Dwight Howard

LeBron James Breonna Taylor
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LeBron James focuses on Breonna Taylor, social justice in postgame remarks

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Wednesday, Paul George became the latest player to turn his press conference at the NBA’s restart into a call for social justice, focusing on Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

Thursday night it was LeBron James‘ turn.

Speaking to the media after the Lakers fell in their opening exhibition to Dallas, LeBron started his postgame press conference talking about the shooting death of Taylor: “We want the cops arrested that committed that crime.” (Hat tip Ben Golliver of the Washington Post.)

From there LeBron turned to the lack of progress on race relations in this nation in the past four years, then the meaning of “Black Lives Matter.”

“A lot of people talk about Black Lives Matter as a movement. It’s not a movement. When you’re Black, it’s a lifestyle… When you wake up and you’re Black, that’s what it is…

“In America, in society, ain’t been no d*** movement for us.”

LeBron — as the most popular player in the world — has a very loud megaphone when he speaks. However, LeBron is about more than words, he’s put his money into an organization working on registering voters and reversing voter suppression measures in parts of the nation.

LeBron and George were not the first players to turn their Orlando pressers into discussions of social justice and Breonna Taylor. Boston‘s Jaylen Brown, Portland ‘s C.J. McCollum, Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris, Denver’s Jerami Grant, the Lakers’ Alex Caruso and Dwight Howard, all redirected post-practice discussions to only social justice matters. That’s not to mention the “Black Lives Matter” written on the game courts.

Numerous players hesitated to come to the restart in Orlando because of misgivings about being a distraction from the important discussions taking place nationally around social justice issues, and particularly Black Lives Matter. So far, players have not let that happen.

With LeBron James leading the way.

Dwight Howard: ‘If you’ve got an opinion on something, don’t let nobody change your opinion on it’

Lakers center Dwight Howard
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Lakers center Dwight Howard said he doesn’t believe in vaccines.

Howard:

I did say something about, I don’t believe in vaccines. And, no, I don’t. And that is my personal opinion.

And everybody that’s out there, man, listen. If you’ve got an opinion on something, don’t let nobody change your opinion on it. Stand down on your 10 toes and believe in it. Don’t let nobody change your thoughts and your opinions and whatever, because those are your thoughts and your opinions.

So, I don’t believe in vaccines myself. Will vaccines work for some people? They may, or they may not. But, for me, I don’t believe in them. And that is my opinion, and I’m going to stick with that.

This is terrible advice. Absolutely be open to reassessing your opinion as you gather new information. That’s how we learn and grow.

Otherwise, you might double down on silly things like not believing in vaccines:

Three Things to Know: The NBA is back! Now with more Bol Bol!

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Our daily recap helping you unpack the previous day from the NBA is back… just for today. It will return to its regular weekday slot when the seeding games return, but today, with the first games in four months taking place, we’re bringing “Three Things to Know” out of mothballs. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) Welcome back NBA! And not a bad job with the broadcasts, all things considered. For those of us who love the game, it was like the first sunny spring day after a long, snowy winter.

Seeing the world’s best athletes back on the court playing basketball — even in a meaningless scrimmage — brought us joy. We can have a debate about whether sports should return right now, there’s a good case to be made we shouldn’t be playing games. However, the reality is money won that argument so the NBA is back. Why it returned, and some sloppy games, didn’t make it any less joyful to see.

The broadcasts were about as good as could be done, considering the no-fan reality. It was better than expected, although there absolutely was a casual Summer League game feel to the entire thing, especially with games rolling out through the afternoon.

The NBA piped in pre-recorded music, public address announcements, and fan chants from the home team’s arena for the Orlando games. That’s why you heard “Dos! Minutos!” during the Heat game, and may have realized the Brooklyn DJ is their team MVP. The league made good use of the video boards next to the court to provide a home arena feel.

What all that noise did was largely down out the ability — at least on the broadcasts — to hear some uncensored trash talk and comments from players during the games. (Reporters in the bubble at the games seemed to hear more.) I still hope the NBA will offer at least a stream during games where we can hear what happens on the court without as much music and fan noise (as NBC has done with the Premier League streams), but that seems unlikely.

Still, it was great just to have basketball back — and now we can’t wait for the games that matter.

2) Bol Bol announces his presence with authority with 16 points, 10 rebounds in his debut. Coach Mike Malone and his Denver Nuggets were the anti-Rockets Wednesday — they went big. Ginormous really. Seven-foot Nikola Jokic at center and 7’2” Bol Bol at small forward. John Hollinger had the appropriate reaction.

However, Tweet of the Day went to Rockets GM Daryl Morey in response to the Nuggets going big.

With just eight players available, the Nuggets oversized leap into positionless basketball was as much necessity as a gimmick, but Bol took full advantage of the opportunity with a “you better convert my two-way contract to a standard one” kind of game of 16 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks.

“He’s played very well. Let’s not forget, he’s still, in essence, a rookie. Let’s not put the expectations way up there. Let’s let him grow and develop,” the Nuggets Malone said postgame (hat tip Mike Singer at the Denver Post). “But he’s shown me that he has a tremendous amount of talent. He has things, as I’ve mentioned quite a bit, that I can’t teach as a coach. I can’t teach 7-foot-2, I can’t teach a 7-foot-9 wingspan, and I sure as hell can’t teach a really soft touch all the way out to the NBA 3-point line.”

