NBA Bubble Week 5 Recap: We’re On To The Second Round

Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray

Last week was monumental when the players went on strike. After talking it over, the players and owners agreed on new social justice initiatives to carry out for the near future. Once basketball started up again in the NBA Bubble, it was a damn treat to watch. However, as Bill Belichick would say in this exact situation, “We’re on to the Second Round.”

Top Story: Young Talent Takeover

In terms of talent, the NBA is positioned for great success over the next decade because of their wealth of young talent. Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell, both 23-years-old, slugged it out for seven games, one-upping each other with each possession. It felt like a battle of two heavyweights. Check out these stat lines from both players.

Jamal Murray

Donovan Mitchell

These two young men gave it everything they had and more. Unfortunately, one guy had to go home and that team belonged to Mitchell. The Nuggets may have bested the Jazz thanks to a wild final sequence, but both Murray and Mitchell realized the gravity of the situation and showed nothing but respect towards each other.

Murray and Mitchell are two budding superstars that have the potential to become All-NBA guys and faces of the league. Add Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic and the NBA could have their version of “Four Horseman.” LeBron is still the top dog, but the young guns are coming.

Surprise Of The Week: James Harden Makes The Defensive Play Of The Bubble

James Harden’s legacy and narrative were set to experience a crushing blow last night. Quite simply, Harden had an atrocious night on the offensive side of the ball. Despite being the most gifted scorer in the NBA, Harden couldn’t hit the Atlantic Ocean while standing in a boat. The beard had a pedestrian 17 points on 4-15 shooting including 1-9 from 3. If the Rockets lost, that would have been the final straw for Harden’s defenders. As talented as he is, last night would have been added to Harden’s list of playoff clunkers and hiccups. Right before pressing “Send” on the anti-Harden tweets, Harden made the play of the NBA Bubble. Harden blocked Lu Dort on a game-winning 3 point attempt to preserve the win. Who would’ve thought that a Harden defensive play would be the reason why the Rockets advance? Now, Harden can add to his legacy if he slays the beast that is LeBron.

Time to Gloat: I Was Right About The Miami Heat

Full disclosure, I picked the Bucks to win the Eastern Conference so you can take my tweets with a grain of salt. However, I bet the Heat both games and so far, it’s paid off nicely. I’m in love with the Miami Heat. From their coaches to their players, I love the toughness they bring every night. Butler and the kids look like a team that is not afraid of the moment. With a 2-0 lead, the Heat may throw a wrench in everyone’s bracket.

Concern Of The Week: Are The Bucks Done?

In my Week 1 recap, I asked if we should be worried about the Bucks following a loss to the Brooklyn Nets in a game where Milwaukee was the biggest regular-season favorite in history. One week later, I asked if the Bucks were in trouble due to a lack of support for Giannis. It’s now been three weeks since that post and I’m close to pronouncing the Bucks as dead. They were outplayed in both games and despite a controversial foul call against Giannis in Game 2, the Heat deserved to win that game. Giannis needs to find his Superman cape quickly or his 2021 free agency discussions will only intensify.

Week 5 MVP: Lu Dort

I had no idea who Lu Dort was, but now, he’s an Internet darling. Good for this kid. From undrafted rookie to 30 point scorer in a winner-take-all game, I have to give my props to the Church of Dort.

Week 5 LVP: Billy Donovan

For a coach that exceeded expectations, that last play will be the stain on Billy Donovan’s 2019-2020 season.

Storyline For Week 6: Second Round

It’s 2:30 EST on Sept. 3. Here’s where the second round stands.

  • 4 Heat lead 1 Bucks, 2-0
  • 3 Celtics lead 2 Raptors, 2-0
  • 2 Clippers vs. 3. Nuggets, 0-0
  • 1 Lakers vs. 4 Rockets, 0-0

If either the Clippers or Lakers lose Game 1, I can’t wait for the “rest vs. rust” takes.

What are your top storylines from Week 5 inside the NBA bubble? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

NBA Bubble Week 4 Recap And Storylines: The NBA Pressed Pause

LeBron James and Anthony Davis

Had this been a normal week, I would start this NBA Bubble recap with an ode to Luka Dončić, who gave one of the greatest performances I’ve seen in years. However, this was no normal week. In fact, this will be a week that will go down in history. The storyline of the week revolves around the strike.

Top Story: The NBA Players Decide To Strike

To quickly summarize what happened, the Milwaukee Bucks decided to not play their game against the Magic. The strike was in response to the situation involving Jacob Blake, an African American man who was shot seven times in the back by police officers. It’s important to note that the incident occurred in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which is about an hour away from where the Bucks play at Fiserv Forum.

The Bucks-Magic cancellation set off a domino effect that shook not only the entire league but the entire sports world.

The bombshell from the meeting involved the Lakers and Clippers, who voted to abandon the season. Notably, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, the two best players in the bubble, spoke up about not wanting to play.

After taking some time to think it over, the players once again met in the morning and decided to restart the league.

The decision to not play games inside the NBA and WNBA bubbles trickled into the MLB and NHL.

