The LA Clippers added some needed veteran depth at forward by signing Nicolas Batum on Tuesday.
Batum joins the Clippers after the Charlotte Hornets waived the forward and stretched the remaining $27 million on his five-year, $120-million contract on Sunday. Batum, who turns 32 later in December, gives the Clippers depth behind Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
The Clippers also announced the signings of veteran point guard Reggie Jackson, guard Ky Bowman, forward Malik Fitts, guard Jordan Ford and guard Rayjon Tucker on Tuesday night, as training camps opened throughout the league.
Batum averaged 11.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists over his career with the Portland Trail Blazers and Hornets. However, the 6-9 forward played in just 22 games last season, averaging 3.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists.
Starting center Ivica Zubac said the Clippers are motivated to prove people wrong and wipe the bad taste left in their mouths from their 3-1 series collapse in the second round to Denver last season.
“I think this year we’re coming in, some people don’t even put us in the conversation about contending for a championship,” Zubac said on Tuesday. “We like that. We like all that negative talk and everything that’s around us. We like that challenge. We want to prove that we’re that team, that we can do it.
“I think that’s going to be the mood all season. Guys are ready, guys been working out since we were out of the bubble and guys are as motivated as ever and we’re ready to work. We’re ready to step out on the court and compete.”
Sources — Cleveland Cavaliers look to trade or waive Kevin Porter Jr. after outburst
Porter hadn’t played and largely been away from the team this season for what has been termed personal reasons. He was working his way back to the team and attended his first game Friday night when the Cavs beat the New York Knicks.
That night, however, he had a screaming match with team officials after his locker was moved to an auxiliary area to accommodate new teammate Taurean Prince, who arrived from the Brooklyn Nets with Jarrett Allen in a trade last week. After the episode, Porter was told to clean out his locker and other members of the roster were informed he’d no longer be on the team, sources said.
The Athletic first reported the incident with Porter.
The team picked up an option in Porter’s contract last month, he has one year at $1.7 million left on his deal.
The Cavs have been protective when discussing Porter during the season. There had been a plan to hopefully reintegrate him to the roster, though he spent weeks away from his teammates, sources said. His returning to the sidelines indicated a progression in that plan as coach J.B. Bickerstaff told reporters Friday.
“Obviously seeing what we’re doing, experiencing the games and those types of things will help him as he returns,” Bickerstaff said. “We have a plan in place with KP. He’s always been a part of the team, but we wanted him with the guys.”
Porter, 20, was arrested on Nov. 15 after a scary car accident in the middle of the night when he flipped his Mercedes SUV. He admitted to have been drinking earlier in the evening and when police searched the car they found a loaded handgun in the glove compartment and a small amount of marijuana.
A grand jury declined to indict Porter on a felony weapons charge after he was able to prove he didn’t know the gun was in the car. Police also determined he was not impaired at the time of the accident. A judge dismissed the misdemeanor pot charge.
In October, Porter raised alarms when he posted a black square on his Instagram with the message “Do you ever wish to see the end of your time?” After Cavs officials and teammates reached out, Porter deleted his Instagram account.
He later posted a message on Twitter that read in part “I’m fine. Been thru my worse times already, can’t get worse than what I already been thru. Love & Thank you.” That post was also later deleted.
The Cavs traded up to take Porter with the No. 30 pick in the 2019 draft. Though he had been regarded as one of the most talented players in the draft, Porter slid after a rocky freshman year at USC when he was suspended at one point for conduct issues.
He had a promising rookie season for the Cavs in 2019-20, averaging 10.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 50 games.
NBA Power Rankings – Where the James Harden trade sends the Brooklyn Nets
James Harden is a Brooklyn Net, finally answering the biggest question hovering over the early part of this NBA season. The next question is how Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving share the court. The Nets answered part of it in Harden’s debut Saturday night against the Orlando Magic, as The Beard recorded a 32-point triple-double and KD added a season-high 42 points.
The league’s newest big three has Brooklyn on the rise. But let’s not forget about the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, who are rolling and showing no signs of relinquishing their No. 1 spot in these rankings.
Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin, Eric Woodyard, Royce Young and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which teams are looking most like title contenders.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
2020-21 record: 11-3
Previous ranking: 1
Things are going so well for the defending champions — off to an 11-3 start while ranking first in defensive efficiency and fifth in offensive efficiency — you couldn’t blame Kyle Kuzma when he actually entertained a recent question about the “D” word: dynasties. “We’re trying to get to that plateau and peak to continue to win championships,” Kuzma said, adding that LeBron James can provide some experience in that realm for the new guys to follow. “A tough, lofty goal, but I think that’s what we all put out to do.” — McMenamin
This week: GSW, @MIL, @CHI
2. LA Clippers
2020-21 record: 10-4
Previous ranking: 2
Paul George declared he had no choice but to come back “with vengeance” from last postseason’s debacle. And he continued his torrid shooting start, punctuating it with a forceful dunk in a dominant victory over his former Pacers team on Sunday. Kawhi Leonard looks stronger and more explosive with each game. The two stars helped the Clippers go 4-0 this past week despite Lou Williams missing two games and Patrick Beverley and Serge Ibaka out for one game each. And Ty Lue’s team still hasn’t reached full potential. — Youngmisuk
This week: SAC, OKC, OKC
3. Milwaukee Bucks
2020-21 record: 9-4
Previous ranking: 3
After a 2-3 start, the Bucks are rolling again. Milwaukee racked up three victories this week, and it has dropped just one game in its past eight contests. The Bucks topped Luka Doncic and the Mavericks on Friday to win a season-high four straight games. Reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 31 points and nine rebounds against Dallas despite going 1-for-10 from the free throw line, which represented the worst free throw percentage in franchise history (minimum of 10 attempts), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. — Woodyard
This week: @BKN, LAL, WAS, ATL
4. Boston Celtics
2020-21 record: 8-4
Previous ranking: 6
Yes, the Celtics saw their five-game winning streak snapped by the Knicks on Sunday. But if Kemba Walker is able to stay spry and healthy — and he looked that way in the 20 minutes he played in his season debut — Boston will be thrilled. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been outstanding so far this season, but for the Celtics to get where they hope, they’ll need Walker at his best. That’s why Walker saying he was pain-free was all that mattered on Sunday. — Bontemps
This week: @PHI, @PHI, CLE
5. Philadelphia 76ers
2020-21 record: 9-5
Previous ranking: 4
Philadelphia is now 9-2 this season when Joel Embiid plays and 0-3 when he sits. That two of those losses came on the road against teams the Sixers should’ve beaten — the Cavaliers and Grizzlies — is a cause for some concern. Embiid has arguably been the league’s MVP so far this season, but Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and supporting players should be enough to win games against non-playoff teams. — Bontemps
This week: BOS, BOS, @DET
6. Brooklyn Nets
2020-21 record: 8-6
Previous ranking: 11
One game in and the James Harden trade is looking pretty great for the Nets. Harden and Kevin Durant combined for a cool 74 points, with Harden having a triple-double in his Nets debut. Durant has scored 25 or more in nine straight games and is averaging more than 30 points a game. The firepower feels pretty Death Star-ish for Brooklyn right now. But it all comes with a caveat, as Kyrie Irving‘s expected return to the lineup is coming. Durant and Irving make a great duo. Durant and Harden make a fantastic duo. But what kind of trio do Durant, Harden and Irving make? Combustible is a word that comes to mind. — Young
This week: MIL, @CLE, @CLE, MIA
7. Utah Jazz
2020-21 record: 9-4
Previous ranking: 9
Utah has won its past five games, matching the Lakers for the league’s longest active winning streak. Jordan Clarkson, an early Sixth Man of the Year contender, has averaged 20.8 points with a 64.7 true shooting percentage during the streak. The Jazz are allowing only 100.4 points per 100 possessions during the roll, which includes road wins over the Bucks and Nuggets. — MacMahon
This week: NOP, NOP, GSW
8. Phoenix Suns
2020-21 record: 7-4
Previous ranking: 5
Thanks to three consecutive postponements, Phoenix will go a week between games when they tip off Monday against the Grizzlies. On Sunday, Suns coach Monty Williams said the team was just waiting to hear back from the league last week to see when they could finally get back together. — Lopez
This week: @MEM, @HOU, DEN, DEN
9. Indiana Pacers
2020-21 record: 8-5
