KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford is committed to fighting for racial justice.
He had just stepped to the monitor for his pregame media availability Friday night. A victory over the 76ers would clinch the Magic a playoff berth for the second consecutive season. The first question Clifford was asked was what would that mean to the players and the franchise.
“First, before I answer your question, I want to go back to what we spoke a little bit the other day about the history of racial injustice calendar that [social justice activist] Bryan Stevenson forwarded to all of us,” Clifford said. " On this day in 1930, over 10,000 white people in a mob lynched two Black men in Marion, Indiana.”
Clifford was talking about the lynchings of Thomas Shipp, 18, and Abraham Smith, 19, on Aug. 7, 1930. Shipp, Smith, and James Cameron, 16, were held in the Marion jail in the murder of Claude Deeter and the rape of Mary Ball. But before they could stand trial, white residents took them from their cells before beating, mutilating, and hanging Ship and Smith from a tree on the courthouse lawn.
Cameron escaped death thanks to a woman who said he had nothing to do with the rape or murder.
“If you look on the internet, under the calendar, actually, there’s a picture of the mob,” Clifford said. “And even though there were photographs available, no one was ever convicted of the killings.
“So again, I would urge people as we all educate ourselves on our history and as we all unite to fight for racial justice to take some time to look at some of the things that happened in our past.”
In regard to making the playoffs, the coach said that would make for a good year for Orlando. The Magic started the season with two goals: qualify for the playoffs and then be a factor in the playoffs.
The Sixers and Magic were both missing key players.
Ben Simmons is sidelined indefinitely with a temporary partial dislocation of his left kneecap. Glenn Robinson III is out with a left hip pointer. The Magic were without Aaron Gordon (left hamstring strain), Jonathan Isaac (torn ACL), and Michael Carter-Williams (strained tendon in his left foot).
Sixers coach Brett Brown was asked if the injuries in the NBA restart have changed how he approaches practices and playing time leading up to the playoffs.
“It’s a fair question,” he said. “If you go back to what I repetitively said, it was always going to be about health and spirit. To your question about how do you best preserve health, how do you put them in the position to be able to play a game, it doesn’t equal a lot of practice.”