Should the Raptors retire Kawhi Leonard’s number?

Jalen Rose says the Raptors need to retire Kawhi Leonard’s number

Nick Schwartz | USA TODAY SPORTS

The Golden State Warriors were widely mocked earlier this summer when team owner Joe Lacob announced that he would effectively retire Kevin Durant’s number following his move to Brooklyn, and ensure that no player would wear No. 35 while he remained in charge. Durant won two NBA Finals MVP awards in three seasons with the Warriors, of course, but jersey retirements are typically reserved for team legends who spend the bulk of their career in one location.

According to ESPN’s Jalen Rose, the Toronto Raptors should also retire Kawhi Leonard’s No. 2, after he led the team to the first championship season in franchise history. Leonard opted to leave Toronto for Los Angeles after just a single season.

“If I was a member of the Toronto Raptors, here’s what I would do. We’ve seen guys get video tributes that were questionable. The boss move? Retire his number that night…. I would retire his number that day. That’s what should happen. 

…. Here’s what I want you to think about. The Toronto Raptors have not been around for 60 years. They’ve been around for about 25 years. They’d never been to the finals, they’d never won a championship. The greatest players in franchise history while in their uniform, Vince Carter, DeMar DeRozan. Got to give Biggie a shout, Damon Stoudamire. Tracy McGrady was a young player when he was there, and Chris Bosh. 

You’re going to celebrate those guys as the greatest Raptors of all time…. But Kawhi did something uniquely special. You give him a standing ovation, and you retire his number when he returns!”

Leonard played a total of 84 games in a Raptors uniform (including 24 in the postseason). During that playoff stretch, Leonard averaged 30.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, and in addition to capturing a Finals MVP award against the Warriors, he delivered one of the greatest playoff highlights of all time against the Sixers.

Still, Leonard missed 20 games in the regular season and finished 9th in MVP voting. Is one playoff run worth a retired number?

You make the call…


Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor to replace Michelle Beadle on ESPN’s ‘NBA Countdown’

Jack Baer | Yahoo Sports

Big changes are coming to ESPN’s flagship basketball show.

ESPN is planning to replace on “NBA Countdown” host Michelle Beadle with a pairing of Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor, according to The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch.

Per Deitsch, Nichols will still host “The Jump,” her daily basketball analysis show with a rotating stable of co-hosts.

Jalen Rose is also reportedly set to return as an analyst, but he won’t be joined by Chauncey Billups or Paul Pierce. Billups is set to work as a game analyst next season while Pierce, well, maybe it’s for his own good.

That leaves two studio analyst spots open, and a bevy of former players who could replace Billups and Pierce.

Michelle Beadle out at ESPN?

As Nichols and Taylor continue to rise at ESPN, their ascent comes at the expense of Beadle, who might suddenly be out of a roster spot during her second stint with the network.

Andrew Marchand of the New York Post attributed Beadle’s ouster to a supposed lack of commitment, which is apparently not the best look under new ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro:

As ESPN gets back to basics under relatively new network president Jimmy Pitaro, it means its NBA coverage is more like 24/7/365 scoopmeister Adrian Wojnarowski than it is like punching-the-clock host Michelle Beadle.

That is the main reason Beadle no longer fits in at ESPN. Even at $5 million a year, she has no significant place on its air because she wasn’t all-in.

Deitsch reports that while Beadle is still “well-liked,” it’s a question if her next opportunity for a major on-air job comes on ESPN. Former ESPN president John Skipper lured Beadle back in 2014 after a less-than-successful stint at NBC Sports, eventually installing her on “NBA Countdown” in 2016 then the “Get Up!” morning show with Rose and Mike Greenberg in 2018.

Beadle’s run on “Get Up! would end months later, and now her “NBA Countdown” tenure is over as well. Could her second ESPN tenure be next?


Kristaps Porzingis looks absolutely jacked in a recent workout photo

Andrew Joseph | USA TODAY SPORTS

We’re at the point in the NBA offseason where fans look for anything and everything to get excited about for the upcoming season. It’s going to be a long two months.

But I’m going to excuse the excitement over the latest workout photo from Dallas Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis because the dude looks more like Ivan Drago now than the scrawny 7-footer from Latvia drafted by the New York Knicks.