Previous ranking: 7
It was an interesting week for the Pacers, to say the least. For starters, Saturday’s game at Phoenix was postponed because of ongoing contract tracing within the Suns’ squad. Then, Indiana became part of a four-team blockbuster trade, landing Caris LeVert while giving up Victor Oladipo, only to learn LeVert would be out indefinitely after an MRI discovered a small mass on his kidney. — Woodyard
This week: DAL, ORL, TOR
10. Dallas Mavericks
2020-21 record: 6-6
Previous ranking: 10
Luka Doncic has triple-doubles in four of the Mavs’ past six tilts. He missed triple-doubles by one assist and one rebound in the other games. His averages in that six-game span: 31.5 points, 12.2 rebounds and 11.8 assists. Doncic now has 29 career triple-doubles, tying Grant Hill for 15th all time, one more than Michael Jordan. — MacMahon
This week: @TOR, @IND, @SAS, HOU
11. Denver Nuggets
2020-21 record: 6-7
Previous ranking: 13
Nikola Jokic is having an MVP-like season with five triple-doubles in 13 games. And he missed four others by one rebound or one assist. But coach Michael Malone continues to wait for the Nuggets to reach full strength. Jamal Murray is trying to shake off an aching elbow, Michael Porter Jr. remains sidelined by COVID-19 and Gary Harris just returned from a two-game absence. The Nuggets are getting closer to finding their rhythm. — Youngmisuk
This week: OKC, @PHX, @PHX
12. Portland Trail Blazers
2020-21 record: 8-5
Previous ranking: 12
Another season brings another adverse situation the Blazers must endure. Jusuf Nurkic will be out at least eight weeks because of a broken wrist, thinning the team’s front line and putting even more pressure on its backcourt. Portland dodged more problems with CJ McCollum‘s foot injury only being a strain, but he could miss some time, as well. So as it goes for the Blazers: It just means Damian Lillard will have to do some carrying. — Young
This week: SAS, MEM, MEM, NYK
13. San Antonio Spurs
2020-21 record: 7-6
Previous ranking: 15
It was a big week for Spurs second-year man Keldon Johnson. It wasn’t until the bubble last season that Johnson really came into his own, averaging 14.1 points and 5.0 rebounds in eight games in Florida. He has picked up where he left off, averaging 14.5 points per game and 7.2 rebounds so far this campaign. Last week, Johnson posted a career-high 29 points against Houston and committed just one turnover in three games. — Lopez
This week: @POR, @GSW, DAL, WAS
14. Golden State Warriors
2020-21 record: 6-6
Previous ranking: 14
At .500 heading into a showdown with LeBron James and the Lakers on Monday, the Warriors continue to have up-and-down moments as the young group adjusts to playing with Stephen Curry. The good news: Andrew Wiggins has started the season with a better defensive edge than in years past. The bad news: Kelly Oubre Jr.’s shooting woes continue to hamper the offense. — Friedell
This week: @LAL, SAS, NYK, @UTA
15. Miami Heat
2020-21 record: 4-7
Previous ranking: 8
At 4-7, the Heat’s bubble hangover continues to get a little worse each week. On top of a lack of consistency, they are struggling with injuries and coronavirus-related protocols that kept Jimmy Butler and Avery Bradley out of Saturday’s blowout loss to the Pistons. The Heat don’t like to make excuses — but they’ve got plenty at the moment. — Friedell
This week: DET, @TOR, @TOR, @BKN
16. Oklahoma City Thunder
2020-21 record: 6-6
Previous ranking: 24
If you were looking at a team ranked 29th in offense, 18th in defense and 28th in net rating, you wouldn’t think it was playing .500 basketball, right? But that’s what the Thunder are, getting back to 6-6 after their 22-point comeback against the Bulls on Friday. OKC has found a way to win a number of close games, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander shining in them. Against Chicago, he finished with a career-high 33 points and 10 assists and made a flurry of big plays in the fourth quarter. — Young
This week: @DEN, @LAC, @LAC
17. Orlando Magic
2020-21 record: 6-7
Previous ranking: 16
The Magic limped to an 0-3 record this week, with losses to three of the best teams in the East (Milwaukee, Boston and Brooklyn). Not only did the schedule do them no favors, the Magic are still dealing with the emotional impact of guard Markelle Fultz‘s season-ending ACL tear. — Friedell
This week: @NYK, @MIN, @IND, CHA
18. New Orleans Pelicans
2020-21 record: 5-7
Previous ranking: 18
The Pelicans ended a five-game losing streak on Sunday night with a win over the Kings. New Orleans’ week started with a postponement in Dallas before two losses in Los Angeles, to the Clippers and the Lakers, without point guard Lonzo Ball. In his absence, Nickeil Alexander-Walker stepped up, averaging 19.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists while shooting 57.1% from 3. Oh, and Zion Williamson is still doing Zion things. In Sunday’s win over Sacramento, Williamson became the youngest player in the past 35 seasons to have at least 30 points while shooting at least 85% from the field and going perfect from the free throw line. — Lopez
