As Trump Takes On Athletes, Watch Them Rise

Trump, in an Emperor Nero complaining about the desultory quality of the gladiators moment, also lamented in Alabama that the N.F.L. had become insufficiently violent.

.. It’s not clear how this plays with Goodell’s masters in N.F.L. ownership. They donated many millions to Trump’s presidential campaign; the New England Patriots’ owner, Robert K. Kraft, showered $1 million on the inaugural and has been a vocal ally; and the Patriots’ coach, Bill Belichick, wrote a letter endorsing him last fall.

.. To summarize this exquisite collision of sports, politics and business: The 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem last season, stirring a national debate about patriotism and the treatment of blacks by the police. For that, the N.F.L. owners appear to have blackballed him from the league this year. For that, more players have taken up Kaepernick’s cause. And for that, President Trump disparaged the league and challenged the owners to fire players for exercising their right to free speech — which they have effectively done to Kaepernick already.

And now Kaepernick’s once lonely protest suddenly has many more supporters.

.. They have been active citizens, and that is stirring. This cuts both ways. If an athlete were to engage in protests against, say, abortion or gay rights, that would be no less in keeping with our nation’s finest free speech traditions.

.. It’s striking how completely the president has stood this principle on its head. He taunted N.F.L. owners, urging them to fire players who engage in anthem protests.

“They’ll be the most popular person in this country,” Trump said, “because that’s a total disrespect of our heritage, that’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for.”

.. The president’s invocation of heritage has become his favorite dog whistle; it also deeply misconstrues our traditions. I’ll recruit my departed father into this scrum. Like many young men of his generation, he volunteered to fight in World War II, and he flew missions on a B-17 bomber. Years later, when Vietnam and civil rights and labor struggles bubbled, and protesters sat out anthems and even burned flags, his view was unwavering: He had fought for an America in which citizens could speak and dissent freely and act morally.

.. Curry has not been as explicitly political as James in recent years, but he did not sidestep the moment. President Trump said he was barring Curry from the White House, but Curry had already made a case for not going.

“By acting and not going, hopefully that will inspire some change,” he said, “when it comes to what we tolerate in this country and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to.”

The president is an expert provocateur, and one does well not to underrate him. But notice how the athletes’ eyes are so wide open.

How Kevin Durant Made the Biggest Move in NBA Free Agency—Again

It was obvious that Durant was staying with the Golden State Warriors after winning his first title and being named the MVP of the Finals. It was also known that he would take less than his maximum salary to make it easier for the Warriors to keep their other important players. But how much he left on the table was the stunning twist.

Durant’s salary next season will be $9.5 million less than what it could’ve been, $6.8 million less than necessary and about $1.5 million less than what he earned last season.

His willingness to accept only $25 million helped Golden State’s owners save about that much in luxury tax, but it also helped the Warriors re-sign Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, and that means it helped Durant. This was essentially a happiness tax. The chance to win more titles was worth the price of losing millions of dollars.

.. star players can play together only when some of them settle for less money than they could be making.

.. in 2014 couldn’t have existed without their own salary-cap jiu-jitsu. Kobe Bryant alone earned more that year than Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginóbili combined

..  For the last three years, Curry has been the most underpaid player in professional sports, the reward for Golden State taking a risk on his bum ankles five years ago.

.. But the days of Curry’s discount are over. He agreed to the richest contract in NBA history last week, and there was no way Golden State could’ve kept its championship team fully intact without someone else taking a hit. Durant became the someone else.

.. the biggest splash of this NBA off-season wasn’t any player signing with a new team for more money. It was one player staying with the league’s best team for less money.

Why the NBA Loves—and Fears—Stephen Curry

The three-point shot, for much of its history a novelty or minor part of teams’ strategies, has become an essential component of almost every team’s offensive attack. As recently as 2012, the average team took about 1,200 threes over the course of a season; last year, that number ballooned to over 1,800.

.. They’re more dangerous the further they are from the basket, and they have little use for certain common player types. Their most effective grouping, unofficially and enviously known as “Death Lineup” or “Nuclear Lineup,” features no player taller than 6’7” and achieves a state of delirious ball and player movement that resolves in an open long-range shot almost as a matter of course.