Good morning. Let’s basketball.
PREVIEW PARTY: Flannery and I think the Raptors are in good shape and should be perfectly comfortable again pushing Cleveland for the No. 1 seed. We are, however, mixed on the Lakers’ young core and the future of franchise leadership. Here’s the Toronto preview from Raptors HQ and the Lakers preview from Silver Screen And Roll. Preview preview: the Nets and Kangz are coming on Friday.
WNBA PLAYOFFS: Game 2 in both semifinal series is Friday. Mercury-Lynx tips off at 8 p.m. ET, Sky-Sparks at 10 ET. Both games are on ESPNews. Game 3s will be on Sunday starting at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN. If the Game 1s — blowouts by the Lynx and Sparks — are any indication, the semifinals might end there on Sunday. Check out Swish Appeal for on-scene coverage and analysis.
SUMMER OF THE BEARD: A strong case that James Harden had the NBA’s most entertaining summer.
WHOEVER COULD HAVE SEEN THIS COMING: Phil Jackson yelled at the Knicks for running the Triangle poorly. Derrick Rose calls the offense "complicated" and "foreign." News at 11.
GOOD LUCK WITH THAT: Teams want to hire Kevin Garnett as a coach. (Meanwhile, KG was actually hanging out at Clippers practice on Thursday.)
LURE: I’ve thought for a year or so now that the Lakers are specifically targeting me to jump ship and become an L.A. fan. Brandon Ingram singing "Diamonds" in a full-length poodle coat is the most effective bait yet.
LET THE BODIES HIT THE FLOOR: Cam Payne fractured his foot. Return timeline is unknown. WHO WILL DAP WITH RUSSELL?
SONS OF KOBE: Kobe Bryant used to get heated when a media outlet ranked him too lowly on a preseason list of best players. DeMar DeRozan is taking that mantle and wearing it well.
BOOMSHAKALAKA: NBA Jam duos for the modern era.
PREVIEW PARADE (COLLEGE EDITION): Looking at Cincinnati, a grinders’ team.
Let’s blow out of here. The Warriors and Raptors will tip off the preseason Saturday night, but it won’t be on national TV. The Mavericks and Pelicans will party Saturday too, and more games will arrive on Sunday. So when we next meet in this space on Monday, we might have some 2016-17 NBA Highlights to discuss! What a world!
Happy Friday. Be excellent to each other.