Dan Feldman

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Kobe Bryant says he’d kneel during national anthem if he were still playing

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What would Kobe Bryant do during the national anthem if he were still playing?

Kobe, via The Hollywood Reporter:

Kneel

I mean, maybe. But no NBA player has enacted that protest since Colin Kaepernick started the trend, and the league is pressuring players to stand.

In 2004 free agency, Kobe said he could see himself playing for the Clippers, who were owned by Donald Sterling, whose history of racism was already known. When Sterling’s racist audio recording caused a firestorm a decade later and Kobe was locked into a Lakers contract, Kobe proclaimed he couldn’t play for him.

There’s nuance to both situations, but it’s also easier to say you’d take a brave stance in a situation you know you won’t face than to actually take a brave stance.

Report: Warriors owner Joe Lacob considered offering Stephen Curry below-max contract

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Stephen Curry‘s four-year, $44 million rookie-scale contract extension played a huge role in turning the Warriors into the juggernaut they’ve become.

Curry accepted that modest deal due to a series of ankle injuries, but mostly healthy since, he has developed into one of the NBA’s best players. His massive discount left Golden State room to sign Andre Iguodala then Kevin Durant.

The Warriors finally got an opportunity to reward Curry this summer, and they did with a five-year, $201,158,790 contract.

Yet, perhaps Curry nearly got less.

Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

On top of that, as the Warriors prepared for the postseason, Warriors owner Joe Lacob was considering offering Curry a contract below the max, even though Curry has been one of the most underpaid players in all of sports over the last three seasons. Warriors general manager Bob Myers kept Lacob from bringing a reduced offer to the negotiating table, but it was enough of a thing that Myers reassured Curry of the franchise’s commitment.

I don’t blame Lacob for considering offering less. Not only did Golden State offer the premier situation for Curry, the new super-max rules allowed the Warriors to pay him $73,328,820 more total and $8,274,266 more annually than any other team could offer. Was it really necessary to pay Curry so much?

Probably not, but it’s a good look for a franchise that underpaid Curry for so long and wants to maintain goodwill. It doesn’t hurt that Kevin Durant took a discount.

Curry said he also offered to take one, but that Myers turned him down. Perhaps, Curry’s offer was contingent on his discount being required to re-sign Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. (Part of Durant’s discount accomplished that. Part of it was just a money transfer to ownership.) There was no feasible way Curry’s contract would affect Iguodala’s and Livingston’s Bird Rights, though.

Still, a discount could have trimmed Golden State’s luxury-tax bill – which is already sizable and could get massive as Draymond Green and Klay Thompson come up for new deals.

I wonder how Myers explained rejecting Curry’s discount offer to Lacob.

New York Yankees claim LeBron James’ fandom ahead of series with Cleveland Indians

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LeBron James framed his return to the Cavaliers around his devotion to Northeast Ohio.

So, LeBron has publicly aligned himself with Cleveland’s baseball team.

But with the Indians set to begin a playoff series against the New York Yankees, the Yankees sent a reminder:

In 2007, during his first stint with the Cavs, LeBron infamously wore a Yankees hat to a Yankees-Indians playoff game in Cleveland.

He seems to still be a Yankees fan, but I don’t expect him to be as overt in his rooting interest this time around. It’d work against his branding.

But the Yankees clearly aren’t letting LeBron’s fandom go understated.

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek: Joakim Noah playing shockingly well

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Repeatedly injured and ineffective when on the floor, Joakim Noah looked washed up last season. For centers on the wrong side of 30 and with heavy mileage, those problems usually only worsen – bad news for the Knicks, who signed him to a four-year, $72  million contract in 2016.

But Noah is eliciting quotes that – even in the preseason, a time for hope and optimism – stand out.

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek, via Howie Kussoy of The New York Post:

“Coming off those injuries, literally, I’m shocked of how well he’s played just because I didn’t think he was gonna be ready this early,” Jeff Hornacek said following practice Saturday. “I’m extremely happy with how he’s playing. He’s playing the right way. He sets great screens, he rolls hard, which opens up other things for guys if he doesn’t get it. He’s been finishing with driving layups. He’s been playing great.

“He wants to come back and show everybody what kind of player he is and he’s worked hard to do that over the summer. I give him a lot of credit so far.”

The true test will come when the regular season begins 12 games into the regular season, once Noah has completed serving his suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Five teams most likely to get the No. 1 pick

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The NBA’s lottery reform won’t go in effect until 2018-19, meaning there’s still the same old incentives to sink to the bottom of the standings this season. Every team has a greater than 75% chance of not getting the No. 1 pick, as the league’s worst record only cinches a 25% chance, and no team can guarantee the bottom record at this point. But here are the teams “leading” the race for the top pick:

Chicago Bulls

New franchise player Zach LaVine will miss at least the first month of the season, and it’s unclear how athletic he’ll look upon his return from a torn ACL. The roster is littered with other rookie-scale players who haven’t shown the acumen to contribute positively to winning: Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, Jerian Grant, Bobby Portis, Cameron Payne and even Lauri Markkanen, a rookie who’s admittedly more of an unknown quantity. The only seasoned veteran, Robin Lopez, specializes in the dirty work that won’t matter much on a team where nobody can do the heavy lifting. The Bulls are knowingly rebuilding, and if their goal was completely bottoming out this year, they’re looking good.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Possessing Brooklyn’s unprotected first-rounder from the Kyrie Irving trade, the Cavaliers have a backdoor into the lottery. The Nets were the NBA’s worst team by a four-game margin last season. Then, they traded their best player. Brook Lopez went to the Lakers for D'Angelo Russell, an intriguing prospect, but a player still in need of major fine-tuning. Jeremy Lin should be healthier. Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll and Timofey Mozgov are all helpful veterans (though overpaid, which is why they were acquired). The Nets have no incentive to be bad. But they probably can’t help themselves. They were so thin at center, Tyler Zeller was a major upgrade.

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are finally rebuilding after a decade-long playoff streak. They lost their two best players from last season, Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard, and a couple others who were in the running as third-best, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Thabo Sefolosha. Despite a 43-39 record last year, Atlanta had the point difference – typically a better predictor than record of future success – of a 39-43 team. The bottom might have fallen out, anyway. The Hawks just mostly kicked it out themselves. Atlanta is trying to remain somewhat competitive, but that’s probably a losing battle with this starless/not particularly deep roster.

Sacramento Kings

At least the Kings are young. With eight players on rookie-scale contracts – plus 2014 first-rounder Bogdan Bogdanovic signed to a larger deal this summer – Sacramento has done well in prioritizing team control. Having traded their 2019 first-rounder and not yet possessing an elite prospect, the Kings are particularly incentivized to tank while they still can this year. Newly signed Zach Randolph and Vince Carter are probably too old to get in the way of that. George Hill is far more productive, but he can’t seem to stay healthy.

Phoenix Suns

With Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe, the Suns could be frisky. But Bledsoe has had trouble staying healthy, and Phoenix has proven its eagerness to shift into mid-season tanking. Giving playing to raw young players like Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender would both help their development and improve the team’s draft position.