76ers forward Tobias Harris
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NBA players divert press conferences to discuss Breonna Taylor (videos)

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Nuggets forward Jerami Grant answered every basketball and bubble question during a recent interview by discussing Breonna Taylor.

Several other NBA players have followed his lead.

76ers forward Tobias Harris

Harris, asked about Russell Westbrook‘s social-justice shirts, via Paul Hudrick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“Nothing against the T-shirts, but we want to make sure that [Kentucky attorney general] Daniel Cameron arrests the cops and officers involved with Breonna Taylor’s death,” Harris said. “That’s all I’ve got to say.”

Before another reporter could be called on, Harris repeated the message.

“That’s going to be my answer for every question — for Daniel Cameron to step up and do what’s right. That’s the only message I’ve got today.”

Harris then politely thanked the media on the call and walked off.

Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum

McCollum, via Jamie Hudson of NBC Sports Northwest:

We’ve been very proactive with our conversations and phone calls. We actually did a Zoom call with Breonna Taylor’s mother a few days ago to get more information on everything that is going on, everything that has happened. I want to go on the record saying that [Kentucky Attorney General] Daniel Cameron is in position to arrest the cops who are responsible for killing Breonna Taylor and still has not done that, so he’s the one who is in the position to potentially do that. So we want to continue to uplift people like Breonna Taylor who are victims and haven’t received the proper justice that they are due.

“I think basketball is secondary,” McCollum said. “It’s our job, obviously and we have a responsibility to fulfill those obligations, but it’s also our job to fulfill and protect our neighborhoods, and protect the people who look like us, and come from places like us, and don’t exactly have the same voices that we do. I think that’s something that has been on all of our minds. We’ve been very proactive about it.”

Celtics guard Marcus Smart

Smart, via Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:

“Before we start, guys, my answer is going to be ‘Justice for Breonna Taylor,’ ” Smart said. “That’s going to be my answer for everything, so I’m just letting you guys know that now. Justice for Breonna Taylor.”

A reporter asked Smart if that would be his response to a question about the team’s defense, and Smart said that it would, replying, “Justice for Breonna Taylor.”

Celtics wing Jaylen Brown

Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston:

Lakers guard Alex Caruso

Melissa Rohlin of Sports Illustrated:

When Caruso was asked about being on the brink of playing in his first postseason, he responded by bringing up Taylor.

“I’m just going to respond with, ‘We need justice for Breonna Taylor,’” Caruso said. “That’s going to be my response to the rest of the questions if they’re basketball-related and not pertaining to me and my sister’s wedding.”

“Just got information from the rest of the players who are trying to stay united with the message,” Caruso said. “This is one way we can control it from inside the bubble. It seems to be an important thing. It’s been four months since it happened that she was murdered in her sleep and nobody has been held accountable.”

Clippers forward Paul George

Raptors wing Terence Davis

Grant’s press conference prompted a major breakthrough. The Nuggets made a far stronger statement than practically every other large corporation:

A billion-dollar company posting “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” is no small matter. NBA players uniting to bring attention should only advance the cause even further.

I salute these players for speaking up. They have a platform, and this is important.

I also appreciate that the common refrain has been “Justice for Breonna Taylor” rather than “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor.”

As I wrote when Grant raised the issue:

Taylor was killed in her own home by Louisville police in March. Police were executing a “no-knock” warrant based on the stated suspicion she was aiding her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, in selling drugs. It’s disputed whether police announced themselves before using a battering ram to enter the apartment. Walker said he and Taylor were asleep when the incident began. Walker, a licensed gun owner, called 911 and fired at what he says he believed to be intruders. The police returned fire, and Taylor was fatally shot.

None of the three officers involved in the shooting – Brett Hankison, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove – have been arrested. Only Hankison was fired.

What happened to Taylor was a travesty, and the injustices are vast.