It’s truly been an unprecedented two days in sports. We are going to look back years from now and remember August 26, the day the players took action. Many former players and coaches such as Chris Webber, Doc Rivers, and Renee Montgomery gave passioned speeches that put a spotlight on social justice. In particular, a line in Webber’s speech is one that has stuck with me since I watched the clip. Webber said, “I don’t know the next steps. I don’t really care what the next steps are because the first steps are to garner attention. And they have everyone’s attention… Don’t listen to these people telling you to not do anything because it’s not gonna end right away. You are starting something for the next generation.”

Whether you agree or disagree with the decision to strike, the fact is the NBA and many athletes have our attention. What happens next? I leave you with an article about Maya Moore, who literally put her athletic career on hold to fight for social justice.

What are your top storylines from Week 4 inside the NBA bubble? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

NBA Bubble Week 2 Recap And Storylines: It’s Playoff Time

Kawhi Leonard Luka Doncic nba bubble

The restart in the NBA bubble has been fantastic. Damian Lillard scores 100 points every night, the Rockets take 200 three-pointers, and the Suns refuse to lose games. However, it’s time to get down to brass tacks aka the playoffs. I apologize to Ja Morant, who I love and appreciate, but I’m rooting for the Blazers to win on Saturday so all the playoff matchups will be official.

Before we focus on the playoffs, let’s relieve Week 2 of the NBA bubble.

Top Story: Damian Lamonte Ollie Lillard Sr.

Damian Lillard portland
Damian Lillard

Win or lose, we will never forget what Damian Lillard did these past two weeks. Entering the bubble, the Blazers needed to make up serious ground in order to at least get into the Play-In as the 9-seed. Not only did the Blazers go 6-2 to qualify for the Play-In, but they secured the 8-seed, which means they only need to win one game against the Grizzlies to advance. Lillard averaged an astounding 37.6 points (bubble leader) and 9.6 assists per game and let me tell you, they needed every single on one of those points. With his season on the line, this is what Dame did over the last three games.

I love Dame. He’s one of the easiest guys to root for in the NBA. In a league full of stars that switch teams almost every year, Dame hasn’t asked to leave Portland once. He puts his head down and goes to work each and every night. He defies the phrase, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I wouldn’t even blame Dame if he wanted out of Portland, but that’s not the guy he is. I hope the Blazers make the playoffs because I, along with NBA fans, want to see if he can scare the Lakers. It’s Dame Time.

Top Story If Lillard Didn’t Exist: Suns Go 8-0

I constantly change my opinion on moral victories. Can you actually win something if you lost? For the Suns, they missed the playoffs, but they never lost a game so I’m giving them a moral victory. The young kids of the Suns grew up in the bubble and matured beyond belief. Devon Booker is a stud who finally showcased his talents to a national audience. NBA fans knew Booker was good, but the question always revolved around his ability to lead and make others around him better. Booker silenced those critics with averages of 30.5 points, 6.0 assists, and 4.9 rebounds per game in the bubble. No one gave the Suns a chance when the NBA decided they were going to invite them to the restart. After going 8-0, the future is bright for the Suns.

Concerning Thought Of The Week: The Injury Bug Has Arrived

Injuries were bound to happen, but these two injuries, in particular, suck. Both Ben Simmons and Russell Westbrook will miss some time in the playoffs. However, it looks like Simmons is done for the season while Westbrook may only miss a few games. Still, you hate to see star players with injuries. The Sixers and Rockets play the Celtics and Thunder, respectively, which would have been difficult matchups even at full strength. Now, the advantage lies with The Celtics and Thunder. On the bright side, we could see historic numbers from both Joel Embiid and James Harden. Embiid might average 30 points and 15 rebounds while Harden could put up 40 points and 10 assists. Let’s hope that most of the star players can stay healthy.

Follow Up Thought Of The Week: Are The 1-Seeds In Trouble?

This was my top basketball story in my Week 1 recap: “The Lakers And Bucks Are Good, But Should They Be Worried?” One week later and I’m still concerned. Frankly, the Lakers and Bucks looked far from spectacular during the restart. If you solely looked at the numbers from LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, you might think both the Lakers and Bucks are firing on all cylinders. However, both teams end the restart with 3-5 records before heading into the postseason. A lack of motivation could have played a part in their under .500 records since both teams locked up the 1-seeds early into the restart. Once again, the Lakers and Bucks are good teams and both teams should make their respective conference finals. However, if players not named LeBron, AD, or Giannis fail to provide support, the Lakers and Bucks won’t be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy in October.

Week 2 MVP: Damian Lillard

See above.

Week 2 LVP: Pelicans

For the second straight week inside the NBA bubble, the LVP goes to the Pelicans. The NBA *allegedly* gifted the Pelicans with the easiest schedule upon the restart. How did they respond? The Pelicans went 2-6 and missed the playoffs. Now, the story is all about Zion and his health. I love Zion, but he looked out of shape and lost on defense. Zion is wise beyond his years. I truly believe that he will get into better basketball shape this offseason. However, you can’t help but think “what if” when it comes to a Lakers vs. Pelicans first-round matchup.

Storyline For Week 3: Playoff Time

Finally, it’s playoff time. Credit to the NBA for scheduling quadruple headers every single day of the first round. I can’t wait. See you next week.

