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The Morning Column: August 18, 2021
LeBron vs. Kyrie. Westbrook vs. Durant. Howard vs. Harden. The Lakers and Nets are the favorites to win the title and there's enough history between the players to make it one of the best rivalries.
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1. 🏀 Plenty of drama in Lakers-Nets matchup
LeBron James vs. Kyrie Irving
Russell Westbrook vs. Kevin Durant
Dwight Howard vs. James Harden
The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets will open the NBA season as the favorites to win the championship and there's enough history between players on both teams to make it one of the best rivalries in the league this year.
That wasn’t lost on the NBA which announced its national television schedule for Opening Night and Christmas Day on Tuesday. The Lakers will play the Nets at Staples Center on Christmas Day and both teams will be featured on Opening Night with the Nets playing the Milwaukee Bucks and the Golden State Warriors facing the Lakers.
Las Vegas sportsbooks have made the Lakers and Nets co-favorites to win it all with the Warriors and Bucks right behind them on the NBA futures board.
When it comes to drama, there’s no better league than the NBA and while the Lakers and Nets don’t have much history on the court, the star players on both teams have plenty between them.
There is, of course, the breakup of James and Irving after both teamed up in Cleveland to win a championship in 2016 and led the Cavaliers to three straight NBA Finals. Irving wanted to escape James’ shadow and was traded to Boston. Irving later called James, telling the Boston Herald, “I apologized for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips. I wanted to be the guy that led us to a championship. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that, and the responsibility of being the best in the world and leading your team is something that is not meant for many people.”
Last year, Irving took a perceived shot at James when he said Durant was the first teammate he could trust to take the last shot of the game. James later said the comment, “kind of hurt me a little bit.”
And then there’s the breakup of Durant and Westbrook after the duo led the Oklahoma City Thunder to the brink of an NBA title. Durant left Westbrook and the Thunder to join the 73-9 Warriors after blowing a 3-1 series lead to Golden State in 2016. Westbrook and Durant reportedly were not close at the end of their time as teammates and Westbrook threw some shade at Durant after he left by posting a picture of cupcakes on his Instagram. Kendrick Perkins would call teammates who were acting soft, “cupcake,” and it became a term Westbrook and Durant adopted. Westbrook also said it was “cute” that Durant implied Thunder players were selfish after he left.
Finally, there’s Harden and Howard, who were teammates on the Houston Rockets from 2013 to 2016. Harden and Howard reportedly tried to get each other traded during their three seasons together and never saw eye-to-eye. Howard finally decided to leave Harden and the Rockets in 2016 when he declined his $23 million option to sign with the Atlanta Hawks.
2. 🎄 Clippers snubbed on Christmas
The Clippers will open the season on Thursday, Oct. 21 on the road against the Warriors but were surprisingly left off the Christmas Day schedule. Despite advancing to the franchise’s first-ever Western Conference Finals last season and being just behind the Lakers, Nets, Warriors and Bucks as preseason favorites, they were snubbed on Christmas Day presumably because Kawhi Leonard is slated to miss most of next season after offseason ACL surgery.
While the Clippers will miss Leonard for at least the first half of next season, it was Paul George, Reggie Jackson and Terance Mann, who led the Clippers to wins in Games 5 and 6 of their conference semifinals series against the Utah Jazz to lead them to their first conference finals. It should have been the Clippers playing the Jazz in Utah on Christmas Day, not the Dallas Mavericks.
3. 😷 Mask up (again)
Los Angeles County will require people to wear face masks at indoor or outdoor “mega-events” with more than 10,000 people such as sporting events regardless of vaccination status beginning Thursday. The Los Angeles Department of Public Health is defining a “mega event” as one with greater than 5,000 attendees indoors or greater than 10,000 outdoors, which covers any professional sporting event in Los Angeles. (The Chargers have sold 50,000 season tickets, so you can put that joke away.)
When will things go back to normal? It’s hard to say but it likely won’t this year as it was also announced that travelers will have to wear masks through at least Jan. 18, 2022 while on airplanes, trains and buses or at airports, train stations and bus stations.
4. 🎉 Happy Anniversary Mightier 1090 AM
The Mightier 1090 AM celebrates its one-year anniversary back on the air this week. The all-sports talk station features Scott Kaplan, Scott Ferrall and Rich Eisen on weekdays (along with my show) while the weekend lineup is highlighted by L.A. sports talk mainstays Dave Smith and Jeff Biggs. The station is also the home of Notre Dame Football in Southern California.
The Mightier 1090's 50,000-watt signal is the second largest in North America and can be heard from "Baja to the Canadian Rockies," as Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton used to famously say. 1090 was also the home of legendary DJ Wolfman Jack, who used to record his show in Los Angeles the night before and bus the tapes down to 1090 in Rosarito. I’ve personally heard the station as far north as San Francisco and as far east as Las Vegas and we had a listener who left a voicemail after listening to the station in Olympia, Washington.
5. 💵 Odds and Ends Powered by Bovada
Here are some odds on Bovada if you’re thinking about placing a wager today:
6. 📆 Aug. 18, 2020: Lakers lose first playoff game in the bubble
One year ago, the Lakers began their postseason journey to the franchise’s 18th championship in the bubble in Orlando against the Portland Trailblazers. The Lakers would lose the first game of the playoffs to Portland, 100-93, but go on to beat the Blazers in the next four games. The Lakers followed the same path against the Houston Rockets in the next round and also beat the Denver Nuggets in five games before finally winning the championship against the Miami Heat.
7. 🎂 Happy Birthday Liz Cambage
Happy Birthday to Liza Cambage. The Las Vegas Aces center is turning 30 today. Cambage is a four-time WNBA All-Star and was a perfect addition to the growing sports scene in Las Vegas when she was traded to the Aces May 16, 2019. Cambage told me she wanted to join either the Los Angeles Sparks or Aces two years ago but was happy she ended up in Vegas.
“It was always Vegas and L.A.,” Cambage told me. “My family is a 16-hour flight away and L.A. is the first stop, and I want my family to come out here but I don’t want them traveling for 20 hours. L.A. is just safe for me. I’ve always lived by the ocean. I’m a bit of a nature girl and I like to go for walks in the canyon and Joshua Tree is so close to L.A. I have friends and family that live in L.A. It’s little things like that but Vegas is just as close and I ended up where I was meant to be.”
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:
Pittsburgh Pirates at Los Angeles Dodgers – $51 (World Series Replica Ring Night)
9. 📺 On The Air
4 p.m. – Los Angeles Angels at Detroit Tiger – Bally Sports West
7 p.m. – Pittsburgh Pirates at Los Angeles Dodgers – SportsNet LA
10. 📻 The Arash Markazi Show
On Tuesday’s show, we talked to Ted Sobel about Los Angeles sports, his new book and we also talk about the Raiders' new vaccine/no mask policy.
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.
And please click below to subscribe to The Morning Column at Substack. It’s totally free and will be delivered to your inbox every morning. Please also consider supporting my fellow colleagues at Substack (and former colleagues at ESPN): Marc Stein, Henry Abbott and Chad Ford on the NBA, Molly Knight on MLB, Ariel Helwani on MMA, Dan Rafael on boxing, Leander Schaerlaeckens on soccer, Chris Peters on the NHL and Peter Bodo on tennis.
That’s it for today. Talk to you all tomorrow!