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#pounditTuesday, June 18, 2024

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Kawhi Leonard has a completely new hairstyle

Kawhi Leonard holds a ball

Apr 26, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) warms up before the game between the Dallas Mavericks and the LA Clippers during game three of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard debuted a new hairstyle on Sunday night, at least for one evening.

Fans were shocked when photos emerged of Leonard without his signature braids while attending Sunday’s WBA title fight between Gervonta Davis and Frank Martin in Las Vegas. Leonard appeared to be going with a much simpler look as he sat in the audience.

Looks can be deceiving, however. Clippers reporter Joey Linn uncovered an alternate angle of Leonard at the fight, and it turns out Leonard did not cut off his trademark braids. He simply had his hair tied back for the evening.

It’s still a very different look for Leonard, but not quite as radically altered as it first appeared. The public would not have known what to do with themselves if they could no longer count on some of his unique style choices with his current haircut.

The public had not received a glimpse of Leonard since the Los Angeles Clippers were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. Even then, Leonard was limited to two games due to knee issues. He is expected to be part of the Olympic team that is headed to Paris for the Summer Games, but there is apparently some doubt about whether that will happen.

18-year-old Jackson James Rice dies ahead of Olympics debut

Jackson James Rice smiles

18-year-old would-be Olympian Jackson James Rice died just weeks before the start of the games in Paris.

Rice was killed in a diving accident in Tonga from a “suspected shallow water blackout,” according to Mary Lyn Fonua of Matangi Tonga. His body was found underneath the boat he had been free diving from, and resuscitation attempts were unsuccessful.

Rice was preparing to represent Tonga in the Olympics in the sport of kite-foiling, a sport that bears some similarities to kite surfing. The 18-year-old was born in the United States to British parents before moving to Tonga at a young age.

Rice had qualified for the Olympics last December thanks to an eighth-place finish at a qualifying event in Sydney, Australia. He most recently competed in the 2024 Formula Kite World Championships in France.

Oddsmakers name favorite to replace JJ Redick if he leaves ESPN

JJ Redick on the ESPN set

Oddsmakers believe that JJ Redick could potentially be replaced at ESPN by one of his contemporaries.

Online sportsbook Bovada released odds this week for Redick’s successor at ESPN should he leave to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Bovada listed former NBA forward Richard Jefferson, who now works as an analyst for ESPN, as the odds-on favorite (-120). Rounding out the top five were ex-Golden State Warriors GM Bob Myers (+300), and analysts Monica McNutt (+700), Zach Lowe (+1200), and Tim Legler (+1200).

You can see the complete odds from Bovada here.

The 43-year-old Jefferson, a 17-season NBA veteran, is quickly becoming a rising star at ESPN. He has drawn rave reviews as part of the network’s No. 2 NBA television team, working as the color commentator alongside Ryan Ruocco. Jefferson also makes regular appearances on ESPN programming such as “NBA Today” and has become known for his ruthless comments on the air.

Meanwhile, Redick ascended to ESPN’s lead NBA team (along with Mike Breen and Doris Burke) earlier this season after Doc Rivers left the network to become head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. But it once again looks like Redick is inching closer to earning the Lakers job, and Jefferson may have an excellent chance of replacing Redick at ESPN if that ultimately ends up being the case.

Angel Reese defends herself over flagrant foul on Caitlin Clark

Angel Reese in her Sky uniform

May 15, 2024; Arlington, Texas, USA; Chicago Sky forward Angel Reese (5) reacts during the second half against the Dallas Wings at College Park Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Angel Reese is defending herself over the flagrant foul she committed on Caitlin Clark on Sunday.

Reese whacked Clark in the head while trying to block a layup attempt from the Indiana Fever star during the third quarter of the Fever’s 91-83 win over Reese’s Chicago Sky.

Reese was initially called for a foul, but it was upgraded to a Flagrant 1 foul upon a review.

Reese was asked about the play after the game and immediately interjected.

“It was a basketball play,” Reese said. “It was a basketball play. I can’t control the refs. They affected the game obviously a lot tonight. ….Y’all gonna play that clip 20 times before Monday.”

Once again, Reese is making herself out to be a victim in the circumstances. It’s very clear that she thinks very highly of herself and as if she can do no wrong.

Kristaps Porzingis’ status for Game 5 of NBA Finals revealed

Kristaps Porzingis looks on

Mar 25, 2024; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis (8) in the game against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Kristaps Porzingis did not play for the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the NBA Finals despite suiting up, and that may happen again in Game 5.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Celtics view Porzingis as being available only if they need him in certain situations for Game 5 against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night. That is the approach Boston took in Game 4 as well, and Porzingis wound up sitting out altogether.

“Right before Game 4, what I was told is they would only utilize Kristaps Porzingis in situational appearances — guarding the inbound, we need to shoot a free throw, we need to defend the rim on a lob threat potentially with 0.3 or whatever seconds left on a possession. I would expect the same here in Game 5 as far as him dressing and being available,” Charania said. “You saw some of his teammates come out and say how much he wants to play and how bad he’s working, but he’s just not there from a physical perspective.”

The Celtics were blown out from the start in Game 4, so it is not a surprise that they decided to keep Porzingis on the bench during their 122-84 loss. They also entered the game with a 3-0 series lead that has now been cut to 3-1.

If the Celtics get into a tight game on Monday and feel like there is a spot where Porzingis can help them close out the series, they will probably call his number. Although, one of Porzingis’ teammates this week offered some ominous comments about the big man’s latest injury. You have to wonder how effective Porzingis can be even if he does give Boston some minutes.

Bryson DeChambeau’s pre-US Open training video paid off

Bryson DeChambeau pumping his fist

Bryson DeChambeau posted a humorous video on his Instagram page in May, and it turns out the video was prescient.

