2021-2022 NBA Season Preview: Are The New York Knicks Back?

Julius Randle of the New York Knicks

Are the New York Knicks back? Let’s ask Amar’e Stoudemire.

Amar’e might have been 10 years too early on his declaration. But after a 41-31 record that resulted in the team’s first playoff appearance since 2013, the Knicks very well might be back.

In 2020, the Knicks were the scrappy underdogs under first-year coach Tom Thibodeau. The Knicks clawed and battled their way to the fourth-seed in the Eastern Conference through the defense (top 5 in defensive ratings) and rebounding (top 10 in rebounds per game).

On the offensive side of the ball, Julius Randle shattered expectations by becoming a dynamic playmaker on his way to a stat line of 24/10/6 and a trophy for Most Improved Player. Derrick Rose was a godsend at point guard, RJ Barrett improved in almost every statistical category including 3P% (32% to 40%), and Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, and Reggie Bullock all became solid contributed.

Last year was full of surprises. After a successful year, those surprises have now turned into expectations. The days of praying for a 30-win team are over, or at least fans including myself believe those days have passed. Now is the time to build on the momentum from last year and grow into a consistent playoff team.

Things That Must Happen For The Knicks To Take The Next Step

– The Knicks must make the playoffs: I can’t stress this point enough. If the Knicks don’t make the playoffs, then last year was a fluke. All of the building blocks put into place last year mean nothing if this team can’t play meaningful basketball in April. I don’t expect the Knicks to be the four-seed again, but if they don’t make the Play-In Tournament, then the season will be a failure.

– RJ Barrett must become a playmaker: If RJ Barrett wants to become a star in this league, then he must become a playmaker on offense. What do I mean by playmaker? Throughout last season, the go-to play for the Knicks was a Randle isolation. That either lead to a tough make, a missed shot, or a pass for a three. While Jules was amazing for most of the year, his playmaking was nowhere to be found in the Atlanta series. This is where RJ comes in. RJ needs to be able to take his man off the dribble and either get to the rim, pass for an open three or hit a pullup jumper. His 2020 game averages of 3 assists and 3.8 free throws are not going to cut it. Those need to get to 4.5 and 5 at the very least.

– Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier must ease the offensive load for Randle: It sounds obvious, but Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier were paid to play offense. They were brought in for their ability to create offense, especially off the dribble. As I stated above, the go-to play was a Jules-iso. Kemba is the best opening day point guard for the Knicks in over a decade. If he stays healthy, the Knicks have a true starting point guard. With Fournier, he must shake off his preseason shooting woes and become a threat from behind the arc. Anything less than 40% is a failure and I’m being generous with that number.

The Bottomline

Superstars win championships, and right now, the Knicks don’t have any superstars. That’s ok for now. The Knicks must return to the first round of the playoffs and play a competitive series. If the team ends up playing the Nets or Bucks in the postseason, then their season will most likely come to an end. However, if they run into a team like the Hawks, Heat, or Sixers, then the Knicks must last more than 5 games. If the Knicks win a playoff series, I’m doing cartwheels outside of MSG. I’m expecting 42-45 wins.

It’s time to take the next step towards becoming a winning franchise once again.

Playoffs or bust.

What are your predictions for the Knicks? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.

2021-2022 NBA Season Predictions

Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets / NBA

In my best Daniel Craig voice, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re back.” The 2021-2022 NBA Season begins tonight when the Nets take on the Bucks and the Warriors face the Lakers. After an offseason full of vaccine questions, trade requests, and unhappy stars, I’m glad to put that all behind us and watch some good basketball.

Oh, wait. All of that stuff is still happening because the NBA continues to be dramatic!

Sigh.

Last week, I described all 30 teams in one sentence. This week, it’s time for my predictions.

Key Storylines

The Ben Simmons saga is on a highway to hell: Seriously, what the hell is going on in Philly?

Countless NBA players have demanded a trade, but have we ever seen a player deliberately sabotage a team? I typically favor player empowerment, but this is where I draw the line. I applaud the Sixers for fining and suspending Simmons because what he did was bullshit. However, Daryl Morey had a chance to trade Simmons for James Harden. There have been conflicting reports as to who, Morey or the Rockets, sunk the trade. I look at it this way: if Morey truly wanted to give up Simmons and trade for Harden, he could’ve pulled it off. That’s on Morey.

