LeBron Nearly Checked Out
Plenty is going on in the world and the recent spate of protests for social justice and racial equality has hit home with many of the NBA’s players. Last week we saw playoff games canceled and rumors abound that some teams were on the verge of saying no more to the rest of the 2019-2020 season.
LeBron James, now one of the elder statesmen in the league, has wrestled with his conscience concerning the wisdom and feasibility of playing ball while the world is on fire. “I've had numerous nights and days thinking about leaving the bubble,” the Los Angeles Lakers star told reporters, according to The Washington Post. “I think everyone has. I don't think there's one person that has not had a mind that said 'oh, I've got to get the hell out of here.' ... It probably crosses my mind once a day. For sure.”
Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and teammate Serge Ibaka have confirmed that their team, along with the Boston Celtics, was seriously contemplating calling it quits after the Jacob Blake shooting. The teams were set to tip-off in their Game 1 matchup on Wednesday but decided it wasn’t the appropriate time to be playing games.
“We were close,” Ibaka told reporters on Sunday, according to TSN. “We were very close. But as a group, we figured things out. We stayed here, and we're here for a reason, not only to play basketball but to use our platform to try and change things out there.”
“I think we (the Raptors and other NBA players) were seriously considering leaving,” Lowry said. “I think that would have been in serious consideration.”
“Boycotting the game has come up for them as a way to again try to demand a little more action,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse told reporters on Tuesday, per Sportsnet, “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 Eastern Conference teams have moved onto the second round after sweeps occurred in all but one of the opening-round series. Top-seeded Milwaukee was the only winning team to lose a playoff game in the East but after dropping the opener to Orlando, they woke up and easily dispatched the eighth-seeded Magic in five games. No. 2 Toronto met little resistance from the Brooklyn Nets in their series sweep but the Raps dropped the first game of their second-round series, 112-94, to Boston on Sunday.
Speaking of the Celtics, their domination of Philadelphia continued after they bounced the 76ers in four while fifth-seed Miami melted No. 4 Indiana in their series and is set to take on the Bucks on Monday night.
We can see daily NBA picks at many of the best sports forums across the internet and there are still the first-round series yet to be settled in the West. While the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the Western Conference, the Lakers and Clippers, knocked off the Trail Blazers and Mavericks, respectively, the Nuggets and Jazz are knotted at three with the all-or-nothing Game 7 taking place on Tuesday night. The only other series left standing from the first-round is the Rockets and Thunder, with Houston currently up 3-2 heading into their Game 6 showdown on Monday night.
The Rockets got a huge boost in Game 5 with the return of Russell Westbrook, whose last appearance was on August 11th against the San Antonio Spurs, after sitting the first four games of the series with a quad injury. Houston looked like a different team with Westbrook handling the ball in the backcourt and despite just getting seven points from the perennial All-Star, the Rockets dominated in three of four quarters, cruising to a 114-80 thrashing of Oklahoma City.
"We've missed him the first four games. Now we've got him, and let's see what we can do," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I knew he was going to be a little rusty, but he gave us a nice little spark."
"He brought that energy. He brought that excitement we were missing," Harden said. "We need him."