Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said Tuesday's game against the Brooklyn Nets was "not even close to being the most important thing in anyone's lives" after the police killing of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center.
But after postponing the game from Monday to Tuesday afternoon, the Wolves and Nets took the court at Target Center for warmups with shirts that said "with liberty and justice for all" — the final line of the Pledge of Allegiance — before the Nets defeated the Wolves 127-97.
Tuesday underscored the fact that even though the team might not have been in the best head space, the unrelenting NBA schedule had to move forward, just as it has all throughout this time of COVID-19. On the floor, the Wolves looked as if they would rather be doing anything else, as Brooklyn led by as many as 45. Off it, everyone who spoke publicly agreed it was the right thing to postpone Monday. Few knew if it was the right decision to play Tuesday.
"When things like this happen, I get more mad, because now I have to stop doing what I love to do because somebody else can't follow the rules," impassioned guard Josh Okogie said, referring to officer Kimberly Potter, who resigned Tuesday after she was seen on body camera fatally shooting Wright. "Somebody else can't value life. You see what I'm saying? Why do I have to suffer based on something that wasn't supposed to be taking place in the first place? Yesterday for sure, it was the right decision not to play. Today, I don't even know if we were supposed to be playing, to be honest."
There wasn't much to discuss from the actual game, a game Finch said the team would just "flush away." Rookie guard Anthony Edwards had 27 points for the Wolves, who played without Karl-Anthony Towns. The center was with his family to mark the one-year anniversary of his mother Jacqueline's death from COVID-19.
Kevin Durant had 31 points on 11-for-15 shooting for Brooklyn, which took control with an 18-3 run to start the second quarter and never looked back. The Wolves will try their best to look forward.
"There's always mixed emotions. There's always mixed feelings. There's a rawness to everything," President Gersson Rosas said before the game. "… We're all trying to do our best to make the most of the reality of what we have."
Rosas said the past 48 hours were an emotional time for everyone in the organization, especially after the team and city coped with the death of George Floyd and the ongoing trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
"We live here. This is our community," Rosas said. "To be experiencing this again in the middle of a trial is something that's very emotional and overwhelming."
This season has been especially hard for NBA players, who have had to deal with plenty of isolation and alone time because of stringent COVID protocols in order to get through the season. Tuesday offered a chance for the team to at least be together in the same space.
"We had our group conversation [Monday] and guys didn't want to leave," Rosas said. "They wanted to stay around each other, talk through things … because the next thing is you're going home by yourself."
The schedule keeps churning Wednesday, with the team welcoming the Bucks to town for another afternoon start, this time at 3:30 p.m. It doesn't let up.
"All we can do is be here for each other physically, emotionally try to comprehend what guys are going through," said guard D'Angelo Russell, who had 15 points off the bench. "… I encourage everybody to go out there and do what you can physically do to make things better, not just speak about it."
That was some of the frustration Okogie was feeling, that words haven't led to actions to help solve police brutality.
"It's been very difficult," Okogie said. "What hurts the most is when you are vocal, you try to do things to help, you try to do what's right, and when nothing changes and the same thing happens."