LeBron James of the Lakers reacts to last week


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla .– A few tough days off for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers were followed by a relatively straightforward victory. The Lakers’ 131-122 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday closed their 4-1 first-round playoff series.As much as Los Angeles’ playoff hopes might have looked in jeopardy after dropping Game 1 in Portland – at the time the hottest team in the bubble, touting Placement Round MVP Damian Lillard – things looked much more dire on Wednesday. It was then that a one-sided decision by the Milwaukee Bucks not to play their playoff game to protest the police shootout of black Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin threatened to derail the entire playoffs. .

As the Lakers reportedly voted against continuing the season in a controversial meeting involving the 13 teams that remained in the bubble later Wednesday night, James explained his reasoning after the win over the Blazers.

“I’m not here to judge or rank what Milwaukee has done,” he said after racking up 36 points on a 14-for-19 shot, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 5 – scoring the second. times in his career when he averaged. a triple-double for a whole playoff series. “We were all with them. “

But the Lakers were also caught off guard by the Bucks’ decision. Many members of the Lakers were taking their pre-game naps for what was originally slated to be Game 5 against Portland on Wednesday when Milwaukee decided he was not going to take the court for his game against the Orlando Magic.

The Lakers held an impulsive team meeting and agreed not to play their game, just as the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets would not play their game in solidarity with the Bucks.

“From that moment my mind started to understand what the plan was for the future, and if we don’t have a plan, what are we talking about, why are we still here? James said. “This is where my mind went. At one point, there was no plan to move forward, there was no plan of action. I am not, me personally, I am not that kind of guy. I’m not the type to a guy who doesn’t have a plan, and isn’t ready to act when it comes to action, so we had a few days to figure that out. ”

Following a call with former President Barack Obama on Wednesday night, in which Obama urged James and a small group of players to continue the season, but only after pledging to influence social change on the part of the owners of the league, James approached Thursday looking for a path. back to play.

James said the group call he joined with league owners involved a direct dialogue about what could be done.

“They took this very seriously, they were very frank, we were very frank about what we continue to believe that moves the needle in our respective cities and our communities and how important this moment is”, did he declare.

The two sides agreed on a three-pronged plan that would allow the games to resume: forming a coalition for social justice; a commitment to use team facilities as voting locations in every NBA city; and the airing of advertising focused on the engagement of votes on every playoff TV show.

Players trust owners to follow through on their commitment.

“All you can do is give me… your word and I’ll keep it with the utmost respect,” James said.

Anthony Davis, who had 43 points on a 14-for-18 shot and nine rebounds in Game 5, said the players would not hesitate to boycott again if the promises were not kept.

“We have the leverage,” he said after he and James became the first pair of teammates to both score 35 points while shooting 70 percent of the field in a playoff game, according to data compiled by the Elias Sports Office. “After the meetings we are confident that they will [hold up their commitment]. The conversations went well. And if they don’t, we won’t play anymore. It’s that simple. And I said after the meetings it’s been a very powerful and impactful meeting and I think the owners will. ”

James, who is now 14-0 all-time in the first round of the playoffs, said he never considered ending that streak by leaving the bubble due to the circumstances surrounding Blake – such as he said after Game 4, “I’ve had half my brain locked on the playoffs and the other half on how I can help black people get taller in America” ​​- but the grind isolated from the league’s satellite campus happened to him.

“I have had many nights and days when I thought about leaving the bubble. I think everyone has done it, ”he said. “I don’t think there isn’t a single person who hasn’t had the wit that says, ‘Oh, I have to get the hell out of here.’ … It probably crosses my mind about once a day, that’s for sure.

Those thoughts will surely linger but not push James to bail out what he calls the NBA’s “mission” to try to promote social programs to improve racial equality in this country.

The Lakers may have made history with their first round victory on Saturday – taking their first series victory as an organization since 2012, and their first without Kobe Bryant on the squad since 1995 – but James says that he hopes what the league has been through. the week will mean historic change on a larger scale than the mere purpose of sport.

“Only time will tell, but I hope the last two days will be a change for the greater good of the future,” he said. “When you see a change happening in the future, you can look back and say that was when it happened. This was the key moment when it happened.

“Obviously, the bubble season will never be forgotten when it comes to sport. This is the first time that we can do something like this, but obviously this moment is so much bigger than we are playing basketball. “


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