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Locked arms for anthem, talk of unity, actions at first NBA preseason games

ANAHEIM — For all the talk, for all the build-up, the NBA league office memos, when the national anthem played before the first NBA preseason games, it looked a lot like last season.

In Anaheim, the Lakers and Timberwolves players stood at their respective free throw lines, locked arms, a few bowed their heads — exactly what was seen from teams around the league last season. Before the game the Lakers had talked of wanting to show support for other protests going on in the country.

At the Warriors first preseason game, the Nuggets players locked arms, and Golden State had announced before tipoff the players had decided not to protest the anthem. After the game Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he was proud of his team’s decision.

It felt like every other NBA game.

It’s very much unlike what had been going on in the NFL, where players taking a knee during the anthem has created a controversy, with players getting support from some quarters and anger from others — including President Donald Trump.

The NBA owners were concerned enough about the topic to discuss it at length during their recent Board of Governors meetings, according to a source with knowledge of the discussion. It was those talks that led to the memo (obtained by NBC Sports) that went out to teams on Friday night, which primarily suggesting that the organizations have discussions on the issue from ownership through the players. It also suggested things like having a player address the crowd before games, video messages, and did mention the league’s rule players must stand for the anthem.

While the controversy may not be going away in the NFL — and the WNBA has seen protests throughout the playoffs including teams leaving the court for the anthem — in the NBA opening night was business as usual. The league got what it wanted — a focus on the games.