For the second time in six months on, the NBA was forced front and center of the sporting landscape as America unraveled around it. After a boycott during the playoffs in the bubble led to multiple leagues following suit and forced NBA owners to make changes and concessions, the league once again faced a similar situation all over again.
Earlier in the day in Washington D.C., rioters broke into the Capitol Building following a rally by President Donald Trump, forcing the Senate and House of Representatives floors to be evacuated. Four people died on the day, one after being shot and three others to what was classified as medical emergencies.
While boycotting was never seriously discussed on Wednesday, though the Celtics and Heat issued a joint statement after walking off the court together during warm-ups, players and coaches were once again tasked with providing the soundtrack for the rest of the league and the sporting world.
Hornets head coach James Borrego spoke in a somber tone before the game, citing his disappointment and embarrassment at the events.
Forward Gordon Hayward, who poured in a career-high 44 points in helping Charlotte to a win over Atlanta, only became aware of the events after arriving at the arena in the event. With his normal pre-game routine keeping him away from the television and the news, Hayward took in as much as he could before tip-off.
“It’s a bizarre world that we’re living in,” Hayward said. “I saw a little bit of it before the game and certainly it’s shocking and disappointing.
“I think basketball is is a place where we can kind of get away from that a little bit and hopefully provide some hope and some joy for some fans. But certainly, it’s also just a game and there are a lot of bigger things that are going on out there in the world. After I kind of calm down in a little bit, I’ll be able to go and kind of see exactly what happened but like I said, I haven’t really had too much of a chance but certainly I’m disappointed.”
Despite being forced in front of cameras and microphones once again, statements like those from both Borrego and Hayward were decidedly powerful and straightforward.