Good morning, folks. It’s been, like, four and a half months since I’ve been able to type those words for you. Let’s talk NBA Bubble.
Player protests and social messages
Before we dive into the happenings of last night’s thrilling NBA games, we need to address what is going on in the Bubble in terms of the players protesting racial and social injustices in the United States. It’s not something that is going away anytime soon.
The league has made it incredibly clear that they are in full support of its players and the positive messages they are sending while in the Orlando Bubble. Kneeling during the national anthem, reiterating important phrases such as “Black Lives Matter”, and calling for the end of racial injustices is going to be a common theme throughout the duration of this Bubble. Being able to comfortably express their beliefs and views was one of the main conditions that the Players Association demanded if both parties were going to make this restart a group success. And as we all saw last night, this is very much a connected effort between the league and the players. Everyone is one the same page right now, as evidenced by the powerful statements that were made last night as players, coaches, and even referees kneeled together–arms locked–during a rendition of the national anthem. They all wore shirts that read “Black Lives Matter” and the same phrase was printed in giant letters across the top of the court.
It was powerful. It was chilling.
Utah Jazz, New Orleans Pelicans and referees kneel during the anthem as a peaceful protest method to highlight racial injustice. pic.twitter.com/Cnt3n1oXJN
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 30, 2020
This is not a political stance these players and coaches are taking, this is a human rights stance. The NBA isn’t concerned with the optics of what outside “fans” of the league might think. I can promise you that the players most certainly don’t care. To be blunt, the NBA doesn’t want people following its product if they aren’t going to be behind its players 100 percent. That’s the way all sports leagues should be run: allow the people you make money off of to have a significant, real voice and then support them when they do.
“So the hardest thing that happened to me in the game today was kneeling for two minutes,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said after the Lakers’ win, according to ESPN. “In the middle I’m thinking, in two minutes my knee is hurting yet there was a guy that had his knee on someone’s neck for eight minutes. Think about that. The national anthem took two minutes. There were guys that needed towels and things under their knees. And yet someone kneeled on another human being’s neck for eight minutes. That’s nuts when you think about it.”
The NBA is hardly a perfect product, but they–along with the WNBA–are the most progressive and forward-thinking professional sports league in the United States right now, and that makes people who are on the wrong side of history anxious and scared. Players such as former Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell aren’t going to stay quiet about the fact that Breonna Taylor’s killers have still not been arrested. As the next few days pass by and more games are played, other players are going to come out more vocal than they’ve ever been before.
Great team win felt good to be back!! But would be great if @kyoag would ARREST BREONNA TAYLORS MURDERERS!!!
— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) July 31, 2020
Donovan Mitchell brought a bullet proof vest with him to the game as a statment on police brutality. The back has names of victims. pic.twitter.com/Ct7gzq19CY
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) July 31, 2020
The Bubble is all about finishing the 2019-20 season, but speaking out against the world’s problems has been just as important.
Utah steals a win and Anthony Davis is still a basketball God
Okay, NOW let’s get into some NBA talk because holy hell the first two games of the restart tantalized my basketball tastebuds. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been starved for the last 120-plus days but the NBA sure did kick off the restart in exciting fashion.
The Utah Jazz held off the New Orleans Pelicans down the stretch of the night’s first game, sealing a 106-104 victory with clutch free throws from Jazz center Rudy Gobert. Yes, the same Rudy Gobert who caused the league’s suspension back on March 11 scored the final two points of the first game back. To bring things EVEN MORE full circle, he also scored the first two points of the game, as well.
However, the topic of conversation from this outing wasn’t Brandon Ingram missing the potential game-winning shot or his 23 points and eight assists, but how Zion Williamson wasn’t on the floor to help him out in the closing minutes. The superstar rookie absolutely dominated with 13 points in 15 restricted minutes of playing time. He was played in short bursts at the beginning of each quarter and noticeably absent when the game was on the line and the Pellies needed a big win (remember, every game for New Orleans is vitally important if they want to stay close enough in the standings to force a play-in game. Utah is in the playoffs regardless; this loss for NOLA could come back to haunt them in a couple of weeks). Williamson’s absence was immediately felt and it put a stranglehold on what the Pelicans could do on offense. They’ll need him playing 20-30 minutes per game if they want an actual shot to make the postseason. Let’s hope his doctors allow it.
Utah-New Orleans was just the appetizer for the steak dinner that was soon to follow. To close out Reopening night, Anthony Davis and LeBron James took over when the Lakers needed them most. With the game on the line, LeBron dropped in the go-ahead bucket before proceeding to put the clamps on Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on the final possession. But even with LeBron’s heroics near the end, it was his fellow superstar teammate who lit up the box score all night long.
Anthony Davis posted 34 points to go along with eight rebounds and four assists in a 103-101 win for the Lake Show over the L.A. Clippers. Most of his damage was done at the charity stripe, where he was an impressive 16-17. The former ‘Cat exploded for 14 first-quarter points and followed it up with another 12 in the third. Outside of a few contested fadeaway jumpers just inside the three-point line, Davis looked like he hadn’t skipped a beat. LeBron finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists, playing like he turned the clock back a few years.
After the game, Davis went ahead and made himself into a meme, too.
Lakers’ Anthony Davis peaks in on LeBron James’s press conference pic.twitter.com/nqMSzkqCiD
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) July 31, 2020
Anthony Davis rushing Lebron post game ?? pic.twitter.com/vZ1Cft9lN5
— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) July 31, 2020
*Please photoshop responsibly*
Here is what Davis had to say after the big win.
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) July 31, 2020
It was an awesome first day back and it’s only going to get better. I hope you all are as excited as I am and ready to live through the NBA’s Bubble together. The daily BBNBA posts are back and so is basketball. Let’s get it.
|Anthony Davis (LAL)||103-101 W vs. LAC||34||8-19 (2-5)||8||4||0||0||4||-3||35|
|Patrick Patterson (LAC)||101-103 L @ LAL||5||2-2 (1-1)||4||2||0||0||0||0||21|
|Rajon Rondo (LAL)||103-101 W vs. LAC||DNP-Thumb||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
TODAY IN THE NBA BUBBLE
2:30: Magic @ Nets
4:00 (NBATV): Grizzlies @ Trail Blazers (Gabriel)
4:00: Suns (Booker) @ Wizards
6:30 (ESPN): Celtics (Kanter) @ Bucks (Bledsoe)
8:00: Kings (Fox) @ Spurs (Johnson)
9:00 (ESPN): Rockets @ Mavericks (Kidd-Gilchrist)
Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR