July 19, 2024

The Lakers go all in on JJ Redick, plus MLB’s unforgettable Birmingham night

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Big Bets: It’s JJ Redick’s world now

The Lakers hired former NBA sharpshooter JJ Redick, most recently an ESPNer/podcaster, as their head coach yesterday, a news update that simultaneously feels completely shocking and already over-discussed … because we had this same chat a couple of weeks ago.

That was before the Lakers tried to hire UConn’s Dan Hurley, who turned down the job to stay at the school where he’s won two straight national titles. So here we are, back again, and yet this move’s impact is still astounding:

  • The pressure is unlike any other head-coaching hire in recent memory, at least to me. Coaching LeBron James is always a tense time, but being responsible for what’ll likely be the last couple years of his career — if James stays in L.A. — only adds scrutiny.
  • But as we illuminated yesterday in the definitive story of Redick’s hire, Anthony Davis was the centerpiece of this call. Redick spoke with the Lakers’ second star this week, and the organization “prioritized Davis’ voice” in this search. A smart move, honestly. Davis, 31, is entering the late stage of his prime. Winning now is paramount.

Something to keep in mind, though: In the story above, we report that Lakers owner Jeanie Buss was “highly motivated” to hire Hurley and was “genuinely disappointed” when he ultimately declined the job. How long of a leash does Redick have?

Again, the data is mixed on first-time NBA head coaches with no experience as an NBA assistant or, in Redick’s case, anywhere else besides youth basketball. Jason Kidd just made the NBA Finals, 10 years after the Nets hired him fresh off retirement as a player. Steve Nash, on the other hand, flamed out.

  • But Lakers brass sincerely believes Redick can be their next Pat Riley. Redick is clearly a smart basketball tactician, as he shows weekly in his podcasts with James and others.

Still: The Los Angeles Lakers — the Lakers — are hiring a coach with no NBA, college or high school coaching experience. 

Wild. But entertaining. What the Lakers do this offseason is now five times more interesting. James is the No. 1 player on our top 25 available NBA free agents list, by the way.


Scenes: An important day in Birmingham

Last night, the St. Louis Cardinals beat the San Francisco Giants 6-5 in a game where the result, frankly, did not matter much. It was everything around this game — the venue, the history and even recent events — that made it feel momentous:

Also: Don’t miss Marcus Thompson II’s piece on Mays and the entire era of Black baseball, on missing something despite never directly experiencing it.

News to Know

OKC’s big swing
The Thunder traded 21-year-old Josh “Himothee Chalamet” Giddey for 30-year-old Alex “Bald Mamba” Caruso, straight up, a move that emphasizes OKC’s desire to continue competing for a title immediately. It also signals a possible fire sale by the Bulls, who have been stuck in a loop of mediocrity for four seasons. Caruso is a prototype role player, an excellent wing defender who hit 40 percent of his 3-pointers last season. I love this for the Thunder. The Bulls … we’ll see.

An Olympic spot and a ring
American swimmer Lilly King had a wonderful night in the pool, placing second in the 200-meter breaststroke after a furious comeback late in the race. After exiting the pool, though, her night got better: Boyfriend James Wells got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. Our full report is very fun.

More news

Two Cups: Soccer is busy now

Todd Kirkland / Getty Images

Watch This Game

Euros: Netherlands vs. France
3 p.m. ET on FOX
I mainly want to see what kind of mask Kylian Mbappe wears, but this is also a hugely important match. Both of these teams sit atop the group, and a win pushes the victor through to the round of 16.

NHL: Panthers at Oilers
8 p.m. ET on ABC
Florida is dragged back to Alberta by Connor McDavid’s gritty Edmonton crew for Game 6 after initially going up 3-0 in this series. The tension will be unbelievable. Get to a TV.

Get tickets to games like these here.

Pulse Picks

Jim McMahon was always a tough football player. And decades of pain, botched surgeries and lingering health issues nearly killed him. Yet he keeps coming back, as Dan Pompei writes today, as stubborn and charming as ever. Make time for a story that is both hilarious and emotional.

Bruce Feldman tried to predict the full 12-team College Football PlayoffIt was harder than he expected.

What’s it like when Steph Curry shows up to a pickup game? Everyone loses their minds, as Alex Andrejev reports.

I loved this on Toni Kroos’ old-school Adidas shoes, which he’s kept despite pressures to adopt a newer style. He calls it a “Disney love story.”

It’s been five years since Tyler Skaggs’ tragic death. His family’s pain is still raw, as Sam Blum writes in a powerful piece.

Most-clicked in the newsletter yesterday: Our roundup from Wednesday’s action at Euros. Germany looks good.

Most-read on the website yesterday: Our latest NBA mock draft. The No. 1 pick is still very much undecided.

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