Wednesday marked the deadline for players opting out of the NBA’s season restart to notify their team and the players’ union for their absence to be considered excused, a designation that allows nonparticipating players to still be paid.
For differing reasons, Lakers guard Avery Bradley, Portland forward Trevor Ariza and Washington forward Davis Bertans have already declared they will not play when 22 of the league’s 30 teams resume play July 30 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla.
Clippers guard Lou Williams, who said last week he was “50-50” on whether he wanted to participate, is still mulling his decision, his agent, Wallace Prather, said Wednesday. Williams was not required to make one by Wednesday, either, because the “excused” designation — which applies to those considered a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 — didn’t apply in his case.
Williams has said his decision is rooted not in health-related concerns but on whether participating would shift the focus from social justice issues.
The true deadline for a decision is July 1, when teams must notify the league about their 35-person travel party.
The NBA and the players’ union have agreed that any player who does not participate and does not provide “proper and reasonable cause or excuse” might have his pay reduced.
Williams is a three-time sixth-man winner whose 18.7 points per game this season rank third most on the championship-contending Clippers. Williams first expressed concern about playing on Twitter last week. He expanded on his viewpoint, referencing police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, during a live video chat June 18 on CoStar.
“When I spoke out a few days ago and I said I felt like sports, in general, would be a distraction, I meant that; I still feel like that,” he said. “Again, if today, the Lakers are on, you’re a big Laker fan, you’re probably going to tune into the game. That’s just the reality. That becomes a distraction off of the cause.
“If we really about that, if we really about this cause we don’t need anything distracting us, whether it’s football, baseball, LeBron James, Tom Brady, whoever. We don’t need any distractions. That’s what I was trying to get across from everybody. But again, we don’t know what that look like in six weeks so we’ll see.”
During an appearance last week on a podcast hosted by Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he believed that those taking part inside the NBA restart would have greater exposure for their messages on social justice issues to be heard, given the high interest in the resumed season.
“In this case I believe it’s so important for us to play, I do,” Rivers said. “I just think at the end of the day you can march and you can work and most people are marching and working, we can do the same thing. But more importantly it would give us an opportunity. A lot of us won’t have a voice if we don’t play, but I think if we’re allowed to play, then you will have a voice.
“Everybody will have a voice. Coaches will have a voice, players will have a voice. The guys who are doing the games, you can start hearing their voice. I think we have an opportunity here to not only go and crown a champion but we have an opportunity as a league to really put out a great message and players individually can do it.”