LeBron and Gobert Star in NBA reboot, and it was awesome

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It was amazing to finally get back to the NBA as LeBron James and the Lakers beat the Clippers.
Image: Photo AP

The basketball gods must love irony.

This is the only way to explain how Rudy Gobert – the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19 – could end up being the same person to score the first and last points in the opening game at the resumption of the league Thursday night. Gobert literally opened and closed the box scoring, as Utah Jazz beat New Orleans Pelicans 106-104 from The Bubble in Orlando.

“I’m just grateful,” Gobert told ESPN. “I’m just grateful that I can do what I love to do. After everything I have personally and everything the world is going through right now, being able to continue to inspire millions of children around the world and continue to spread positivity is just a blessing.

“And it’s good to start with a win, of course.

But while Gobert may be the poster child of how the coronavirus has affected the NBA, LeBron is still the king. James hit the winning basket and make the last defensive stop to give the Lakers a 103-101 win over the Clippers.

Before each match, the teams gathered to kneel in peaceful protest during the national anthem. And when I say everyone got on their knees, I mean everyone including the players, coaches, referees and league staff.

“There has been progress. But in the past, when we’ve seen progress, we’ve let our foot down a bit. ” James told TNT after the game. “We can’t do this. We want to continue to keep our foot on the gas. Keep moving. Continue to spread the love across America. We are dealing with a lot of racism, a lot of social injustice, a lot of police brutality. Not just in my quarters. Not just with blacks and people of color. This is something that we want to continue to hear from people. And we have ears now, but we can’t stand down on the ground with what we’ve been doing in the last few months.

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The players challenged a rule entered into force in 1981, stating that “players, coaches and coaches must stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line” while playing the national anthem. “

In 1996, Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf tested the rule when he was not performing the anthem because of his religious and personal beliefs. He was suspended for one game and made a deal with the league that allowed him to stand up and put his hands in front of his face in prayer. However, he was ultimately blackballed, heralding what was to happen to Colin Kaepernick 20 years later in the NFL.

“I respect the unified act of peaceful protest by our teams for social justice and in these unique circumstances I will not enforce our long-standing rule of standing while our national anthem is being read,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on pre-match demonstrations. Silver’s comments contrasted with how he and the league felt three years ago when a memo was sent in 2017 reminding all teams of the league rules regarding the anthem.

On the pitch, rust was apparent throughout the evening as the players returned from a 141-day hiatus from the last regular season game. And it was just not the players who were out of sync, as the referees called for 105 combined fouls on Thursday night.

The Pelicans and Jazz combined for 40 turnovers, as Jordan Clarkson came off the bench to lead Utah with 23 points, while Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley each scored 20 points to go along with Gobert’s 14 points and 12 rebounds. . For the Pelicans, Zion Williamson scored the team’s first 5 points as he finished the night with 13 points in just 15 minutes due to still being limited by medical staff. Brandon Ingram led the way in New Orleans with 23 points. JJ Redick had 21 and Jrue Holiday had 20.

The Lakers were able to weather a bad shooting night by shooting 39 percent from the field and just 30.6 percent from three. Anthony Davis led all scorers with 34 points, while James added 16 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. The Clippers duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard totaled 58 points, or 57% of the Clippers’ final total.

With the way things are going in the NFL and MLB, and the uncertainty around college football and basketball, the NBA and WNBA seem to be the only sports that might have figured this thing out.

And if so, the combination of this past weekend and Thursday night has proven one thing.

Basketball never stops.

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