Players stayed mindful of their own behaviors too. When he arrived at practice, Smith asked his teammates whether they had registered to vote. The team set to work making sure any player who needed assistance would get it in registering to vote so they could do their part in civic engagement.
“We’re not politicians at the end of the day,” Green said. “So it’s not our job to really save the world, even though we’re trying to.”
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