Newsletter: Essential California: The NBA’s free agent free-for-all

Then-Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) drives around Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Nov. 29 in Toronto.
(Nathan Denette / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, July 1, and here’s a quick look at the week ahead:

Monday: California’s already steep gas prices are set to climb another 5.6 cents a gallon, when the latest state gas tax increase goes into effect. But that increase isn’t the only thing going into effect on July 1. Here are a few others:

Thursday is the Fourth of July. Here’s a rundown of the cities where you can legally buy and set off “safe and sane” fireworks in the greater Bay Area, around Sacramento and in Orange County. Fireworks are illegal in the majority of L.A. County cities.

Sunday: Laguna Beach’s famed annual Pageant of the Masters — where hundreds of volunteers step into life-size, intricate re-creations of artworks, known as tableaux vivants, or “living pictures” — kicks off.


And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


The long-term health effects of wildfire smoke stemming from the Camp fire remain to be seen, but the ultimate death count could far outpace the 85 people who perished in California’s deadliest wildfire. In the powerful first installment of a five-part series and podcast, Robin Epley delves into the intricacies of air quality, wildfire pollution and the potential severe health effects after the fire. Chico Enterprise-Record

Tens of thousands took to the streets of downtown San Francisco for the annual Pride parade. This year’s Pride was a festival of rainbows, and resistance, as antipolice demonstrators lying in the street halted the parade for nearly an hour shortly after it started. San Francisco Chronicle


Plus: Photos from Friday’s Trans March, Saturday’s Dyke March and Sunday’s parade.

Kevin Durant will be leaving California and the Golden State Warriors for New York. But he’ll be joining the Brooklyn Nets, not the Knicks, as many suspected. KD’s big decision was announced Sunday — the same day that the NBA’s annual free agency period began. (You can follow the NBA’s 2019 free agent tracker here.) But not all is lost for the Warriors: They agreed to a five-year, $190-million contract with Klay Thompson and traded for guard D’Angelo Russell. So it looks as if the Splash Brothers won’t be split up anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the Lakers, Clippers and Toronto Raptors are all considered to be the front-runner choices for Kawhi Leonard, the most coveted free agent on the market this summer. Leonard won the championship last season with the Raptors. Los Angeles Times

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Here’s a first look at the new Soho House (or “Soho Warehouse,” as it will be known) that’s coming to downtown’s Arts District. Los Angeles Magazine

Busloads of Chinese tourists used to visit L.A. luxury stores. Not anymore. Los Angeles Times

Asha Grant, founder of the L.A. chapter of the Free Black Women’s Library, at a lending library inside Bloom and Plume, a black-owned coffee shop on Temple Street.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

The Free Black Women’s Library, a mobile pop-up library, is amplifying the voices of black women writers and creating community around Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times

How L.A.’s health craze birthed modernist design. Curbed LA

Surf legend Laird Hamilton makes turmeric lattes and talks about being influenced by death at his Malibu home. Los Angeles Times

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“We’re afraid to go out to work”: The prospect of immigration raids has further chilled the agriculture labor force in Monterey County. Monterey Herald

A new study found that immigration policy fears are fueling anxiety for Latino youth in the Salinas Valley. Salinas Californian



School busing and race tore L.A. apart in the 1970s. Now, a heated exchange between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris is reviving debate on the issue. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Harris raised $2 million in the 24 hours after she took the stage on the second night of Democratic primary debates. Politico

The scathing findings of a grand jury report on the troubled Oakland Unified School District include construction projects spiraling tens of millions of dollars over budget, outside consultants being paid for work already done by staff and $600 in car-wash charges for a car that never got washed. San Francisco Chronicle


California police are destroying files and charging high fees to release misconduct records. Los Angeles Times

A former Fresno art student pleaded guilty to an illegal $6.8-million arms deal with Nigeria. Fresno Bee


A record-breaking June heatwave cooked mussels in their shells on a small headland off the Sonoma coast. The heat is thought to have caused the largest local die-off of mussels in 15 years, raising fears for the broader ecosystem. The Guardian

Why Modesto’s effort to plant 5,000 trees ended with rising costs and dead trees. Modesto Bee


Santa Anita isn’t the only race track where horses are dying. There have been horse deaths at Golden Gate Fields and other tracks, leading to questions about the future of the sport. Mercury News

In an incident that generated outrage, a man was seen throwing a bucket of water on a homeless woman from a roof in a viral video. The operator of a San Francisco art gallery posted what appeared to be a defiant confession on social media, but is now trying to defuse controversy over the incident. Los Angeles Times

Residents of California’s Imperial Valley are used to being dismissed. But with a hometown hero as heavyweight champion, they’re hoping for more. Los Angeles Times

Every eighth-grade student in Monterey County now has red-hot tickets to see “Hamilton” at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco. A little-known local foundation is paying for tickets and travel for 9,000 students, teachers and chaperones, from Lockwood to Big Sur to Pajaro. The estimated cost is $2 million, and the logistics are far from simple. Here’s how it all came about. Voices of Monterey Bay

Here’s what famous tech CEOs looked like before and after they hit it big. SF Gate

The San Fernando Valley’s last commercial orange grove is up for sale. The 14-acre orange grove is just south of Ventura Boulevard, straddling the border of Tarzana and Woodland Hills. Los Angeles Daily News

“I went snorkeling in Oakland. It was hella dope.” SF Gate

Where to find the best apple pie in the San Gabriel Valley this Fourth of July. Pasadena Star-News


Los Angeles: sunny, 82. San Diego: partly sunny, 74. San Francisco: windy, 64. San Jose: sunny, 77. Sacramento: sunny, 89. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California: Rep. Doug LaMalfa (July 2, 1960), attorney Gloria Allred (July 3, 1941), L.A. County Superior Court Judge and former L.A. mayor James Hahn (July 3, 1950), Rep. Judy Chu (July 7, 1953).

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.