This week: @UTA, @UTA, @MIN
19. Toronto Raptors
2020-21 record: 4-8
Previous ranking: 20
Toronto finally got itself headed in the right direction with a pair of nail-biting victories over the Hornets this week. If the Raptors had been able to do anything short of disaster in close games over the first few weeks of the season, they’d likely be .500 or better. Still, Toronto is going to need to get more from centers not named Chris Boucher moving forward. Aron Baynes, in particular (4.3 points per game on 37.5% shooting), has been a disappointment thus far. — Bontemps
This week: DAL, MIA, MIA, @IND
20. Memphis Grizzlies
2020-21 record: 6-6
Previous ranking: 27
Ja Morant recovered from a Grade 2 ankle sprain faster than anticipated, returning in less than three weeks. The Grizzlies managed to go 4-4 in the eight games that their young star missed. Xavier Tillman, the No. 35 pick in the 2020 NBA draft, is proving he is an instant quality rotation player. He has a team-best plus-13.3 net rating in 20 minutes per game. — MacMahon
This week: PHO, @POR, @POR, SAC
21. Cleveland Cavaliers
2020-21 record: 6-7
Previous ranking: 23
Andre Drummond has been putting up huge numbers, topping his 26-point, 24-rebound performance in a loss at the Bucks with a 33-point, 23-board effort in a home win versus the Knicks six days later. We’ll see how long that production will last, as the Cavaliers traded for 22-year-old Jarrett Allen this week, after getting involved in the James Harden deal. With Allen, Drummond and JaVale McGee creating a glut at center, many believe the Cavs aren’t done making moves. — McMenamin
This week: @WAS (postponed), BKN, BKN, @BOS
22. Charlotte Hornets
2020-21 record: 6-8
Previous ranking: 21
After a win over the Knicks on Monday, the Hornets lost three straight to close the week, including a pair to a Raptors team that has struggled to start the season. It also was a shaky week for rookie LaMelo Ball, who went 15-for-46 during the four-game stretch. — Friedell
This week: WAS, CHI, @ORL
23. New York Knicks
2020-21 record: 6-8
Previous ranking: 22
The Knicks were able to break a five-game losing streak in Boston on Sunday. Tom Thibodeau’s team is lacking in talent, but he has the Knicks playing hard, and he is giving the young guys (including RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson and Immanuel Quickley) a bunch of minutes. If that keeps up, the Knicks will get a lot out of this season, no matter where their record winds up. — Bontemps
This week: ORL, @GSW, @SAC, @POR
24. Houston Rockets
2020-21 record: 4-7
Previous ranking: 17
Houston didn’t land a young franchise cornerstone in the James Harden trade, opting for Brooklyn’s offer headlined by a historic haul of draft picks over a package with the 76ers’ Ben Simmons as the centerpiece. But the Rockets might have added a building block when they signed 25-year-old center Christian Wood, who is thriving in his first season as a full-time starter, averaging 23.2 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. — MacMahon
This week: @CHI, PHX, @DET, @DAL
25. Atlanta Hawks
2020-21 record: 5-7
Previous ranking: 19
Since winning four of five to start the season, it’s been tough sledding for the Hawks. Atlanta has lost six of its past seven, with the lone victory coming last Monday against a short-handed 76ers squad that was still battling absences because of health and safety protocols. Over those seven contests, Hawks point guard Trae Young averaged only 17.9 points per game while shooting 32.8% from the field — and just 7-of-37 from 3-point range. — Lopez
This week: MIN, DET, @MIN, @MIL
26. Sacramento Kings
2020-21 record: 5-9
Previous ranking: 25
A commanding 43-point, 13-assist, 4-steal game from De’Aaron Fox wasn’t enough to keep the Kings from dropping their third straight game on Sunday. The loss to the Pelicans capped a 1-3 week that Sacramento started with an impressive win over Indiana but included an embarrassing 38-point drubbing by the Clippers. In a bit of a silver lining, Marvin Bagley III had one of his finest games as a pro in that New Orleans loss, putting up 26 points and 10 rebounds in a season-high 36 minutes. — McMenamin
This week: @LAC, NYK, @MEM
27. Chicago Bulls
2020-21 record: 5-8
Previous ranking: 26
