NEW YORK — NBA players aren’t just worried about their teams as they start a new season.
They’re concerned for their country.
The usual basketball clichés that dominate media days gave way to serious talk about social injustice and violence in communities, with players wanting to be involved in finding solutions but acknowledging they don’t know yet how.
“Some of the things that I’ve been addressing over this past summer, I think we’re still in the same state. I think it’s actually getting worse and it will continue to get worse,” Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony said Monday. “We still have to kind of keep the conversations going.”
Anthony was among the highest-profile and most outspoken players following the killing of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota in July, joining friends and fellow stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul in a powerful opening to the ESPY Awards and continuing to speak out while playing for the U.S. Olympic team.
But recent killings by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina, captured on video have convinced those players that progress they seek hasn’t arrived.
“Obviously, I know things don’t happen overnight, but it doesn’t seem like there is any change,” James told The Associated Press. “We just want the conversation to continue to be, ‘Who are our leaders? Who are our true leaders that are going to help us change what’s going on?’ Everyone is looking for that and no one knows.”
Players praised San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for bringing attention with his peaceful protest of kneeling during the national anthem. James, Anthony, NBA MVP Stephen Curry and others said they would continue to stand — as NBA rules stipulate — and hoped players could find meaningful ways to work with their teammates instead of individually.
“Am I going to kneel down and put my fist up? No, I’m not. That’s no disrespect to Colin or anybody else that’s doing it. But they’ve gotten the point across,” said Draymond Green, Curry’s Golden State teammate. “I don’t think I need to come out and do a national anthem protest, because it’s already started. There’s already a conversation. But like I said, is there going to be something done about it?”
Protests over the killing of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte turned violent, with Mayor Jennifer Roberts imposing a curfew. Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside still calls the area home and was troubled by it.
“We’ve just got to get an understanding of it,” Whiteside told the AP. “There’s not really one way to fix the problem. It’s been going on for a while. People are sick of it.”
Brooklyn’s Jeremy Lin said he’s thankful there’s more awareness about a problem that was long ignored, but is worried about some of the heated reactions they produced.
“I just know that right now, talking to different parties and seeing both sides, there’s just a lot of tension and hostility and I don’t think that’s going to get it done,” Lin said. “I think that’s going to harbor more violence.”
Most teams will begin practicing Tuesday. Among the basketball news Monday:
NO MORE BOSH IN MIAMI: Chris Bosh appears to have played his final game with the Heat. Team President Pat Riley said Bosh, who failed a physical last week and wasn’t cleared by team doctors to return after missing the second half of last season, is open-minded, “but we are not working toward his return .”
ONE MORE FOR PIERCE IN L.A.: Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce wrote on The Players’ Tribune that this season, his 19th, would be his last. Pierce, who will turn 39 next month , is 16th on the NBA’s career scoring list.
NO WORRIES: Derrick Rose said he isn’t worried about a rape trial set to start in California on Oct. 4, the date of his first preseason game with the New York Knicks. It’s unclear how much, if any, of the preseason Rose would have to miss if there is no settlement in the civil suit. “I feel like I’m innocent and I feel like I didn’t do anything wrong, like I said, and I can’t let that distract me with the year that I have ahead of me,” Rose said.
INJURY UPDATES: Marc Gasol’s broken right foot is recovered from surgery in February and the Memphis Grizzlies center said he can be a “better player, more productive, more consistent .” But All-Star guard John Wall will only participate in “bits and pieces ” of Washington Wizards training camp as he rebounds from offseason knee surgery. He is recovering from surgeries on both knees in May.
OLD HOMES, NEW BEGINNINGS: Wade and Dwight Howard slipped into the jerseys of teams they rooted for as kids Monday. Howard said joining his hometown Atlanta Hawks was a “dream come true ” after enduring rocky stints with the Lakers and Rockets, while Wade is getting to work with the Chicago Bulls after making 12 All-Star teams in 13 years in Miami.
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami, AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland and freelance writer Mike Scotto in New York contributed to this report.