Jul 1, 2019

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Happy Monday! We're officially underway at Wimbledon. Here's a preview of what to expect from this year's fairly wide open field.

Today's word count: 1,450 (~6 mins)

1 big thing: 🏀 Nothing but Nets

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Photo illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The Brooklyn Nets signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (and DeAndre Jordan) on Day 1 of NBA free agency, accomplishing in roughly five years what the crosstown Knicks have been trying to pull off for decades: a successful rebuild.

Why it matters: These signings prove that the NBA has never been more about timing. With players constantly on the move and routinely joining forces with friends, if a team puts itself in the right position at the right time, previously unimaginable things can transpire.

The backdrop: In 2013, a disastrous trade with the Boston Celtics set the Nets back years and forced them to embrace the methodical rebuild. At best, they were irrelevant; at worst, they were the laughingstock of the league.

  • But stars noticed as general manager Sean Marks constructed a competitive roster out of thin air and coach Kenny Atkinson fostered a culture that players routinely raved about. Six years later, this happens.

What they're saying:

  • "Multiple sources have said for months Durant and Kyrie Irving planned on being teammates. Durant wanted them to join the Knicks together while Irving preferred they take over Brooklyn," writes The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson II (subscription). "The decision by Durant revealed what he valued most: friendship."
  • "Durant's move to the Nets is not a legacy play … It's not a money grab … And it's not some elaborate power play with the potential to turn the NBA upside down," writes WashPost's Ben Golliver. "Instead, Brooklyn represents a clean slate, an entertaining place to live and work and a chance to build something in his own image."

More storylines:

  • Warriors rebrand: Andre Iguodala and KD are out and D'Angelo Russell is in. Considering Russell almost used more pick-and-rolls by himself (920) than the entire Golden State offense last season (995), this move could signal a "Warriors rebrand," writes NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh.
  • Pray for the Knicks: "Linsanity is the only authentically happy memory for Knicks fans this decade," writes The Ringer's Sean Fennessey. P.S. … They committed $110 million to three power forwards yesterday (Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis).
  • Butler trade on hold: While it had been reported that Jimmy Butler was headed to the Heat in a three-team sign-and trade, the deal is on hold — for now — due to a misunderstanding between the Heat and the Mavericks.
  • Waiting on Kawhi: While the Clippers and Lakers wait on Kawhi Leonard's decision, almost all of the players they could have used to fill out their rosters are gone. Is it a risk worth taking? Yes. But if Kawhi stays in Toronto, both teams — particularly the Lakers — could be left with limited options to fill multiple vacancies.

Go deeper: A timeline of the last decade of Nets basketball

2. 🏀 The $3,000,000,000 evening

Over $3 billion in new money was handed out to NBA players yesterday. $3,000,000,000!!! The biggest deals in each conference so far (new contracts and extensions):

Eastern Conference

  • Tobias Harris, PHI (5 yrs, $180M)
  • Khris Middleton, MIL (5 yrs, $178M)
  • Kevin Durant, BKN (4 yrs, $164M)
  • Kyrie Irving, BKN (4 yrs, $141M)
  • Kemba Walker, BOS (4 yrs, $141M)
  • Al Horford, PHI (4 yrs, $109M)
  • Nikola Vucevic, ORL (4 yrs, $100M)
  • Malcolm Brogdon, IND (4 yrs, $85M)
  • Julius Randle, NYK (3 yrs, $63M)
  • Terry Rozier, CHA (3 yrs, $58M)

Western Conference

  • Damian Lillard, POR (4 yrs, $196M)
  • Klay Thompson, GSW (5 yrs, $190M)
  • Jamal Murray, DEN (5 yrs, $170M)
  • Kristaps Porzingis, DAL (5 yrs, $158M)
  • D'Angelo Russell, GSW (4 yrs, $117M)
  • Harrison Barnes, SAC (4 yrs, $85M)
  • Bojan Bogdanovic, UTA (4 yrs, $73M)
  • Ricky Rubio, PHX (3 yrs, $51M)
  • Dewayne Dedmon, SAC (3 yrs, $40M)
  • Patrick Beverley, LAC (3 yrs, $40M)

All signings.

3. 💰 Sports betting: New Jersey dethrones Nevada

Atlantic City. Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Sports bettors wagered more money in New Jersey than any other state during the month of May, making the Garden State the new sports betting capital of America, AP reports.

By the numbers: New Jersey saw $318.9 million worth of bets, edging out incumbent Nevada ($317.4 million) for the first time since the Supreme Court's monumental decision 13 months ago.

Why it matters: New Jersey's rise to the top is a direct result of the state embracing mobile betting. While other states require that bets be made in person, roughly 80% of bets placed in New Jersey have been made via mobile.