With a new head coach and a revamped front office, there are growing pains in Chicago — in addition to COVID-19 hitting the team hard, with Chandler Hutchison and Tomas Satoransky recently testing positive. On the basketball court, however, Billy Donovan said it bluntly after his team blew a 22-point lead in Friday’s overtime loss to the Thunder: The Bulls “don’t know how” to win yet. Zach LaVine was putting up career-best numbers through 12 games, averaging 28.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists. — Woodyard
This week: HOU, @CHA, LAL
28. Minnesota Timberwolves
2020-21 record: 3-8
Previous ranking: 28
It has been just an unfair season so far for the Wolves, with Karl-Anthony Towns‘ recent positive COVID-19 result another item to add to the pile. Their 2-0 start feels like it happened five years ago, as they’ve now lost eight of their past nine games. Their schedule lightens a bit over the next couple of weeks, but of course that coincides with Towns’ new absence. — Young
This week: @ATL, ORL, ATL, NOP
29. Washington Wizards
2020-21 record: 3-8
Previous ranking: 29
After losing Russell Westbrook for at least a week due to a quad injury, Washington put together its best total effort in a rout of Phoenix on Monday. But then everything came to a halt due to COVID-19. The Wizards have had four consecutive games postponed, with six players testing positive and three more players in health and safety protocols as of Friday. — Youngmisuk
This week: CLE (postponed), @CHA, @MIL, @SAS
30. Detroit Pistons
2020-21 record: 3-9
Previous ranking: 30
Friday’s game against the Wizards was postponed in Motown due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols. However, Detroit followed up with a 20-point win in Miami on Saturday for its first road victory of the season. Jerami Grant continues to shine. He posted 24 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks and 2 steals against Miami to become the first Piston with a 20-5-5-2-2 stat line game since Andre Drummond in December 2019. — Woodyard
This week: @MIA, @ATL, HOU, PHI
‘I believe in us’ – On MLK Day, NBA players reflect on social justice and what comes next
Jrue Holiday was conflicted.
Then a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, he mulled for two weeks last summer whether to commit to the NBA’s restart in Orlando, Florida. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Holiday’s wife, Lauren, was five months pregnant and could sense his discomfort over leaving the family.
So she challenged him: Play, and donate the remainder of his 2019-20 salary to Black-owned businesses, non-profit organizations and initiatives.
“I felt like I kind of needed a reason to go back and play — and my wife just said it. It kind of just hit her,” Holiday said. “There were other ideas we were thinking about. Obviously, I couldn’t go protest — my wife was pregnant and in L.A., the pandemic [made it] one of the hardest-hitting places …
“[Donating my salary] wasn’t even like a question. It was kind of like, ‘Man, that’s what I’m supposed to do.’ Right when she told me, it just felt like it was right.”
Holiday initially launched the Jrue and Lauren Holiday Social Justice Impact Fund in July while with the Pelicans, using game checks — worth up to $5.3 million — to aid communities in New Orleans, Indianapolis and Los Angeles.
After being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in November, he remained committed to the pledge and added Milwaukee to the list. It’s a three-year commitment that will soon take on new applications.
“[The Bucks have] been the No. 1 team in the East and all eyes have been on them. I feel like this is kind of the perfect opportunity to spread the message and to be able to share it with other people,” Holiday said.
The Holidays’ mission comes at a time of social unrest in the United States. The league and its players used the bubble as a vehicle to drive change, promoting the Black Lives Matter movement and driving awareness of social injustice. The Bucks themselves led a boycott of three playoff games in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
As the league celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day, ESPN.com interviewed Holiday and a group of NBA players for their reflections from the past year — and what should come next in the pursuit of social justice.
— Eric Woodyard
ESPN’s Nick Friedell, Dave McMenamin, Jorge Sedano, Eric Woodyard, Royce Young and Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this story. Editor’s note: These responses have been edited for length and clarity.
With regard to social justice, what will you remember most from the past year?
Kent Bazemore, Warriors forward: How the tides turned in the world. And we’ve gotten some people in position now to really make some change. It was kind of cool to be a part of that whole thing down in Orlando in the bubble. So I think anyone that had a hand in that whole process should be feeling really proud of themselves right now.