The broadcast of the Wizards/Nuggets game felt quieter than others during the day, you could hear more from the court. With that, it really did feel more line Summer League, just with names you know and taller players.

For Denver, Jokic had 16 points but eight turnovers and looked rusty. Troy Daniels led the way with 22 points and showed well as the only guard in their rotation. Still, the day belonged to Bol Bol.

3) Paul George, players work to keep the focus on Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and social change. A lot of players came to the NBA restart in Orlando despite misgivings about being a distraction from the important discussions taking place nationally around social justice issues, and particularly Black Lives Matter.

Paul George wasn’t going to let those topics fade into the background after he and the Clippers had a relatively impressive opening scrimmage win over Orlando. At his postgame press conference, every question was answered with a discussion of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and social justice issues.

“[Taylor’s] murderers are still free, so nothing was done yet,” George said. “We’re going to continue to keep this fight going to use our platform to stand up for those that can’t stand anymore…

“There are so many others that have been brutally murdered by the hands of police. That’s all I got. That’s my message for everyone. That will continue to be my answer.”

George wasn’t the first player to do this in Orlando, Boston‘s Jaylen Brown, Portland ‘s C.J. McCollum, Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris, Denver’s Jerami Grant, the Lakers’ Alex Caruso and Dwight Howard, all have redirected post-practice discussions to only social justice matters. Other players, such as LeBron James, have mixed basketball and social change discussion.

During every game Wednesday, the “Black Lives Matter” written on the court couldn’t be missed. That will continue throughout the restart and into the NBA Finals.

Expect the players to keep using their platform to get their message out as well.

Dwight Howard says he doesn’t believe in vaccines

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Lakers center Dwight Howard admitted he got warned for not wearing a mask in the NBA bubble at Disney World.

Howard actually made a somewhat reasonable defense. Unlike members of the general population – who should absolutely wear masks – NBA players inside the bubble can reasonably know they don’t have coronavirus. They quarantined and repeatedly tested negative before entering the bubble. They’re tested daily. They’re not supposed to interact with anyone outside the bubble. The system is working with zero cases of coronavirus diagnosed within the bubble. That’s why it’s safe to do something – play five-on-five basketball – that would otherwise be unsafe.

However, if the system fails – someone sneaking into the bubble or even inadvertently making too close of contact with someone outside the bubble – and coronavirus infiltrates the bubble, masks will help slow the spread. The safety of everyone involved and so much money is at stake. Even with isolating from the outside world and testing, wearing a mask seems like a sound additional layer of protection.

Except that’s not how Howard thinks.

Howard on Instagram Live:

Do I believe in vaccinations? No, I don’t. That’s my personal opinion, but no, I don’t.

That’s bad enough in normal times:

Howard’s stance might cause specific complications now.

Will the NBA require players to get a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available?

A vaccine won’t necessarily directly help everyone. Some people have conditions that will preclude them from getting the vaccine. Even some people who get the vaccine, unknowingly, won’t develop a resistance.

That’s why it’s important for everyone who can to get vaccinated. There are reasonable debates about how that should be enforced in society. But it’d be easy to see a business like the NBA requiring its employees to get a coronavirus vaccine to protect its product.

Dwight Howard admits he got warned for not wearing mask

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Wearing masks works. It slows the spread of the coronavirus. End of discussion.

This is why players inside the NBA’s campus for the restart of the season have to wear masks when outside their rooms or not on the basketball court. While the goal of the NBA’s “bubble” is to keep the virus on the outside — essentially to keep the rest of Florida out of their restart campus — the league has protocols in place to limit the spread should it get inside. Masks are critical to that.

When calls came into the league’s anonymous tip line, one was for Lakers’ center Dwight Howard for not wearing his mask around campus, something he owned up to on an Instagram Live chat (hat tip Dave McMenamin ESPN).

Howard said he was reported to the NBA Campus Hotline, set up to help protect players and staff participating in the league’s restart in Orlando, Florida, and received a warning for not covering his face with a mask.

“Somebody told on me,” Howard said Wednesday in an Instagram Live post, broadcast to his 2.7 million followers.

The NBA’s 113-page restart handbook does not lay out a punishment plan for violations of mask-wearing/social distancing in the campus. For now, Howard gets a slap on the wrist and everyone moves along. If it continues, the NBA can reconsider its options.

Several players have come out publicly and said they would not call the tip line, essentially making the “snitches get stitches” argument. Other players have told NBC Sports off the record their health and livelihood are at stake, so if there is a serious violation they would call. Of course, there’s the incentive of trying to get a key player for another team in trouble as well.

Howard has become a key player for the Lakers, giving them 7.5 points and 7.4 rebounds a night in 19 minutes off the bench, plus playing quality defense. Los Angeles is going to need him to continue that during the playoffs, with Howard and JaVale McGee giving the Lakers quality minutes at the five so Anthony Davis can thrive at the four.

Dwight Howard needs to stay on the floor, which in part means wearing his mask off it.