From Hong Kong clashes to Kawhi Leonard’s snort, we have got you lined with what to look at in Thursday’s NBA pre-season sport.
The Los Angeles Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks play their pre-season finales Thursday at Rogers Enviornment (7:30 p.m. TSN2), their ultimate gown rehearsals earlier than the NBA season suggestions off subsequent week. Right here’s 4 issues to look at:
WELCOME BACK, KAWHI
There’s no avoiding this storyline. Will probably be Kawhi Leonard’s first sport again in Canada since opting to depart the Toronto Raptors for the L.A. Clippers after main the Canadian membership to its first NBA title.
Leonard was the topic of a shameless and regularly awkward months-long marketing campaign by Torontonians imploring him to remain within the 6ix.
However no matter he was considered earlier than — quiet, soft-spoken, centered and intense — he additionally proved himself to be a shrewd businessman, luring Paul George away from the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder to hitch him in L.A. and shake up the league’s energy construction.
The 2-time NBA Finals MVP, a.ok.a. The Board Man, has modified the narrative surrounding him. He’s not the man with that snort — man, that laugh — and nor the one with the unmatched trash-talking ability.
He’s, says new teammate Patrick Beverly, an precise enjoyable man.
“Nah, he’s not quiet,” Beverley instructed journalist Tomer Azarly. “He’s a extremely dope dude, man. I believed he was quiet coming in, however he’s actually not. Once more, one other particular person when he speaks, everybody listens, and we’re simply attempting to place all of it collectively, attempting to have enjoyable placing all of it collectively and attempting to get higher whereas placing all of it collectively additionally.”
There’s a lengthy historical past of dropping in Clipperville, and more often than not, they weren’t even that cute.
Within the 27 seasons since shifting to L.A. from San Diego, the very best they completed within the Pacific Division was sixth, one in every of simply 4 instances they made the post-season. That modified within the period of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and regardless of having the NBA’s third-best file from 2012-13 to 2016-17 and making the post-season six straight years, the nucleus was damaged up.
It supplied the skeleton for the longer term. The Clippers traded Paul to the Houston Rockets for seven gamers, a first-round choose and money — a lopsided deal that’s come to be often known as “The Paul Haul” in L.A.
It introduced Beverly, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams into the fold. Beverly is likely one of the prime defensive gamers within the NBA; Harrell and Williams are super-subs, with Williams changing into the highest-scoring bench participant in NBA historical past final season.
Add in Leonard and George, (who will not play Thursday), and the steadiness of energy has shifted within the Western Convention. The litmus check comes subsequent Tuesday, once they “host” fellow Staples Centre tenant LeBron James and the L.A. Lakers.
REBRANDED CLIPPERS PART II
The staff isn’t the one factor that’s been overhauled.
With a transfer to Inglewood within the close to future — 2024 is the goal date for a brand new stadium — the Clippers have been busy rebadging the franchise. On Tuesday, they appeared on the duvet of Sports activities Illustrated of their new uniforms, which set twitter ablaze.
The white-and-black jerseys merely have “Los Angeles” inscribed on the chest in an outdated English script that invokes the spirit of Grand Theft Auto.
The staff is pushing its blue-collar picture, one “for the individuals within the again,” as Beverly stated in an interview throughout the 2019 playoffs, an id in polar opposition to the celebrity-laden, glitzy Showtime Lakers.
“That’s who we do it for — the individuals within the again. The blue-collar individuals who don’t have so much given to ’em, and work for all the pieces that they deserve,” he stated. “That’s what we’re doing proper now.”
DON’T FORGET DALLAS
With all the eye on L.A., their opposition Thursday virtually appears to be an afterthought. However the Mavs boast two of the perfect younger gamers on the planet in Kristaps Porziņģis (a.k.a. The Unicorn, thanks to Kevin Durant) and reigning rookie-of-the-year Luka Doncic. Each are European merchandise, displaying simply how far the worldwide sport has come up to now decade.
Each are younger — 24 and 20, respectively — however form the core of a team that should return to the glory days of Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki.
Dallas begins its common season subsequent Wednesday once they host the Washington Wizards.
(Gas) Vancouver is house to one of many largest Chinese language populations in North America.
(Hearth) The large clashes between protesters and police in Hong Kong, which have now stretched into their 18th week.
(Scorching air) The NBA wading into the controversy because of Rockets normal supervisor Daryl Morey’s twitter feed.
These components are explosive. How massive the conflagration will get Thursday is a query mark. The NBA has tamped down on its gamers and coaches speaking concerning the concern, after Morey drew the league into the fray with a Free Hong Kong tweet that enraged China — its largest market by inhabitants.
Gamers and coaches have been instructed to skirt the problem, even the usually outspoken ones like Warriors coach Steve Kerr or the Clippers’ Doc Rivers.
“I don’t know. I didn’t pay a lot consideration to it apart from what (Daryl Morey) stated. And he was proper in saying that,” Rivers instructed The Athletic’s Jovan Buha this week. “However there’s penalties to each motion. I’ve been saying that as properly … It’s a troublesome concern clearly.”