Lakers, Clippers set to star in wide-open NBA season

LeBron James, left, and Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers look on during a game in Los Angeles. (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2019

Lakers, Clippers set to star in wide-open NBA season

  • the Golden State Warriors’ march to the finals that has defined the past five seasons looks to be a thing of the past

LOS ANGELES: It’s a whole new ballgame in the NBA, where a seismic shift in star talent has flung the door wide open to an array of 2020 title contenders.

The NBA, whose sudden row with China promises to linger, will be hoping on-court excitement in the wake of unexpected off-season moves will pull attention from simmering tensions when the 2019-20 campaign tips off on Tuesday.

With Kevin Durant gone and Klay Thompson ruled out for the first half of the season after knee surgery, the Golden State Warriors’ march to the finals that has defined the past five seasons looks to be a thing of the past.

Stephen Curry says a championship is “still the goal” for him, Draymond Green and the rest of the Warriors’ new-look team after Golden State fell to the Toronto Raptors in last year’s title series.

But just as the Warriors open their glitzy new $1.4 billion Chase Arena in San Francisco, the center of gravity in the still powerful Western Conference has shifted south.

The Los Angeles Clippers are the top pick to contend in a survey of NBA general managers, thanks to the arrival of Kawhi Leonard from the reigning champion Toronto Raptors and Paul George from Oklahoma City.

The revamped Clippers are out to usurp the Lakers as Los Angeles’ top team, although the LeBron James-led Lakers won’t go quietly.

A “very motivated” James, whose first campaign in LA ended with him missing the playoffs for the first time since 2005, says the team is ready to contend with former New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis lining up alongside Dwight Howard, Kyle Kuzma and newly arrived Danny Green.

“I’m not in talk-about-it mode,” James said.

The Clippers and Lakers kick off the season on Tuesday, when the Raptors will launch their title defense — and raise their championship banner — in a game against the Pelicans.

The Clippers-Lakers matchup is the first of four games in the season between the Tinseltown rivals, who also feature in the star-studded Christmas slate.

In December, the league ventures south of the border with two games in Mexico, and league icon Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Hornets take on reigning Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo of Greece and the Milwaukee Bucks at Paris in January.

However, the league that has painstakingly cultivated overseas markets and welcomed a steadily increasing number of international players received a jolting reminder of the pitfalls of global growth on the eve of the season.

Commissioner Adam Silver admits he doesn’t know “where we go from here” after lucrative Chinese sponsorship and telecast deals were left limbo after Houston Rockets executive Daryl Morey tweeted support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.


Tokyo to skip one-year Olympic countdown over coronavirus: organizers

Updated 05 June 2020

Tokyo to skip one-year Olympic countdown over coronavirus: organizers

  • Games pushed back until July 23, 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak

TOKYO: Tokyo will scrap events marking a year to go until the postponed 2020 Olympic Games, organizers said Friday, citing the “current economic situation” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Games have been pushed back until July 23, 2021 because of the disease outbreak, though it remains unclear whether even that delay will be sufficient.
Last year, the city and organizers held a series of events to mark the one-year countdown, including unveiling the newly designed medals.
But given the global crisis, organizers ruled out a similar celebration.
“In view of the current economic situation, Tokyo 2020 will not be holding any events to mark the new one year to go milestone for the Games,” the organizers said.
“But we will consider what we can do to show our solidarity with the people.”
The confirmation came after reports in the Japanese media that organizers would scrap the event, fearing it was inappropriate given the global pandemic and the ongoing risk of infection inside Japan.
Kyodo News agency reported that posters and messages of encouragement to athletes might be put up and displayed online instead, adding that the organizing committee felt a more “moderate tone” was appropriate.
A nationwide state of emergency over the virus has been lifted in Japan, but a recent rise in cases in Tokyo has led to fears of a second wave.
The latest reports come after Tokyo’s governor confirmed the city and organizers are looking at ways to scale back next year’s Games.
Japanese media said streamlining plans could involve cutting the number of spectators and reducing participation in the opening and closing ceremonies.
The Yomiuri Shimbun daily quoted an unnamed source as saying that everyone including athletes, officials and spectators would be required to take a test for the virus.
Tokyo 2020 declined to comment on those reports, saying discussions about coronavirus countermeasures would be held “from this autumn onwards.”
Organizers and Tokyo officials face the twin headaches of ensuring the postponed Games can be held safely, given the pandemic, and keeping additional costs to a minimum.
But with the pandemic continuing to rage in much of the world, it remains unclear whether the Games can be held next year.
On Friday, a member of the organizing committee’s executive board said a decision on whether the Games could be held or not would need to be taken in spring.
“I think we need to decide around March next year,” Toshiaki Endo, a former Olympic minister told reporters, denying speculation that the IOC intends to make a decision in October.
IOC chief Thomas Bach said last month that 2021 was the “last option” for holding the Tokyo Games, stressing that postponement cannot go on forever.
He declined to say whether a vaccine was a prerequisite for going ahead with the Olympics, but was lukewarm on the idea of holding them behind closed doors.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said it would be “difficult” to hold the postponed Tokyo Olympics if the coronavirus pandemic is not contained.
And Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori has said the Olympics would have to be canceled if the disease isn’t under control by next year.