In the last few days, more than a week after the league voted to restart the NBA season on July 30, it has become obvious that there are schisms within the bloc of 300-plus players who would be heading to Orlando to finish up the year, hold a postseason and crown a 2019-20 champion.
For the Lakers, concerns have arisen that those schisms are most pronounced within their own roster, with players bent on getting back onto the floor to try to cash in on the franchise’s chance for a title and to protect players’ future earnings at the same time.
But according to some players, those concerns about divides within the Lakers are overblown.
“(There’s) no divide,” one player told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
According to another player there’s no hurry on resolving the situation. “Still have some time to figure things out as a league and as a team,” he told McMenamin.
And the agent for Dwight Howard said that despite Howard’s focus on social justice, he has not made a decision on whether he will play out the year for the Lakers.
That is good news for a team that would head to Orlando with a near-certain shot of cinching the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs. With a 5.5-game lead over the Clippers, the Lakers would need to go only 3-5 in the eight “regular-season” games remaining to ensure they’re the top seed in the West.
Most Lakers Want to Return
But the team does not appear united in their desire to get back onto the floor, despite claims from ESPN’s unnamed players.
Lakers star LeBron James has been one of the leaders of the faction of players—led by the league’s top players—that wants to get back to the court. His position on coming back is clear and his determination to do so carries significant weight around the league. As the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley said, if, “If (James) said he hooping. We all hooping.”
Forward Kyle Kuzma, on Twitter, responded to Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck on Friday when Beck reported that Nets guard Kyrie Irving has been a “driving force in organizing” players to resist the Orlando return.
Kuzma stated: “Some of us want to hoop and compete don’t get that twisted …”
Danny Green, too, has spoken of his excitement about returning to the court, while conceding that players have legitimate reservations about the Orlando. He was confident that those reservations would, in fact, be addressed.
“There’s a lot of little details that they’re trying to work out the kinks and seeing who’s staying where,” Green told The Grio on Instagram recently. “We’ll see how it goes and make the best of it.”
Howard, Bradley Uncertain on NBA Return
On the other side, there have been at least two prominent Lakers who could be willing to sit out as they question whether the NBA should be returning to action at a time of social unrest. Protests have been ongoing around the nation—and the world—following the death of George Floyd after he was arrested in Minneapolis. Four police officers have been charged in connection with Floyd’s killing.
Starting guard Avery Bradley, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, has been instrumental along with Kyrie Irving in organizing calls among players resisting a restart of the league.
Howard, the team’s key backup center, has been a vocal about keeping the focus off of basketball, both on the player calls and in public.
Howard issued a statement saying that now is not the time to be playing NBA basketball. His agent, Charles Briscoe, explained Howard’s stance on the subject to ESPN:
The statement was about social injustice and racism. Yet everybody is still talking about whether basketball should be played. He isn’t saying that basketball shouldn’t be. He’s just saying that you should not be taking attention away from what’s going on in the country to talk about basketball. Basketball is just a sport, at the end of the day. But what’s going on with people dying in the streets, that’s something real. That statement, it had nothing to do with sports. It had everything to do with racism and social injustice.
Some players may assert that there is no divide within the Lakers. But it sure looks like there is a divide within the Lakers.