Paul George just the latest homegrown star to feel Lakers’ love in free agency

first_imgLOS ANGELES — Before signing a contract that at the time was the second-biggest in NBA history, DeMar Derozan heard the siren call of the Southland.It was 2016, the Lakers had salary-cap room, and a significant number of friends in Los Angeles were campaigning for the Compton native to come home.“It’s flattering because if you grew up here, you’re a Laker fan,” DeRozan said. “So, for me, I just knew what my mind was at and my heart was at. As long as you know that, it really don’t get to you as much. It don’t make the decision that hard.”Though no Lakers will play in Sunday’s prime-time game, the All-Star rosters feature five players who grew up in the L.A. area and a sixth, Kevin Love, who starred at UCLA. “Oh, there’s definitely some truth to it,” said Warriors star Klay Thompson, who went to high school at Santa Margarita and whose parents still live in Orange County, “especially growing up down here, and having his family down here. There’s got to  be … some truth to it.”Thompson, it must be noted, is bound for free agency in 2019.“I expect those questions for the next two years,” Thompson said. “That’s a long ways away.”After clearing cap space by trading Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson prior to last week’s deadline, the Lakers will have upward of $70 million in cap space that they will dangle in an effort to sign two max-level players.For obvious reasons that have nothing to do with his hometown, LeBron James will be one. George is the other.During his appearance at Saturday’s media day in a cavernous corner of the L.A. Convention Center, a chant broke out among the fans on hand as George answered a question about sneakers.“We want Paul! We want Paul!”The Palmdale native was greeted by boisterous pleas for him to sign with the Lakers in each of his two visits to Staples Center this season, and one season ticket holder went so far as to customize a No. 13 jersey bearing George’s name.Sitting several seats down from George, Russell Westbrook held court at his own dais Saturday. Westbrook, who attended Leuzinger High in Lawndale, was long expected to entertain signing in L.A. before signing a $205 million extension last summer that will keep him in OKC through 2023.Hearing the chant, Westbrook cut himself off mid-answer and said, “That’s out. Paul ain’t going nowhere, it’s over for that.”Reading the tea leaves has never been easier. He wants to be a Laker.But then Westbrook called George’s All-Star snub “outrageous” and George, who was later selected as an injury replacement, said that kind of support from last year’s league MVP made it “more apparent what this decision needs to be made when it comes down to it.”Oh boy. The Lakers’ bid for George seemed over before it (legally) began.“I think that’s just the media,” George said, “they see a headline and immediately they jump to conclusions. It’s funny but at the end of the day I know where my decision lands, or what my decision is, and that’s all that matters.”Asked Saturday if he already knew what he would do this summer, George responded, “I don’t.”If he had left it there, the comments would have been innocuous enough.“I know what I feel is best,” he said, “but it’s a long ways until the end of the season.”Maybe, then, he does know.“It has a ton of layers to it,” said Love, who before being traded to Cleveland in 2014 was expected to be the Lakers’ top target when he hit free agency in 2015. “Having that aura around it of being the Lakers and having that tradition of excellence here as a franchise. … It’s one of those places that if you can make a name for yourself you can make a name for yourself anywhere.”That echoes comments Kobe Bryant made this week to ESPN’s Jalen Rose.Related Articles AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersEach of them have, at one time or another, been linked to the Lakers, either by hopeful fans, meddling agents or from the mouths of players themselves. The rumor mill has never run hotter than it does for Oklahoma City’s Paul George, the Palmdale native for whom the Lakers sacrificed $500,000 to make their affection known,George’s pending decision remains a point of intrigue around the NBA and especially this weekend as the NBA makes L.A. its temporary home.What DeRozan experienced two summers ago and George is encountering now are both part of a greater phenomenon.The Lakers have made it clear they will try to find their franchise savior in free agency; owner Jeanie Buss said last spring that not having an All-Star with the game in L.A. would “break my heart.”When a star player with L.A. roots hits the market, the Lakers will generally be first in line to sign him. And though it hasn’t happened over the past four offseasons, when the franchise has needed a savior more than ever, the outside expectation is that those players all want to sign with the Lakers. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Heisler: NBA All-Star Game is too broken to fix, too big to drop “It takes a special person to want to play for this franchise and take the pressure that comes along with playing for this franchise,” Bryant said.The Lakers’ message each time they swing for the fences in free agency is less that the object of their affection is the perfect player for the organization, and more that his contract has come up at a point that is compatible with the organization’s timeline.The franchise will always bank on L.A. itself being the best recruiting pitch. Players love Los Angeles and, the logic follows, they should love playing here.“That’s going to remain to be said with all the top free agents as long as the NBA’s around,” Love said, “(and) as long as L.A.’s a great city. Which it always will be.” 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend courtside: Celebrity All-Star Game and Rising Stars Challenge updates last_img read more

Confederate flag flown over Bristol prior to NASCAR All-Star Race

first_img A Confederate battle flag hangs next to a Donald Trump reelection banner in a vendor’s tent outside Bristol Motor Speedway. https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/d0/6b/rebel-flag-bristol-071520-getty-ftrjpg_1wmvi4xiysk6n15yitx4gfips5.jpg?t=1430072851&w=500&quality=80NASCAR was criticized for decades for not taking action to stop displays of the Confederate flag, which has been derided as a racist symbol. The organization finally made the move after Bubba Wallace, the Cup Series’ lone Black driver, called this year for it to be banned from tracks. The decision was also made amid nationwide protests against the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis.The Talladega race weekend was also when a noose was seen attached to Wallace’s garage stall. The FBI was called in to investigate a possible hate crime; investigators determined the rope had been there since at least last October and that it was not used to target Wallace. Before that determination was announced, however, NASCAR drivers and teams organized a prerace demonstration in support of Wallace. NASCAR banned the display of the Confederate battle flag at its events in June. Twice now, a group has responded by having a plane tow the flag over a track.The latest incident took place Wednesday prior to the All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. A small plane was seen above the track grounds towing a flag; attached to the flag was a banner displaying the letters “SCV.org,” which refers to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The organization’s headquarters are in Columbia, Tenn. MORE: Facts of the Bubba Wallace noose caseSCV was also behind a flag being flown over Talladega Superspeedway in June shortly after NASCAR announced the ban. That time, the flag was accompanied by a call to “Defund NASCAR,” a tweak of calls to “Defund the police.” That weekend, the flag was displayed outside track grounds as well.In both instances, NASCAR allowed fans in the stands for the race. NASCAR has raced in mostly empty venues since returning from its COVID-19 suspension.On Wednesday, the flag was on display under a vendor’s tent outside the track.center_img (Getty Images)last_img read more