What are your top storylines from Week 2 inside the NBA bubble? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

NBA Bubble Week 1 Recap: This Is Working

Damian Lillard portland

Has the NBA bubble been a success or what? If you love basketball, the bubble has been heaven for fans. Nonstop action for 10 hours each day is music to my ears. It’s clear that the bubble is working.

Where do I even begin with storylines? The Lakers and Bucks are in cruise control, but they have glaring deficiencies. The Blazers could do damage if they make the playoffs. TJ Warren is now Michael Jordan? Here is a recap of Week 1.

Note: This blog was posted at 6:30 PM EDT on August 6.

Top Story: The Bubble Is Working

I was optimistic that the bubble would work. However, no one predicted that the bubble would be a resounding success. The television presentation has been seamless. No fans? No problem. I thought virtual fans would be corny. It surprisingly hasn’t been a distraction at all. Without the bad teams to beat up on (still love you, Knicks), 85% of the games are competitive. With games from 1 PM-1130 PM every day, the bubble is an NBA version of March Madness, Most importantly, COVID is under control. Things can change in the blink of an eye but for now, the bubble is working.

Top Basketball Story: The Lakers And Bucks Are Good, But Should They Be Worried?

Both the Lakers and Bucks will be the top seeds and should be the favorites to represent their respective conferences. However, both have major flaws. Right now, the Lakers are allergic to the offense. The offense hasn’t been bad; it’s been atrocious. After Wednesday night’s loss to the Thunder, the Lakers rank last in offensive rating at 96.6 points per 100 possesions. The Lakers won’t win any games if they shoot 5-for-37 from 3 as they did against the Thunder. LeBron and AD will be fine, but there are a lot of questions surrounding their supporting cast especially at the guard position.

As I write this blog, the Bucks are down 20 points to the Heat. This past Tuesday, the Bucks lost to the Nets as 19 point favorites, which is the biggest favorite to lose in an NBA regular-season game. Just like the Lakers, I also have questions about the Bucks’ secondary players around Giannis and Middleton.

Let’s not forget the Lakers and Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. They have the two best players in the game right now in LeBron and Giannis. I’m not writing them off whatsoever. However, I would be worried if their supporting casts are nonexistent in the playoffs.

Suprise Of The Bubble: Blazers

One could argue that the potential play-in game was put into place because of Zion. However, the team that’s benefitting the most from this new format is the Blazers. Despite making the Conference Finals a year ago, the Blazers are a better team now than they were a year ago. One word: health. The Blazers were decimated with injuries to two of their top big men, Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, which explained their 28-37 record pre-bubble. With Nurkic and Collins, the Blazers are a different team. They can get production down low and guard bigger teams thanks to Nurkic, Collins, and Hasaan Whiteside. Plus, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are a top-5 duo in the NBA. If they secure the 8-seed, can the Blazers beat the Lakers in a 7-game series? Probably not. Can the Blazers give the Lakers trouble and push the series to six or seven games? Absolutely.

MVP So Far: TJ Warren

His name is now TJ “Michael Jordan” Warren. Who knew Warren could get buckets like MJ? More importantly, the Pacers are 3-0 and could be a tough out in the East.

LVP So Far: Pelicans

As previously mentioned, many including myself believe this play-in series was made for the Pelicans. However, after a 1-2 start, the Pelicans will need to step it up in order to get to the 9-seed. If the NBA wants Zion in the playoffs, New Orleans will need to let the big dog eat.

Storyline For Week 2: Effort

We’ve been blessed with competitive games for the first week. As more teams clinch playoff spots and the seeding falls into place, will teams continue to give max effort before the playoffs? Why play LeBron or Giannis if they’ve already clinched the 1-seed? I’m expecting a lot more lopsided scores in Week 2.

If you’re in the bubble, stay safe. Basketball in August has been a blessing. Let’s keep it that way.

What are your top storylines in the NBA bubble? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

2020 NBA Champion’s Asterisk Will Signify Toughest Title Ever Won

Nba disney

In sports, asterisks tend to have a negative connotation. Barry Bonds’ home run record, the Spurs 1999 championship, and the baseball team that plays in Houston have all been victims of the asterisk. (Houston deserves this asterisk in 2017, but we’ll refrain for now.) In the NBA, the asterisk might be placed next to this season’s eventual NBA champion. However, it should represent a badge of honor, not a stain on the sport.

Taylor Rooks of Turner Sports received the following text message from Austin Rivers, who discussed the NBA restart and the possibility of an asterisk.

As Rivers stated, the asterisk should elevate, not diminish, the champion. What’s occurred during the 2019-2020 NBA season is unprecedented. How it will play out is something we’ve never seen before. The regular season stopped abruptly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last game occurred on March 11, the same night when Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. Many players haven’t seen or practiced with their teammates for months.

After a four-month hiatus, teams are set to head to the Orlando bubble next week to finish the season. Games will take place in one location and be played with no fans in attendance. At first glance, the bubble at Disney may look like a summer camp for adults. DJ sets, ping pong tables, lounges, pools, and golf courses may seem like a 12-year-old’s dream come true.