Jae Crowder, Suns forward: Probably the conversations taking place throughout different households and throughout different Zoom calls for me. Just the uncomfortable conversations that we had to face as a nation. As people in the United States we had to face it, and address it and it was uncomfortable. It was tough for everyone, no matter your race.
Paul George, Clippers guard: There was a lot of stuff that went on around the world in terms of social justice, inequality. You know, there were a number of incidences and cases that went on — but it was highlighted. It was recorded. We saw it. We’ve seen it for years. And I think what made it so great, it started conversation.
“Why is it so hard for white people to talk about race? Just asking that question is going to trigger a lot of people, but also, hopefully, it has people looking in the mirror.”
And I think we saw so many races, so many ethnicities stand up for what was right. I think that’s where I saw the beauty in it. So many people from different backgrounds stood up for what was right — regardless of what the color was, regardless of what the race was, regardless of what they believed in — they stood up for what was right.
I think that’s just where we have to start. And I think that was a great introduction to the conversations that we need and the acts that we have to do. But it can’t stop there. I think it’s a lot for us to take and run with, but the beauty in it was just to see everybody together in that fight of bringing equality and everyone just being counted and being as equal as the guy next to him.
Devonte’ Graham, Hornets guard: In 2020, we were still dealing with a lot of the things, as an African-American, as a Black male around the world, just the injustice. But I think it opened a lot of people’s eyes and it brought a lot of people together and I feel like we’re taking steps in the right direction slowly, but it opened a lot of people’s eyes to start moving forward and [having] tough conversations.
Udonis Haslem, Heat forward: For me, obviously, stepping out of my comfort zone and using my platform and really educating myself — more on what’s going on, not thinking I know everything. I think for me, watching the world through the pandemic, through the social injustice, I just take away that we’re some survivors, man. And we can survive through anything, and I think moving forward we will survive and things are going to get better. I believe in us. I think we’re heading in the right direction — not just politically, but in a lot of ways.
Holiday: I’m going to remember everything. I’m going to remember my time with my family and being able to support them while I was in the bubble. I remember when my wife first told me that we were having a son, and I’m in tears because right before that, it was the George Floyd incident, and I’m like, “Man, I’m bringing another Black man into this world and I have to think about how I raise him around police officers.” Again, I have police officers among my family and friends, so I support them. But you just sometimes have those bad eggs.
But also I’ll remember that there is a lot of change coming. You can feel it. You know, different cultures kind of support each other with each place having like a Chinatown, Greek Town, Little Italy or something like that. And I feel like now, more and more Black people are supporting each other … So that’s probably the biggest thing, seeing how the support has shifted because of obviously a tragic incident, but with Black people really supporting each other now, that’s really cool.
Enes Kanter, Trail Blazers center: The thing that strikes me is how I saw our society radically evolve within the course of a year. Most of us drastically changed our daily routines to comply with the safety protocols of the pandemic. Our eyes opened to these risks, and we changed our lifestyles accordingly. Of course the Black Lives Matter movement was a social justice awakening for all of us. The tragedies that we saw with the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, the shooting of Jacob Blake and others really opened our eyes to the changes we need to make as a society. I hope that we will continue to evolve. I was personally very proud of my fellow NBA players for boycotting in the midst of this social justice movement, really using our platforms to raise awareness for what matters most.
Kevin Love, Cavaliers forward: Much of what the ’60s taught us still holds true today. [Author] James Baldwin, I feel like said it best: “To watch the TV screen for any length of time is to learn some really frightening things about the American sense of reality. We are truly trapped between what we would like to be and what we actually are. And we cannot possibly become what we would like to be until we are willing to ask ourselves just why the lives we lead on this continent are mainly so empty, so tame and so ugly.”
It’s so profound what he said — and he was saying that in the early ’60s. This was before Malcolm X died in 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. You even had a president in [John F. Kennedy] and his brother that both got assassinated who were at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement. And then you had Vietnam. You just had so much that you can learn from that era, yet we’re still fighting a lot of these battles.
I think people’s views are perpetually shaped by the media — for better or for worse, really. And whether we care to admit it or not, there’s a lot of misinformation out there and maybe this year will be a tipping point where we’re better at seeking the truth. And I do hope that this year we have a major breakthrough.
Garrett Temple, Bulls guard: I will remember that people in the social justice fight have gained a few more allies. Some people of the same race and some people of different races, but I think more people have joined in — actually doing things and wanting to be out front about social justice and not just talking about it.
