For the better part of four months, silence has echoed through the hallways of the Dallas Mavericks headquarters, so when coach Rick Carlisle appeared in front of the team’s bright blue backdrop , he seemed ready to finally crack the quiet.
Speaking Wednesday to the Dallas/Fort Worth media via Zoom in anticipation of the restart of the 2019-20 NBA season, basketball wasn’t the only thing on Carlisle’s mind.
While concerns about the coronavirus linger, George Floyd’s death has pushed the Black Lives Matter movement to the center court for many NBA and WNBA players, who have been vocal in their fight against police brutality and other racial injustices.
As teams prepare to head to Disney World — the league’s new home for the coronavirus-shortened season — coaches across the NBA are looking to keep the conversation going about Black Lives Matter, even as the games start back up.
22 teams will be traveling to Orlando, Florida next week to continue practicing for the rest of the season, which is scheduled to begin July 30.
NBA Coaches for Racial Justice
Carlisle, who is president of the NBA Coaches Association, announced the creation of “NBA Coaches for Racial Justice.”
“This is a long term initiative,” Carlisle said, his tone serious and steady. “We have got to keep this conversation going. It’s more important than ever… There’s no way it’s going to happen overnight, but the conversation must continue.”
The NBA announced that the Black Lives Matter slogan will be painted on the courts in Orlando and the league is even debating on whether to allow players to wear social justice statements on the back of their jerseys.
Carlisle noted that he and the Mavs organization support their players “100% in terms of their ability to express themselves individually, or as a group if they wish.”
“The platform in Orlando is going to be a great opportunity for us to talk about the history of racial injustice,” Carlisle said. “We plan to revisit it on a daily basis.”
General manger Donnie Nelson also expressed his support for the BLM movement when the season starts back up.
“I think that is paramount on all of our minds,” the GM said on a phone call with the DFW media. “We can put the spotlight on some issues that are paramount to all of us.”
Around the league, some players are bowing out of the restart, citingthe gripping fear of the coronavirus as reasons, McClatchy reported.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to be 100% comfortable,” Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard expressed to The Athletic on Tuesday. “Just because I understand that there is no way this could be kept 100% safe.”
Both Carlisle and Nelson expressed that this current situation was new to them and to the players.
“It’s now official,” Carlisle said. “This is certainly a new situation. Never before have we gone through something like this in the NBA. Some people might look at it with trepidation. I look at it with excitement.”
“It’s a ‘sailor’s existence,’” Nelson said regarding the players diving Frozen 2-style into the unknown.
Carlisle himself said that he’s already undergone five COVID-19 tests.
Along with losing players like Dwight Powell, Jalen Bruson, Courtney Lee to injuries (all three of which are occupying the team to Orlando), Willie Cauley-Stein has bowed out due to expecting a child in July.