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Kendrick Perkins: What changed with Kyrie Irving? NBA told him he couldn’t go to Disney World

Kendrick Perkins

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 25: A close up shot of Kendrick Perkins on court before the LA Clippers game against the Los Angeles Lakers on December 25, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

A timeline:

  • May 26: Protests seeking racial justice emerge (and have continued through today) in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd
  • June 4: NBA owners approve resuming the season with 22 teams at Disney World
  • June 5: Kyrie Irving – out for the season due to injury – reportedly expresses interest in joining the Nets at Disney World to support his teammates
  • June 5: The National Basketball Players Association – which counts Irving as a vice president – approves the restart format
  • June 10: ESPN’s Brian Windhorst – who co-wrote a blueprint on how the NBA could resume in a bubble and is well-connected throughout the league – says “No, Kyrie, you’re not going in there, because the whole point of this is to keep it to as few people as possible” (though acknowledged Brooklyn could bump someone else from its limited travelling party for Irving)
  • June 12: Leading a video call with other players, Irving reportedly says he’s against resuming play in Orlando

Kendrick Perkins on “Golic and Wingo:"

What changed over the last nine, 10 days? What changed was – from what I strongly believe and what I heard – is that the NBA and the players’ association told Kyrie that, no, you can’t go.

I hope Perkins isn’t just supposing Irving’s motivations. That’s a major charge to suggest disingenuousness from Irving, who reportedly cited systematic racism as central to his stance.

The NBA is limiting the number of people in the bubble, which is good for safety and bad for standard of living. Players should be concerned with their work conditions as the season continues. Likewise, Irving deserves room to reconsider his priorities.

But Irving and Lakers center Dwight Howard (at least Howard’s statement more than his agent’s follow-up) don’t sound like they’re merely making personal choices. They sound like they’re suggesting players band together to sit out to fight racism. Other players ought to consider Irving’s and Howard’s interests before following their lead.

Irving and Howard have career earnings far above most players. For other players, the money earned by continuing to play can be transformational.

Even directly with combatting racism, players can use their spotlight to make a difference.

There are reasons to play. There are reasons not to play. But there’s a whole mess of considerations for players weighing the competing arguments.