Seriously, this doesn’t look like the same guy.

Like, whoa.

Porzingis missed all of last season as he nursed an ACL injury, which obviously gave him plenty of time to focus on upper-body workouts. And the results are showing in a major way.

For reference, he used to look like this:

That’s a significant transformation.

The NBA really might not be ready for the Luka Doncic-Kristaps Porzingis duo, especially now that they’ve discovered weight rooms.


Report: DeMarcus Cousins suffers torn ACL while working out

Chris Cwik | Yahoo Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers already lost one of their most promising free-agent signings before the season even started. DeMarcus Cousins reportedly tore his ACL while working out, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The 29-year-old Cousins underwent testing in Los Angeles on Thursday to determine the extent of the injury. Cousins reportedly left the court after “bumping knees” with another player, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

After spending one season with the Golden State Warriors, Cousins signed a one-year deal with the Lakers in July. Cousins averaged 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds with Golden State last season.

A torn ACL is yet another crushing injury for Cousins, who suffered a torn Achilles in 2018. Cousins was limited to just 30 games last season due to that injury, and then suffered a quad injury during the playoffs.


Gregg Popovich praises Colin Kaepernick: ‘That was a very patriotic thing he did’

Cassandra Negley | Yahoo Sports

Colin Kaepernick is still a trending topic for those in the NFL and out of it. The quarterback reminded the world he hasn’t played in three years — but is still ready — and Jay-Z, of all people, reminded us Kaepernick’s activism is still critically important despite the man himself being minimized.

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, in camp with Team USA, spoke about Kaepernick again on Tuesday, using him as an example of what he believes is patriotism.

“That was a very patriotic thing he did,” Popovich said, via ESPN. “He cared about his country enough to fix some things that were obvious, that everybody knows about but does nothing about.”

Popovich said anyone who calls people criticizing inequalities “unpatriotic” is ignorant.

Popovich on patriotism: ‘Being a critic of inequalities … makes America great’

The 70-year-old Popovich has earned a reputation as being one of the “most woke” coaches in the NBA. And he’s often outspoken, blasting politicians after back-to-back mass shootings last week in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

His comments on patriotism, via ESPN:

“Patriotism means a lot of things to different people. There’s people who are truly committed in that sense and people who are fake. The show of patriotism, I think, is a bit inappropriate and that is not something that I think we want to emulate. Because someone hugs a flag doesn’t mean they’re patriotic.

“Being a patriot is somebody that respects their country and understands that the best thing about our country is that we have the ability to fix things that have not come to fruition for a lot of people so far.

“All the promises in the beginning when the country was established is fantastic, but those goals have not been reached yet for a lot of people. So you can still be patriotic and understand that there still needs to be criticism and changes and more attention paid to those who do not have what other people do have, and that’s where we’ve fallen short in a lot of different ways. Being a critic of those inequalities does not make you a non-patriot. It’s what makes America great, that you can say those things and attack those things to make them better. That’s what a lot of other countries don’t have. You lose your freedom when you do that.”

That’s when Popovich used Kaepernick as an example of what he meant by standing up against inequalities. Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem in 2016 to raise awareness of “systematic oppression” and protest police brutality and racism. He’s been bombarded with claims of being “unpatriotic” ever since and his name alone is a match for conversational fire.

Popovich, who attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and served five years of active duty, has spoken positively about Kaepernick in the past. He told the Undefeated in 2016 that Kaepernick was able to kneel because of the military and while many understood that, there are still those who want to “jump on the bandwagon.”

Popovich wants Team USA to be example

Popovich is preparing Team USA for the FIBA World Cup in China. It kicks off Aug. 31 and goes through Sept. 15. His goal is another gold, but it’s also that the squad represents its country the right way.

“We can’t fix the divisiveness in our country,” Popovich said last week, via the Washington Post. “But what we can do is be a great example of how people can come together for a common goal and achieve it. It’s our responsibility to not only become the best team we can be, but it’s the way we conduct ourselves with USA on our shirts. We’re representing a lot of people.”

The U.S. will play Spain in a World Cup tuneup Friday in Anaheim, California.


Bismack Biyombo on Congo’s Ebola outbreak: ‘One way or another … we all going to have to pay attention to Africa’

Bismack Biyombo: Why are millions raised for Notre Dame cathedral, but not Africans dying of Ebola in Congo?

