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Knicks, Nets, NBA applaud verdict in trial of ex-cop Derek Chauvin

Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the Knicks reacts

Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the Knicks reacts during the second quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on Monday, Mar. 15, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The NBA had cautiously approached Tuesday’s verdict in the killing of George Floyd, warning teams that there could be possible postponements of games if former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was acquitted on murder and manslaughter charges.

But teams, like much of the nation, were able to breathe a sigh of relief as a jury quickly brought back guilty verdicts on all three counts. The NBA had seen the bubble restart paused last summer when, three months after Floyd's killing was captured on video, Jacob Blake was shot and seriously wounded by police on video.

Just minutes after the verdict was read, the NBA and the NBA Players Association released a joint statement reading, "George Floyd’s murder was a flashpoint for how we look at race and justice in our country, and we are pleased that justice appears to have been served. But we also recognize that there is much work to be done and the National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association, together with our newly-formed Social Justice Coalition, will redouble our efforts to advocate for meaningful change in the areas of criminal justice and policing."

Lakers star LeBron James tweeted out - "Accountability."

No Knicks players were available pregame Tuesday immediately after the verdict, but Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau spoke eloquently for them.

"Obviously, we're pleased. Justice was served," Thibodeau said. "Your heart goes out to the Floyd family because there's nothing that you can do to bring him back. In society, there's no place for racism or bigotry and we have to do better. As a country, we have to do better."

Nets coach Steve Nash said, "It's bittersweet. George Floyd lost his life as many others have unjustly and we can't forget that that people are losing their lives. On the other hand, it is a small gesture of justice -- and possibly hope for the future -- in that perhaps all the social justice movements -- the NBA, the WNBA with the community at large -- are really making an impact.

"Whether it's small and creating a tipping point or whether it's large it gives hope that the voices of many are making change and we have a better future for our kids. In one respect, it's relieving because you don't have a lot of confidence historically that the verdict will come down and that justice will be served. So I just hope that this is the type of statement by our justice system that gives hope and precedence for these type of verdicts to be the norm."

New Orleans Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy, who has been outspoken against racism and injustice, was relieved by the verdict.

"It’s an important day for our country," Van Gundy said. "I got a great text from (former Atlanta Hawks coach) Lloyd Pierce that he sent out to all the head coaches basically reminding us that the coach’s committee for social justice started over the George Floyd incident. The text was inspiring us all.

"I look at it today and in my mind justice was done, but it’s hard to celebrate because it doesn’t bring back George Floyd . . . We had someone needlessly killed right in front of us. . . . No verdict is going to change that."

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