The Morning Column: August 13, 2021
Kawhi Leonard commits to the Clippers long-term, news on the Clippers arena groundbreaking and the Rams and Chargers get ready to make their SoFi Stadium debut in front of fans.
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1. 🏀 Kawhi Leonard commits to the Clippers long-term
When the Clippers acquired Kawhi Leonard and Paul George two years ago, the team had various visions and dreams for the duo in Los Angeles. Of course, they wanted to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, play in the NBA Finals and win a championship (they’ve already checked the first of those three boxes).
But they also viewed both as the cornerstones of a franchise building a foundation not only for sustained success but also a brand new $1 billion arena in Inglewood. They knew two years ago that both players would have decisions to make this summer on their futures. They could have decided to leave, opted into their player options for just one year, signed for two years or committed to staying for four years.
George already made the choice to stay with the Clippers long-term last season and on Thursday, Leonard joined him.
While the Clippers try to build a championship team around their superstar duo, they are now assured of having both players as the faces of the franchise as they build their new arena. Both of their contracts have player options on the final season in 2024-25, which will be the Clippers’ first season at their new home in Inglewood.
Leonard and George can now wear hard hats for the groundbreaking ceremony with an eye towards taking the court for the first game there in three years.
Inglewood mayor James T. Butts told me this week that he hopes the Clippers will break ground on their new arena as early as this month with plans to open the arena at the end of the Clippers’ lease at Staples Center, which runs through June 2024.
“We hope to have them break ground before the end of August for the venue to be open for the first season in 2024-25,” Butts said. “The Clippers arena will be done in time for the 2024-25 NBA season.”
2. 🚜 Groundbreaking memories
The Clippers have not committed to an exact date for the arena’s groundbreaking and there’s no need to do it this month in order to have it open in time for the start of the 2024-25 NBA season.
Talk of the Clippers arena groundbreaking got me thinking about the Staples Center groundbreaking ceremony on March 26, 1998. Back then Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Luc Robitaille arrived on a bulldozer, wearing hard hats. (The Clippers would sign on as a tenant one month later). The Lakers won championships during their first three seasons in their new home and have won five titles there while the Kings have celebrated winning the Stanley Cup twice at Staples Center. O’Neal and Robitaille have statues outside of the arena with Bryant’s statue soon to follow.
It was always going to be hard for the Clippers to truly feel at home in an arena that celebrated the Lakers and Kings as much as Staples Center did inside and outside. The Clippers’ new home will allow them to celebrate their past, present and future in a home that will be theirs and theirs alone. The hope now is to enjoy the same success in their new home as the Lakers and Kings have at Staples Center.
3. 🐏⚡️ Rams, Chargers to rest starters
While Rams and Chargers fans are excited for the first preseason game in front of a capacity crowd at SoFi Stadium on Saturday night, it’s also important for fans going to the game or tuning in to know that the Rams and Chargers will be resting most of their starters for the game. This is nothing new for the Rams as Sean McVay has rested his starters for the entire preseason the past four years and it’s a strategy new Chargers coach and former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley talked to general manager Tom Telesco about implementing when he took the job. The goal, of course, is to make sure both teams are as healthy when the games actually count next month.
4. ⚾️ Field of Dreams
We all know that Major League Baseball wants and needs to get younger. It’s one of the reasons they are reportedly in negotiations with Barstool Sports about airing games on their platform and creating more betting content. But for one night it was great to see MLB embrace its rich history and lean into the nostalgia that has made it this country’s national pastime. Watching the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees emerge out of the cornfields in Dyersville, Iowa, wearing throwback uniforms, last night to play the first “Field of Dreams” game was one of the best sports moments of the year. It also didn’t hurt that the game ended with a walk-off home run as if it was being directed by Kevin Costner, who starred in Field of Dreams and welcomed the players on the field and uttered his famous line from the movie, “Is this heaven?”
5. 💵 Odds and Ends Powered by Bovada
Here are some odds on Bovada if you’re thinking about placing a wager today:
6. 📆 Aug. 13, 1993: Rickey don’t lose that number
Today is a significant day in the hall of fame career of Rickey Henderson for two reasons. On this date in 1997, Henderson was traded by the San Diego Padres to Angels. His career in Anaheim didn’t last long and he only batted .183 before going back to the Oakland Athletics in the offseason. It’s more important because on Aug. 13, 1993, Henderson, while a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, paid Turner Ward $25,000 for his No. 24. Ward would, of course, go on to become the Dodgers’ hitting coach from 2016-2018 and would famously get kissed by Yasiel Puig after home runs.
7. 🎂 Happy Birthday Elvis Grbac
I was a big Dallas Cowboys fan during the 21 years Los Angeles was without an NFL team. They would hold often hold training camp in Thousand Oaks and later in Oxnard and most of their games were on local television. On Nov. 12, 1995, I traveled to Texas Stadium with my dad for the first time to watch the Cowboys play the San Francisco 49ers. We thought the game was a lock. Steve Young was out and the 49ers would be starting some guy named Elvis Grbac. I was in the middle of unwrapping my hot dog from our end zone seats when Grbac hit Jerry Rice for an 81-yard touchdown on the second play of the game. Rice celebrated right in front of us and I wrapped my hot dog back up. I couldn’t eat. The 49ers would take a 24-0 lead by the second quarter and would go on to win 38-20. That’s a long-winded way of me wishing Elvis Grbac a happy 51st birthday.
8. 🎟 Ticket Time Powered by StubHub
Here are the “get in” prices for tickets on StubHub if you’re thinking about going to a game today:
9. 📺 On The Air
⚾️ 4 p.m. – Los Angeles Dodgers at New York Mets – SportsNet LA
⚾️ 6:30 p.m. – Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels – Bally Sports West
🏀 7 p.m. — Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers (Summer League) — NBA TV
10. 📻 The Arash Markazi Show
On yesterday’s show, we talked about the Clippers re-signing Reggie Jackson, Mookie Betts being sidelined and the first preseason game between the Rams and Chargers at SoFi Stadium.
Listen to The Arash Markazi Show on The Mightier 1090 Monday-Friday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., following The Rich Eisen Show. The Mightier 1090 has the second strongest radio signal in North America and can be heard from “Baja to the Canadian Rockies.” You can also listen to the show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.
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That’s it for today. Talk to you all on Monday!