Now, it’s a waiting game. Morey has to realize that he won’t get a star in return for Simmons. That doesn’t mean a Simmons trade can’t happen. Would the Blazers be willing to part with McCollum? Would the Kings give up De’Aaron Fox (probably not) or Buddy Hield (probably yes)? Could the Spurs package multiple young players like Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson? Trade Simmons now or play hardball and wait. It’s time to shit or get off the pot.

Will Kyrie Irving Play: While the Sixers must make a decision on Simmons sooner rather than later, the Nets can show a little more patience in their approach due to the fact that the team can get by with Kevin Durant and James Harden. Whether or not you agree with the vaccine mandate in New York City is irrelevant. It’s the rule and it’s not changing anytime soon. It’s possible things change when a new mayor takes office, but are the Nets willing to wait until the end of winter/early spring to welcome back Irving? If the Nets are at the top of the East during Irving’s absence, then they’ll continue to wait until the mandate changes. If Durant or Harden get hurt and the team stumbles, then Sean Marks will have to consider trading Irving.

Will The Two Storylines Listed Above End So We Can Talk About The Other 28 NBA Teams: We need something else to discuss.

Eastern Conference

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Brooklyn Nets
  3. Atlanta Hawks
  4. Miami Heat
  5. Philadelphia 76ers
  6. Boston Celtics
  7. New York Knicks
  8. Chicago Bulls
  9. Indiana Pacers
  10. Charlotte Hornets

Eastern Conference Finals: Bucks over Nets

I would pick the Nets to win the East if the Big Three were guaranteed to play together in the playoffs. However, it’s far from a lock. I’m picking the Bucks over the Nets simply because I can’t trust Brooklyn’s Big Three to play every game. I will believe it when I see it.

Western Conference

  1. Utah Jazz
  2. Phoenix Suns
  3. Los Angeles Lakers
  4. Denver Nuggets
  5. Dallas Mavericks
  6. Portland Trail Blazers
  7. Los Angeles Clippers
  8. Golden State Warriors
  9. Memphis Grizzlies
  10. San Antonio Spurs

Western Conference Finals: Lakers over Jazz

I realize I’m a hypocrite for not trusting Brooklyn’s Big Three to stay healthy, but then believing LeBron and Anthony Davis will play every game in the NBA playoffs. LeBron only gets hurt via freak accident so as long as that doesn’t happen, he’ll play every game in the postseason. AD is a HUGE question mark, but if Frank Vogel load manages Davis throughout the season, there’s a chance he doesn’t get hurt come next Spring. It’s a huge “if,” but I’ll bet on that over Brooklyn finishing the season with their three stars.

NBA Finals: Lakers over Bucks

I truly believe LeBron has one more title in him. Year 19 is when he wins his fifth and final championship.

NBA Awards

MVP: Kevin Durant

Rookie of the Year: Cade Cunningham

Coach of the Year: Quin Snyder

Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Most Improved Player: Ja Morant

Sixth Man of the Year: Jordan Clarkson

Here’s to a successful (and healthy) NBA Season.

Leave your NBA predictions in the comments or tweet us, @danny_giro

2021-2022 NBA Season Preview: Describing Each Team In One Sentence

Luka Doncic NBA

The 2021-2022 NBA Season is set to kick off Tuesday, Oct. 19.

This is not a drill.

Within the last 12 months, the NBA finished two seasons, crowned two different champions, and will start its newest season next week. Ever since the pandemic started in March 2020, I’ve lost my sense of date and time. The picture of Jimmy Butler on the scorer’s table after Game 5 of the 2020 NBA Finals was going around on Twitter the other day. Had I not seen the date, I would have guessed the picture was from 2018.

Regardless, I’m happy to have basketball back especially after an exciting NBA Finals. The league is in a good spot thanks to so many young budding superstars. Giannis Antetokounmpo sits on the throne as the best player in the league, but Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and LeBron James could easily take back the crown by the end of the year.

In this exercise, I previewed each team in one sentence. Some are funny, others are brutally honest, and a few might hit home. Let’s dive right in.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the best duo under 25, but do they have enough surrounding talent to become a top-4 team in the East?

Brooklyn Nets: James Harden and Kevin Durant can win a title as a duo, but will Kyrie join them to form the trio?

New York Knicks: Was last year an anomaly, or have things changed at MSG?

Philadelphia 76ers: Is the Ben Simmons relationship salvageable?

Toronto Raptors: If you know the full truth behind the Pascal Siakim injury and his projected return date, I’m all ears.

