Houston Rockets long-time assistant coach John Lucas played a pivotal role in the resumption of the NBA postseason, amidst social justice concerns.
The novel coronavirus nearly ended the 2019-20 NBA regular season, as several teams had outbreaks, and the league had no such precedent for dealing with a pandemic of this magnitude. Tons of players would test positive across the league, including even Houston Rockets superstar point guard Russell Westbrook.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA president Michele Roberts partnered together to concoct a plan which would allow the regular season to resume, with the purpose of crowning a champion. Many players were at a divide over whether to resume play, and many decided against it, including Houston Rockets forward Thabo Sefolosha.
For many, the myriad of social justice issues was far too concerning to resume play, and rightfully so. Police brutality and wrongdoing reared its ugly head, leading to the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks, among many others.
These incidents all took place while the NBA attempted to resume play, which was initially an obstacle, but eventually became a cause worth playing for, in the eyes of the majority of the players. The league resumed in a campus-like environment without fans, and the games we witnessed in Orlando were every bit as entertaining as one could have hoped.
The Houston Rockets pulled off several impressive comeback victories, against the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks, and were locked in a 2-2 battle in their opening round postseason matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder. But social injustice continued to take place outside of the bubble, as yet another unarmed African-American was struck by a barrage of bullets at the hands of law enforcement, as Jacob Blake was shot seven times by the Kenosha police, leaving the 23-year-old paralyzed.
The players decided to boycott Wednesday and Thursday’s slate of postseason games, and the 2020 postseason appeared to be on the cusp of demise. Meetings ensued between players, owners, and coaches, as the playoffs seemed destined to end, almost immediately after they started. Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan reached out to Houston Rockets superstar Russell Westbrook and former Rockets guard Chris Paul, to offer a listening ear, on behalf of the owners.
Rockets’ Lucas played role in salvaging NBA postseason
Houston Rockets long-time assistant coach John Lucas also served as the voice of reason for the players, although Lucas’ impact went largely undiscussed. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (subscription required), Lucas discussed the progress the NBA has made since he was a player, and challenged the players to take even more action during incidents of police brutality.
Lucas emphasized the need for the players, who have the platform of the NBA and stardom. to leverage their status to spark change with government leaders. The players eventually agreed to a resumption of the postseason, but only after receiving a commitment from the owners that they would be more involved in social justice efforts.
Russell Westbrook discussed the importance of the owners’ involvement, while also sharing the importance of the players holding them accountable.
“I think it’s very important that the owners not just tell us what they’re going to do, but that we hold them accountable. And I think that’s another step of making sure the things we discussed amongst each other and as a partnership get done.”
Kudos to the players and owners for partnering together for a solution to the season, and kudos to John Lucas for emphasizing the importance of the players recognizing their platform and utilizing it to influence change.