Friday Bolts: 9.20.19

Arash Markazi (Los Angeles Times) takes a close look at the Clippers’ successful pursuit of Kawhi Leonard, with some eyebrow-raising quotes from Doc Rivers: “Leonard wanted to be a Clipper but wouldn’t make the jump unless the team was able to get him a running mate to make them championship contenders. “We actually had a list of guys, which was a mistake, but we got lucky,” Rivers said. “We shouldn’t have had a list, because then he got to choose who he wanted to play with and the assumption was that we could get them. We didn’t know if we could get anybody. We just showed him guys that we thought would match him and when he saw Paul George’s name he said, ‘I want to play with him.’”

Does this confirm that the breakup between the Thunder, George and, ultimately, Russell Westbrook, was more of a mutual decision (as George made it sound) than what Sam Presti was willing to let on? No one here is necessarily a reliable narrator (don’t forget Rivers overstating his own thoughts of tearing down the Lob City Clippers). Everyone has a vested interest in not going down as the first to blink, so I’d just lean on the chronology as originally reported until there’s more compelling evidence otherwise.

Mitch McGary told WEEI that he’s mildly interested in an NBA comeback, one that by his own admission would take him several months into this season to even attain NBA-level conditioning. (via Dorian Craft – USA Today, H/T seth_22)

Another Nick Gallo (NBA.com) summer feature, this time on Hamidou Diallo, who would like to be known as more than a dunk champion:

Alex Madrid (Eurohoops) transcribes a portion of an Alex Abrines interview in which he opens up a bit about the mental health struggle that drove him out of the league last season: “When I went through all this and did not travel with the team, (Westbrook) kept in touch. He asked me to meet him for dinner. He cared for the person beyond the player. He calmly told me what I should do noting that he would support me if I decided to leave. Athletes are normal people, but are pressured above average. Medication helps, but at the end of the day you must seek professional aid, discuss with friends and family, move forward with their support.”

Royce Young (ESPN) is on the latest Locked on NBA podcast talking all things Thunder.

Decade Week continues, with Andrew Sharp (SI) putting two totally non-triggering Oklahoma City items near the top of the decade’s biggest stories: “This was a decade dominated by either LeBron James and Steph Curry. There was one team that had a reasonable shot at upstaging both of them for the majority of that run, but the Thunder were broken apart before they ever had a chance to hit their prime. We’ll never know exactly how great OKC could’ve been in the alternate timeline where the Thunder pay an extra $6 million to give Harden a max extension in the fall of 2012. The whole decade might have played out very, very differently. That possibility is obvious and it’s been discussed ad nauseam, but that doesn’t make it any less true. As each player has grown and won MVPs, the history has only gotten harder to ignore.”

Zach Buckley (Bleacher Report) with a totally uncontroversial take, placing Kevin Durant as the franchise GOAT for both the Thunder and Sonics: “While previous franchise stars ranked among the NBA’s elite, he was the first to challenge for the Association’s top spot. Payton had a single top-five finish in MVP voting (third in 1997-98); Sikma and Kemp didn’t have any. Durant had six during his nine-season tenure, thrice claiming silver before grabbing gold in 2013-14. While Russell Westbrook later claimed the hardware, OKC wasn’t a title threat without Durant.”

Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe (ESPN) outline the concerns around the league surrounding anti-tampering measures set for a vote by ownership today: “Approval of the league’s anti-tampering proposal requires a “yes” vote from 23 of 30 teams. The league rarely brings such matters to a vote unless it is confident it has requisite support; the failure of the league’s initial proposal to tweak the lottery odds in 2014 was a rare public defeat. Small-market teams, fearing the free-agency allure of big-city rivals, might line up Friday to support the league’s proposal — as well as teams embittered by recent free-agency defections. Those who vote against the new measures risk the perception that they condone cheating, even if other reasons colored their decision. Even so, teams and league officials will address questions about privacy and the specifics of enforcement.”

HoopsHype has an updated list of free agents for the summer of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024, and yes, 2025.

Sol Rogers (Forbes) predicts that immersive technology will pretty radically change sports-viewing experiences in the near future: “For many fans, going to a sports stadium on match day means long queues, traffic, crowded public transport, and a sea of people. Smart stadiums such as Amsterdam ArenA want to tackle the negative aspects of sports viewing by using technology. The stadium plans to use self-driving cars that can park themselves, facial recognition tools controlling entry to the stadium, an artificial intelligence solution to guide fans to their seats, and thousands of sensors attached to objects like chairs, gates, and stairs to optimize overall stadium management.”

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