What do you hope changes about the NBA’s approach to systemic racism going forward?
Bazemore: I think things take time. Obviously, once you identify a problem it doesn’t mean everything’s going to change right away, because now when the rules change and the world changes, you’ll start to see who’s going to stick out, who isn’t going to conform to the new way. And over time it will just weed itself out. It’s not [a time] to start pointing fingers, because just like the world can change, people can change.
Crowder: [The NBA] started the conversation and that’s a beginning step to change, just addressing what needed to be addressed. We got to continue to stay on that, obviously. It’s easy to go back to feeling like things are normal. A lot of people look up to our sport and our league, so just continue to represent and spread positivity and unity throughout every game.
Graham: It’s bigger than just the NBA. I wasn’t part of the bubble but the things that they did like putting Black Lives Matter on the court and guys in the interviews speaking out and just using our platform that we have, obviously a lot of people watch us. I think letting guys change the name on the back of their jerseys and just doing those little things, it brings attention to the cause. I think the NBA is doing a great job — definitely proud to be a part of it during these times.
Haslem: I think every owner should use their platform, not just the players, but every owner — don’t just be quiet and let your players use their voices. Obviously, people do listen to the players because a kid at home wants to be a certain player, he’s in the yard trying to be that player, practicing to be that player. He might not be practicing to be that particular owner, but the owners have the ears, and the owners have the trust of a lot of people that can make a lot of the changes we’re hoping to have made. I think a lot of owners say, “We back our players, we support our players,” but then go silent. If you really back your players and support your players, you gotta speak up as well on these things that are going on. And be specific, don’t be general.
Holiday: I think one thing that they’ve done so far — especially like in the bubble — is supporting us and being there, even having Black Lives Matter on the floor. When we knelt for the anthem or even when we knelt for the Jacob Blake [court decision] when we played against Detroit [on Jan. 6], I feel like I just love the support that they give where you see other leagues kind of lash back at the athletes. This league is very progressive. And as much as they listen to us, I just pray that they continue to do that since 90% of the league is Black.
Kanter: The attention that we saw to racial injustice this year and broader society, and within the NBA was unprecedented. We need to maintain that, we need to keep a spotlight on issues of social injustice so that we ensure positive change. I want to see more of that involvement from the entire league going forward.
Love: I think just continuing to gain a better understanding of what adds value to Black communities, and empowering those communities.
So a lot like with mental health disorders, I always say it robs people of their human potential. I think it’s very similar in that way. And that means better health care, economic opportunities and education. And you see it right up the street here — secondary education for college, obviously with what LeBron is doing in Akron.
And ask the questions: What jobs are available in those neighborhoods? What are we really teaching our kids about the history of America? I mean, we spend however long on so many different topics, and then we just kind of skim over slavery. And I know that’s also multifaceted and layered too — I don’t know if it’s who you’re buying the books from, or what is determining the curriculum. It’s almost like at this point, the library is better than the school, because you can go and find out what you really need to know at the library. They’re going to put exactly what they want in textbooks.
It’s having the necessary dialogue and self-reflection that can actually lead to change.
I learned this when I was 15 or 16. I was in Hampton, Virginia, with my traveling basketball team and we were at the Boo Williams Tournament for high school. And you cross a certain line in that part of Virginia and it’s very white, very privileged and very racist.
We went to a diner as a team and they had trouble seating us. They weren’t going to seat our team. And that caused us to really have a conversation. Multiple traveling programs were subject to blatant discrimination. It was the first time I had witnessed racism at that level. A lot of kids, even at that age, they understood — whether it be dealing with the police or dealing with teachers or anything in the medical world, there’s that distrust. It actually led to a really amazing conversation. That was something that I had never seen before and it actually was something that was a life-changing kind of moment — my team wouldn’t be served and this was in the early 2000s.
Temple: I hope that the league will do more in terms of tangible things that can affect the foundation of systemic racism. Like education, the prison system, whether that be putting more money in the public education system, put money into public education in NBA cities or not allowing governors who invest in private prisons to be governors of the league, to try to buy teams, things of that nature — things that either hinder or deter people from pushing systemic racism.
What more can white players, coaches and front-office members do for social justice?
Bazemore: Just continue to lead by example. I’ve been teammates with Kyle Korver, who’s been very instrumental in a lot of things that the players’ union has done. He was over talking to the Pope. Just here recently, Kyle Guy, up in Sacramento, he was really vocal in Sacramento during all this — so there are players around the league that are standing with us. And as the world sees them, the people that look like them see them with us.
