Community efforts not stopping around NBA

Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless reaches in on Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. The Clippers won 114-106. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

NEW YORK– The calls don’t come to Sherrie Deans more frequently, though they come with different questions.

NBA players who may have asked about their charities have shifted their concern to their communities.

“Now they’re being faced with a really serious, aggressive social issue that for some of them is deeply personal,” said Deans, the executive director of the NBPA Foundation.

“Under normal circumstances they’re coming to us saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got my basketball camps that I run, or the kids that I work with are battling cancer,’ and we’re engaging them with those kinds of things, but they really know the role that they want to play. Now they’re coming saying, ‘What should I be doing? How can I be helpful? How could I get past just making a comment or just protesting to really doing something that’s meaningful and that matters?'”

That was the goal of upset NBA players and officials following the killing of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, and later Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina. All-Star Chris Paul, the union president, wanted players to be “action-oriented,” said Kathy Behrens, the NBA’s president of social responsibility and player programs. I think they are mad, sure. They’re frustrated, that some of these issues have not gotten better and I get that. We’re frustrated, too. We care about what’s happening in every community,” she said. “We’ve tried to address it but there’s no question there’s a frustration, but also I think a real commitment on their part to be engaged and to not ignore it. And so I think our players really understand and they’ve seen in it these conversations that we’ve having in the community that they can make a difference here.”

And the work hasn’t stopped just because the games have started.

The Pistons, Lakers and Pacers have events in the coming days and weeks that will bring together members of their organizations, law enforcement and local youth. The Pelicans and Bulls did last week, similar to the discussion Carmelo Anthony organized in Los Angeles when the U.S. Olympic basketball team trained there in July.

“Nothing is going to change unless there’s dialogue, and the only way you can have dialogue is to be face to face, and to have us be able to say, ‘When I was growing up, this happened,'” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “I thought it was a great thing. I really did. I thought it was something that was really beneficial.”

And it will continue.

“I don’t think everyone does different things for the notoriety and for it to be publicized,” Paul said. “But I think guys are a lot more conscious of the effect the we have on people and the change we can make in the world.”