No words or verdicts or anything else will bring George Floyd back.
But a wide array of people from the sports world who have been vigilant about social reform and equal rights initiatives for the past year have been vocal in their support of the verdict handed down Tuesday in Minneapolis.
Rick Carlisle, president of the NBA Coaches Association, said Wednesday that the guilty verdict handed down against Derek Chauvin in the murder of Floyd last May is a sign that, maybe, cries for equality are indeed being heard.
“Obviously, it’s phenomenal news,” Carlisle said. “It’s historic. It feels as though the events of the last year or so perhaps have made a difference. But there’s a long way to go. It was very heartwarming to hear that news yesterday.”
The NBA has been a leader in championing the cause for racial equality. Players forced the league to halt play during the playoffs last August at the Walt Disney World bubble.
Players and coaches alike have joined forces asking for social reform. The coaches partnered with the Equal Justice Initiative and Tuesday’s guilty verdict was something that re-sparked conversations in the NBA coaching community, Carlisle said.
“The people in the coaches association, the original committee on racial injustice and reform, we had a long group text yesterday with everybody talking about their feelings, talking about progress, but certainly not being there yet,” Carlisle said. “(Former Atlanta coach) Lloyd Pierce started it off. He remains our chair of the coaches for racial justice.
“The work goes on and the cause endures. But the work will never stop.”
Jalen Brunson said the verdict was a step in the right direction. However . . .
“I don’t think anyone would say it’s a victory,” Brunson said after the Mavericks beat Detroit. “Most importantly, we continue to grow as a society. A lot of things could have been prevented, but justice was served. People are going to have to live with that verdict. And people are going to have to live with the fact that a family member or friend has passed away. You can’t go back and change that. But as long as you keep moving forward and figuring out what’s right from wrong, society is going to continue to get better and slowly but surely (get to) where we can say we’re in a good place.”
Tim Hardaway Jr. said that the verdict won’t change what happened, but it may be a sign that society understands that change is needed and, perhaps, happening, albeit slowly.
“It’s still a tough pill to swallow and hard to look (at),” Hardaway said. “But at the same time, we are making a difference. And we’ll continue to use our voices in a positive way.”
Detroit coach and former assistant to Carlisle with the Mavericks Dwane Casey said he got chills after the verdict, which were compounded when he got a message from his wife referencing Dr. Martin Luther King.
“My wife sent me something that really got my attention,” Casey said. “When Dr. King was down in Selma (Ala.), he said the arc of the moral compass is long and it bends toward justice.
“Then, 27 years later, Rodney King got beat up and those guys walked away. And then 29 years later, we go through this stuff in Minneapolis and he gets convicted. The moral arc is long and it showed yesterday that it bends toward justice.
“But we’re not done. We still have a lot of work to do and a lot of reform to do in our police system.”
Casey, whose father worked in the police system, said it’s not fair to condemn all police for the actions of a few.
But it’s also clear that improvements still can and should be made.
“So, again, it’s something we have to work on each and every day,” Casey said. “Keep talking about it. It shouldn’t be uncomfortable to talk about because we all are here, we’re all Americans. And the arm of the moral compass went the right way this time.”
Kleber injures back: Maxi Kleber was replaced in the starting lineup by Dwight Powell, but that wasn’t the worst of it for Kleber. He took a hard charge in the first half and though he tried to play through it, he would not return in the second half.
“The only thing I know is he took a fall and landed on his back,” Carlisle said postgame. “From what I heard, X-rays were negative, but he’s got a pretty substantial bruise.
“He tried to go back out there, but it was pretty obvious that wasn’t going to work. We’ll know more (Thursday). We’ll see how he is in the morning. It was a tough fall. He hit hard.”
It will be a quick turnaround for the Mavericks, who will face the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday in the first of two games against one of the teams in front of them in the Western Conference standings. The Lakers are expected to have big man Anthony Davis back after he missed more than two months recovering from an Achilles issue.
Building from the ground up: Detroit was no match for the Mavericks down the stretch Wednesday, but the Pistons have one of the youngest teams in the NBA and three highly regarded rookies in Saddiq Bey, Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart.
It’s made for an interesting year for Casey, who is in his third season as Pistons’ coach.
“It’s kind of where you guys (in Dallas) were a couple years ago when you got (Luka) Dončić and tried to bring him along and develop him and it doesn’t happen overnight,” Casey said. “We went through that in Toronto. I’ve seen the fruits and that’s where the patience comes in.
“I can see down the road who Isaiah is going to be, I can see down the road who Killian is going to be and I can see down the road who Saddiq’s going to be and that’s the reward part. You see the growth throughout the year. They’re not the same player they were at the first of the year. That’s the rewarding thing.
“No, our record’s not (we’d like), but I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I said at the beginning of the season when we started to developing, it’s going to be painful. It’s going to be ugly sometimes. But it will bear fruit at the end of it as we go through it and come out the other side.
“And believe it or not, other than the losses, I enjoy it.”