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Are Lakers suddenly frontrunners for Kawhi Leonard?

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It was a two-team race for Kawhi Leonard‘s services: The Los Angeles Clippers and the Toronto Raptors.

The Lakers were not in the picture. Sources told NBC Sports as far back as last summer that Leonard would not team up with LeBron James in Los Angeles, that superteams and the drama that always surrounds the Lakers (and LeBron) was not what he wanted. It wasn’t just NBC who reported that, it was what was told to reporters around the league.

In the last 48 hours, things seem to have shifted.

As Marc Stein of The New York Times noted, Las Vegas bookmakers and voices around the league are now saying the Lakers may be the team that poaches Leonard from Toronto.

The internal confidence of the Lakers is real, they believe they are going to land Leonard.

There’s a lot we don’t know, and that starts with what the inscrutable Kawhi Leonard is actually thinking. How much of this buzz is from people around Leonard talking and how much is Leonard himself? And can the Raptors, who have the last say, convince him to come back and chase another ring north of the border? Maybe the idea of teaming up with LeBron and Anthony Davis is too much for Leonard to resist.

All we know: Things change fast in NBA free agency and the pendulum could swing another direction fast.

Bulls unveil blue uniforms (photo)

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Michael Jordan famously wore a pair of North Carolina shorts under his Bulls uniform.

Now, Chicago will bring baby blue to the surface.

Bulls:

These are a major-departure from the Bulls’ red-and-black color scheme. Even the logo is altered.

Such deviations are becoming normalized. The Magic will wear orange. Expect other teams to get more radical.

These jerseys will certainly sell. The short-term revenue boost of all these alternate uniforms is the entire idea.

But I wonder whether there’s a cost to teams diluting their identities. These don’t look like Chicago uniforms. It could become increasingly difficult to value the prestige of NBA jerseys if they’re so loosely associated with a team.

Bucks to wear ‘Cream City’ jerseys (photos)

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The Bucks making cream one of their colors? Great! It was distinctive and local, celebrating the cream-colored bricks throughout Milwaukee.

These uniforms?

Bucks:

Not so great. Everything about the uniforms is fine except the words on the front of the jersey.

I’m sure nobody will crack immature jokes about those.

Reporter: Charles Barkley told me, ‘I don’t hit women, but if I did, I would hit you’

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Charles Barkley has a history of sexist comments.

The crudest publicly came in 1990. Los Angeles Times:

Barkley, who said the remarks were meant as a joke, was quoted as saying after a tough Nov. 3 win over the underdog New Jersey Nets that “this is a game that if you lose, you go home and beat your wife and kids. Did you see my wife jumping up and down at the end of the game? That’s because she knew I wasn’t going to beat her.”

But since becoming beloved for his outspokenness as a commentator, there have been others – calling the Warriors’ style “little-girly basketball,” mocking the weight of female Spurs fans.

Now, Barkley has again run his mouth in this direction.

Alexi McCammond of Axios:

Turner Sports:

This was obviously inappropriate for Barkley to say. I’m not sure how else to characterize it. It doesn’t sound like a threat. It’s not related to domestic violence. It’s just not the way to speak to someone working professionally.

I’m glad he apologized, and I hope he learned from this. But history suggests he’ll continue to make off-color jokes. In fact, he’s rewarded for repeatedly pushing the line.

That might eventually get him into serious trouble. I don’t think these remarks should be the ones to spark mass outrage.

Derrick Rose: If load management existed back then, I’d probably still be with Bulls

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In 2011, Derrick Rose won MVP.

In 2012, Rose tore his ACL.

After playing big minutes early in his career, Rose was frequently sidelined the next few seasons. That took a toll on everyone involved. He felt the loneliness and despair of major injuries. The Bulls struggled to meet expectations with their best and highest-paid player repeatedly injured.

Eventually, Chicago traded Rose to the Knicks.

NBC Sports Chicago:

Rose:

It was just a different time in the sports world, period. Now we have the term “load management.” I don’t think that I would’ve taken it as far as Kawhi, as far as like they’re really being cautious about his injury or whatever he has. But if load management would’ve been around, who knows? I probably would’ve still been a Chicago Bull by now. But it wasn’t around.

Load management was around. That term hadn’t become popularized. But teams – most notably Gregg Popovich’s Spurs – had already begun resting players throughout the season.

Then-Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau just didn’t subscribe to that thinking. He wanted his best players on the court as often as possible. He had them practice long and hard to build good habits.

The science has evolved since then, but Thibodeau continued in his old-school with the Timberwolves. He just appeared stuck in his ways.

We’ll never know what would’ve happened if Chicago were more cautious with Rose. Maybe his on-court impact would’ve been lessened without all those reps. Maybe he would’ve gotten hurt, anyway.

But in this “what if?”, more focus should be on his coach than the era.