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Saturday Sports: NBA Draft, Wimbledon

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The NBA draft, a major shake-up in the offseason, moving around the furniture. And will we ever really see the Montreal-Tampa Bay Des Rayons (ph)? Joining us now, Howard Bryant of ESPN. Thanks very much for being with us, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: The NBA is in its offseason but still manages to capture a lot of attention with the draft and a lot of major stars moving around. Who do you think has suddenly gotten better?

BRYANT: Yeah. Well, it's the greatest soap opera of the year. And it's one of the things that the NBA has sort of mastered, which is offseason drama. Obviously, the team that got better, or that got better the fastest, was the Los Angeles Lakers. They ended up getting Anthony Davis, who's an MVP-caliber player. He's going to be playing with LeBron James. And suddenly, people think the Lakers are now championship material. That's one end of the spectrum.

And then, suddenly, you have the Boston Celtics, who were supposed to be championship material. They're losing not just Kyrie Irving, who's not going to resign, it looks like, and Al Horford is also leaving, who's been the anchor of that defense and the steadiest player they've had for years.

On the other hand, of course, everyone's waiting to find out what Kawhi Leonard is going to do in Toronto. Will he stay? Will he go? Chances are he's going to leave. And then, of course, with the draft a couple of nights ago, you've got Zion Williamson going No. 1 to the New Orleans Pelicans. All kinds of things happening.

SIMON: And Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

BRYANT: Yeah. They're going to be out, though, almost the whole season, but they're also free agents, so will the Warriors give them max contracts - both of them, 200 million apiece - even though they're not going to play? There had been some talk that the Warriors may even max out Kevin Durant and still trade him, so who knows what the Warriors are going to look like?

Klay Thompson has made it very, very clear that despite the injury, he wants to stay there and that the Warriors have pretty much said that they're going to reward him as well for playing his guts out. He belongs with that team. The Warriors aren't going to be what they were, but, eventually, when those injuries are clear, they're still going to be a really good team.

SIMON: Wimbledon begins next week. What are you watching for?

BRYANT: I'm watching for two things, and I'm really looking for Ashleigh Barty. I'm actually watching her in a couple of ways. One, she has the chance to become the first Indigenous player, obviously from Australia, to become world No. 1. She can do that tomorrow if she wins in the final at Birmingham. She can also - when Wimbledon begins, she can become the first Indigenous woman since Evonne Goolagong, also who was No. 1 in 1976.

SIMON: My favorite player as a youth, yeah.

BRYANT: Yeah, she was amazing. And she could follow up Evonne Goolagong by winning the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back, which is what Evonne Goolagong did in 1971. Ashleigh Barty, who took a few years off from the sport to sort of rearrange her priorities and find herself and find the love of the game once again, and it's been an amazing story. So you're watching her. You're also watching whether or not Serena Williams can get that elusive 24th Major.

SIMON: Is there any chance the Tampa Bay Rays are going to split time by playing in Montreal half the season?

BRYANT: Well, we've seen this playbook before, Scott. We've seen what happens when teams are trying to leverage for a new stadium. We saw this in Montreal, of all places, 10, 15 years ago when it looked like the Expos were going to leave. And so what happened? The fan base was alienated enough, and the team was trying to engineer its way out of town, and they did. And they moved to Washington, D.C. And now suddenly, 14 years later, we see what going around is coming around in the other direction. Now Tampa Bay is trying to engineer its way out of the Tampa-St. Pete area and muscle its way into Montreal.

It's kind of cynical. It's not great for the fan bases. Obviously, you see what happens when these teams want new stadiums and they try to find another city to leverage themselves to either get one or leave town.

SIMON: Howard Bryant, thanks so much.

BRYANT: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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