SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
At long last, time for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF HORN MUSIC)
SIMON: Will the stumbling Warriors be caught by someone? And Will Colin Kaepernick stand for the national anthem again? He says so. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Tom, thanks so much for being with us.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: It is a pleasure, Scott.
SIMON: The - and I'm just - I just wish B.J. Leiderman, who writes our theme music, could also join us, but we know he's listening.
GOLDMAN: He's here in spirit.
SIMON: Exactly - as he always is. The Warriors are a wonderful team, but wounded at the moment with Kevin Durant out, and the Spurs are close by. What's this mean?
GOLDMAN: They're reeling, Scott. They've lost two in a row for the first time in two years.
GOLDMAN: That's sarcasm.
SIMON: I know. I know. I know. I was...
SIMON: I was - that's deadpan, but go ahead.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. Thank you. They'll probably be fine. But with Durant out indefinitely with a knee sprain, there is potential for intrigue and fun where there wasn't before because it was going to be this - Warriors and the Cavs in the finals, and it still may be.
SIMON: Do you know - do you know what I noticed, by the way, last night?
GOLDMAN: What? What?
SIMON: 'Cause we have the ESPN monitor in here.
SIMON: I turn off all the news. The Cleveland Cavaliers set a record for three-point shot last night.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. They weren't even counting. Yeah, they're - look how...
SIMON: The Cleveland Cavaliers, not the Steph Curry Warriors.
GOLDMAN: Well, let me get to the Warriors. The fun thing about K.D.'s injury - and it's not fun, but it could open up the Western Conference. The San Antonio Spurs, as you mentioned, are right on their heels. After last night's overtime win over New Orleans, San Antonio's won six straight. They're only two and a half games behind Golden State for the top spot and the best record in the West. And that's important for positioning and home court advantage in the playoffs.
The other fun is watching Golden State adjust. They have three healthy all-stars instead of four. They're all incredibly smart basketball players led by an incredibly smart coach in Steve Kerr. It'll probably mean Steph Curry, who's had to take a step back this season to make room for Durant - it means he'll have to step back into the spotlight. And bhat's great news because Curry's the most exciting player to watch in the NBA.
SIMON: Quick question on the NFL Scouting Combine, which begins - will we see Joe Mixon become a professional football player?
GOLDMAN: Well, we may. The NFL - you know, he was banned from the scouting combine this week because there's a new rule as of last January that players with convictions for domestic violence, sexual assault or weapons offenses can't attend the Combine in Indianapolis. And this year, it kept out Mixon, the former Oklahoma quarterback who punched a woman in the face and - when he was in college - and it was captured on video. But let's remember Tyreek Hill was kept out of last year's Combine. He pleaded guilty in 2015 to punching and choking his pregnant girlfriend. But he still got drafted by Kansas City and started for the Chiefs this past season, so the old adage talent trumps trouble still is very much in effect.
SIMON: Colin Kaepernick's becoming a free agent, says he's going to stand for the national anthem next season. What do you read into this?
GOLDMAN: Well, there's a lot of criticism saying he's doing this just so he can get a job somewhere in the NFL. He's opting out of his contract, and he'll be a free agent. The criticism that he's abandoning his activism, which includes raising money and speaking out - my take - if he continued the flag protest ad infinitum, there's the possibility that it loses meaning. That was starting to happen last season. And finally, you know, if he's making a decision to calm a worried prospective boss, well, he wants a job. And he'll be a lot more effective on the activist front if he's employed and in public view and continuing to talk about his social concerns.
SIMON: Yeah. Tom Goldman, thanks so much for being with us.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
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