However, if the 1992 classic, Groundhog Day, taught us anything, it’s that living the same day in the same environment over and over again could turn into your personal hell. The bubble is not a prison, but it’s also not utopia. Players and their families will be forced to remain on the campus at all times. Once they’re in the bubble, there’s no escape until your team loses. In fact, players could be suspended if they break the rules of the bubble and according to Stephen A Smith, they might break the rules for some “recreational activities.”

Last but not least, there’s a not-so-small threat looming at every corner, the coronavirus. If a player contracts the virus, they will be forced to isolate in their hotel room for at least 14 days before they’re eligible to return to play if they pass the required tests.

Between a pandemic, a shutdown, and a bubble, winning this season’s NBA Championship is going to one of the toughest tasks ever. If that’s the case, why would we think less of the team to win it all? Why should an asterisk go in front of an unmatched championship? There are some like Shaq who believe the season should have been scrapped entirely because the champion will never receive the same amount of respect that they would normally attain in a regular year.

I completely disagree.

For players, the remainder of the season will be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Guys are moving into a hotel for weeks, even months, and being told they can’t leave under any circumstance. Think about the joy one gets coming home after a long day of work. That feeling of relief when you walk into the door is something that money can’t buy. In the bubble, that mental reprieve vanishes and ceases to exist.

In 1993, Michael Jordan went to Atlantic City with his father during the 1993 conference finals in order to clear his head. Even though they lost the following game, the Bulls came back to win the series and went on to win the championship. In the bubble, where are guys going to go to clear their heads? Can LeBron James take a few trips on Space Mountain after a poor night shooting? Will Giannis Antetokounmpo ride the Tower of Terror if the Bucks fall behind 2-1 in the conference finals?

Let’s be honest. Twitter was going to put an asterisk on the championship if the Lakers, Bucks, or Clippers didn’t win it all. Guess what? The same asterisk will be put on the title in the bubble if a team like the Rockets or Jazz win it all.

We need to stop finding ways to invalidate this season and start accepting that it’s a season like no other. Winning the title in one location after four months while battling a pandemic could turn out to be the hardest path to a championship that any team has ever faced.

Erase the asterisk, and embrace the difficulty.

Do you agree or disagree with the idea of an asterisk? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

NBA Regular Season And Playoffs: Readjust, Not Reinvent, The Wheel

LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard

The 2019-2020 NBA season will restart at some point in the next two months. There will most likely be no fans and all the games will be played in one location. Commissioner Adam Silver wants it to happen. The NBA teams and players want it to happen. Fans are begging for basketball, and every sport for that matter, to restart in order to establish a sense of normalcy. The question is not if the NBA 2019-2020 will start, but how will it begin again.

Last week, the NBA sent a survey to all 30 general managers concerning the various proposals as to how to restart and finish the season. Competition formats, game locations, and roster issues were at the top of the list. Yesterday, Adam Silver held a conference call with NBA GMs to discuss the results of the survey. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke down the results.

It’s apparent that the biggest issues revolve around the continuation of the NBA’s regular season and the playoff format. It boils down to two questions: Should the regular season continue, and what format should be used for the playoffs?

Let’s start with the first issue, the regular season. This is where ownership and the players seem to be divided the most. Players want to have at least a few regular-season games to get back into “basketball shape” instead of jumping right into the playoffs. Plus, teams a few games out want to have a legitimate chance to make the playoffs. The majority of GMs want to end the regular season and keep the current playoff format.

If the regular season ended today, how would it affect teams on the outside looking in? In the East, it shouldn’t matter at all. The 8 playoff teams are not going to change without a miracle. Washington is 5.5 games behind the current 8 seed, Magic. If the Wizards couldn’t make up that difference during the season, what makes you believe they’ll make up the ground now? Giving the 24-win Wizards the chance to make the playoffs should not be a high priority. In the West, there’s more of an argument. Memphis holds the 8th seed with a record of 32-33. Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento all are 3.5 games back, while San Antonio is 4 games behind. It’s not inconceivable that one of these teams could make a final push for the final spot, which is where a play-in tournament could be beneficial.

The other issue involves the playoff format. Several ideas are floating around as to how the NBA should proceed with their playoffs. They could leave it as is with 8 teams in the East and 8 teams in the West. A proposed World Cup group stage received some positive responses from the GMs. The group stages would replace the regular season and first round. It would be a round-robin type of event where 5 teams (amount of teams is yet to be determined) are placed into 4 groups. Teams play every team in their group twice and the teams with the best two records advance to the second round of the playoffs, where the current format would apply. Problems could arise if the teams are drawn at random like they are in soccer, so a “group of death” could form if the groups are not seeded beforehand.

Now is not the time to belittle creativity. In fact, the NBA should be praised for addressing concerns and creating new formats to serve as solutions. There really are no bad ideas. However, there is a word going around that should scare the NBA and that’s the word, “asterisk.” The NBA is in unprecedented territory, which means all hell could potentially break loose in terms of who wins the championship. Shaq mentioned the NBA should cancel its season because the champion would be labeled with an asterisk. Shaq’s not entirely wrong. If any team other than the Lakers, Clippers, or Bucks win a title because of a new format like a World Cup group stage, no matter how many times Silver says it’s legitimate, it will be difficult for many fans to accept the champion without using an asterisk.