Crowder: I don’t know what more they can do. [Having] the uncomfortable conversations, I think that alone has definitely helped open eyes. I’m not here to say what they can and can’t do or what more needs to be done, I just feel like we’re doing a good job of [keeping] the conversation alive and fighting for change, not only for ourselves but for our kids and for future generations. So I think just having the conversation and continuing to talk it out and treating people the right way.
Graham: Just stand with us. Personally speaking, from the organization that I’m with, I feel like from my teammates, my coaching staff and my front office, we’ve had conversations about it. As a team, we had times where we actually wanted to go and march, and coaches and everybody went and marched with us. You feel like, as a Black athlete, when your teammates and your front office, and everybody is standing with you and fighting for something you’re fighting for, it makes that bond stronger. So I feel like them speaking up about it and them being able to have conversations with us about it — it helps. Obviously because they don’t have to deal with it being white, but just knowing that they’re standing with us [is important].
Haslem: Listen to us with an open mind and true compassion. Understand what we’re saying and how we’re feeling. Understand that it’s not a target on them, that none of us think that all white people — or any kind of people — are bad. We’re just speaking from our experiences and the things that have happened to us.
“You feel like, as a Black athlete, when your teammates and your front office, and everybody is standing with you and fighting for something you’re fighting for, it makes that bond stronger.”
Whether you want to call it PTSD, whether you want to call it how we look at the world now, or whether you want to call it during any of these different situations, it’s real for us. If what has happened recently doesn’t show you the differences in the treatment, then you probably just don’t want to help.
If you truly want to help — with a bird’s-eye view, hearing everything and processing it with an open mind — help make things better for everybody, not just for us. Once you make it better for us, it’s better for everybody. We need true unity. That’s for Black, that’s for Latino, that’s for a lot different races and colors.
Holiday: They can listen. Listen to us and listen to stories that we’ve had and our experiences. And also speak. Be able to talk through things with other people that might not understand our position or understand the situations that we’ve been in. My wife is white. So when situations that we’ve had, it’s kind of like she talks to her family about stuff that we’ve been through, like me and her. She’s actually seen it with me and then she talks to her family and her friends about it. I feel like that’s how you spread it, where you can find this common ground between people, and then they can understand the situation better because of that.
Kanter: I think all of us need to do a better job of listening. We need to listen to those who have been victims of social injustice, and listen to those who are oppressed. We need to really understand the struggles they are facing so that we can be supportive and help come up with solutions. We should help amplify Black voices and show solidarity in every way we can.
Love: Why is it so hard for white people to talk about race? Just asking that question is going to trigger a lot of people, but also, hopefully, it has people looking in the mirror, showing accountability and a willingness to ask the right questions.
The beauty of the NBA is how diverse our league is. Diversity is a great teacher. And the NBA is standing in large part on the shoulders of Black superstars and Black culture. We have to learn the cross-racial skills and understanding.
It’s funny, it even took me to this summer and this time to reflect and I had always thought about things in terms of intent. Like, “Well, the intention was there,” or, “At least it came from a good place …” But I had to take a step back and ask myself, what will the impact be as the result of my intent? As a result of my decisions? Because the intent can be there but what’s on the other side of that?
For example, we live with the assumption that the treatment of Black people in relation to police officers must have been deserved. Yet if you reverse that sentiment, that pendulum swings far in the other direction. What happened at the Capitol is a perfect example of that.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a visionary and a symbol of hope who transcended every walk of life. How do we bottle that energy? How do we spread that energy? That’s a great sentiment to have, but that’s where that accountability comes in.
I don’t pretend to be an expert. I don’t pretend to know or be part of that woke culture. If you want to see the woke people, find the wisdom of the people who lived through the ’60s. That’s a time that, even now, we can learn from and let’s hope that we don’t look back and say, “Oh, man, look at how far we’ve come … but not really.”
Temple: First and foremost, get educated. Get educated and learn what white privilege is. Then admit that there is white privilege. And not only have tough conversations with their Black counterparts which will hopefully help educate them, but also take those conversations and bring them to their white friends and family — especially their children. Because at the end of the day, the ones that will honestly create this change are the kids that are 4 or 5 or 6 years old right now. So make sure that they translate those conversations that they’ve had with their Black friends to their white friends and family, and hopefully we can get it done from there.
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