  • "The top four mobile betting locations for DraftKings have all been along the Hudson River across from New York City, underscoring the outsize impact of New Yorkers flooding the New Jersey market," per NYT.
  • "During the football season last fall and winter, some bettors would ride the PATH from Manhattan to the station in Hoboken just long enough to get cellphone service, place a bet and then take the next train back to New York."
4. ⚽️ Soccer 'round the world
Tyler Boyd and Weston McKennie (l to r). Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Gold Cup: The USMNT underwhelmed against 79th-ranked Curacao, but still managed to pick up the 1-0 victory thanks to Weston McKennie's first-half goal. The Americans have now appeared in 10 straight Gold Cup semifinals.

  • Semifinal 1: Haiti vs. Mexico (Tue, 10pm ET)
  • Semifinal 2: USA vs. Jamaica (Wed, 9pm ET)
Megan Rapinoe. Photo: Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Women's World Cup: The USWNT's pragmatic approach paid off against France, the Netherlands huffed and puffed until they blew Italy's defense down and Sweden snapped a 24-year losing streak with a 2-1 win over Germany.

  • Semifinal 1: USA vs. England (Tue, 3pm ET)
  • Semifinal 2: Sweden vs. Netherlands (Wed, 3pm ET)
Photo: Wagner Meier/Getty Images

Copa America: Argentina beat Venezuela 2-0, while the three other quarterfinal matches ended 0-0 and were decided by penalties (Brazil over Paraguay, Chile over Colombia, Peru over Uruguay).

  • Semifinal 1: Brazil vs. Argentina (Tue, 8:30pm ET)
  • Semifinal 2: Chile vs. Peru (Wed, 8:30pm ET)
5. ⚾️ London Series: By the numbers

Red Sox star Mookie Betts meets distant relative Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex. Photo: Peter Nicholls/WPA Pool/Getty Images


If Londoners are fans of offense, they certainly got their money's worth, as the Yankees and Red Sox combined for 50 runs this weekend. New York won both games: 17-13 and 12-8.


Game 1 was absurd, with both teams scoring six runs in the first inning alone. It was also absurdly long, taking 4 hours and 42 minutes. The Yankees and Red Sox have now played the three longest nine-inning games in MLB history:

  • Aug, 2006: 4 hours, 45 minutes
  • Sep, 2007: 4 hours, 43 minutes
  • Saturday: 4 hours, 42 minutes

On Saturday afternoon, Australia finished off New Zealand 243-157 in the Cricket World Cup. This happened just eight miles away from where the Yankees-Red Sox game took place, so ESPN's Sam Borden took in both sports back-to-back. His biggest takeaway:

"Of all the similarities between cricket and baseball — the throwing, the hitting, the running, the odd devotion to long pants, the shall-we-say languid pace of play — the most striking one is this: They are the only major sports in the world in which the defense has the ball."
6. July 1, 1998: 🏀 The NBA locks its doors

Glen Rice, Allan Houston, Dominique Wilkins, Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing (l to r). Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

21 years ago today, the NBA announced a league-wide lockout — the result of a labor dispute between the owners (seeking a firmer salary cap) and the players (seeking higher minimum salary).

  • The lockout spanned 204 days and resulted in the loss of ~$1 billion before an agreement was reached in January. When play resumed, the regular season was shortened from 82 to 50 games.
  • The season ended with the San Antonio Spurs beating the New York Knicks 4-1 in the NBA Finals to win the franchise's first championship.

Go deeper: An oral history of the 1998-99 NBA lockout (The Ringer)

7. 🏀 NBA trivia

Kevin Durant has averaged at least 25 PPG in each of his last 11 seasons. The Nets, meanwhile, have had just one player average 25 PPG for a season in team history.

  • Question: Can you name that player?
  • Hint: Happened this century.

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: 🥍 The PLL's innovative postseason format

The Premier Lacrosse League is just five weeks into its inaugural season and has already made a splash thanks in large part to innovation, both in terms of structure (tour-based model) and presentation (mid-action interviews with players).

  • Driving the news: In yet another bold experiment, the PLL recently unveiled its innovative postseason format, which is designed to (a) reward regular-season dominance, (b) give every team something to play for and (c) mitigate tanking.

Take a look below.

Courtesy: PLL

1. Championship bracket: The top two seeds face off in Game 1. The winner automatically advances to the championship and earns a bye, while the loser still advances to play the winner of Game 2 (Seed 3 vs. Seed 4).

  • In theory, this rewards regular-season dominance and makes the battle for the top two seeds more intriguing down the stretch. Finishing in first or second place is massive, as it guarantees you at least two playoff games.
Courtesy: PLL

2. 1st draft pick bracket: The league's worst two teams face off in Game 3. The winner earns a bye, while the loser still advances to play the loser of Game 2 (Seed 3 vs. Seed 4).

  • In theory, this mitigates tanking as both the second-worst and worst teams have an equal shot at getting the No. 1 pick, which they must earn. ... It's also interesting that the third seed could potentially land the No. 1 pick if they lose their first game then win their next two.

Go deeper:

Kendall Baker

See you tomorrow,

Kendall "Pray for Stephen A. Smith" Baker

Trivia answer: Vince Carter in 2004–05 (27.5) and 2006–07 (25.2).