Milwaukee Bucks rookie center Thon Maker made his second career start in Saturday's 112-108 overtime loss to the Boston Celtics. But teammates and friends might have been more focused on how Maker might be affected by President Donald Trump's temporary ban on the entry of non-American citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Maker was born in Wau, Sudan, which became part of an independent South Sudan in 2011. Sudan is one of the seven banned countries, along with Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
Maker moved with his family to Australia in 2002; he has Australian citizenship and travels with an Australian passport. Still, there were concerns for Maker as the Bucks were returning from a Friday night game in Toronto just as U.S. Customs and Border Protection notified airlines about passengers whose visas had been canceled.
Bucks coach Jason Kidd, in announcing Saturday that Maker would start, confirmed that Maker had made it to Milwaukee without incident. Maker scored eight points and grabbed two rebounds in eight minutes in Friday night's 102-86 loss at Toronto, where he had lived for two years prior to being drafted in 2016 by Milwaukee.
NBA spokesperson Mike Bass issued a statement Saturday concerning the travel ban: "We have reached out to the State Department and are in the process of gathering information to understand how this executive order would apply to players in our league who are from one of the impacted countries. The NBA is a global league, and we are proud to attract the very best players from around the world."
A federal judge in New York issued an emergency order Saturday temporarily barring the U.S. from deporting people from the seven nations subject to the ban.
Bucks senior vice president Alexander Lasry, whose father, Bucks owner Marc Lasry, emigrated from Morocco, posted a series of messages on Twitter in support of Maker.
"I appreciate all the fans' concerns and prayers for Thon. And today, a Sudanese refugee who fled oppression and is an incredible young man will make his second NBA start," Lasry wrote. "I'm incredibly excited and proud of him. He's a symbol of what makes America great and all immigrants believe about America."
Lasry later added, "We must continue to share the stories of incredible immigrants and refugees who make America GREAT. Proud that Thon and my dad will be shining examples every day."
The Bucks do not have any more regular-season games in Toronto this season.
"This is kind of hard. My bad. This is kind of touching ... just being a part of that community and a part of that family," Hollis-Jefferson said. "I feel like this should definitely be handled differently, and I feel like more people should definitely speak up and act on it just because it's B.S. at the end of the day."
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose team's roster currently includes five international players, said the roll-out of Trump's executive order was "Keystone Kops-like by any measure with objectivity."
"As you already know, I have lots of thoughts about what we've done to ourselves as a country and what we've allowed to happen," he said. "But we'll see where this goes. ... Whether you want to say it's good or bad is irrelevant. But it was Keystone Kops, and that's scary."
American basketball players Joseph Jones and J.P. Prince, teammates on Azad University Tehran of the Iran Super League, are stranded in Dubai following Iran's decision to ban U.S. citizens, their agent told The Vertical.
Iran issued its ban in response to Trump's executive order, which came when Jones, 30, and Prince, 29, were on a team-funded break in Dubai.
ESPN's Michael C. Wright and The Associated Press contributed to this report.