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Requiem for NBA free agency’s midnight start

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We have that and more in Monday’s NBA newsletter.

2019 NBA Draft Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

One of the NBA’s least consequential reforms of recent years is perhaps its saddest. The league declared that free agency will no longer begin at midnight ET on July 1, when the new basketball season officially starts. Instead, free agency is moved up to 6 p.m. ET on June 30. That means instead of spending all of Sunday night awake chasing Ron Baker scoops, the basketball world will be glued to the internet all Sunday evening (and then probably all Sunday night too).

This is a travesty.

Free agency at midnight (or at 9 p.m. PT, which is how I have always experienced it) was a tradition that nodded toward the off-kilter obsession of the NBA’s most ardent fans. Staying up until 1 a.m. for a playoff game? Child’s play. Staying up until 2 a.m. to find out whether the Jazz will re-sign Joe Ingles? Divine.

Reading bleary-eyed leaks about which teams got on the phone with which players right at 12:01 a.m.— never at 12 a.m., that would be crazy, always 12:01! -- and which players had focused their list and will only take meetings with which teams ... this was all so rich with information and mood. Some of that will remain with legitimate dinner meetings possible with the 6 p.m. ET. I expect to have a complete understanding of high-end LA, Vegas, and New York restaurants by the end of 2021 free agency. But it just won’t be the same in daylight.

I get why the NBA went this direction for the sake of its team officials, the journalist class, the TV partners who will no doubt leverage the new start time to produce a TV special or three. But I don’t have to like it.

Let’s light a candle at 12:01 a.m. ET on Sunday to mourn our lost way of life.

Paul George’d

Are the Clippers getting Paul George’d? With the caveat that no one really knows what’s going on with Kawhi Leonard, Yahoo!’s Chris Haynes carefully reports that rival GMs think the Raptors are the frontrunner to sign Leonard to a multi-year deal this summer. Haynes also reports there are a handful of teams that could secure meetings with him once free agency begins.

If Kawhi re-signs in Toronto a year after Paul George, supposedly dead set on joining the Lakers as a free agent, decided instead to stay with the Thunder, this is officially A Thing that teams will absolutely have to consider when weighing whether to trade for disgruntled, noncommital superstars. Arguably, the PG-13 situation already influenced the Raptors to make the leap for Kawhi. This would kick it into overdrive.

The question, though, is which superstar is next in line to request a trade. No, no -- let’s not shave that KAT I mean cat right now.


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