However, if every team plays under the same set of circumstances, there’s no reason to put an asterisk on the season. In fact, one could argue it will be even harder to win this year’s title because of the stoppage and the removal of home-court advantage. Whatever the case may be, the NBA does not need to reinvent the wheel. The best way to ensure the legitimacy of the champion is to keep the playoff format as close to normal as possible. The best teams should advance in the playoffs no matter what. That being said, some minor adjustments could be made in order to give more teams a chance if the regular season is shortened or canceled completely.

If I was the commissioner, this would be my plan.

  • 24 teams restart the season. The teams: top 8 seeds in the East, the top 8 seeds in the West, and the next four teams with the best record in each conference.
  • Teams seeded 9-12 have a play in-game. 9 vs. 12 and 10 vs. 11. So if that happens, here are the matchups – West: 9. Blazers vs. 12. Spurs / 10. Pelicans vs. 11. Kings. East: 9. Wizards vs. 12. Knicks / 10. Hornets vs. 11. Bulls. Winners advance and losers leave town (literally).
  • The two winners then play the 7 and 8 seed in their conference to determine the final two spots in the playoffs. The higher seeded team from the play-in games will play the 8 seed. Potential matchups – West: 7. Mavs vs. lower-seeded team / 8. Grizzlies vs. higher-seeded team. East: 7. Nets vs. lower-seeded team / 8. Magic vs. higher-seeded team. Winners move to the playoffs.
  • While those play-in games occur, every team that’s in the top 8 will play two games that will count towards their record. To keep it random, the games would be against playoff teams from the other conference. To reward the higher seeds, it will be playoff-style seeding. For example, the top-seeded Lakers would play the 8 seed in the East, which is the Magic. The 2 seed, Clippers, would play the 7 seed, Nets, and so on so forth. For game number two, the same rules apply except there are fewer teams. The top-seeded Lakers would then play the 6 seed, 76ers, since teams 7 and 8 will be in the play-in game. 2 seed would play 5 seed and so on and so forth. These games serve as a way for players to get back into basketball shape before the playoff grind begins and in some cases, teams could improve their playoff seeding with wins.
  • Once the dust has settled, start the playoffs under the normal formula with 8 teams in the East and 8 teams in the West. If you need to cut games, make the first round best-of-five. Other than that, the best-of-7 format remains intact throughout.

The plan is not perfect, but no plan will be. Let’s just get the players back on the court and go from there.

How would you continue the NBA season? Leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Kawhi Leonard v. Nike, Inc.: The Fight For “The Klaw”

Kawhi Leonard files lawsuit against nike over claw logo

With the series tied 1-1 heading into Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors, much talk has been centered on the Raptors’ pursuit to overthrow the latest dynasty to grace the hardwood. However, Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard has become the subject of a storyline off the court.

The Battle of Intellectual Property Rights

Kawhi Leonard’s Registered “The Klaw” logo with the USPTO

On June 3, Kawhi Leonard filed a federal complaint against Nike asking the court to declare that Leonard is the author of “The Klaw,” the logo commonly associated with Leonard throughout his professional career. The complaint further states that Nike committed fraud on the Copyright Office by seeking registration of the logo.

Leonard is the owner of six trademark applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Three applications include “The Klaw” logo for use with various goods and services such as basketballs, backpacks, and apparel.

The issue is Nike’s alleged ownership of the logo. United States Copyright Law grants owners the exclusive right to display their works as they see fit. Without the ability to reproduce the logo, Leonard’s trademark registrations are essentially useless. But copyrights are assigned solely to the authors of the works, and therein lies the rub. The complaint states Leonard created the logo in “late December 2011 or January 2012”; however, Nike’s copyright registration claims the company authored the logo in 2014. The facts surrounding these dueling timelines will play a vital role in the court’s determination.

The Nike Agreement

Even if Kawhi Leonard created “The Klaw,” that may not be enough. After being selected in the 2011 NBA Draft, Leonard signed a contract to provide “personal services and expertise in the sport of professional basketball and endorsement of the Nike brand and use of Nike products.” Such contracts usually include a “work for hire” provision, which typically read as follows:

Athlete hereby unconditionally and irrevocably transfers and assigns to Company all right, title and interest, including all intellectual property rights, in and to all materials, including all works of authorship, developed with Athlete’s involvement or by or on behalf of Athlete hereunder as part of the Services or otherwise in connection with this Agreement (“Works”).  Athlete agrees to complete and provide Company with any documents requested by Company to evidence Company’s ownership of such Works as well as the assignment of any and all rights.

The complaint mentions that any personal services provided did not constitute copyrightable material and/or constitute a “work for hire.” However, the complaint fails to attach the contract. If a transfer of rights language is included, Leonard’s claim fails, and Nike has a claim for ownership rights in “The Klaw.”

Will Leonard Prevail?

Nike has a history of staunchly defending intellectual property rights, so the company will not go down without a fight. It took Roger Federer until April 2019 to reclaim the rights to his “RF” logo despite leaving the company to sign a 10-year deal with Japanese clothing brand, Uniqlo, in 2018. New York Times reporter Marc Stein reported that the Los Angeles Clippers looked into purchasing “The Klaw” from Nike in order to boost their anticipated free-agency pitch for the coveted star. Settlement or purchase may be the best bet to resolve what may be Leonard’s toughest case on (or in) the court.