DeChambeau shared a video on Instagram on May 24 that showed him “training” for the next major. In the video, DeChambeau humorously was doing weight-training sessions practicing his fist pumps, autograph signings, cap tips, and caddie blaming.

That preparation in the weight room sure paid off.

DeChambeau won the US Open at Pinehurst No. 2 on Sunday for his second career major (both US Open wins). He spent tons of time mixing with the fans, giving high-fives and signing autographs.

Sure, the video was a joke and conveyed plenty of humor, but DeChambeau really put all of that into real life (except for the caddie-blaming, of course).

Justin Fields failing to impress with Steelers?

Justin Fields in a headband

Much has been made of Justin Fields possibly pushing Russell Wilson for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting quarterback job, but based on one reporter’s impressions, that will not be happening anytime soon.

In an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Ray Fittipaldo said he had observed many of the pre-existing criticisms of Fields during offseason camp, and that he sees the Steelers as Wilson’s team.

“Fields, from what I’ve seen, they had a month of spring practices and he’s a terrific athlete, but really the knocks against him that I heard coming in actually turned out to be true,” Fittipaldo said, via Jacob Punturi of FanNation. “He’s not terribly accurate with the ball. His placement isn’t all the great, and I could see them maybe having a package or two for him each week depending on the opponent, but I see this team as Russell Wilson’s team.”

Fields’ athleticism will always draw people in, but he has been inconsistent as a passer and that does not seem to be changing. As Fittipaldo notes, there may be some specific situations where the Steelers turn to him, but based on this, he is not close to supplanting Wilson as the starter.

It remains possible that Fields suddenly looks great in preseason, or Wilson looks awful. One of those scenarios might be enough to allow Fields to achieve his stated aim for the season. For now, though, things do not appear to be trending that way.

NFL makes major announcement about in-season edition of ‘Hard Knocks’

The NFL logo

Feb 6, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; The NFL shield logo is seen at midfield before the Pro Bowl football game at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Two NFL teams have been featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” every year since 2020, and that number is expanding once again.

HBO and NFL Films announced on Monday that “Hard Knocks: In Season with the AFC North” will debut on Dec. 3. As the title indicates, the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns will all be featured.

HBO and NFL Films first debuted “Hard Knocks” in 2001. For years, the show followed a team during training camp and the preseason to give a behind-the-scenes look at the grueling work that goes into preparing for an NFL season. Then in 2021, the NFL added its in-season “Hard Knocks” series in addition to the original.

The Indianapolis Colts were the subject of the in-season version of “Hard Knocks” in 2021, followed by the Arizona Cardinals in 2022 and Miami Dolphins last year. This season, all four AFC North teams will have HBO and NFL Films crews tailing them.

Between the AFC North teams and the team that was chosen for the original “Hard Knocks,” the show should have more than enough good content this year.

Brandon Aiyuk’s cryptic video amid contract dispute with 49ers goes viral

Brandon Aiyuk appears emotional

Brandon Aiyuk has been seeking a new contract from the San Francisco 49ers, and a cryptic video he posted on social media has led to a great deal of skepticism that he is going to get one.

Aiyuk shared a video on TikTok on Monday that went viral. In the clip, the star wide receiver shows himself on a FaceTime call with Jayden Daniels. The Washington Commanders rookie is heard asking Aiyuk “what happened, bro?” Aiyuk then tells Daniels “they said they don’t want me back, I swear.”

Aiyuk captioned the video “I’m laughing but I’m crying fr.”

It is unclear if Aiyuk was referring to the 49ers, but that is what everyone assumes. He probably knew that conclusion would be drawn by his followers when he posted the video, too.

Aiyuk is set to make slightly more than $14 million in the fifth and final year of his rookie contract this season. He wants to become the next wide receiver to sign a massive extension like several others have done this offseason. A report on Sunday claimed Aiyuk and the Niners have hit a snag in contract talks, and the 26-year-old posted the TikTok video a day later.

If the 49ers have informed Aiyuk that they are not going to sign him to an extension, it is possible he could seek a trade. Aiyuk is coming off a big season in which he had 75 passes for 1,342 yards and 7 touchdowns. The question is whether a team would want to give up significant draft capital and sign him to a huge extension.

Report reveals Klay Thompson’s mindset heading into free agency

Klay Thompson looking on

May 14, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) stands on the court before the start of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers in game one of the Western conference finals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Klay Thompson is less than two weeks away from becoming an unrestricted free agent, and it sounds like he is genuinely open to playing for a team other than the Golden State Warriors for the first time in his NBA career.

Shams Charania of The Athletic said on FanDuel TV’s “Run it Back” Monday that Thompson is willing to listen to all interested teams this summer. Some have wondered if that is just a negotiating tactic, but the 35-year-old seems to have accepted that he may have to play elsewhere next season.

“Klay Thompson, I’m told, is open to all external options in free agency coming up. He intends to test free agency,” Charania said. “We know the Warriors want him back. They offered him an extension before the start of the season. They’re going to see if there can be a deal that gets done, but he’s gonna be there in the marketplace seeking offers elsewhere.”

The question is not whether the Warriors want Thompson back. The sharpshooter struggled with his shot and had his role reduced late in the season, but he averaged 17.9 points per game and is still more than capable of contributing. However, it is not hard to envision a rival team offering Thompson significantly more than the Warriors are willing to pay.

Thompson has a lengthy history of lower-body injuries, but he appeared in 77 games this season. We know of at least one team with which he may share mutual interest. The Warriors are probably going to have to pay to keep Thompson, and they may opt for trying to improve their luxury-tax situation instead.

Thompson created a major stir last week when he unfollowed the Warriors on social media and deleted some old posts. Though, one of his current teammates does not think that means a whole lot.