Central Division

Chicago Bulls: I like Zach LaVine more than most people, and the team is good on paper (Lonzo Ball, Nikola Vučević, DeMar DeRozan), but the Bulls have a date with the play-in game whether they like it or not.

Cleveland Cavaliers: This roster does not make sense especially in the frontcourt, but they are going to be exciting to watch because of Sexland.

Detroit Pistons: Let Cade do whatever he wants.

Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner is somehow still on this team.

Milwaukee Bucks: If Giannis gets a mid-range jump shot, then the Bucks can repeat.

Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks: After getting a taste of what it’s like to win big games, Trae Young and co. should be back in the mix for a top-4 seed in the East.

Charlotte Hornets: If LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward stay healthy, the Hornets should once again battle for a play-in spot.

Miami Heat: After getting embarrassed by the Bucks, the addition of Kyle Lowry means the Heat will try to channel their 2020 success.

Orlando Magic: This could be the worst team in the NBA.

Washington Wizards: The countdown to a Bradley Beal trade continues.

Western Conference

Northwest Division

Denver Nuggets: If Joker is the Joker and Michael Porter Jr. becomes a 20+ ppg scorer, the Nuggets are a healthy Jamal Murray away from truly becoming a contender in the West.

Minnesota Timberwolves: It might be time to pull the plug on the Karl-Anthony Towns-D’Angelo Russell pairing.

Oklahoma City Thunder: If the Thunder decide to try, then they could win 25 games, but that won’t happen.

Portland Trail Blazers: If the Blazers get bounced from the first round again, Dame is good as gone.

Utah Jazz: If the Jazz went 82-0, would anyone seriously believe they could win the title?

Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors: If Golden State can stay around .500 by the time Klay Thompson returns, the Warriors could be the dark horse to win the West.

Los Angeles Clippers: Until Kawhi returns, keep dreaming, LA.

Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers are the best team in the NBA if and only if their stars are healthy and that’s a huge “if.”

Phoenix Suns: With the entire core returning, the Suns should battle for the top seed once again.

Southwest Division

Dallas Mavericks: Luka must win a playoff series this year if he truly wants to become “the guy.”

Houston Rockets: The Rockets could be the first team to score 100 points per game and give up 200 points per game.

Memphis Grizzlies: If the Grizzlies make the playoffs once again, we might have to change the trajectory on Ja’s ceiling.

New Orleans Pelicans: If the Pelicans are secretly trying to get rid of Zion, then they’re passing with flying colors.

San Antonio Spurs: With all due respect to Pop, is it time for a new voice?

How would you describe your favorite team? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Four Up and Four Down: NFL Week 3

Each week during the NFL season, UnafraidShow.com will take you through the four NFL teams/players that are trending up, as well as the ones that are headed for a crash. Let’s get to it:

1) Spider Y 2 Banana

It was a legitimate unknown if Jon Gruden would ever be able to equal the value of the massive contract he received to lure him out of broadcasting and onto the sidelines again, but this Raiders team is ROLLING. They’ve beaten both the Ravens and the Steelers, and survived two different overtime games, as well as an injury to RB Josh Jacobs, and they did it through quality playcalling on offense, and limiting themselves to two turnovers in their first three games. Derek Carr looks like he’s entering his prime, and the things TE Darren Waller forces defenses to do in order to keep him from being a one-man wrecking crew has freed up young Henry Ruggs to emerge as a legitimate star. Defensively, Maxx Crosby, a 4th round pick back in 2019, is becoming an absolute menace to opposing QBs, with two sacks and 12 QB hits.

2) The return of the REAL Sam Darnold

Pac-12 fans like me watched Sam Darnold flirt with a 60% completion percentage for three years on the New York Jets and were left wondering what on earth happened to the one-time stud Trojan QB. Three games into his tenure with the Carolina Panthers, he’s undefeated and has completed over 67% of his passes in three consecutive games. Yes he had Christian McCaffrey, and yes the addition of Hasson Reddick has taken the defense to the next level, but I’m telling you, he looks good. He’s going to be head-to-head against Dak Prescott this weekend, and Christian McCaffrey is hurt, so we’re undoubtedly going to find out if this really is the *real* Sam Darnold we’re seeing, or just an early-season mirage.