Follow Alan Wilmot on Twitter and Instagram @alanwilmotlaw

The Kawhi Leonard Effect: Will More Teams Go All In For One Year?

Whether he stays or leaves Toronto, the Kawhi Leonard trade has been a massive success. Will more teams take an aggressive approach for player rentals this offseason?

Following a third straight playoff exit to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Masai Ujiri knew something had to change for the Toronto Raptors. Ujiri realized that the Raptors had maxed out their potential with their current core. Even with LeBron taking his talents to the Lakers, Ujiri still believed that DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and coach Dwane Casey could never get over the hump as a unit. Something drastic had to change.

Enter Kawhi Leonard. Yes, the same Kawhi Leonard who won the NBA Finals MVP in 2014. It’s also the same Kawhi Leonard who played nine games in 2017-2018 after a long battle with the San Antonio Spurs and their medical staff over a lingering quadriceps injury.

Masai Ujiri threw all of his chips into the middle like Teddy KGB and bet it all on Kawhi Leonard. To reiterate, Leonard’s mysterious injury was still up-in-the-air. Plus, Leonard never said he would resign with Toronto. However, Ujiri took the risk because it bought him one year to put a potential rebuild on pause and go for it all.

The Raptors traded franchise legend DeRozan, center Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick in 2019 for Kawhi Leonard and an aging Danny Green. A few weeks prior, Ujiri fired reigning Coach of the Year, Dwane Casey, and promoted his assistant, Nick Nurse. It was safe to say Ujiri was not a fan favorite for not only trading away DeRozan, but for making a bold move for a superstar that by every indication would sign with a team in Los Angeles in the summer of 2019. Ujiri not only traded a fan favorite in DeRozan, but he traded Kyle Lowry’s best friend. In fact, Lowry felt betrayed and didn’t speak to Ujiri until midseason. Speaking of midseason, Ujiri gambled again by trading Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles and a 2024 second-round draft pick to the Grizzlies for Marc Gasol this past February.

Fast forward to now and the Raptors are one game away from winning an NBA Championship against one of the best teams ever assembled, the Warriors. Just a season ago, Leonard’s medical battle with San Antonio overshadowed just how good Leonard is and could be. Leonard has carried the Raptors and the entire city of Toronto on his back this postseason. During this historic postseason run, Leonard is averaging 31.1 ppg and 9.1 rpg. Leonard has scored a remarkable 30 points or more in 14 of 22 playoff games this postseason.

What’s even more remarkable is that win or lose, Leonard could be a one-and-done in Toronto. Ujiri knew the risks of trading for a rental in Leonard who has given zero indication on where he will end up in the offseason. However, in this instance, a high risk led to a high reward as the Raptors made the NBA Finals and could win their first championship in franchise history.

Players change their minds all the time. The Thunder traded for Paul George knowing that in a year, he may leave for the Lakers. However, the gamble paid off as George resigned with the Thunder. The same may happen with Leonard and the Raptors. Leonard and his success could be an exception, but there’s no doubt that the Raptors have inspired front offices especially in smaller markets to consider gambling on rental or one-and-done players. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Kawhi Leonard’s success in Toronto seemed to embolden factions of Anthony Davis’ nonpreferred and smaller-market destinations to probe New Orleans on trades.

Take Daryl Morey’s “5 Percent Theory,” which states if you have at least a 5 percent chance to win the title, you should be focused on doing whatever it takes to win a title. If Kevin Durant leaves Golden State for New York and Kawhi Leonard for Los Angeles, the balance of power will once again shift. If you’re the Knicks and Durant signs with you, why wouldn’t you mortgage your future to acquire Davis, who will be a free agent next offseason? A duo of Durant and Davis (even if it’s for one year) skyrockets the Knicks into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.

Take another team like the Portland Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum proved why they’re one of the best backcourts in the league as they brought the Blazers to the Western Conference Finals. Even with a healthy Jusuf Nurkic, can the Blazers reach the NBA Finals with their current roster? What’s to say the Blazers package McCollum, Nurkic, and draft picks for Anthony Davis. Would you make that move if you’re Portland and get no promise from Davis that he’ll sign long term? That deal may not be on the table, but being aggressive to capitalize on Lillard’s prime is the right idea.

The worst place to be in the NBA is mediocrity. Either compete for a title or rebuild. Fighting for the last playoff spot every year and then losing in the first round will get you nowhere. The Kawhi gamble may end up sticking this offseason if more teams take a similar, aggressive approach to upgrading a roster. That may not happen, but for the Raptors, the gamble worked.

NBA Finals 2019: Warriors Vs. Raptors Preview And Prediction

After the dust has settled, two teams remain in the Warriors and Raptors. The Warriors were expected to be here while the Raptors were not necessarily the top choice out of the East. The Warriors are going for four titles in five years, but the narrative is not around their play on the court, but rather, the player that they’re missing in Kevin Durant. The Raptors one year gamble on Kawhi Leonard paid off as they reached their first NBA Finals ever. Can the Warriors win a championship without Durant? Can Kawhi slay the defending champs? Here are my preview and prediction for the NBA Finals 2019: Warriors vs. Raptors.

