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    Swanson: NBA free agency is all the rage, but have you watched kids play basketball lately?
    • June 26, 2023

    DOWNEY – What the heck am I doing here at Terance Mann’s basketball clinic, watching kids dribble and pass when the NBA’s annual free-agency frenzy is almost upon us?

    ’Tis the season; merry go-round season. When, with teams allowed to begin – heh, “begin” – negotiating with free agents Friday, all we’re supposed to talk about is who is going where and for what. Dominoes being more interesting than basketball.

    Maybe that’s why I’m here at Apollo Park in Downey, listening to 9-year-old Kennedy Burford – most improved on the day – tell me she just learned how to mix up moves on offense?

    Because I could use a palate cleanser, a reminder of what this business of T-Mann’s can also be about. Relationships, opportunity, athleticism – shoot, basketball.

    Also, because I was invited out by Mann’s mom, Daynia La-Force, a former college and WNBA coach whose momspeak features a coach’s intuition and a St. Lucian lilt.

    I appreciated covering her son when I was on the Clippers beat because of his willingness always to answer questions and his perfect attendance at the team’s charitable functions. Also for his energy on the court – a brand of unfailing effort was part of the curriculum at the free clinic Sunday, where the Clippers’ utility player officially launched the Terance Mann Complete Player Foundation.

    Seventy youngsters between 6 and 12 and 60 more between 13 and 18 participated in a clinic run by La-Force’s husband, Eddie Bent (together, they make up BentForce Basketball). Mann was on hand to smile for countless photos and make it so attendees can tell all their friends they talked to a real-life NBA player.

    Terance Mann is surrounded.

    By little hoopers!

    Lots of photos as part of the free kickoff clinic for the aptly named Terance Mann Complete Player Foundation.

    — Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) June 25, 2023

    “It’s not just something we want to do as a tax write-off, we really have pride in this and really want to change lives,” Mann, 26, said of his new initiative, to which he pledged $400,000. “So it’s an everyday thing for us.”

    And thus, a healthy distraction during the part of the offseason you have been so eagerly anticipating: “Yeah, for sure,” Mann said. “As you know, it’s chaotic. Anything can happen. So it’s nice to be able to be able to focus on my family and our foundation and whatever else happens, happens.”

    And just about anything can happen! Which is why you love it.

    And the NBA thanks you for your year-round devotion, even if the Finals, the pinnacle of the regular season, now stands as the penultimate event each year, just traffic on the way to free agency.

    So a how’d-he-do-that Nikola Jokic pass and Jimmy Butler’s all-guts-almost-glory resolve register a lesser thrill than a transaction that lights up 5.9 million cellphones at the same time.

    You live for the where-were-you-when moves: Kevin Durant to Golden State. KD (and Kyrie Irving) to Brooklyn. KD to Phoenix. Kyrie to Dallas. LeBron James to the Lakers. Kawhi Leonard – and Paul George!? – to the Clippers.

    Now you’re on alert, waiting with bated breath, for a tweet from one of the top NBA news-breakers: “PG to …

    I get it. I traded baseball cards once upon a time. I’ve run fantasy teams, a few of them successfully. And I try to tell myself that players are, in their way, artists. That basketball is like music and teams are like ensembles, that John Coltrane played both in Miles Davis’ band, and then in Thelonious Monk’s before getting his own – and that we, the listeners, are the better for it.

    But watching Kawhi swish a two-pointer from the midrange > discussing the second tax apron ad nauseam.

    It’s more fun to deposit an Austin Reaves halfcourt heave into the memory banks than try to remember when a pick swap is outside of the protected range.

    I’m down with OBPM, but all your BEA and TMLE and TPE are triggering a migraine. (That’s offensive box plus/minus, bi-annual exception, taxpayer mid-level and traded player exception, if you’re curious.)

    I was starting to think I might just be utterly, completely alone in this – but maybe not?

    Because Mann tells me he’s not such a fan of this stretch of the calendar either: “I just want to play ball, for sure. For sure.”

    Of course, for him, the NBA’s high-stake game of dominos is personal. It’s his career, his dreams, his future – all with the potential to influence how many scholarships and internships he can facilitate, how many clinics he’ll host, who he’ll be able to inspire and where.

    For you, it’s just fun and games. Well, not the games part. That’s boring now.

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    ​ Orange County Register