When it comes to George Floyd, Fat Lever is rooting for justice. When it comes to Michael Porter Jr., the Nuggets legend is rooting for cooler heads. And for the Denver locker room to rally around its young forward.
“I think everyone is coming at it differently, especially when you don’t know a person,” Lever, the former Nuggets point guard, said of MPJ, whose tweets last regarding the Minneapolis policemen who had Floyd in custody when he was killed drew the ire of current and former NBA players.
“And to criticize (MPJ) from a distance, fair enough,” said Lever, 59, a fixture of the Nuggets’ backcourt from 1984-90. “(You need) to be understanding of his comments, though, once you get to know him and to get to know him better and understand where he’s coming from.”
Porter Jr. came from his heart, posting on Twitter last week that the horrific death of the 46-year-old Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police on May 25 was “murder,” then asking his followers to, “as hard as it is, pray (for the officers) instead of hate them … pray that God changes their hearts.”
That last sentiment was roundly criticized on social media, most notably by the Knicks’ Maurice Harkless, the 76ers’ Mike Scott and the Clippers’ Lou Williams. But assuming the NBA resumes its season as expected this summer, Lever said he would be surprised, even in a “bubble” environment, if Porter Jr.’s peers continue to hold a grudge.
“I don’t think it’s going to get to the point of hashing out his comments on the court,” Lever said. “I don’t think so. Everyone has said something they may regret and have a different opinion on. And everyone is entitled to their opinion.
“I was surprised (to see) a young player of his stature say something like that. But I think it’s a step, as far as growth for him, to be able to now carry forward with things and to get a better understanding of the past.”
The 12-year NBA veteran said he would advise MPJ, who averaged 7.5 points in 14 minutes per game as a 21-year-old rookie, to confer with his older teammates on their advice on how best to bring about change in Denver — and how his voice could advance the cause.
“Going forward, I’d love to see a lot of veteran players in their own cities, and in their NBA cities, have a dialogue with some of the young players,” said Lever, who was raised in Arkansas and Arizona. “And with some of the city and community leaders, to get an idea of what the players are going through and what the players are experiencing.
“A lot of us went through it. I grew up in the South, and I experienced it. And I’m sure others experienced it as well. So tell that story. Not necessarily relive it, but just share it with the school systems and the community. When it comes to sports, I think we’re just not sharing the full message and getting the full message.
“Because it’s not just about sports. It’s about everything that we do.”
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