Basketball gods must love irony.
It’s the only way to explain how Rudy Gobert – the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19 – could end up as the same person to score the first and last points in the league’s resumption match. Thursday night. Gobert literally opened and closed the box score after the Utah Jazz defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 106-104 by The Bubble in Orlando.
“I’m just grateful,” Gobert told ESPN. “I am just grateful that I was able to do what I wanted to do. After all that I personally and all the world is going through now, being able to continue to inspire millions of children around the world and continue to spread positivity is just a blessing.
“And it’s good to start with a win, of course.”
But while Gobert may be the poster child for how the coronavirus has affected the NBA, LeBron is still king. James hit the winning basket and made the last defensive stop to give the Lakers a 103-101 victory over the Clippers.
Before each match, teams gathered to kneel in peaceful protest during the national anthem. And when I say everyone on my knees, I mean everyone, including players, coaches, referees and league staff.
“There has been progress. But in the past when we have seen progress, we have left our foot a little out of the glass,” James told TNT after the game. “We can not do that. We want to keep our feet on the gas. Keep pushing forward. Keep spreading love all over America. We are dealing with a lot of racism, a lot of social injustice, a lot of police brutality. Not just in my neighborhoods.Not just with Black people and people of color.Somethings is something we want to keep our people’s ears open.And we have ears now, but we can not stop with our foot in the gas with what we have done in recent months. “
The players were challenging one rule that came into play in 1981, stating that “players, coaches and coaches must stand and line up in a dignified manner along the sidelines or in the hated line” during the interpretation of the national anthem. “
In 1996 Denver Nugget guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf tested the rule when he did not stop for the anthem because of his religious and personal beliefs. He was suspended for a game and worked out a deal with the league that allowed him to stand and fold his hands in front of his face in prayer. However, he eventually went black, predicting what would happen to Colin Kaepernick 20 years later in the NFL.
“I respect the unified act of peaceful protest of our social justice teams and in these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-term rule that requires perseverance when interpreting our national anthem,” he said. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in connection with demonstrations of pregame games. Silver’s comments were in contrast to how he and the league felt three years ago when a the memory was shipped in 2017 remembering all the league rule teams when it comes to the anthem.
On the field, rust was visible throughout the evening as players returned from a 141-day break since the last game of the regular season. And it was not just the players who were not synchronized, as the referees called a combined foul on Thursday night.
The Pelicans and Jazz combined for 40 laps as Jordan Clarkson came off the bench to lead Utah to the score with 23 points, while Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley each scored 20 to pass along with Gobert with 14 points and 12 rebounds. For the Pelicans, Zion Williamson scored the team’s top 5 points after he finished the night with 13 points in just 15 minutes due to still being limited by medical staff. Brandon Ingram led the way to New Orleans with 23 points. JJ Redick had 21 and Jrue Holiday had 20.
The Lakers were able to overcome a bad night of shooting, as they shot 39 percent from the field and only 30.6 percent from three. Anthony Davis led all scorers with 34 points as James added 16 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. The Clippers duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard was built for 58 points, which was 57 percent of the Clippers final score.
With the way things are going in the NFL and MLB, and the uncertainty about college football and basketball, the NBA and WNBA seem like the only sports that can understand this.
If that’s the case, the combination of this past weekend and Thursday night proved one thing.
Basketball never stops.