LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks came to the arena and prepared for a game, just as they did three days earlier.
This time, they played it.
The rescheduled Game 5 of the Bucks’ series against Orlando began Saturday as the NBA postseason resumed after a historic stoppage that players hope will bring change in their communities.
“It was a moment in which the world needed and obviously we know this is going to be a long, ongoing process,” Bucks guard Wesley Matthews said. “But we’re in. We’re in the trenches and we’re in this fight for the long haul.”
The teams were scheduled to play Wednesday afternoon, but the Bucks decided not to take the court to show their frustration over the police shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, along with other acts of racial injustice.
That led to a two-day postponement of games that ended when players and owners agreed to expanded initiatives, many tied to increased voting awareness and opportunities, such as the use of NBA arenas as polling sites. Teams then began practicing again Friday and three games were to be played Saturday.
Matthews said he was putting on his uniform shorts about 20 minutes before the game was set to begin Wednesday when the Bucks decided they wouldn’t play. The Magic were already on the court warming up.
He said the Bucks were prepared to forfeit, which would have trimmed their series lead to 3-2. But the Magic refused to accept it and NBA players stood behind the Bucks, even though some were frustrated the Bucks acted alone without consulting them.
Matthews apologized for that but said the aftermath has confirmed for the Bucks that they made the right decision.
“We didn’t think that this was going to turn the way that it did, but we are grateful for the fact that that moment, that pause, that postponement was able to help everybody reflect again and realize that everybody’s got to step up,” Matthews said.
Coach Mike Budenholzer praised his players for their leadership and commitment in taking the risk they did.
The Bucks remained in their locker room for hours after the game was set to begin, during which time they spoke with Wisconsin officials. Matthews said that showed the impact athletes can have.
The players had another meaningful call, speaking to Blake’s family.
“I think that brought tears to everybody’s eyes because you felt that,” Blake said. “We didn’t need any other validation after talking to them about what we did, to hear that we were able to bring a smile to not only his face but the face of his parents.”