3) Justin Tucker the GOAT

Yes, Adam Vinatieri is great. But is he “kick a record long FG to win the game as time expires” great? Maybe he is, but his career long was 57, and Justin Tucker now has a 66-yard game-winner on his resume. What’s most incredible about Justin Tucker’s long-range accomplishment, is that he had come to be known as the guy you want kicking anything but a 50+ yard field goal, but improved his distance in the middle of his career to become someone without a weakness. Think about this- in 2018 and 2019, Tucker was a combined 8/19 from 50+ yards, but in the 19 games since then, he’s 10/11, including this aforementioned beauty.

4) JuCo Quarterbacks

Photo courtesy of Butte Community College

It will never not boggle the mind that Aaron Rodgers spent time in Junior College. He’s the the most dangerous QB I’ve ever seen, and imagining him at 18 years old out there at Butte College just ruining the film of 21 year old defensive backs all over the Pacific coast sounds like a Hollywood fever dream. He’s rid our collective consciousness of his horrid week 1 performance by putting together two awesome performances in a row against Detroit and San Francisco to remind us that he’s the real MVP. But he’s not the only California QB to be overlooked and have to go the JuCo route who is now tearing up the NFL… Josh Allen is right there with him after putting together a stellar 2020, earning a massive contract extension, and now doing things like throwing for 358 yards, 4 touchdowns, and rushing for a touchdown against the Washington Football Team. You might think I’m being unreasonable by comparing Josh Allen to Aaron Rodgers (which I’ve been doing for 5 years now), but wait until Bryce Perkins gets a shot with the LA Rams- then you’re really going to see me go off the rails for Junior College-to-NFL signal callers.

Heating Up

The Cleveland Browns are good. Myles Garrett looks like a top-5 pass rusher, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt look like the best 1-2 punch at RB in the entire NFL, and Baker Mayfield isn’t doing anything to screw it up. Say this out loud- THE CLEVELAND BROWNS HAVE WON 14 OF THEIR LAST 20 GAMES. Surreal isn’t it? I don’t have them in the top 10 of my NFL Power rankings yet (see below), but if they win in Minnesota this weekend, it’ll be hard to justify keeping them out.

1-32 Power Rankings

1) Steel City

Pittsburgh is an awful place to have to try and go earn a win. Even as recently as last year, the Steelers went 7-1 in the regular season at home. But if you include last year’s playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers have now lost three in a row in front of their home fans, including a two-touchdown drubbing by the Cincinnati Bengals. If the ‘Burgh isn’t a clear advantage for Ben Roethlisberger and company, this is a terribly average football team that is about to embark on a long, painful season.

2) Matt Nagy

The entire city of Chicago wants Matt Nagy fired. All of Chicago’s four billion former residents that have retired to Arizona and Florida are throwing all the hard candy from their crystal dishes at the television every time they see him in a postgame press conference. Justin Fields struggled mightily in his first start, and has managed to get sacked 11 times in just a little over four quarters of action. If the Bears don’t defend Soldier Field this week against the 0-3 Detroit Lions, we might see the first coaching change of the season.

3) The New York Football??? Giants

Imagine booing the owner at a jersey retirement ceremony for the QB that brought your franchise its last two championships. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it, you can just watch:

I’m not sure what else to even write about the Giants. It doesn’t get worse than that.

4) Cold Colts

The Indianapolis Colts had an 11-win season last year, added Carson Wentz to replace Philip Rivers, and look like they don’t have an identity anymore. With road games coming up against the Dolphins and Ravens, it’s going to be a long, hard road back to .500. In their favor is an incredibly poor division that (as long as they beat Tennessee the next time around) they could still challenge to win.

(Cooling Off)

The Kansas City Chiefs aren’t fooling anyone with that 1-2 record- they’re still incredibly stacked on both sides of the ball, but with Denver, Las Vegas, and the LA Chargers all on the come-up, they can’t afford to tinker around anymore. They need to be .500 heading into their game against Buffalo, or we might see last year’s 14-2 AFC representative facing a 1-4 start to their ensuing season.

Have a take you’d like us to address? Email us at immad@unafraidshow.com and we’ll read your take on a future Wrighster or Wrong podcast.

