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Basketball Daily Dose

Playoffs in Jeopardy?

by Jonas Nader
Updated On: August 27, 2020, 10:44 pm ET

What a surreal day. Moments before Game 5 between the Bucks and Magic, Milwaukee players decided to boycott the game which sent shockwaves throughout the sports world — other leagues including the MLB, MLS and WNBA followed suit with boycotts of their own. The Magic players left warmups early after learning about the decision, and instead of accepting Milwaukee's forfeit they also agreed to sit out in protest.

Here’s part of what the Bucks had to say in a statement released to the media.

"The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American communities. Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings,” they said. "Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”

The Bucks later organized a call with the Wisconsin state Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor to discuss ways to move forward, and by all accounts it was a productive talk. In fact, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that there is “sentiment that the [Bucks] want to continue playing [in the Orlando bubble].”

There was chatter from Toronto and Boston players about a possible boycott earlier in the day and it only got louder as the Milwaukee game was about to tip-off, so there was likely some collaboration among several teams. Here’s what Toronto coach Nick Nurse had to say about it:

"Boycotting the game has come up for them as a way to again try to demand a little more action,” Nurse said. “And I think that's really what they want. I think there's enough attention and there's not quite enough action, and I think that's what I can sense from the discussion."

The NBA went ahead and cancelled the other two games on the slate (OKC-HOU and LAL-POR), and it sounds like Thursday’s slate could be postponed as well (more on that in a bit).

Wojnarowski reported shortly after those decisions that the NBA season was now in jeopardy after gathering some intel from an unnamed veteran player, and an emergency meeting was called for players to voice their concerns on Wednesday night. Some of the speakers at the meeting included NBPA president Chris Paul, NBPA VP Andre Iguodala, Kyle Korver and Clippers coach Doc Rivers, but even after several hours of dialogue, we were left with more questions than answers.

The Lakers and Clippers were the first teams to leave the meeting abruptly and were also the only teams that voted against resuming the playoffs according to Shams Charania — every other team agreed that the best way forward was to resume the season. LeBron James reportedly spoke up in the meeting about wanting more action from team owners, and several reports cited some dissatisfaction towards commissioner Adam Silver for not doing enough and remaining outside the bubble.

Wojnarowski later clarified Shams’ reports about the Lakers and Clippers voting to end the season though, saying it was “more of a polling, than a final vote.” Woj added that the discussions about resuming the season will extend to Thursday, and while we wait for those talks to conclude, it’s safe to assume that the Thursday slate of games will be cancelled as well.  "Everyone is still too emotional," one high-ranking source said to Woj.

My thinking here is that LeBron and other players are trying to leverage their way into getting more action out of their team owners and league executives, and I think the likelihood of them finishing the season remains pretty high. Each player will have their specific reasons for wanting to continue, but LeBron especially because this season was supposed to be about winning another ring while honoring the one and only Kobe Bryant.

The NBA and NBPA have been rewriting their current CBA on the fly due to the pandemic, and there’s no reason they can’t continue to work together to find solutions. After all, their collaboration on the bubble so far has been an overwhelming success with zero positive COVID-19 tests across two months. Basketball is a necessary escape for a lot of us in what has been a miserable 2020 all around, so here’s to hoping we get good news on Thursday.

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Quick Notes from around the NBA

Russell Westbrook (quad), who was originally ruled out for Game 5, was upgraded to questionable and was trending towards a game-time call before the playoffs were postponed. If/when the NBA resumes, that will likely mean the return of Westbrook with it which is absolutely huge for Houston. James Harden has been shadowed by playoffs standout Lu Dort on defense, so adding a dynamic player like Westy back to the lineup will take away some of the attention on Harden and open up the floor for the NBA’s deadliest 3-point shooting team. Just be aware that Westbrook is likely to have restrictions upon his return.

The Heat are downplaying Jimmy Butler’s shoulder injury, and it sounds like he’s in no jeopardy of missing time. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called it a “soft-tissue injury,” and the Heat aren’t concerned enough to take him to get an MRI. That being said, it was painful to watch him struggle to lift his arm in Game 4 vs. the Pacers, so DFS managers will want to be cautious about deploying him early in the next series. Tyler Herro could be a sneaky play and Goran Dragic could have the ball in his hands more often if Butler doesn't heal quickly.

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle didn’t exactly sound convinced that Kristaps Porzingis (knee) would be ready for Game 6. "I would like to be more optimistic than I am,” he said. Carlisle sounded more optimistic back on Tuesday, so it’s a shame that Porzingis isn’t progressing as rapidly as they hoped. This isn’t the knee that had the torn ACL, but this one has been giving him problems since the beginning of the year with KP missing 10 games just in the regular season due to knee soreness. Hopefully the extra couple days off or so means Dallas could get their No. 2 option back in the lineup.

Shout-out to Paul George who spoke up about his mental health on Wednesday. Kevin Love has been a strong advocate for mental health awareness in the past couple years and it’s nice to see George follow suit and be so transparent with his troubles. He recently broke out of a horrible shooting slump with a 35-point Game 5 performance, and while rumors spread about the possibility of his shoulders affecting him, it turns out it was something much deeper than that.

"It was just a little bit of everything," George said to ESPN. "I underestimated mental health, honestly. I had anxiety. A little bit of depression. Just being locked in here. I just wasn't there. I checked out. Games 2, 3, 4, I wasn't there. I felt like I wasn't there. Shout-out to the people that were in my corner, that gave me words. They helped big time, help get me right, [get] me back in great spirits. I can't thank them enough."