NBA players react to the first games in the Orlando bubbleon July 31, 2020 at 3:26 am

The NBA officially returned Thursday with the meeting between the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans in the bubble in Orlando, Florida, after the coronavirus pandemic halted the league in March.

In the 4 1/2 months that have passed since the last game was played, the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have ignited a league-wide social justice initiative. That was the focus as the Jazz and Pelicans took the floor, with every player, coach and referee taking a knee during the national anthem.

Though his is one of eight teams not in Orlando, Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young took to social media to applaud the pregame ceremony. Enes Kanter, whose Boston Celtics play the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, also shared his support.

Stephen Curry and Michele Roberts, executive director of the NBPA, chimed in following the pregame ceremony between the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers that also featured a Black Lives Matter tribute.

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell posted a message following his team’s 106-104 win over the Pelicans, calling on Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron to arrest the officers involved in Taylor’s death.

Mitchell’s teammates Royce O’Neale and Jordan Clarkson had messages of their own, celebrating Utah’s win.

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic takes the court Friday against the Houston Rockets, but took in Thursday’s matchup between the top two seeds in the West. The Mavericks would face Paul George and the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs if the season ended today.

Players outside the bubble, like Maurice Harkless, who was traded from the Clippers to the New York Knicks at the deadline, shared excitement for the return of basketball but lamented missing out on the action. Young later echoed that sentiment.

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