OKC Thunder-Houston Rockets Game 5 postponed after Bucks walkout
The NBA stopped once again Wednesday night, not because of the coronavirus pandemic, but after the Milwaukee Bucks decided to not take the court for their playoff game in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
In a show of solidarity, the Thunder and Rockets, according to multiple reports, planned to sit out Game 5 of their series that was set to tip-off at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
But 90 minutes before the game, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association announced that all three playoff games scheduled for Wednesday night had been postponed "in light of the Milwaukee Bucks' decision to not take the floor."
The NBA said Game 5 of each series will be rescheduled, but it's unclear when, or if, that will happen.
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The Thunder and Rockets were tied 2-2 in their first-round playoff series heading into a pivotal Game 5.
Cameras showed Thunder guard Chris Paul and Rockets guard Russell Westbrook meeting in a hallway before the game at The Field House in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Players were shown leaving the arena, and the Thunder announced that coach Billy Donovan's pregame media availability had been canceled.
The team issued the following statement: "The Thunder respects and supports our players peacefully bringing awareness to the critical issues happening in our country. Our organization will continue to work relentlessly to create meaningful change."
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that NBA players called for a meeting Wednesday night to determine their next steps.
As president of the NBPA, Paul guided the players through return-to-play negotiations when the season was suspended March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once again, he's likely to be at the center of discussions.
"I just want to send my prayers out to Jacob Blake and their family," Paul said after Game 4. "The things that we decided to come down here and play for and we said we’re going to speak on — the social injustice and the things that continue to happen … It’s not right. It’s not right.”
Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot multiple times in the back Sunday by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin — located 40 miles south of Milwaukee.
The decision to sit out in protest carried over to Major League Baseball, as the Milwaukee Brewers opted not to play the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday.
"We just want change," Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said.
The NBA and its players made it clear that they wanted to use the season restart as a platform to promote social justice and combat systemic racism.
"As nice as it is to be back on the court," Paul said before the restart, "I don't think anyone on our team, or any of the players down here have lost sight of the cause, right? We're obviously here to play, but that's still our focus, to shed light on different things that we think needs a lot of work. I think the players will continue to come together, continue to talk, and understand that that's just as important as any game is."