The NBA season is in full swing, and we will be here each weekday with the NBC Sports daily roundup Three Things to Know — everything you might have missed in the Association, every key moment from the night before in one place.
1) NBA players, coaches react to Capitol protest, Jacob Blake decision
“It’s an embarrassing and shameful day in our country.”
New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy spoke not just for himself but also for many Americans — and with that many NBA players and coaches — with that statement Wednesday.
The contrast was stark and obvious. The day before, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced no charges would be filed against police officer Rusten Sheskey, who is white, for shooting Jacob Blake, who is black, seven times in the back because Blake had a knife. Sheskey claimed self-defense. NBA players were outraged.
Then on Wednesday, a violent mob of almost all white people loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol and took over the steps, and went into the building. The Capitol Police only used pepper spray to try and slow them. It was a very different and soft response from the Capitol Police compared to how they greeted and were prepared for Black Lives Matter protestors a few months back.
“People see the difference; they saw what people did today and how there were no consequences for them,” Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson said. “On the other side, it would have… ended in multiple arrests and deaths.”
NBA players and coaches either took a knee before the game or kneeled right after tip-off in protest. The Heat and Celtics players released a joint statement, then knelt before their nationally televised game.
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) January 7, 2021
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) January 7, 2021
Before their game, Golden State Warriors players wore “Black Lives Matter” shirts, then they and the Clippers players knelt for the anthem.
NBA players and coaches were not going to just shut up and dribble in the face of all this. Here is just a sampling of what was said.
Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers: “I will say it because I don’t think a lot of people want to. Can you imagine today, if those were all black people storming the Capitol, and what would have happened? That, to me, is a picture that’s worth a thousand words for all of us to see…
“The symbolism of storming the Capitol without force done to them, if you’re a Black American, it definitely touches you in a different way. This is not a Black thing. This is an American thing.”
Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce: “Racism is real. The issues are real. The protests are real. What we’re seeing now is a sad reality that our country has yet to reckon with and acknowledge. For those who didn’t believe it, I hope you believe it now…
“We all understand that it would have been guns ablaze and fires ablaze as if that were black people protesting on the outside, and we haven’t even mentioned getting inside and tearing up the building.”
John Wall on the attack on the Capitol: “The most important thing we can do is still stand up for what we stand for and believe in that and stand behind that. We can’t really control what people want to have outbursts and things like that.” pic.twitter.com/eMLz0DJQkc
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) January 7, 2021
Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens, when asked about the actions of the Trump Administration that egged the mob on. “They’ve operated in a win-at-all-costs attitude. I don’t know, our sports world is a lot less important, obviously. But I’ve always thought if you operated with a win-at-all-costs attitude, it’s going to be a pretty unfulfilling ending. And in this situation, a disgraceful ending. So, I’m looking forward to two weeks from now, as I know a lot of other people are, too.”
Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff. “I mean, it’s saddening. It’s disgusting, to be honest with you. Our democracy has been a beacon for hundreds of years of what the world ideologically should be. People have looked up to us all over the world, and what’s happening there is a disgrace. We have a democracy. Every vote should matter. Every state should have the right to certify their votes and their results. And when that happens, we move forward.
“It’s a stain on our democracy. It’s entitled, spoiled, throwing temper tantrums instead of accepting and moving forward to make our country better, which is the most important thing. It’s not about us as individuals, it’s about what’s best for the country and how we heal our country. And this doesn’t help. This makes it worse.”
Magic coach Steve Clifford: “We can disagree about policies or about the way the country should be run. But there’s no place in our country for what’s going on right now. That’s not a protest. They’ve gone way over the line… It’s sad. Our country, we’re being laughed at all over the world from the way we’ve handled the pandemic to this. It’s a sad day for everybody.”
Van Gundy, who has politically outspoken on Twitter, also talked about the bigger picture of what Wednesday’s events say about our nation’s future. “You just wonder if this is an isolated incident or the beginning of a real demise of our country. I don’t think we should take our democracy for granted. I don’t think we should try to brush this off very easily.”
2) Markelle Fultz is done for the season with a torn ACL
The Basketball Gods have no mercy for Markelle Fultz.
Fultz’s long journey from No. 1 pick to a nerve injury that altered his shot and his game, to finding his way back and becoming a solid NBA starting point guard for the Orlando Magic, was one of the most uplifting stories of the NBA season. Fultz was averaging 12.9 points and 5.4 assists a game for Orlando, and his shot had smoothed itself out. Now, this.
Fultz is out for the season after tearing his ACL.
MARKELLE FULTZ INJURY UPDATE: pic.twitter.com/2PLDBUdLGF
— Orlando Magic PR (@Magic_PR) January 7, 2021
Fultz is in the final year of his rookie contract and has already signed a 3-year $50 million extension with the Magic (although only $35 million of that is fully guaranteed, and he may now not make some of the benchmarks to get to $50 million).
For Orlando, the future got put on hold this season because Fultz joins promising young forward Jonathan Isaac in being out for the season with a torn ACL. Look for rookie Cole Anthony to be thrown into the fire and become Orlando’s starting point guard.
3) Bradley Beal scores career-best 60 points, it’s not enough as Wizards lose to 76ers
If you wonder why NBA GMs from around the league are circling the Washington Wizards like vultures, ready to swoop in the second Bradley Beal becomes available via trade, first watch this video of him dropping 60 points on the top defense in the league this season in Philadelphia.
Then know that wasn’t enough to get the Wizards the win. Philadelphia was in control most of the game, leading by as many as 21 points, but Beal brought the Wizards back. It just wasn’t enough. Joel Embiid continued his MVP-level play early with 38 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks.
Every time talk of a trade comes up, both Beal and the Wizards shoot it down. A year ago, Beal signed a short extension with Washington to show his loyalty, but after this season’s slow 2-6 start — and the fact almost all of the top free agents next summer have re-signed with their teams — other GMs are looking at Beal as an option and wondering at what point will he have had enough and ask out?
Maybe that doesn’t happen, but the losses are piling up for the Wizards, which hits Beal hard.