Cassandra Negley | Yahoo Sports

Charlotte Hornets big man Bismack Biyombo spends every offseason back home in his native country of Congo to see family, run camps and work with the government to rid the African nation of Ebola.

Biyombo spoke with The Undefeated about his work, why Ebola is still an issue on the continent and why people should be paying attention to Africa at the very least to protect themselves.

Why can’t Ebola get same funds as Notre Dame?

The Ebola outbreak is in its 12th month, mirroring the the West African Ebola outbreak that ravaged Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leon in 2014. Then, it took years for the World Health Organization to raise enough money to end the outbreak.

Comparatively, within days of the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in France there was nearly $1 million in donations for the rebuild. Many asked at the time why the billionaire donors were giving to a building when they could help social issues.

Biyombo has thought about this in terms of what’s happening in his home country and want Congolese millionaires to give back. Via The Undefeated:

If I tell the truth, I sat down and think about that over and over, because the cathedral burned down [and] within hours there were solutions. What stopped people from actually investing the solution to discuss this [Ebola] because people are dying. Like, this is real. People are dying.

I mean if we can raise hundreds of millions for some other things to be built, I think we can do that to save life.

Approximately 2,700 people have been infected and two-thirds of them have died, according to the Washington Post. Privately, officials are concerned the official numbers are too low since many areas are inaccessible due to remote location and conflict, per the Post.

It’s already the world’s second-worst outbreak after only the 2014 epidemic.

Biyombo: We have to pay attention to Africa for ourselves

It is the 10th outbreak in Congo and earlier this month the World Health Organization labeled it a “public health emergency of international concern.” The World Bank pledged $300 million in the aftermath and the U.S. upped its donation to $38 million, per the Post.

It’s a move that many would ask, “why help there when we can help at home?” And Biyombo gave his answer to The Undefeated:

I think Africa is overlooked with these problems because people sometimes say, ‘That’s African problems. That does not concern us.’ One way or another one, at some point we all going to have to pay attention to Africa because the reality is this: If one person get on that plane and come to the U.S. and spray, then it becomes the U.S. problem. So why wait until that happens instead of fixing this problem now?

(Click to READ MORE on Africa…)

Biyombo said people should care about the resources in Congo despite it being a topic not discussed often.

Will other countries having Ebola be what stops epidemic?

Biyombo explained to The Undefeated how part of the issue is a long-standing distrust of government. He said he has hope the disease will be eradicated, but he is realistic.

For the past decade or more than a decade, our problem has been there, yet still coming back and don’t solve. What’s gonna change people’s mindsets for that problem to be solved within the next five to 10 years? Like what’s going to change people’s mind? Is it other countries end up having Ebola, which is something you don’t wish for? What’s going to get people’s attention?

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced Monday that two potential drugs had a survival rate of as much as 90 percent for low levels of the disease in a trial, per Reuters. It began last November and treatments will now be offered to all patients.

Officials warned it is encouraging, but not enough to stop the epidemic for good.


Draymond tells all on ‘brother’ KD leaving Warriors for the Nets and why he inked his $100M contract

Draymond Green tells all on Kevin Durant leaving Warriors for Nets

Dalton Johnson | NBC SPORTS 

It’s a moment that will never go away. Only those involved can know the kind of impact it had on the Warriors. When Draymond Green and Kevin Durant were seen feuding on the bench in a November game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the internet went wild. 

And for good reason. 

These are two of the biggest basketball stars on the planet, playing for the most watched team in the country. Green crossed the line, too, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole.

Months later, however, Durant — who left the Warriors for the Nets this summer in free agency — and Green seem to have moved past the incident. 

“I actually talked to K yesterday,” Green said to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in an interview that aired Wednesday on “The Jump.” “That’s my brother. If someone would have told me, ‘Man, Kevin Durant’s gonna come to the Warriors and you guys are going to win two championships and then have a shot at winning a third, would you take that?’ In a heartbeat. That was a major success.” 

(Full interview):

Once Durant decided to leave Golden State for Brooklyn on the first day of free agency, Green felt no ill will towards his former teammate. He also had no idea which way Durant would lean with his decision. 

