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Clippers' Doc Rivers says he believed NBA season would continue: 'We needed a moment to breathe'

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers talks with guard Lou Williams (23) in the first half of Game 5 Tuesday against hte Mavericks. [Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP]
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers talks with guard Lou Williams (23) in the first half of Game 5 Tuesday against hte Mavericks. [Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP]

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The NBA and the players union agreed to resume the playoffs on Saturday and committed to more social justice initiatives. But amid a stressful 48-hour period that started with the Milwaukee Bucks refusing to take the floor for their playoff game Wednesday, did Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers believe the season was in jeopardy?

“No. I did not. No, I think everyone else did, but I just knew how high the emotions were, and I just had a lot of faith that it would all calm down,” Rivers said before practice Friday. “I think it was close, though. I don't think it was a lay-up either way.”

When the players met Wednesday night at a hotel here on the Disney campus, they expressed varying concerns, according to Yahoo.

More frustration emerged after police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, seven times in the back. More questions arose on whether the NBA and its players had done enough to address systemic racism during the season restart. And players from two high profile teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, all initially indicated they had no interest in resuming the playoffs.

Among the issues:

– Why did the Bucks not alert other teams about their plans?

– Are the NBA and its owners doing enough to support efforts to address systemic racism beyond approving symbolic gestures and making charitable contributions?

– Are NBA players helping or undercutting their efforts to address systemic racism while playing in the league’s restart?

– What are the financial ramifications players would face now and in the future if they called off the season?

The players initially invited head and assistant coaches for that meeting, including Rivers. Eventually, the meeting involved only players.

“We just wanted to stay united with every other team here in the bubble,” Clippers guard Patrick Beverley said. "The dialogue that we had was between players and players only. But whatever dialogue that was, it came out to be positive. Anything with communication, good communication, bad communication, emotional communication, any type of communication leads to answers.”

Some of that communication entailed Beverley having a contentious conversation with NBA players union executive director Michele Roberts as she spoke about the possible consequences the players and league would face with a disrupted season, according to Yahoo.

“We had a very interesting conversation,” Beverley said. “The [NBPA] is like a family. I'm pretty sure everyone here and all the cameras pointing to me, everyone is part of a family. You don't always agree with your family members, and that's OK. You communicate about it and you try to make it better.”

Still, the NBA was left without clarity Wednesday on its future.

“We all needed to take a breath,” Rivers said. “We needed a moment to breathe. It's not lost on me that George Floyd didn't get that moment. But we did, and we took it.”

Thursday morning, the NBA’s Board of Governors held a conference call and players met again. Thursday afternoon, a group of players and team governors with the remaining 13 playoff teams, the players union, the league office and Michael Jordan (the NBA’s Labor Relations Committee Chairman) all spoke.

“It didn't have to be a contentious meeting, and it wasn't,” Rivers said. “It was a discussion about what they needed, what they wanted, and [Commissioner] Adam [Silver] and the owners were on board with most of it or all of it, and even the things that they didn't come to an agreement on, they discussed.”

The NBA and the players union agreed on the following:

They will establish a social justice coalition that includes players, coaches and owners to help increase accessing to voting, to promote civic engagement and to advocate for police and criminal justice reform. They vowed that every team governor will work with local election officials to convert their practice facilities or arenas as a voting location for the General Election on Nov. 3, where possible. They vowed to work with their players and broadcast affiliates (ESPN/ABC, Turner) to include ads during each NBA playoff game to raise more awareness about voting.

“Everything like that takes time,” Beverley said. “Our platform is here, and just to use that platform to inspire, motivate, give knowledge, listen, whatever the case may be. When you get out of here, just continue to keep that same attitude. Take it to your communities, and take it to where you play at.”