Biggest Storyline

Where Will Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard end up in the offseason?: Not to take anything away from this series, but the biggest storyline is the impending free agency decisions for Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard. I compare it to going to the beach and seeing a dark cloud on the horizon. You should enjoy the beach, but all you can think about is the storm that’s on its way. Both Durant and Leonard have been rumored to be leaving Golden State and Toronto respectively for almost a year. If Durant doesn’t play at all, does that signify he’s leaving the Warriors? If Kawhi wins the title, does that make him more inclined to stay? Both questions will be asked after every game this series no matter what happens.


Kevin Durant’s Calf: It’s not every day that the best player in the game is an x-factor, but that’s exactly the case here. Kevin Durant has been sidelined the past five games with a strained right calf and will miss Game 1. Most teams would falter without their best player. The Warriors aren’t like most teams as they have gone 5-0 since Durant exited the lineup. That being said, the Warriors are a better team when Kevin Durant is on the floor. I don’t care how many games or titles the Warriors won without Durant. KD was averaging 34 points per game before his injury. Without KD, more pressure is on Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green to deliver. From a psychological standpoint, Toronto has to feel like they have a better chance of winning the series without Durant in the lineup. Can you blame them? Also, don’t forget about the health of Demarcus Cousins and Andre Iguodala. Both should play in this series at some point, but I doubt they will be 100%.

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Pascal Siakam: The real X-factor for the Raptors is Pascal Siakam. The future Most Improved Player of the Year took a monumental leap this past season. Siakam improved in almost every statistical category with the most notable advancement coming in the form of his points per game average, which increased from 7.3 to 16.9. With all of the focus going towards Kawhi, Siakam needs to be a viable scoring threat as the Raptors’ second option. More importantly, Siakam will have to contain the pick and roll between Steph Curry and Draymond Green. If Siakam can hold his own on switches against Steph, the Raptors will keep games close.

Matchups To Watch

Pick and Roll Offense versus Switching Defense

The Curry-Draymond pick and roll combo can be a nightmare for opposing defenses. If you hedge out too quickly, Steph can hit Draymond on a roll to the basket. If you sag off, Steph will have a field day from 3. Just ask the Blazers how sagging off worked. On the flip side, Kawhi Leonard has been very good in the playoffs when he runs pick and roll and has a 47.9% scoring frequency in those situations. How will both the Warriors and Raptors defend pick and rolls? I’m expecting both teams to switch on most, if not all, pick and rolls because of their versatility. Leonard, Siakam, Danny Green, and Serge Ibaka for Toronto and Thompson, Green, Durant (if he plays), and Andre Iguodala for Golden State can switch all matchups and guard all of the positions (to an extent). Whichever team is more successful with pick and roll defense will have the edge in the series.

Steph Curry vs. Kyle Lowry: Before the playoffs started, if you saw this matchup on paper, it’s a huge mismatch in favor of Curry. The “Lowry disappears in the playoffs” narrative has somewhat disappeared this postseason thanks to an improvement in Lowry’s defense and clutch shooting. That being said, Curry has been on an unreal tear since Durant’s injury. In the past five games (all Warriors wins), Curry has averaged 35.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, and 6.6 apg. Lowry cannot stop Steph, but he needs to contain him. In crunch time, do no be surprised if Kawhi is guarding Steph especially if Durant isn’t playing. If Steph dominates this matchup, the Warriors will win in 4 games.

Kawhi Leonard vs. *Insert Golden State Player*: As important as Steph Curry’s defender will be, the Warrior to guard Kawhi Leonard is just as crucial. Leonard has been unstoppable these entire playoffs with averages of 31.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 3.8 apg, and 1.6 spg. Good luck stopping Leonard. Luckily for Golden State, they have a few capable defenders that can guard multiple positions. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, and Andre Igudola will all be on Leonard at some point. The plan is simple: Force Leonard to pass the ball. Expect a lot of traps to force the ball out of Leonard’s hand. As I said earlier, good luck stopping Leonard because so far, no team has slowed Kawhi down.


The Plays: Odds via Oddshark

Steph is obviously the play to win Finals MVP since he has not won this award in any of the Warriors’ previous finals appearances during this run. However, if you’re getting Kawhi at +225, I would sprinkle some money there. The Warriors outside of Steph to watch is Klay Thompson. +800 for Klay is a steal.

For a series bet, I’m not sure how you could bet against Golden State. I firmly in the camp that the Warriors win the series, but if I’m looking for a game that the Raptors can win, it’s either Game 1 or Game 2. Since the Warriors are 18-1 SU in Game 1s of playoff series since 2015, the game to bet on the Raptors is Game 2. Plus, the current line for Game 1 is Warriors +1.5. I’m not betting against the Warriors as underdogs.

Warriors vs. Raptors Prediction

Warriors in 5: On paper, the Raptors match up well with the Warriors even with Durant on the floor. Toronto has the better bench and Leonard has been the best player in the playoffs. However, when it’s winning time in the fourth quarter, are you going to trust the team who has won three out of four titles or the team making their first finals appearance in franchise history? Look for Kawhi to go off this series, but in turn, the Warriors to neutralize the Raptors’ supporting cast. The Warriors win in five games and Steph Curry destroys the false narrative that he’s not good in the NBA Finals by winning MVP.