2021 NFL Week 1 Stock Report: Four Up and Four Down

2021 NFL Week 1 Stock Report

Each week during the NFL season, UnafraidShow.com will take you through the four NFL teams/players that are trending up, as well as the ones that are headed for a crash. Let’s get to it:

1) The Saints Go Marching

Jameis Winston is filling some enormous shoes, while trying to throw out his previous pair. On Sunday, he managed to do both, playing relatively mistake free football, and helping the New Orleans Saints completely demolish the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay had come into New Orleans having scored 30+ points in five consecutive road games, and the Saints defense, bolstered by sacks from Tanoh Kpassagnon and Marcus Davenport, and interceptions by Paulson Adebo and Marcus Williams, has sent a signal to the rest of the NFL that the Saints aren’t going to have to win by shootout.

2) Same Old Tom and Gronk

We wrote about last Thursday’s electric NFL season opener, and once the dust settled on the entire weekend, it was clear that Tampa Bay still stood out as one of the most impressive teams of week 1. Of course everyone expects a defending Super Bowl champion to still have some gas left in the tank, but the Buccaneers came out with an even bigger tank, overflowing with high grade premium fuel. Antonio Brown looks better than he did last year. The Bucs run defense looks better than it did last year. And for the third time in the last seven games, Tom Brady found his old pal Rob Gronkowski in the end zone more than once. If for any reason Tampa wasn’t your Super Bowl favorite heading into 2021, it might be time to change your mind.

3) The Cardinals Take Flight

The Arizona Cardinals had the most eyebrow raising additions, as well as departures, leading up to the 2021 season. While the hype around this team remains minimal, as Arizona isn’t exactly the sexiest market for national talking heads, the week one thrashing of the Tennessee Titans on the road has caused quite a stir. Whether it’s Chandler Jones taking out his frustration with his contract situation on Taylor Lewan and Ryan Tannehill, or Kyler Murray finding both DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk for two scores each, you have to wonder if the Cardinals largest margin of victory in a season opener since the 1960’s is a flash in the pan, or a sign of things to come.

4) The AFC West

I definitely did not think that the NFC West would go undefeated in week 1. Especially when the Kansas City Chiefs trailed the Cleveland Browns by two scores in the fourth quarter, and the Las Vegas Raiders trailed the Baltimore Ravens by a TD with six minutes left in their Sunday night matchup, but here we are. The emergence of Justin Herbert at QB for the Los Angeles Chargers might make this the most entertaining division in all of football this year, especially if Von Miller and the Denver Broncos defense keeps them in games enough for Teddy Bridgewater and Melvin Gordon to work some magic, the way they did against the Giants on Sunday.

Heating Up

I know they lost, but I was impressed with both Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, and Browns QB Baker Mayfield’s progress. Our own George Wrighster believes that Dak Prescott is currently a top-5 NFL QB, and if he repeats his week 1 performance a few more times, I’m not sure I’ll be able to disagree. You have to throw Rams Head Coach Sean McVay on this list as well, because Matt Stafford’s play at QB is making him look like even more of a genius than he’s purported to be. Oh, and in case you forgot, Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin still knows what he’s doing. Pittsburgh’s win over Buffalo should be a strong warning to the rest of the AFC North division that the Steelers aren’t quite dead yet. And why not give a shout out to the Houston Texans, who many thought would be circling the drain this year… a lot of season left, but as it stands right now, Tyrod Taylor and company are undefeated. Last but certainly not least, if you’re going to face an entire offseason of rumors that the Eagles are looking to replace you as the starter before you ever really get the chance to prove yourself, you might as well go out and dominate the way that Jalen Hurts did.

1) Aaron Rodgers

If you’re going to spend an entire offseason letting rumors and reports of your discontent run unchecked, and then you’re going to grant an interview to Erin Andrews further explaining your dissatisfaction with your status as the QB of the Green Bay Packers, you don’t get to be shocked when the team you’ve made it abundantly clear you don’t want to play with isn’t showing up on the field to support you. If Aaron Rodgers isn’t able to convince the Green Bay Packers to rally around him in his last year there, he’s going to have to be the one to do the rallying. Either he swallows his pride, or he’s going to swallow a few more five touchdown defeats.

2) Minnesota Vikings

Never has a team been more emblematic of the phrase “playing to the level of your competition” than the Kirk Cousins-led Minnesota Vikings. The Cincinnati Bengals aren’t a bad football team, but they’re certainly not as talented as the Vikings, and the idea that they’d need to come from behind to force overtime (and still lose!) to an offense that features Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, who have an average combined age of 23-years-old, has to infuriate Skol nation.

3) Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans wasted an all-time great offense last season by surrendering over 30 points eight different times. So how’d they kick off 2021? How about putting the brakes on that offense while still leaking like a sieve in the secondary? It doesn’t look like Ryan Tannehill is the guy you want trying to play you back into a game from behind, and when you have your franchise left tackle publicly thanking the defensive end that beat him five different times for “exposing” him? YIKES.

4) Atlanta Falcons

When your salary cap situation is so bad that you have to let the best receiver in franchise history walk away, you probably aren’t going to earn much praise for having your longest play from scrimmage be 18 yards… at home… against a team defense that was in the bottom half of the league in both total yards and points allowed last year.

Cooling Off

The top two picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, weren’t a disaster in their season debuts, but outside of Aaron Rodgers, they finished second and third on the weekend as far as the worst completion percentage. Wilson, while he looked decent at times against Carolina, was sacked six times in his debut. If the Jets don’t protect their investment, who is on pace to take 26 more sacks than David Carr did in 2002, a record that still stands to this day, then they’re going to likely be scouting top QBs for the second draft in a row.

Have a take you’d like us to address? Email us at immad@unafraidshow.com and we’ll read your take on a future Wrighster or Wrong podcast.

The Complicated Legacy Of Doc Rivers

When there’s smoke, there’s fire, and Doc Rivers can’t put it out.

The fire burned all night in Philadelphia after the Sixers lost Game 5 to the Atlanta Hawks, 109-106. At one point, the Sixers led by 26 (!!!) points, but the Hawks finished the game on a 40-19 run to take control of the series at three games to two.

This marks two-straight games where the Sixers led by more than double digits in the second half. The Sixers blew an 18-point lead in Game 4 to lose 103-100.

What went wrong? Joel Embiid had a monster night of 37 points and 13 rebounds, but he continues to run out of gas in the fourth quarter due to an injured knee. Ben Simmons has been getting dragged for almost 24 hours after shooting 4-14 from the free-throw line. Simmons took zero (0) shots in the fourth quarter. Simmons is a liability at the end of games because he can’t shoot. It’s that simple.

I didn’t forget about Tobias Harris, the $180 million dollar man who scored 4 points total in Game 5. Besides Embiid, only Seth Curry, who scored 36 points, realized that it was Game 5 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, not Game 3 of the regular season.

A lot, and I mean a lot, of things went wrong on the court. However, there’s one man who’s grown accustomed to losing big leads. There’s one man who is the only coach in NBA history to blow three 3-1 series leads.

The man I’m referring to is Doc Rivers.

There’s no denying Rivers’ success and likability in the NBA. Rivers will most likely end his career with a trip to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Maybe that doesn’t mean as much since the Hall is letting anyone with a pulse enter, but it’s still an accomplishment.

Rivers won the NBA Championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008 and won Coach of the Year with the Orlando Magic in 2000. Rivers led four separate teams to the playoffs and he’s 10th on the all-time coaching wins list. To quote Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans, “You’re a Hall of Famer in my book.”

Unfortunately, Rivers’ shortcomings in the playoffs have become an all-too-common occurrence. If Rivers coaches a team, blown leads will follow. Whether that’s fair or foul doesn’t necessarily matter. It’s the truth.

The noteworthy collapses are the aformentioned 3-1 series leads. Of the 13 times a team recovered from a 3-1 series deficit to win the series, Rivers has been on the losing end for three of those 13 instances.

  • 2003 Orlando Magic – In the opening round, the No. 8 seed Magic were up 3-1 in the series before being blown out in three straight games to lose the series to the No. 1 seed Pistons.
  • 2015 Los Angeles Clippers – In the conference semifinals, the No. 3 seed Clippers took a 3-1 lead over the No. 2 seed Rockets. After losing Game 5, the Clippers were up 87-68 in the second half. Josh Smith, Corey Brewer, and Terrence Jones combined for 54 points as the Rockets outscored the Clippers 40-15 in the fourth quarter to win the game. The Rockets came back while James Harden sat on the bench. The Clippers then lost Game 7.
  • 2020 Clippers – Do I really need to talk about Pandemic P and the Bubble Clippers?

If those were Rivers’ only blemishes, then so be it. However, bad losses have followed Rivers throughout his coaching career. Deep Sran captured Rivers’ notable losses since 2009.

Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, and three times is a pattern. What’s the saying for over ten times? 11 times means it’s inevitable?

It’s not all Doc’s fault. He can’t teach Simmons how to shoot free throws mid-game or improve Embiid’s conditioning this late in the series. But blowing this many games is ridiculous.

