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Lakers fans boo Kawhi Leonard, then he reminds fans why they wanted him in Clippers win

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LOS ANGELES — When Kawhi Leonard was introduced before the start of the Clippers’ first home game Tuesday night, boos rained down on him from the numerous Lakers fans in attendance still stung by the fact Leonard did not choose their team last July.

When Kawhi Leonard took the mic to address Clippers’ fans pregame, he was almost drowned out with boos — remember, this was a Clippers home game. The first time Leonard went to the free throw line, boos again filled Staples Center.

Less than three hours later, those Lakers fans had left in silence, reminded of what they missed out on in the two-time Finals MVP. Leonard walked off the court to cheers from the Clippers faithful.

Leonard was at the heart of what worked for Los Angeles all night. He sparked a Clippers run in the second quarter when he made seven straight shots, and eventually finished the night with 30 points on 10-of-19 shooting (plus six rebounds and five assists) and was the leader the Clippers hoped he would be as they took the season opener 112-102 from that team down the hall.

“He created the run for us,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of Leonard’s performance. “That’s what he does, he talks with his game, and I think that’s the way it should be.”

While Leonard was the spark, it was the depth and versatility of the Clippers that was the biggest difference in this game — the Clippers won the bench scoring battle 60-19.

Rivers had options. The Lakers had raced out to a fast 13-2 lead thanks in large part to LeBron James’ playmaking and post ups. To change that, less than four minutes into the game, Rivers brought in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell — the smoothest pick-and-roll combo in the league — and they “calmed everything down,” to used Williams’ words. Harrell attacked the rim and quickly picked up a couple buckets. The Clippers picked up the pace and the Lakers struggled to keep up with it all game when that happened.

Later the Clippers went to the Williams/Leonard dribble handoff followed immediately by Harrell setting a pick for Leonard, a play that both worked and was still rough around the edges.

“You saw so many things with Lou and Kawhi and Trezl that they just didn’t see yet,” Rivers said. “So it will be great to grow together.”

All this helped the Clippers get back in the game. At the end of the night, Harrell had 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting, Williams had 21 points on 14 shots, and JaMychal Green had 12 points going 4-of-7 from three.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel didn’t have the same options, especially on a night LeBron and Anthony Davis struggled to hit shots. The pair was a combined 15-of-40 shooting and 1-of-7 from three. They scored two points and shot 1-of-6 combined in the fourth quarter. The Clippers were switching picks but laying back and daring LeBron to shoot, then packing the paint if he tried to drive. LeBron could not get past Harrell at points and create, but his options were limited. Still, it was the best play the Lakers had and they likely should have run it more because they don’t have other shot creators to turn to like Rivers did.

Danny Green did his part with 28 points and hitting 7-of-9 from three. He was the best Laker on the court.

The rest of the Lakers let their offensive struggles bleed onto the other end of the court.

“We let our offense dictate our defense,” LeBron said on a night he still had 18 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. “We have to be better at that… Down the stretch, we had some careless and costly turnovers when we were making a run. I know I had three of them that were very careless and [the Clippers] capitalized on them.”

What the Clippers showed in the opener was the same physical, lunch pail, come ready to go hard attitude that made them tough to play against last season. Now they just do that with Leonard on the roster, too — and with Paul George still to come (once he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery, likely some time next month).

“What I saw in our team was just overall team toughness,” Rivers said. “They hit us with a punch to start but we just kept moving forward. We took it and kept playing. I thought our ball pressure changed the game for us.”

That pressure, and that depth, is going to win them a lot of games this season.

Report: NBA season could last through Oct. 12

Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan and 76ers forward Tobias Harris
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The NBA is reportedly targeting July 31 for resuming games.

Now, we also have a planned end date for the season.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The big question: What happens between July 31 and Oct. 12?

Most likely, 22 teams will return for more regular-season games, a play-in tournament then playoffs. It appears a last-ditch argument for all 30 teams continuing has stalled.

But that still leaves many questions within a 22-team structure. How many regular-season games will each team play? How many seeds will be up for grabs in the play-in tournament? How many teams will qualify for the play-in tournament. Will the the playoffs have 1-16 seeding?

And then there’s next season and beyond. The NBA will obviously delay the start of the next season. But will the league work back toward an October start for future seasons? Or will this be the beginning of regularly starting the season in December?

Still, as many questions remain unanswered, the timeline is coming into sharper focus.

Tilman Fertitta: ‘Such a disappointment’ Rockets faced trouble for Daryl Morey’s tweet

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and owner Tilman Fertitta
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When Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters (who are trying to maintain and expand their freedoms), Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta quickly distanced the organization. Though he never publicly condemned Morey, Fertitta emphasized that Morey was speaking as a private citizen and not for the organization.

