The Morning Column: September 28, 2021

Kawhi Leonard not only plans on playing for the Clippers this season, he plans on being a Clipper for life. "I'm here to be a Clipper. I'm not going to another team... I'm here for the long run."

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1. 🏀 Kawhi Leonard: “I’m here for the long run”

Kawhi Leonard reacts after scoring against the Mavericks in the playoffs. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

Kawhi Leonard signed a four-year, $176 million contract to stay with the Clippers this offseason and for the first time since signing the deal, Leonard spoke to the media on Monday and reiterated his desire to remain a Clipper for the foreseeable future.

“I'm here,” Leonard said. “I'm here to be a Clipper. I'm not going to another team unless something drastic happens. I'm here for the long run.”

As big as the acquisitions of Leonard and Paul George were two years ago, having both all-stars sign long term deals and express their desires to stay with the franchise for the rest of their careers is even bigger. It speaks to the stability and culture the franchise has created under the ownership of Steve Ballmer as the team looks to move into a new home, the $1 billion Intuit Dome, in three years.

“I made my decision based on at first, obviously, family, being closer to my family, being in the state of California,” Leonard said. “Once I got here, I learned who works here, who was in the front office, and just building chemistry with the staff and people in the front office. A big part of it was just winning. They want to win, I want to win, and I'm home. I'm comfortable with the guys on my team, and I just felt like it was a good situation.”

Leonard said Monday that he wants to play this season and that his desire to come back at some point this year played a role in his decision to sign a long-term deal.

“The best situation for me was to do it one-and-one and then opt out and then sign a long-term five-year deal,” Leonard said. “But there's a lot of concerns that that brings up for you guys and your job, and it creates storylines that I'm going to leave the team. I wanted to secure some money and I wanted to be able to come back if I was able to this year. If I would have took the one-and-one, I probably would have not played just to be cautious and opted out into the five-year.”

2. 🏈 LeBron James was offered NFL contracts

On ESPN’s ‘Manning Cast,” Peyton Manning and Eli Manning interviewed LeBron James during the Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles Monday Night Football game and James said he was offered two NFL contracts during the NBA lockout in 2011.

“Jerry Jones offered me a contract,” James said. “Pete Carroll did as well in Seattle during our lockout time. It definitely got my blood flowing again, it got my mind racing again about the game of football, being out there on Sundays. We were able to get a deal done in the NBA and I was back on the court in no time but I definitely thought about it… I still got the jersey too, that Jerry and Pete Carroll sent me from 2011."

James, who is 6-foott-9 and 250 pounds, said the plan was for him to play tight end if he ended up signing with the Cowboys or Seahawks like Rob Gronkowksi. “I wanted to be a red zone specialist,” James said. “Like Gronk.”    

3. 🎶 Song of the Day 🎶

4. 📸 Photo of the Day

Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys prior to playing the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium on September 27, 2021. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

5. 💵 Odds and Ends Powered by Bovada

Here are some odds on Bovada if you’re thinking about placing a wager today:

6. 📆 Sept. 28, 1988: Hershiser breaks Drysdale’s record

On this day 33 years ago, Orel Hershiser broke Don Drysdale’s scoreless innings record by pitching 59 consecutive scoreless innings. Hershiser pitched 10 scoreless innings against the San Diego Padres to accomplish the feat and did so in front of Drysdale, who was broadcasting the game. The Dodgers actually lost the game 2-1 in 16 innings but history was made. The Dodgers would go on to win the World Series that season and Hershiser would win the NL Cy Young Award, World Series MVP and NLCS MVP.

7. 🎂 Happy Birthday Dustin Penner

Happy birthday to Dustin Penner, who is turning 39 years old today. Penner won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 and won a second Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012.  Penner scored the game-winning goal in Game 4 of the 2007 Stanley Cup Final against the Ottawa Senators and scored the game winner in overtime in Game 5 of the 2012 Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Coyotes to send the Kings to the Stanley Cup Final. Penner earned the nickname, “Pennercakes” among Kings fans after he experienced back spasms and was forced to miss a game in 2012 after eating what he called, “delicious pancakes.”

8. 🎟 Ticket Time Powered by StubHub

Here are the “get in” prices for tickets if you’re thinking about going to a game:

⚾️ San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers (Tuesday) - $80

9. 📺 On The Air

⚾️ 5 p.m. – Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers – Bally Sports West

⚾️ 7 p.m. – San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers at Colorado Rockies – SportsNet LA

10. 📻 The Arash Markazi Show 

On Monday’s show we talked about the Rams and Chargers getting statement wins on Sunday against the Buccaneers and Chiefs and USC football hitting a new low.

Listen to The Arash Markazi Show on The Mightier 1090 Monday-Friday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., following The Rich Eisen Show. The Mightier 1090 has the second strongest radio signal in North America and can be heard from “Baja to the Canadian Rockies.” You can also listen to the show on SpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle Play and Stitcher.

And please click below to subscribe to The Morning Column at Substack. Please also consider supporting my colleagues at Substack (and former colleagues at ESPN and SI): Marc SteinHenry AbbottChad Ford and Ethan Sherwood Strauss on the NBA, Molly Knight and Joe Posnanski on MLB, Ariel Helwani on MMA, Dan Rafael on boxing, Grant Wahl and Leander Schaerlaeckens on soccer, Chris Peters on the NHL and Peter Bodo on tennis.

That’s it for today. Talk to you tomorrow!