Roche is just 37 seconds behind the pink jersey of race leader Tom Dumoulin as the riders prepare for their first summit stage of this year’s race.
It’s just preseason, happily for the local teams, looking forward to next week’s Lakers vs. Clippers regular-season opener after a grisly warmup.The Clippers might not have Paul George until Thanksgiving with the usual assortment of sprains, pulls and pratfalls. Nevertheless, they retain their optimism with their lineup set, silver-tongued Coach Doc Rivers spinning his magic and fans who aren’t as inclined to obsess about problems.Meanwhile, at 8 on a 10-point scale of obsession, there are Lakers fans.Hey, things could be worse. Anthony Davis’ thumb isn’t in a cast. Kyle Kuzma could be ready in a few weeks. Their other injuries aren’t devastating – well, except DeMarcus Cousins who signed a one-year deal July 6 and blew out his knee Aug. 12. Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and other NBA stars pay tribute to Kobe Bryant Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error For Lakers’ LeBron James, Jacob Blake’s shooting is bigger issue than a big Game 4 victory Video: What LeBron James said about Jacob Blake … ‘Black people in America are scared’ The league made more than $8 billion last season … up more than 25 percent in the last three when its American TV bonanza kicked in.Not that the NBA and its players regard 6 percent as a drop in the bucket. Instead, they see it as a nice piece of change … and they’re hardly in business to give money back.With the league signaling its obeisance, the incident already seems to be fading into memory with the Chinese internet site, TenCent, which had suspended streaming NBA games, resuming business.Ask the Lakers, it was bad enough while it lasted. Happily for them, it was just preseason. Portland star Damian Lillard (knee) to miss Game 5 vs. Lakers On Mamba Night, the Lakers make short work of Blazers to take 3-1 series lead Best of all, they have China in their rear-view mirror, after being dunked into an international incident.However tortured the process, and the participants, now jet-lagged out on their feet after their whirlwind tour of Asia, the Lakers are likely to be at full strength by November. As crises go, it’s nothing like last spring when Magic Johnson fled and the Buss kids and friends started claiming roles in Basketball Operations.LeBron James then helped land Davis, the prize of the summer, and the Lakers showed they were still a marquee franchise, after all, if an ever wackier one.Organizations a lot more functional than the Lakes wobble through the preseason, resting stars, enduring blowouts, then worrying they’re taking it too lightly.Take the Portland Trail Blazers, a small-market model of efficiency who made last spring’s Western Conference finals, and were bombed 134-118 by the lowly Suns without Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Ricky Rubio. “The easy thing to say is it’s only preseason,” Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said, ticking off a list of things he and his teammates hadn’t done.“But,” Lillard added, smiling, “it is only preseason.”Of course, teams such as the Blazers with Lillard and C.J. McCollum under Coach Terry Stotts, together for years, don’t need a long preseason to be ready.Nor should the Clippers, who know where their key pieces go, even if it’s Thanksgiving before George joins Kawhi Leonard on the court.Kawhi and PG will start alongside Ivica Zubac, Patrick Beverley and Landry Shamet.The stellar reserves, led by Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, will enter late in the first and third quarters. Kawhi and PG will then blend in with them to form their real “first team.”The Lakers, on the other hand, have a brand new team under a brand new coaching staff, with only a theoretical hierarchy of James, Davis, Javale McGee (when they play big), Kuzma, Danny Green and Avery Bradley.A.D. and LeBron form the NBA’s best two-man tandem but it’s a five-man game. Until the supporting players show up and start making shots, and especially 3-pointers, the Lakers won’t know what they have.It’s hardly a given. For all but the hottest guns, 3-point shooting varies from year to year and none of these guys is Steph Curry.Kuzma shot 30 percent from beyond the college arc at Utah, surprised everyone by making 37 percent as an NBA rookie but dropped to 30 percent last season.Green has been one of the top shooters some seasons and has fallen into the pack in others, shooting a torrid 45 percent on 3-pointers over a five-year span in San Antonio, dropping to 38 percent in his last three seasons there, then jumping back to 46 percent last season in Toronto.So, yes, the Lakers’ shaky preseason is likely to exact a toll, especially early. After that, it will be up to them to pull themselves together and become The Lakers of Old, for the first time this decade.And, no, this wasn’t a good year for them to go to China.The pot was boiling before they arrived after Houston GM Daryl Morey tweeted support for protestors in seven words the NBA has rued ever since (“Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”)NBA people scurried around, disavowing any notion of challenging Chinese legitimacy, from Commissioner Adam Silver to James, the players’ unofficial spokesman, to Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook … and Morey, himself, who quickly apologized.This dropped the NBA into the chasm of our political divide as Republicans blasted Silver, et al, for kowtowing to China.By the Lakers’ eagerly anticipated exhibition in Shanghai against Brooklyn, the NBA wasn’t risking letting anyone say anything. There was no press access to players, and Silver canceled his press conference.It quickly became clear that the NBA’s commitment to human rights depended on which humans.James, who once called President Trump a “bum,” just denounced Morey (“I believe he wasn’t educated” or was “misinformed” on the ramifications sending out a tweet in support of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong would have. “So many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually.”)Of course, if you understood that the NBA’s real cause is itself with the tens of millions of dollars the principals can make …Duh.James incurred no wrath for deriding Trump. The NBA backed LeBron, knowing its audience skews metropolitan and Democratic, trumpeting its commitment to free expression. Even pro-Trump fans showed little interest.Nor were James’ endorsement partners discomfited.Nike, with whom LeBron has a $1 billion lifetime deal, last year launched an ad campaign around former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whom Trump denounced for kneeling during the National Anthem. Pro-Trump fans burned Nike sneakers … while the company’s stock price took off, adding $6 billion to its market capitalization.In keeping with the times, China’s impact on NBA revenue was wildly exaggerated.China pays the NBA a rich bounty, estimated at $500 million per season, plus tens of millions more which players reap in endorsement deals with companies such as Anta and Li-Ning.Nevertheless, that’s only about 6 percent of NBA revenues.Related Articles