Crackdowns on drugs have led to extreme state violence. No-knock warrants – and even knock-and-announce warrants executed in the middle of the night – put everyone involved at too much risk. Judges approve warrants with too little oversight.

The politicians who enact these anti-drug laws should be held accountable. The police who order these extreme tactics should be held accountable. The judges who wantonly allow it (and the police officers who take advantage with deceitful warrant requests) should be held accountable.

But the officers at Taylor’s apartment shouldn’t necessarily face criminal charges just for carrying out their jobs as the system called for. Hankison allegedly shot recklessly, and if he did, he should face charges. If any of the three officers did something illegal, they should face charges. But the weight of a failed system shouldn’t fall on the individual officers who follow the rules of that system. The officers were put in an impossible situation – fired upon by someone who very reasonably mistook them for intruders. At that point, the police had some right to defend themselves. Just as Walker had some right to defend himself and Taylor in her own home.

Taylor’s death was a tragedy.

The people who created the system that led to her death should be held responsible. And the system should be changed.

The War on Drugs should be completely re-assessed. No-knock warrants should be eliminated. Warrants should be given more scrutiny before being granted.

Getting justice for Breonna Taylor goes much higher than arresting these three cops.

Jazz forward Joe Ingles joins Grizzlies huddle, drapes arms over Memphis players (video)

Jazz forward Joe Ingles vs. Grizzlies
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Jazz forward Joe Ingles has no boundaries with huddles.

Ingles invaded the Grizzlies huddle today, even putting his arms around – and some weight on – Dillon Brooks and Grayson Allen. Gorgui Dieng appeared to notice the intruder just before the video cut away:

Beyond the hijinks, Ingles also scored 25 points – including 12 in the fourth quarter – to lead Utah to a 124-115 win.

NBA owners pledge $300M for empowering Black community

NBA Black Lives Matter
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The NBA put “BLACK LIVES MATTER” on the court and social-justice messages on jerseys. These are visible symbols that can draw attention to the fight for racial justice.

But NBA owners have the power to do more than make symbolic gestures.

NBA owners will do more.

NBA release:

The NBA Board of Governors announced today that it will contribute $300 million in initial funding to establish the first-ever NBA Foundation dedicated to creating greater economic empowerment in the Black community.  The Foundation is being launched in partnership with the National Basketball Players Association.

Over the next 10 years, the 30 NBA team owners will collectively contribute $30 million annually to establish a new, leaguewide charitable foundation.  Through its mission to drive economic empowerment for Black communities through employment and career advancement, the NBA Foundation will seek to increase access and support for high school, college-aged and career-ready Black men and women, and assist national and local organizations that provide skills training, mentorship, coaching and pipeline development in NBA markets and communities across the United States and Canada.  As a public charity, the Foundation will also aim to work strategically with marketing and media partners to develop additional programming and funding sources that deepen the NBA family’s commitment to racial equality and social justice.

The Foundation will focus on three critical employment transition points: obtaining a first job, securing employment following high school or college, and career advancement once employed.  Through contributions, the NBA Foundation will enhance and grow the work of national and local organizations dedicated to education and employment, including through investment in youth employment and internship programs, STEM fields, job shadows and apprenticeships, development pathways outside of traditional higher education, career placement, professional mentorship, networking and specific partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“On behalf of the NBA Board of Governors, I am thrilled to announce the creation of the NBA Foundation,” said NBA Board of Governors Chairman and Toronto Raptors Governor Larry Tanenbaum.  “All NBA team governors recognize our unique position to effect change and we are committed to supporting and empowering young Black men and women in each of our team markets as well as communities across the U.S. and Canada.”

“The creation of this foundation is an important step in developing more opportunities for the Black community,” said NBPA President Chris Paul.  “I am proud of our league and our players for their commitment to this long-term fight for equality and justice, and I know we will continue to find ways to keep pushing for meaningful institutional change.”

