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  • In the latest Weekend Read, we explain why you should check out some NBA preseason action, unearth a years-old photo of Kevin Durant and share our favorite stories of the week.
By The SI Staff
September 28, 2018

By Rohan Nadkarni

Let me level with you: the NBA preseason isn’t really exciting. (Unless, of course, you’re one of those people who moved back east after gambling was legalized.) That being said, preseason isn't completely worthless! Here's why you should be excited for hoops to tip off this weekend.

1. LeBron James in a Lakers jersey

We’ve seen the gargantuan valley of photoshops. We’ve seen the media day images. Yet LeBron on the Lakers still won’t feel real until that first TNT Thursday game, and it’s going to be fascinating to see James play basketball in the purple and gold for the first time. There’s a weird thing about NBA jerseys. Dwyane Wade never looked quite right in a Bulls or Cavs tank, but he seemingly regained his powers when he threw that Miami Vice uni on. Conversely, Kyrie Irving looked right at home in Boston’s iconic green and white threads.

How will James look in L.A.’s new, old-school inspired getup? We won’t see a lot of him on the court in the preseason. The gold weirdly looks close to highlighter yellow. But that first sight of James on the court is—somehow, someway—going to tell us something about his tenure in Hollywood.

2. Rookies for us to overhype

Summer league is the peak time to put unrealistic expectations on rookies, while the preseason unjustly flies under the radar. As someone who believed Norris Cole was a difference maker for the 2012 Heat after an intrasquad scrimmage, I don’t discriminate about when I overhype rookies. If Kevin Knox so much as hits a three during the preseason, I’m calling him Shane Battier 2.0. Are their games similar at all? Hell no. But that’s the beauty of the preseason, you can ascribe whatever you want to rookies, and they’ll only have to live with those unfair predictions for their entire career. In all seriousness, you’ll want to see some flashes from lottery guys in the preseason. How will Luka Doncic’s athleticism measure up? Will Trae Young start nailing threes? Which Deandre Ayton will show up? The preseason will give us a peek.

3. Will Kawhi Leonard ever laugh again?

Imagine if, for years, your spouse/significant other/life partner implored you to open up. Begged you to show some more emotion. And when you finally did, you were ruthlessly mocked for it on the internet. That’s basically what happened to Kawhi Leonard after NBA media day, when his “laugh” went viral after a seemingly innocuous question. Leonard’s, uh—guffaw? chuckle? chortle?—spawned some legendary memes. Can Leonard ever be compelled to laugh in public again? Preseason can be a time for teams to build camaraderie. After all, the stars spend so much time on the bench they’re bound to crack a joke or two. Will Leonard participate, or is he so scarred that he’ll be stone-faced for the entire year? I’m only half-joking when I say I’m just as invested in that storyline as much as I am in how Leonard actually fares on the court.

4. The Wizards

Dwight Howard’s utter lack of self-awareness and commitment to telling jokes that no one appreciates. John Wall’s arguably unearned sense of defiance. Austin Rivers’s reputation among other NBA players. The Wizards are essentially an oil-filled barrel from a video game just begging to comically explode. Don’t count out that happening during the preseason.

RECOMMENDED READING

James D. Smith/AP

• An oral history of the night Jerry Jones knelt. One year ago, the Cowboys owner grabbed the arms of two bottom-of-the-roster players and knelt before the playing of the national anthem. Here’s how those players remembered it. (By Robert Klemko)

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis can't shake the struggles that imperiled his 2018 season, and the emotional toll on the slugger has been paralyzing. (By Stephanie Apstein)

• A journey through college football’s most persistent offense, from the decades when it ruled the sport to its myriad modern variants. (By Ross Dellenger)

• "He instantly fixes everything. … It had to be Penny." Memphis’s favorite basketball son is setting expectations high and giving his city hope. (By Dan Greene)

• Thanks to an unlikely career year and a little bit of salsa, Matt Carpenter has the Cardinals in the hunt for a playoff spot. (By Jon Tayler)

VAULT PHOTO OF THE WEEK: KEVIN DURANT RISES ABOVE MICHIGAN STATE

Years before descending to Public Enemy No. 1 in the eyes of many NBA fans, Kevin Durant innocently dominated college basketball at Texas. He earned several Player of the Year honors during his lone season in 2006-07, averaging a double double (25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds) per game. En route to scoring 20 against Michigan State in his third game on Nov. 16, 2006, Durant elevated toward the basket in the photo above and slammed into at least one Spartans defender on his way there. Photograph by Damian Strohmeyer.

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Months later, as the season wound down and the NCAA Tournament approached, SI's Grant Wahl featured Durant for a cover story on the massive influx of freshmen talent in the college game. By "massive influx," we're talking Durant, Brandan Wright and Greg Oden. Wild times. Find the story here in the SI Vault.

BEST OF THE REST

Editor's note: Below are some of our favorite stories of the week not published by SI. This week's list is curated by Rohan Nadkarni.

• For The Atlantic, my friend Ashley Fetters wrote everything you need to know about America’s pastime, the Dad Joke.

• At GQ, Brett Kavanaugh and the Arbiters of Victimhood, by Drew Magary.

• “In the summer of 2017, a debate raged in Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., over whether to cut loose the controversial, unemployed quarterback—and the company very nearly did.” The story of Nike and Colin Kaepernick, over at The New York Times via Julie Creswell, Kevin Draper and Sapna Maheshwari.

• Every chance I get, I will tell people about this Serious Eats recipe for oven-fried chicken wings, which truly changed my life. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is my hero.

48 Hours With Antoni Porowski: ‘Queer Eye’ Host and Restaurateur via Trey Taylor of New York Times Style Magazine. I live for Antoni content.

• In case you need a little clarification on why there are so many people playing The Joker, Clayton Purdom of A.V. Club has answers.

LISTEN UP: THE VOICE OF MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL JOINS THE SI MEDIA PODCAST

ESPN's Joe Tessitore covers a flurry of topics on the latest SI Media Podcast with Jimmy Traina. The “Monday Night Football” play-by-play man discusses his new job; developing a relationship with his partners, Jason Witten and Booger McFarland; the mistake he most hates making, why the NFL is easier to call than college football and much more.

Give a listen to the conversation here and subscribe to get future editions of the show.

Editor's note: What kind of stories and content would you like to see in the Weekend Read? Let's chat at SIWeekendRead@gmail.com.

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