Games started, but community efforts not stopping around NBA
NEW YORK (AP) The calls don't come to Sherrie Deans more frequently, though they come with different questions.
NBA players who may have asked about their charities have shifted their concern to their communities.
''Now they're being faced with a really serious, aggressive social issue that for some of them is deeply personal,'' said Deans, the executive director of the NBPA Foundation.
''Under normal circumstances they're coming to us saying, `Hey, I've got my basketball camps that I run, or the kids that I work with are battling cancer,' and we're engaging them with those kinds of things, but they really know the role that they want to play. Now they're coming saying, `What should I be doing? How can I be helpful? How could I get past just making a comment or just protesting to really doing something that's meaningful and that matters?'''
That was the goal of upset NBA players and officials following the killing of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, and later Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina. All-Star Chris Paul, the union president, wanted players to be ''action-oriented,'' said Kathy Behrens, the NBA's president of social responsibility and player programs.
''I think they are mad, sure. They're frustrated, that some of these issues have not gotten better and I get that. We're frustrated, too. We care about what's happening in every community,'' she said. ''We've tried to address it but there's no question there's a frustration, but also I think a real commitment on their part to be engaged and to not ignore it. And so I think our players really understand and they've seen in it these conversations that we've having in the community that they can make a difference here.''
And the work hasn't stopped just because the games have started.
The Pistons, Lakers and Pacers have events in the coming days and weeks that will bring together members of their organizations, law enforcement and local youth. The Pelicans and Bulls did last week, similar to the discussion Carmelo Anthony organized in Los Angeles when the U.S. Olympic basketball team trained there in July.
''Nothing is going to change unless there's dialogue, and the only way you can have dialogue is to be face to face, and to have us be able to say, `When I was growing up, this happened,''' Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. ''I thought it was a great thing. I really did. I thought it was something that was really beneficial.''
And it will continue.
''I don't think everyone does different things for the notoriety and for it to be publicized,'' Paul said. ''But I think guys are a lot more conscious of the effect the we have on people and the change we can make in the world.''
Among the players and teams seeing familiar faces this week:
– Kevin Durant faces Russell Westbrook and his old Oklahoma City teammates Thursday when the Thunder visit Golden State.
– Chicago native and former Bulls star Derrick Rose makes his first trip back to the United Center with the New York Knicks on Friday.
– Steve Kerr meets his former assistant – and replacement early last season – when Golden State takes on Luke Walton's Lakers on Friday.
– Dwight Howard welcomes his former Rockets teammates as Houston travels to Atlanta on Saturday.
LeBron James could move into 10th place on the NBA's career scoring list this week. With 26,896 points, he is 50 behind Hakeem Olajuwon with three games this week. Olajuwon is 12th and James 13th on the combined ABA/NBA list.
The colorful sneakers members of TNT's crew wore in Golden State in a tribute to Craig Sager are available for auction through Friday. Sager, battling leukemia, designed the sneakers with Nike and 100 pairs up for bid , with all proceeds benefiting the SagerStrong Foundation.
AP Sports Writers Brett Martel in New Orleans and Anne Peterson in Portland, Oregon, contributed to this report.