Charlotte Hornets

Henderson: Hornets’ ‘I Can’t Breathe’ T-shirts were about spreading awareness, not placing blame

Charlotte Hornet Gerald Henderson said he and his teammates wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts while warming up for Saturday’s home game against the Brooklyn Nets wasn’t about anger or protest, but rather spreading awareness.

“For me it’s just an awareness thing. I didn’t wear it to say anybody was wrong in doing anything,” Henderson said Saturday night.

“I think LeBron (James) said it best, that everybody needs to get better – citizens, police, everybody can improve in terms of how we’re handling ourselves.”

The shirts were previously worn by several teams or individual NBA players. Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose was the first, before a game against the Golden State Warriors on Dec. 7. Since then the Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers were among teams wearing the shirts.

The sentence “I Can’t Breathe” relates to the death of Staten Island’s Eric Garner, a black man who died as the result of a chokehold by a New York City police officer.

A New York grand jury chose not to indict the officer, which has sparked various reactions around the country.

“I can’t breathe” were reportedly Garner’s last words before he died. He was the father of six and suffered from asthma.

Henderson, a Hornets tri-captain, said he’s glad all 13 Hornets activated for Saturday’s game chose to wear the shirts. But Henderson said no one was pressured to be part of the gesture.

“We decided as a team to wear them. You see a lot of different teams, a lot of different guys, wearing them,” Henderson said.

“Obviously guys are going to have different opinions. No one was forced to wear anything. On our particular team, everyone wore it, which was pretty cool.”

Point guard Kemba Walker, who grew up in New York City, added, “It was important, something we decided to do as a team. We thought we should bring awareness to it, especially in support of (Garner’s) family.”

Neal’s flop warning: The NBA gave Hornets shooting guard Gary Neal a warning for flopping, related to a play near the end of Friday’s double-overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

With 20 seconds left and the Hornets trailing by five, Neal shot a 3-pointer that missed. Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, who had been chasing Neal around a screen, was called for a foul that awarded Neal three free throws.

Though the foul was called on Allen, league officials later ruled that Neal had extended his legs on the shot to draw contact from Allen. Hence, the flop warning.

The flop warning means Neal would be subject to a $5,000 fine if he’s again ruled to have flopped the rest of the season.

Neal is the second Hornet to have been issued a flop warning this season. Rookie P.J. Hairston received one following the Nov. 28 game against the Golden State Warriors.

MKG back as a starter? Hornets coach Steve Clifford said he’s considering moving small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back into the starting lineup beginning with Monday’s road game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kidd-Gilchrist came off the bench in his first three games back from missing 12 games with a stress reaction in his right foot. Clifford said he wanted to give Kidd-Gilchrist some time to get back in game shape before asking him to play long minutes.

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