What are your predictions? Comment with your thoughts below or join in the conversation on Twitter@UnAfraidShow.

The Greatest Buzzer Beaters In NBA Playoffs History

NBA greatest game winners and buzzer beaters in NBA history

It’s hard to find anything in basketball more thrilling and exciting than a buzzer beater. Just like a walk-off in baseball, buzzer beaters are the ultimate “go home” moment. Buzzer beaters can add to a player’s legacy and their reputation as a clutch performer. After Damian’s Lillard miraculous game-winner against the Thunder, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and list the greatest buzzer-beaters in NBA Playoffs history. Just a couple weeks later, Kawhi Leonard hit the first buzzer-beater in a Game 7. Some of the greatest players like Michael Jordan and LeBron James have hit game winners.

Big Shot Rob Beats The Kings- Robert Horry

There’s a reason why Robert Horry is known as “Big Shot Rob.” (Some might refer to him as “Big Shot Bob” depending on who you talk to.) Horry is widely known as one of the greatest clutch players and winners in NBA history. Horry is a seven-time NBA champion, but I’ll remember Horry for his game-winning three-pointer against the Kings in the 2002 Western Conference Finals. Think about this. Horry wasn’t the first or second option on this play. Kobe Bryant missed his attempt and then Shaq missed his attempt. However, after a Vlade Divac tip out to try and clear the ball, Horry was “Johnny on the Spot” and grabbed the loose ball and sunk the winning shot. This was just another example of Big Shot Rob doing Big Shot Rob things.

LeBron James Delivers Game Winner

It’s hard to create any list and not have a play from LeBron James on it. LeBron is not known for his outside shot, but in crunch time, LeBron can hit a deep jumper. Down two points to the Magic with one second left, LeBron put on his Superman cape and hit a spectacular three-pointer to nod the series at 1. Unfortunately, the Cavs went on to lose the series, 4-2. I call this the “Series That Ruined Everything” because had LeBron and the Cavs won the East, they would have faced Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Thanks a lot, Hedo Türkoğlu and Rashard Lewis.

Dame Called Game- Damian Lillard

Is this a case of recency bias? Maybe, but the buildup for this buzzer beater was spectacular. I am pro trash talking in sports if you can back it up. If you back up your talk, never shut up. However, when you’re down 2-1 in a series and Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schroder are taunting like they’re about to sweep the Blazers, then you must back it up or you will look silly. It’s safe to say Westbrook and Schroder look like fools right now. In one of the greatest playoff performances I have ever seen, Damian Lillard scored 50 points including the game-winning 37-footer to send the Thunder into the offseason. Dame called game and waved bye-bye.

The Fish Who Saved LA- Derek Fisher

In terms of the degree of difficulty, Derek Fisher’s 2004 buzzer beater over the Spurs is one of the toughest shots ever made to win a game. Luck definitely played a factor in the setup to this hot. With .4 seconds on the clock, there is enough time to catch and shoot. If it’s .2 seconds less, then it has to be a tip in. Also, the ball was being inbounded on the left side of the court so Fisher was watching the ball on his strong side. If he catches it on the opposite side of the court, the odds of him making the shot are practically zero. What’s crazy is before Fisher’s shot, Tim Duncan made an equally impressive fadeaway at the top of the key. Fisher saved LA this series.

Kawhi Leonard Gets Four Bounces For Buzzer Beater

Kawhi Leonard hit the first game-winning buzzer beater in a Game 7 in NBA Playoffs history. This shot rivals Derek Fisher for the most difficult on this list. He ended the series against the Philadephia 76ers with a ridiculous fadeaway shot over the outstretched hand of 7’2″ Joel Embiid. The most insane part of the shot was that it seemingly hit every part of the rim before bouncing in. The crowd stood still and every person watching was silent for what seemed like an eternity. Skip Bayless said the shot was lucky. I believe it was 100% skill.

Michael Jordan Hits “The Shot” x2

Poor Craig Ehlo. Out of all the clutch plays in Michael Jordan’s career, this is the one that started it all. This play changed the course of history not only in Jordan’s career but the landscape of the NBA. In Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference First Round, the 6-seeded Chicago Bulls were down one point to the 3-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers with three seconds on the clock. Jordan defeated a double team to catch the ball, dribbled to the middle of the cylinder, hung in the air, and hit the shot to send the Bulls to the next round. Although the Bulls went on to lose in the Eastern Conference Finals, this shot was the catalyst for the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty of the 1990s. Speaking of Ehlo, what’s forgotten is the fact that Ehlo hit a layup to give the Cavs the lead before Jordan hit a buzzer beater. However, now he’s known as the defender in “The Shot.”

*Note: Despite being the most iconic shot in NBA history, Michael Jordan’s shot over Bryon Russell in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals was NOT a buzzer beater. There were five seconds left on the clock after his make. I’ll hear the argument for less than two seconds left on the clock as a buzzer beater, but not five.

What buzzer beaters are on your list? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter, @unafraidshow.