I respect Doc for calling out the effort of his players after Game 4, but maybe it’s time to call yourself out for blowing double-digit leads on your own court and losing multiple Game 7s at home. The endings to Games 4 and 5 were almost identical. Doc’s lack of adjustments in the fourth quarter and his team’s inability to finish games is unacceptable.

Can the Sixers still win this series? Of course, they can, but the Sixers and more importantly, Doc, need to learn how to finish games or their season will end in disappointment.

Is Doc Rivers to blame for Philly’s collapse? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Damian Lillard: To Trade Or Not To Trade

The future of the Portland Trail Blazers is in Damian Lillard’s hands.

The biggest question of the offseason revolves around Lillard and his status as a member of the Blazers. The Blazers are coming off a first-round loss to the Denver Nuggets, marking the fourth time in five years Portland failed to reach the second round.

Something needs to change in Portland. The first step happened last week when Terry Stotts was relieved of his head coaching duties. Stotts made the playoffs in eight straight seasons, but only accumulated one Conference Finals appearance. Stotts may not have been the biggest problem in Portland, but it’s clear he wasn’t the solution.

The next step towards change involves the roster, which needs to be revamped immediately. On paper, the Blazers have sufficient firepower on offense thanks to Lillard, CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, Norman Powell, and Carmelo Anthony. That being said, the Blazers had the 29th out of 30 defensive rating. In other words, the Blazers were allergic to defense.

When Lillard needed his teammates the most, the supporting cast was nowhere to be found. Look no further than Game 5 between the Blazers and the Nuggets. Lillard was unstoppable, scoring 55 points on 17-24 shooting including an incredible 12-17 from behind the arc. What about the rest of his teammates? They managed to make one (!!!) shot when the game mattered the most.

Now comes the all important question. What should the Blazers do with Lillard?

The Blazers should do everything in their power to keep Lillard. Lillard is one of the three best guards in the game and the true definition of a franchise player. Dame is an All-NBA superstar who’s averaged over 25 points per game for six straight seasons. Lillard is in the middle of his prime and signed through 2025 so there’s no reason to get rid of him. Dame is one of the ten best players in the NBA, and Portland will continue to make the playoffs if he’s in the lineup.

The Blazers are better in the short term with Lillard, but trading the cornerstone of the franchise for an unprecedented haul may be in their best interest. Don’t listen to Blazers GM Neil Oshey, who said the first-round loss was not a product of the roster. The roster is exactly why the Blazers lost to the Nuggets and it’s why they’ve reached the Conference Finals only once during Dame’s tenure in Portland.

If the Blazers take the “our core will get better and our role players will step up” approach this offseason, you might as well pencil in another first-round loss next season. With the Lakers, Suns, Clippers, Mavericks, and Nuggets all on the upswing, the Blazers need a roster makeover.

The easier move for Portland would be to trade CJ McCollum, who has been in trade rumors for what seems like his entire career. CJ may not be a superstar, but he’s a very good scoring option that any contender would love to have. Perhaps the Bucks, Mavericks, or Sixers would consider trading for McCollum to shake up their rosters.

As good as CJ is, Lillard is the crown jewel. If a team were to acquire Lillard in a trade, they would instantly become a threat to make the NBA Finals. If the Blazers fully commit to a rebuild, then they could receive a king’s ransom for Lillard, similar to one the Thunder received in the Paul George trade. Five first-round picks, two pick swaps, and a player like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was amazing compensation for George. Lillard is even better than George so the Blazers could potentially receive even more assets than the Thunder did for George.

Think about all the teams with young players, picks, and cap space. The Knicks have two firsts this year, all of their first in the next five years, 70 million in cap space, and a young core of players highlighted by RJ Barrett. The Celtics could trade Jaylen Brown and multiple picks for Lillard, according to Chris Mannix. The Heat and Clippers could also provide packages that could entice the Blazers to trade their superstar guard.

If Lillard wants to be traded, he can march right into Oshey’s office and ask out of Portland. It’s important to remember that this is Lillard we’re talking about, one of the most loyal players in the NBA. It’s not in his DNA to ask for a trade. However, things can change if Dame exhausts all of his options in Portland.

There is no ending in sight to the Lillard dilemma for Portland. It’s only just begin.

Should the Blazers trade Damian Lillard? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or tweet us @danny_giro.