“I found out that he was picking Brooklyn when everybody else found out, which is exactly how it should be,” Green said. 

“He don’t owe it to me to tell me before everybody else,” Draymond continued. “We did what we had to do. The thing that people forget about in this league is this is our lives. I’m not about to go to Kevin Durant and say, ‘Hey Kevin, can I get my fiancé pregnant?’ But that’s my life. I’m sorry but that’s my life. 

“Am I supposed to come to you and A) Let you know that that’s what I wanna do? Or B) Ask you for permission? No. So I found out when everybody else found out, which is exactly how it should be.” 

The duo won two championships together as Warriors and created plenty more headlines. It’s safe to say the headlines won’t stop, and neither will each other’s quest for another ring.


Draymond Green explains big reason he signed $100M Warriors contract

Dalton Johnson | NBC SPORTS 

Draymond Green could have waited until next summer to try and sign a monster contract in free agency.

Instead, he potentially left millions on the table and signed a $100 million extension with the Warriors this offseason. For Green, though, it sounds like the decision was an easy one. 

There’s no way Draymond was leaving two of his Warriors teammates. 

“I got two guys I been rollin’ with since I stepped in this league Steph and Klay,” Green said to Rachel Nichols in an interview that aired Wednesday on ESPN’s “The Jump.” “We started this whole Golden State thing when it wasn’t so sexy.” 


Clippers close to hiring Tyronn Lue as associate head coach

Cassandra Negley | Yahoo Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers are close to adding Tyronn Lue to the coaching staff, according to New York Times writer Marc Stein.

Stein reported Lue’s title will likely be associate head coach.

Lue, the former Cleveland Cavaliers coach, was in talks to take the Los Angeles Lakers job in May. Talks fell apart despite a strong relationship with superstar LeBron JamesStein reported that at the time some in the organization believed hiring Lue would give James too much power and the Lakers hired Frank Vogel instead.

Now James and Lue could still be in the same building, but working for opposite teams.

Rivers led Lue into coaching

Rivers gave Lue, 42, his first shot at a coaching gig, telling the then-26-year-old player to call him when he finished his career in the 2000s.

“You’re gonna be a hell of a basketball coach,” he told him, per a story by Sports Illustrated in 2016. Lue started under Rivers with the Boston Celtics in 2009 and learned from him, eventually following Rivers to L.A. in 2013. The Clippers made it to the Western Conference semifinals.

Lue was a Cavs assistant in 2014-15 and took over as head coach midway through the 2015-16 championship season. He spent two more full seasons in Cleveland before he was fired six games into 2018-19.

Lue went 128-83 over parts of four seasons with Cleveland. It’s his only head coaching experience and the only team he’s coached for sans Rivers.

Lakers vs. Clippers heats up even more

It was an arms race for talent this summer and both Los Angeles teams delivered. The Lakers finally brought former Pelicans star Anthony Davis to the city, while the Clippers splashed by signing former Raptors star and reigning champion Kawhi Leonard and pulling off a blockbuster trade for Paul George.

The Lakers and Clippers will play on Christmas Day.


Zion Williamson on RJ Barrett: Knicks are ‘getting a killer’

 Larry Brown Sports | MSN/YARDBARKER

Zion Williamson continues to speak highly of college teammate RJ Barrett.

Williamson was at the Panini NBA Rookie Photo Shoot on Sunday and was asked by SNY’s Ian Begley about Barrett. Williamson described his fellow lottery pick as a “killer.”

“(Knicks fans) can expect that they’re getting a killer,” Williamson told SNY. “For the people that are trying to look down on him, RJ’s been through worse. He knows how to battle through it and he’s going to bring the city everything he’s got.”

Williamson and Barrett were close friends during their time together at Duke. The two entered college as highly-regarded recruits. They left with Williamson viewed as the best player in college basketball and runaway favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the draft, which he became. Barrett had a fine season, but didn’t quite live up to his billing as a freshman. He still was picked No. 3 overall by the Knicks, who are hoping he will become the game-changer they have lacked.

New York had a quiet offseason. They failed to land Kevin Durant as they were hoping (or not hoping?) and ended up making several under-the-radar signings such as Julius Randle, Bobby Portis and Marcus Morris.