Rivers: Clips players thought season was ‘over’
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LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers said his players are ready to continue the NBA postseason after “they thought it was over” following Wednesday’s emotional players’ meeting.
“Oh, they want to,” Rivers said when asked if his team is ready to move forward during an interview Thursday on Fox Prime Ticket. “They are really looking forward to it. Yesterday was a very difficult day though. Like their emotions were all over the place.
“They thought it was over. It was just a really tough day for all of them.”
Rivers spoke during the Wednesday night meeting to players at the request of Oklahoma City point guard and NBA Players Association president Chris Paul. The Clippers, along with the Los Angeles Lakers, initially voted on perhaps not continuing with the season when the players were polled during the meeting, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The players met again on Thursday morning and voted in favor of resuming the playoffs, a source told Wojnarowski.
“To be fair, that vote wasn’t us saying, ‘We don’t want to play basketball,'” Clippers guard Landry Shamet, appearing on “The JJ Redick Podcast,” said of the initial poll Wednesday night. “It was just simply a poll of what we thought was best to do. That’s what came out of our team.”
“Obviously things were moving really fast,” Shamet added of how he didn’t feel confident when he went to bed on Wednesday night. “A lot of people had to step up and try to figure out the best thing for us to do. But one thing I think we didn’t fully take into account was how high emotions were, how tense the situation was and how this was really the first time we as a whole as players have been able to sit and process and think about, talk about and have really good dialogue in the bubble about all this.”
During the meeting on Wednesday night, Rivers said players expressed “many different viewpoints” in the aftermath of the Jacob Blake shooting, which has sparked protests and infuriated many players and coaches. Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a city about 40 miles south of Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee Bucks made the historic decision not to play Game 5 of their first-round series against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers all followed suit and opted not to play their games on Wednesday as well.
“I loved it,” Rivers said of the Bucks’ decision on their own to not play Game 5. “I wish, obviously, they would’ve alerted all the players so they wouldn’t have been blindsided by it, but I thought the action was the right action, especially because of who it was. I thought the one team that had to take action immediately was Milwaukee, if we were gonna take action at all, and again that’s our choice.”
Rivers said the meeting between players and coaches that night after the postponed games made him realize just how much the isolation inside the NBA bubble has affected the players and their emotions.
Clippers guard Paul George touched on how he underestimated mental health inside the bubble when he admitted that he experienced anxiety and some depression and sought help from a team psychiatrist, teammates and those close to him to snap out of a recent shooting slump.
“It woke me up quite a bit to some of the things that I have missed since being in this bubble,” Rivers said of the players expressing their views during the meeting. “You forget that being in the bubble is hard. And even some of that came up. I knew it was hard but listening to some of these guys speak, just mental awareness, we got to be a little sharper on that as well.”
Rivers added, “I don’t think it’s coincidence that everyone in this bubble just seems to be a little bit more emotional and I’m not kidding. It’s true. I think part of the effect of being like jammed together every day, it has had that effect on everyone.”
Rivers was incredibly emotional and fought back tears after the Clippers’ Game 5 win over Dallas on Tuesday night when he was asked about the video of the Blake shooting. Rivers said he was reminded yet again of how Black men have to fear for their lives due to police brutality and racism.
Rivers’ outpouring of frustration, anger and sadness over the latest police shooting of a Black person went viral, with video of his comments also shared by President Barack Obama.
Rivers said players have had difficulty knowing whether their social justice messages and comments have had an impact due to their isolation in the NBA campus in Florida.
“I do think being here, you feel like you are doing work but you don’t see the work, you don’t know what you are doing,” Rivers said. “Because you are in this bubble so you are kind of away from the real world. I thought some of the guys voiced that they know they are doing the right thing here, they know that they have a platform here but they just feel like they are not part of the movement in here. Because they don’t see the results that all the things they’ve been saying has actually done [something] because they are in here.”
Rivers said that voting, police reform and social justice are three areas that he and players want to impact moving forward in the fight for change.
“I think we’re gonna form a group today to try to make that scope smaller and understand exactly what we want to do,” Rivers said of what steps are next. “But we’re on the right path.”
Rivers said Clippers guard Lou Williams stopped to chat in his hotel room on Thursday and Rivers told his sixth man that these past 24 hours will be something Williams will eventually look back on and understand how impactful it truly was.
“Man, what a good, tough day,” Rivers said he told Williams. “And he was like, ‘What the heck is that? What’s a good, tough day?’ And I said, ‘You had one yesterday. Someday you will look back on this and you will understand that.'”
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