NBA players meet Thursday morning to decide fate of playoffs; Owners also will meet

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Right now, there are mostly just questions:

• Will the NBA playoffs restart?
• Will players find a way to use the platform of the NBA restart to better keep social justice in the national discussion?
• Or, will the players — led by LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard — boycott the rest of the playoffs?
• Would that boycott put the NBA on the path toward a lockout before next season?
• How will the NBA owners react to all of this?

All of that will be decided Thursday, starting at 11 a.m. Eastern when NBA players meet again inside the restart bubble in Orlando, a meeting first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews of ESPN.

At the same time, the NBA’s board of governors — made of team owners — will have their own virtual meeting to discuss the boycott and next steps.

About the only thing we know is not to expect Thursday’s playoff games to take place (although that is not yet official).

And that in one dramatic day the NBA players took the focus off basketball and put it back on the Black Lives Matter movement — where it belonged.

Players inside the NBA’s restart bubble took part in a reportedly intense three-hour meeting Wednesday night, one that got ugly at times but didn’t answer all those questions above. LeBron James spoke and sounded like he wanted the season to end, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. LeBron wanted more from owners than the $300 million they had committed over 10 years to empowering Black communities. He wanted action items, for the league’s 20+ billionaire owners to use their political capital to focus on issues such as police reform.

Leonard said the season should end and suggested he was packing and ready to leave the bubble.

The Lakers and Clippers both voted to end the season, and both walked out of the meeting before it was over.

However, every other team in attendance voted to stay and continue the playoffs, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Boston’s Jaylen Brown reportedly challenged the players wanting to leave the bubble, asking if they just want out to go home to be comfortable and be with their families, or are they going to be in the trenches, in the streets fighting for social justice.

All of that leaves the season up in the air.

If there is no season, expect the owners to vote to tear up the current Collective Bargaining Agreement and renegotiate. During a pandemic. It likely would not go well for the players — something the owners and players union will be certain to remind players about before Thursday’s meeting. It would also likely mean a lockout that bleeds into the next NBA season.

Miami veteran Udonis Haslem reportedly spoke at Wednesday meeting and asked if there could be a playoff if the Lakers and Clippers left? He then went on to say that players need to take advantage of the available platform, that the bubble helps amplify their speech in a way that doesn’t happen outside Orlando. The veteran reportedly gave a powerful speech.

Wednesday’s meeting came after the players boycotted three playoff games on earlier in the day, something led by the Milwaukee Bucks.  The boycott came because players were angry about the shooting of Jacob Blake — a Black man shot in the back at point-blank range, in front of his three children, by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Players felt they had worked to keep up awareness about Black Lives Matter and other social justice issues while in the bubble, but those efforts felt futile after the Blake shooting. Players were frustrated sitting in the bubble, unable to protest or make an impact the traditional ways.

The boycott made an impact. It got noticed, not just in the basketball world but in the nation as a whole. It helped put the focus back on social justice, and specifically police and systemic racism.

Whether it will lead to the season being canceled is something we learn Thursday.