NBA

Kawhi to the Clippers: The 'big twos' in a much-changed NBA

By Sports Desk July 06, 2019

The NBA is going to look quite different in 2019-20.

After leading the Toronto Raptors to their first title, Kawhi Leonard will reportedly team up with Paul George at the Los Angeles Clippers next season.

It is a move that will reignite the rivalry with a much-changed Los Angeles Lakers, while the Golden State Warriors have seen Kevin Durant jump ship and move to the Eastern Conference.

We look at the teams with a 'big two' following a series of movements in an incredible offseason.

 

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

It was a big surprise when the Clippers took defending champions the Warriors to Game 6 in the playoffs, but they will undoubtedly be a better team next season.

The additions of Leonard and six-time All-Star George – although the latter came at a high price that included sending Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and five first-round draft picks, four of which are unprotected, and two pick swaps to the Oklahoma City Thunder – have created a new force in the Western Conference that will be looking to contend straight away.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Despite finally pulling off the acquisition of Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, the Lakers freed up enough cap space for a run at Leonard.

However, they were unable to seal a deal with the NBA Finals MVP and will instead look to improve on LeBron James' disappointing first season by forming a truly formidable duo with Davis.

BROOKLYN NETS

Durant ruptured his Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, but it did not lead to a reduction in interest in the Warriors star.

The 2014 MVP decided to end his time at Golden State and team up with Kyrie Irving at the Brooklyn Nets, who consequently captured two of the three biggest free agents on the market to step up their rebuild several notches.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

It looked as though the Warriors would dominate again when they signed DeMarcus Cousins to a one-year deal in the last offseason, despite the center being sidelined by an Achilles injury.

Cousins has not returned and with Durant out the door, Golden State will be relying on the backcourt tandem of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – reportedly on a five-year max contract – though trading for D'Angelo Russell could lighten the load.

HOUSTON ROCKETS

Having lost out to the Miami Heat in their reported pursuit of Jimmy Butler, the Rockets will go again with James Harden and Chris Paul leading the charge.

General manager Daryl Morey rejected reports of a rift between Harden and Paul, though he will be keen for the team to start winning as early as possible following a sluggish start in 2018-19.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

The Blazers made a stunning run to the Western Conference Finals before being swept by the Warriors.

They will hope to go one better after tying Damian Lillard down to a four-year contract extension in the offseason, ensuring his partnership with fellow sharpshooter CJ McCollum will continue.

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  • Messi's debut anniversary – Barcelona great's finest goals across 15 years at Camp Nou Messi's debut anniversary – Barcelona great's finest goals across 15 years at Camp Nou

    On October 16, 2004, Lionel Messi got his first taste of competitive senior football for Barcelona, coming on as a substitute for Deco against city rivals Espanyol.

    Few watching at the time could have imagined quite what was to come from the Argentinian maestro, who has gone on to become arguably the greatest player of all time.

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    Albacete (H): May 1, 2005

    Even at 17, Messi had the confidence of a veteran. Having already had one goal wrongly ruled out for offside - an audacious chip from the edge of the box - Messi's focus was far from knocked and just a minute later he latched onto Ronaldinho's scooped pass before lobbing the ball over Albacete stopper Raul Valbuena from 16 yards. Some way to open your account for one of Europe's great clubs.

    Getafe (H): April 18, 2007

    In the 14 years since Messi first got on the scoresheet, one strike stands out as the best: his Diego Maradona-esque solo goal against Getafe. Messi picked up the ball in his own half and danced around two players before turning on the pace, beating two more defenders and going around the goalkeeper, capping it with a right-footed finish.

    Real Zaragoza (A): March 21, 2010

    Described by some as 'a defining goal' in his career, Messi's strike against Real Zaragoza seemed to take him from 'very good' into another class entirely. Messi displayed all he had to offer in this goal, which began when he won the ball from a tackle on halfway. From there, he shrugged off one challenge, raced towards the box and turned a defender inside out before drilling the ball into the far corner, leaving coach Pep Guardiola speechless.

    Athletic Bilbao (A): April 27, 2013

    Barca were in the midst of a Champions League semi-final shellacking from Bayern Munich when they arrived at San Mames. A goal down in a match that would eventually finish 2-2, Messi received possession from Thiago Alcantara, twisted past Mikel San Jose, Carlos Gurpegui and Ander Herrera with minimal space in which to operate before nonchalantly sidefooting home from just inside the penalty area.

    Cordoba (H): December 20, 2014

    Messi rounded off a 5-0 procession at Camp Nou with a frankly absurd piece of technique. Cordoba defender Jose Angel Crespo made glancing headed contact with Jordi Alba's searching cross from the left that might ordinarily have averted danger. But Barca's star man pulled the ball down with his left foot, swivelled 180 degrees and crashed right footed past Juan Carlos at the goalkeeper's near post.

    Bayern Munich (H): May 6, 2015

    Having already opened the scoring three minutes earlier to give Barca a 1-0 advantage over Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final, Messi doubled his tally with a sumptuous effort. Ivan Rakitic's pass sent Messi on his way, before the little maestro's trickery put Jerome Boateng on his backside and allowed the Argentine to casually lift the ball over the onrushing Manuel Neuer.

    Athletic Bilbao (N): May 30, 2015

    The second part of a treble-winning season for Barca came in the form of the Copa del Rey against Athletic Bilbao. With 20 minutes gone and the score deadlocked, Messi set off on a marauding run down the right wing and soon found himself trapped among three defenders. Naturally, Messi was able to float past the trio as if they were not there, before cutting into the box and beating Iago Herrerin at his near post.

    Real Madrid (A): April 23, 2017

    El Clasico rarely disappoints for football fans around the globe, and this edition was no different. Anything but a win would essentially hand Real Madrid the title and it looked to be headed for a 2-2 draw until Sergi Roberto's swashbuckling run in the 92nd minute gave Jordi Alba the chance to square it to Messi, who finished with aplomb from the edge of the area for his 500th Barcelona goal.

    Real Sociedad (A): January 18, 2018

    Over the past few years, Messi has really mastered the art of free-kick taking, with the skill being one of few to elude him in his younger days. This strike in a 4-2 LaLiga triumph at La Real last January showed just how far he has come, as he lined up a set-piece about 35 yards from goal and coolly curled it into the top-left corner, wrapping up victory for Barca, who had fallen 2-0 behind. 

    Real Betis – March 17, 2019

    We have become so accustomed to Messi's brilliance that he makes the extraordinary seem normal, but his hat-trick clincher in March's 4-1 win at Real Betis was pure genius. After receiving a cut-back from Ivan Rakitic, he caressed a first-time chipped effort over Pau Lopez and in off the crossbar from about 18 yards when shooting through a crowded penalty area looked an impossibility.

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