In the latest Weekend Read we open up about four NFL storylines, list our favorite stories of the week and unearth an old photo of Dirk.
Welcome to the Weekend Read. This week we dive into the best lingering storylines in the NFL, list our favorite stories of the week and dust off an old photo of Dirk for his birthday. Enjoy.
• A peripatetic former G-League coach, a daring front office, untested youngsters, vets who had never experienced this kind of pressure before and a stoic superstar: The Raptors all came together—with an entire nation behind them—to deliver Canada’s first NBA title in a true team effort. (By Andrew Sharp)
• A wake-up call from a disappointed father. A brotherhood with LeBron forged from a Warren Moon jersey. A growing roster of stars under the Klutch banner. This is how Rich Paul became the kingmaker. (By S.L. Price)
• To understand Kellen Winslow Jr., you must get past the fame, power and privilege, to years of unchecked sexual deviance and the dark places where the vulnerable are hunted. (By Robert Klemko)
• The superstar-less Blues orchestrated the unlikeliest of turnarounds to go from worst-to-first, delivering St. Louis its long-awaited Stanley Cup. (By Alex Prewitt)
• At the beginning, #BraveLikeGabe was a social media hashtag to recognize Gabe Grunewald’s courage. But even after her passing this week, her impact will continue to live on. (By Tim Layden)
• The only way to rescue MLB free agency is to dismantle the systems that allow teams to ignore it. (By Jon Tayler)
Four Storylines to Get Us Through the 'Offseason'
Mandatory minicamps in the NFL have wrapped up, and it’s time for everyone to get lost for a month. Most teams won’t report back until mid-July, with the general idea being that you have about 30 days between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp.
It seems like the NFL is a year-round league, but it’s really about an 11-month league. If there’s ever a true offseason, this is it.
As we downshift, let’s take a look around the league at the biggest storylines that will be percolating from now until the start of camp. — By Jonathan Jones
Eli Manning vs. Daniel Jones
It’s like we can’t wait to analyze every throw of his in training camp and compare it to Daniel Jones. I can already envision the tweets from camp. Rather than waiting for the end of a drill (or really not even tweeting about this at all) beat writers will breathlessly explain whether the pass to Sterling Shepard was complete or if it missed high. We will know exactly what expression was on Eli’s face, too. You can see it, can’t you? Giants coach Pat Shurmur decided this week to put a little kerosene on the fire when he refused to definitively say Eli is the guy and there’s nothing Jones can do to usurp him in training camp—even though we all understand that barring injury, Manning will be the Week 1 starter. Get ready for Manning vs. Jones.
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The Raiders and Hard Knocks
I haven’t been this excited for episode 1 of an HBO show since True Detective Season 2. I don’t think this year’s edition of Hard Knocks is going to disappoint like that, though. Thank goodness the Oakland Raiders took this one because, honestly, there is no better team. I can’t wait to see a frustrated Antonio Brown throw his helmet in disgust at an errant Derek Carr throw. Vontaze Burfict fighting Richie Incognito over absolutely nothing? Yes, please. Jon Gruden, alone in the tape room, shaking his head silently wondering how poorly this season is going to go? Inject it into my veins.
We should see some contracts pop off during this time off. The deadline to work out a deal for a player on the franchise tag is July 15, and I don’t expect the Texans and Jadeveon Clowney to come to an agreement. The Falcons would be wise to lock up defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, though. The Falcons also need to extend Julio Jones. The Cowboys will surely give Dak Prescott a contract averaging at least $30 million per year. We’ll see how the Rams go about Jared Goff but indications are they’ll wait until next year. It also seems like Michael Thomas—probably the best receiver Drew Brees has ever played with—will get a big deal. Most of these guys would surely like these deals locked up before they get into camp.
Browns. Everything Browns
You won’t be able to get enough of the Browns. If they hadn’t been on Hard Knocks last year I’d want them equally as badly as the Raiders this year. We have absolutely no idea how Freddie Kitchens will do in the driver’s seat in his first year as head coach. Baker Mayfield has some incredible weapons, but will he be subject to the sophomore slump? Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry together at last will be beautiful, and all the trash talk between offense and defense makes me salivate. The Browns are today, and will be throughout the season, the most fascinating team in football.
Vault Photo of the Week: 41 Years of Dirk
Next NBA season will mark the first since 1997-98 without Dirk Nowitzki in the league. It's a sad time, really, but it's a bit more tolerable when gems like this are dug up. A spry 21-year-old Dirk posed for SI photographer David Klutho, getting some alone time with a basketball in his second NBA season. This year marks 20 since the photo above was taken, and the Mavericks legend will turn 41 next week.
That's the kind of celebration that calls for ice cream—especially for Dirk.
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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 Bailey Carlin.
• A piece in support of Doris Burke, dubbed “the LeBron James of sportscasters,” who many are upset is still relegated to the sidelines during NBA Finals coverage. (By David Remnick, The New Yorker)
• Haley O’Shaughnessy (a must-follow on Twitter) breaks down what the NBA would look like if Stephen A. Smith was never wrong: Dwight Howard on the Knicks, a big three for the Lakers and a bunch of other nonsense that would’ve changed the entire scope of the league. (By Haley O’Shaughnessy, The Ringer)
• A fascinating breakdown of the importance of the interaction between Kyle Lowry and Warriors minority owner Mark Stevens, and how significant moments can be quickly looked past or lost during the madness of the NBA Finals (By Will Leitch, New York Magazine)
• “I am not embarrassed at all.” A lot has been said about the United States’ rout of Thailand in the Women’s World Cup, but this article shows the side not often praised in America: How the Thailand team is happy to be representing the nation, regardless of outcome. (By Hannah Beech and Ryn Jiremuwat, New York Times)
• A profile about a...fact checker? A hilarious and surprisingly informative breakdown on the intersection of dieting and working out with Mick Rouse, a research manager at GQ. (By Alex Shultz, GQ)
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.