But the winds have turned. The Knicks are facing criticism for not saying enough about the death of George Floyd. The Rockets – as apolitical as Fertitta says they should be – even released a statement on the death of Floyd:

How does Fertitta reconcile the different approaches?

Power Lunch:

Fertitta:

Speaking up of an issue in America and speaking up on an issue that’s somewhere else in the world are two different matters, OK? In America, we have free speech, and we can do whatever want to do and say whatever we want and not be penalize because of it. And that’s why we all love this country so much.

One hundred percent, I believe that you should not be a political organization, because we have 60 thousand employees and a hundred million customers, and we don’t always agree. It’s usually 50 percent one way and 50 percent this way.

But when it comes to an issue like this in America, you sure should speak out and say exactly what you want. And I encourage all my employees – from my basketball team to my restaurants to my hotels to my casinos – to speak out on this issue, and let’s make this world better and this country better that we live in that’s been great for so many of us.

I go back to what happened to Eric Garner in New York, which is a second home to me, and of course George Floyd, who is from Houston, Texas. And it’s inexcusable for two men to die like that, who did not appear to be putting up a fight. And I totally agree, and I understand the protests and the injustice out there.

And it’s really a shame that, because of a few bad people, that the distraction of protesting for the inequality, that we have to watch everything else. And we know this. There’s bad journalists. There’s bad CEOs. There’s a few bad cops. And there’s a few bad protesters. And it’s so disappointing, because I love that the protesting. That’s what makes America great.

And remember, we got in trouble, my team, earlier in the year because we commented about something, which was such a disapointment, because that’s what makes America great.

This is the most strongly – by far – Ferttita has supported Morey about the Hong Kong tweet. My question: Why now? When he tweeted, Morey was an American citizen who enjoyed the freedom of speech Fertitta espouses. Fertitta could have backed Morey like this at the time, even while maintaining a message that Morey didn’t speak for the organization.

Morey’s tweet cost the NBA, including the Rockets, a lot of money in China. Everyone quickly entered damage control. Fertitta appeared more focused on the financial ramifications than anything else.

Right now, it’s popular to stand for racial justice. Customers appreciate it. So, supposedly apolitical organizations like the Rockets are issuing statements on George Floyd.

That’s why I’m not looking to professional basketball teams for leadership on these issues. It’s easy when doing the right thing aligns with maximizing profits. When those things don’t align, it’s far messier.

Even in this interview, Fertitta struggled to keep his message consistent. He said both “Speaking up of an issue in America and speaking up on an issue that’s somewhere else in the world are two different matters” then later “let’s make this world better.” But after that slip into acknowledging global considerations, Fertitta jumped right back to “this country better that we live in that’s been great for so many of us.”

Some Americans focus on injustice in America. Some Americans are concerned with with injustice elsewhere. There’s not a major difference between those outlooks  – unless it screws up the money.

Brian Shaw reportedly to coach new G-League ‘Select Team’ of young stars

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The NBA’s new G-League “Select Team” has already drawn some elite talent from the 2021 NBA Draft class such as Jalen Green (currently projected as a top-three pick), Daishen Nix (lottery pick), and Isaiah Todd (late first round/second round) into its specialized training program.

Who will be running that program and coaching the team? Former Nuggets coach Brian Shaw, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Shaw had a 14-year NBA playing career, winning three rings with the Shaq/Kobe Lakers. He went on to join Phil Jackson’s coaching staff with the Lakers before getting the head job in Denver, which lasted less than two seasons. He reportedly beat out David Fizdale and Sam Mitchell for the job (although they could have roles with the team).

The Select Team roster will have some top prospects — ones who decided to get paid (Green will make a reported $500,000) and skip college — plus a handful of veteran players as mentors. The goal is to get the young players NBA-level training and games (they will play exhibitions against other G-League teams but not be part of the standings).

Knicks participate in #BlackoutTuesday on Instagram

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The Knicks decided not to release a statement on the death of George Floyd.

But an opportunity to say nothing?

They jumped at that.

Knicks:

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#BlackoutTuesday #NBATogether

A post shared by New York Knicks 🏀 (@nyknicks) on

Blackout Tuesday is a vague movement against racial injustice.

I’d like all Americans to confront the racism plaguing this country. If Knicks owner James Dolan says more, that’d be great. It’d be great if many said more on these issues.

But I’m also not turning to professional basketball teams for guidance. So many of these statements say nothing at all.

But fairly or not, when every nearly other team* releases a statement, the Knicks’ silence becomes seen as a stance in itself.

*Only New York and San Antonio have yet to release statements, according to Tom Haberstroh. The Spurs have largely gotten a pass, because Gregg Popovich has been so outspoken.

Under Dolan, the Knicks have a strong track record of hiring black executives and coaches. That matters.

If you want that supplemented by a statement in the aftermath of Floyd’s death… I guess you can decide whether this counts.