The Foundation will work directly with all 30 teams, their affiliated charitable organizations and the NBPA to support national organizations and their local affiliates as well as local grassroots organizations to facilitate sustainable programming and create change in team markets.

“Given the resources and incredible platform of the NBA, we have the power to ideate, implement and support substantive policies that reflect the core principles of equality and justice we embrace,” said NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts.  “This Foundation will provide a framework for us to stay committed and accountable to these principles.”

“We are dedicated to using the collective resources of the 30 teams, the players and the league to drive meaningful economic opportunities for Black Americans,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.  “We believe that through focused programs in our team markets and nationally, together with clear and specific performance measures, we can advance our shared goals of creating substantial economic mobility within the Black community.”

The 30 NBA teams will be members of the NBA Foundation with its eight Board of Directors comprised of representatives from the NBA Board of Governors (four board seats), players and executives from the NBPA (three board seats) and the league office (one board seat).  The Foundation’s board will oversee all business affairs and provide strategic direction with respect to programming and grantmaking.

This is great.

Trail Blazers reportedly tried recently to get Trevor Ariza to join them in bubble

Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza
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Trevor Ariza opted-out of playing for Portland in the NBA’s restart so he could spend time with his son. Due to a custody case, he had a limited window to visit and he chose family over basketball.

However, as his custody window shifted and Portland started to look at a deeper playoff run — and maybe a matchup with the Lakers in the first round — some Trail Blazers players tried to get Ariza to come to the bubble after all. If Zion Williamson and others could leave the bubble for family emergencies, why couldn’t Ariza be let in, the players asked?

That plan didn’t work out, reports Chris Hayes of Yahoo Sports.

But because his visitation period had been amended with a conclusion date now near the start of August, there was some optimism among the players that Ariza might be allowed into the bubble to further strengthen their chances of a deep playoff run. If the Trail Blazers were to snag the final playoff spot, they would face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round and a pesky Ariza would have been useful guarding James.

The possibility was explored, but sources said the Trail Blazers had to have previously applied for a hardship waiver or a late-arrival form for Ariza to be considered for entry into the bubble. Even if those steps were taken, the league would have likely denied the request because Ariza chose to opt out, wasn’t included on the restart roster, and didn’t arrive with his team on July 9.

The league put together strict rules about who could and couldn’t be inside the bubble — rules agreed to by the players’ union. Those rules are working at keeping the virus out. The league was not going to bend the rules for Portland now.

Ariza chose time with his son and wanted it bad enough to give up between $1.1 million and $1.8 million in salary (depending on how far the Trail Blazers got). Nobody should knock that choice; it was his to make, and picking family is never the wrong option.

Ariza is under contract for $12.8 million with Portland next season, but only $1.8 million of that salary guaranteed next season. If Portland wants to reduce payroll, they can buy Ariza out and make him a free agent at age 35. There would be suitors, Ariza has proven to be a helpful glue guy on good teams.

That glue just can’t help Portland this season.

No positive COVID-19 tests from 343 players in NBA bubble last week

NBA COVID-19 tests
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As has happened the past few weeks, Wednesday the NBA and NBPA announced that there were no positive tests among the 343 players tested for COVID-19 in the past week at the league’s restart campus in Orlando.

The NBA has had no positive tests from players inside the bubble.

The NBA’s plan for a restart began with testing players in their home markets before they arrived in Orlando (a number of players tested positive, and were quarantined/treated in those markets). Once teams arrived in Orlando, players were quarantined and tested again. The goal was to keep the virus outside of the bubble.

That has worked through one week of games.

The league did send a memo to teams reminding them players and staff need to wear a mask while on the NBA campus (when they were not practicing or playing games). The goal is to contain any outbreak, should the virus get into the bubble. That outbreak has yet to happen.

At least so far. There are about two months of games remaining on the NBA campus, family members will arrive next month, and there are still other ways the virus could penetrate the bubble. The league isn’t celebrating victory yet.

But so far, so good.