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Saturday Sports: LA Clippers, 49ers, Bruins


Know what gets me through the week? Time for sports.


SIMON: The NBA debate, should coaches bench their superstars just so they can take a rest? And holy, Garoppolo, the 49ers are undefeated. And the Bruins are cruising. We're joined by Howard Bryant of ESPN. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Scott, the derisive way in which you said rest. Do you really mean that?

SIMON: Well, all right.

BRYANT: (Laughter).

SIMON: Let me pose the question for you, you know, in perhaps a better stated way. The NBA fined the LA Clippers $50,000. Coach Doc Rivers said Kawhi Leonard - he didn't start him. The league said he was injured. Coach Doc said, you know, actually he was fine. He was OK. He was great, in fact. Now...

BRYANT: (Laughter).

SIMON: ...Should superstars be benched particularly early in the season because the coach, maybe only meaning to be conscientious, wants to save them for important games further on into the season and the playoffs?

BRYANT: Yeah, I understand the perspective. The NBA season is a grind. It's a very, very long season. You're starting out in October. You get to the playoffs in late April. And then the playoffs last two months. So the regular - the postseason doesn't even end until almost July. So I understand the impulse. I also understand when you're a coach, your attitude is, look; you're paying me to win important games. You're paying me to win championships, especially when you're the Los Angeles Clippers, where you get Kawhi Leonard from Toronto, you - who just won a championship a few months ago. And the end goal for the Clippers is to be hosting the trophy a few months from now.

I also understand it from a consumer standpoint, which is where if you're going to pay 150 bucks a ticket to go see the best players play, then for that one game that you're going to, you want to see Kawhi Leonard against Giannis Antetokounmpo, which is - which was the matchup. You had the Milwaukee Bucks team that is supposed to go to the NBA Finals against the Clippers team that is supposed to go to the NBA Finals. And so if you're the paying customer, you show up at that the arena, and that matchups not going to happen, that's a bitter pill. That's the reason why you paid all that money.

SIMON: Yeah. I mean, the NBA sells itself as entertainment. And, you know, great entertainers show up when the curtain goes up.

BRYANT: Well, exactly. And the bottom line on that is if you're Doc Rivers, if you're the coach, you're thinking to yourself, OK, what are you going to remember more? Are you going to remember me not playing Kawhi Leonard in November, or are you going to remember Kawhi Leonard not being healthy and ready to go when the big games start when the playoffs begin?

SIMON: NFL season is halfway over. The San Francisco 49ers, who were 4-12 last year, are now 8-0. They've got a big Monday night game against the Seahawks. Are they as good as 8-0?

BRYANT: Well, they're good. They're really good. And we're going to find out how good they are because the Seahawks are 7-2. And that's a rivalry game. And we know how big that is. You haven't had that kind of excitement in San Francisco for a really long time, haven't won a Super Bowl since 1995, haven't been to the Super Bowl since Colin Kaepernick took them there back in 2011 against the Ravens. And so when you are looking at this team, you get - you're excited. You're excited. And I think that Garoppolo's a great, great quarterback. They're doing it with defense. Their defense is almost as good as the Patriots. So - it may be better. And you've got George Kittle. You've got a nice tight end there. And so they run the ball. They catch it. They do everything you're supposed to do to win. And they turn the ball over, as well. So they get turnovers. So they're doing all the things that championship teams have to do. But it's halfway there. It's going to be a big game Monday night.

SIMON: NHL, the Bruins, of course, lost Game 7 in the Stanley Cup, but they're back with a vengeance. Can they keep it up?

BRYANT: Well, once again, long season. You go out and you lose the Stanley Cup at home, and you want to go on a revenge tour, but you've got to play a long way. The Bruins have lost two in a row now. And it's - a lot of good teams out there. St. Louis is still a good team. I think that what they have to do is you've got to maintain that emotion, but at the same time realize it's a marathon. But they're really good to watch.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN, thanks so much for being with us my friend. Talk to you soon.

(SOUNDBITE OF LARI BASILIO'S "A MILLION WORDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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