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Dwight Howard: ‘Basketball isn’t needed at this moment’

Lakers center Dwight Howard

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 08: Los Angeles Lakers Center Dwight Howard (39) looks on before a NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers on March 8, 2020 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dwight Howard has all the basketball reasons in the world to want to jump on a plane and head to Orlando to be part of the NBA’s restart of the season. He’s a key big man on a Lakers’ team that is the odds-on favorite to win it all, and a ring would be the cherry on top of his Hall of Fame career.

But Dwight Howard says players should not play right now, there are far more critical things to focus on in society.

Howard was part of Friday night’s 80-player call, led by Kyrie Irving, discussing whether players should be part of the restart. Howard told CNN he thought the NBA should not play right now. Here’s Howard’s statement, via his agent, to CNN.

“I agree with Kyrie (Irving). Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction. Sure it might not distract us the players, but we have resources at hand majority of our community don’t have. And the smallest distraction for them, can start a trickle-down effect that may never stop. Especially with the way the climate is now. I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA Championship. But the unity of My People would be an even bigger Championship, that’s just too beautiful to pass up. What better time than now for us to be focusing on our families?

“This is a rare opportunity that, I believe, we as a community should be taking full advantage of. When have we ever had this amount of time to sit and be with our families? This is where our Unity starts. At home! With Family!! European Colonization stripped us of our rich history, and we have yet to sit down and figure us out. The less distractions, the more we can put into action into rediscovering ourselves. Nations come out of families. Black/African American is not a Nation or Nationality. It’s time Our Families became their own Nations. No Basketball till we get things resolved.”

Howard joins Irving and CJ McCollum as three name players who have come out and said they opposed a restart of games due to the social climate. Others, such as the Clippers’ Lou Williams, have expressed similar concerns.

Howard is teammates with LeBron James, who has championed a return to play and believes players can balance social justice issues and basketball. Other players, such as Austin Rivers, have echoed this idea.

There is not a unified feeling among players about the restart. It is a personal decision for each player. Players do not have to report to Orlando and will not be punished, although they will not be paid for that time.

For players NBC Sports has spoken to in recent days, money also plays a significant factor in this decision. Players would be giving up paychecks from this season (something Howard, Irving, and McCollum can afford to do more easily than the 72% of players who make less than the league average salary). Plus, not playing would lead to a tearing up and renegotiating of the current CBA, and those negotiations during a pandemic would lead to the players certainly getting a smaller share of league revenue in the future.

Some players believe that any financial sacrifices are worth helping the bigger cause. Dwight Howard is firmly in that camp and made it clear he doesn’t think the NBA should return to play.