Giants Continue To Lose In Heartbreaking Fashion

Daniel Jones / New York Giants

Where do I even begin? Let’s start here. No team loses games like the New York Giants. No other team takes you on an emotional rollercoaster that ends in heartbreak quite like the Giants.

Add last night’s loss to the pantheon of bad Giants’ losses. After Graham Gano kicked a field goal to put New York ahead 29-27 with two minutes left in the fourth quarter, I tweeted this out. I, like a lot of other Giant fans, know how this works. We’ve seen how this script ends.

Lo and behold, the Washington Football Team drove right down the field and set kicker Dustin Hopkins up for a 48-yard game-winning field goal. The kick was no good!

I jumped off my couch, screamed at the top of my lungs, and pounded my chest in celebration.

That happiness ended within 5 seconds after I saw the flag. Dexter Lawrence, who lined up a nose tackle, jumped offsides, giving the WFT another chance to win.

Spoiler alert: WFT won.

The Giants build you up just to rip your heart out at the end. It’s a disease. The Giants do not know how to win close football games. Sure, they can beat the Cowboys and Bengals with a backup quarterback, but they couldn’t beat Taylor Heinicke, who threw for 336 yards and 2 TDs in an excellent performance.

There are people to blame, but one man deserves none of it. That player is Daniel Jones, who played one of the best games of his career. Danny Dimes finished with 249 yards passing and 1 TD to go along with 95 yards rushing and 1 TD. Jones did everything the Giants asked him to do and more. Jones is the best runner on the team right now and if it weren’t for a BS holding penalty, he would’ve rushed for close to 150 yards and 2 TDs.

I will be the first to say that Jones is not “the guy.” Jones hasn’t shown he’s a franchise quarterback. However, last night was not his fault. I understand the bar is not particularly high for Jones. That’s not a groundbreaking revelation. Jones is the butt of a lot of jokes, and a lot of the criticism is warranted. But last night isn’t on Dimes. Some will point to Darius Slayton’s drop and blame Dimes for throwing it too far. Could he have made a slightly better throw? Of course. But Dimes put that ball on Slayton’s hands. Slayton HAS to make that catch.

Slayton can catch deep passes. He proved it earlier in the game!

Dimes, you’re absolved (for now). Defense, take a seat. What happened to the Giants’ defense? This was supposed to be the strength of the team. Teddy Bridgewater and Heinicke, two quarterbacks that were backups heading into training camp, torched the Giants. The Broncos and WFT combined for over 800 (!) yards of total offense. That is unacceptable.

The pass rush is nonexistent. Who is the best pass rusher for the Giants right now? Anyone? My vote would be for Azeez Ojulari. When a rookie is leading the team in the sacks, there’s a problem.

Pound for pound, the Giants’ secondary was the best unit on the team coming into the season. Yet, they’ve been a massive disappointment. Terry Mclaurin became Jerry Rice last night. Patrick Graham has a “keep everything in front of you” mentality, which is fine in the first half. But when the game mattered, Heinicke carved the Giants’ secondary, scoring on two of the final three possessions to win the game. That can’t happen.

To the secondary’s credit, they did force a turnover in one of the biggest spots of the game.

This leads me to my final point. The biggest percentage of the blame falls on Joe Judge and the entire coaching staff. Judge coached an awful game last night. For a coach that prides himself on execution and doing the little things right, the Giants were an undisciplined mess.

In the first half, the Giants took a delay of game/false start out of a timeout. That led to a sack, and that resulted in a punt. Points disappeared before our very eyes.

After the big turnover late in the fourth quarter, the Giants needed one first down to put the game away and make it so they have the ball last. Jason Garrett, who wasn’t awful last night, and the offense only wasted 16 seconds before kicking a field goal. That’s unacceptable. (I want to rant about Garrett’s play-calling, but I have to wrap this article up.)

Then, Lawrence jumped offsides on the most important play of the game. Judge is supposed to be a special teams guru, and yet this team made the biggest mistake of the game on special teams. You don’t see good teams jumping offsides on field goal attempts. The Giants were undisciplined, and that falls entirely on Judge.

Last night hurt a lot. Many are saying the season is over. Are they wrong? I’m not sure yet. If the Giants lose to the Falcons in Week 3 on Eli Manning Day, then I’m out on this season.

At least Giant fans get to relax on Sunday.

P.S. Saquon… yikes. If he’s hurt, sit him.

What are your initial thoughts in regards to the Giants’ loss to the WFT? Tweet us, @unafraidshow.

2021 NFL Season: Playoff And Awards Predictions

Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady / NFL

The 2021-2022 NFL season gets underway Thursday night as the Dallas Cowboys take on the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Grab a beer, order some wings, and glue yourself to the couch because it’s football season once again. Every fan comes in with the hope that it’s their year, and all of that hope will disappear after your team’s offense goes three and out on the first possession. There’s no better feeling than yelling at the television on a Sunday.

After much deliberation, I’m ready to make my playoff and awards predictions. Buckle up those chinstraps, and let’s go.

NFC

Once again, Tom Brady took his team to the Super Bowl and walked away with another ring. Every fan should have seen this coming especially if your team plays in the AFC. Why would it be any different? Brady runs the league, and the Bucs are going to be contenders once again with all 22 starters from the Super Bowl team. The rich, do in fact, get richer.

So who will stop Brady’s reign of terror? The best bet plays in Green Bay, and his name is Robert Paulson. Actually, his name is Aaron Rodgers, and he’s the reigning MVP. Despite falling to the Bucs in the Conference Championship Game, the Packers still have #12 under center for at least one more season, which automatically makes Green Bay a contender.

The NFC West is the group of death as the Rams, 49ers, and Seahawks are all talented enough to not only make the playoffs but win a Super Bowl. In the East, someone has to win the division right? In the South, maybe this is the year I stop believing in the Falcons. I can’t make any promises.

NFC Seeds

  1. Bucs
  2. Packers
  3. 49ers
  4. Cowboys
  5. Rams
  6. Seahawks
  7. Saints

NFC Title Game – Bucs over 49ers

Special Note: As a Giants fan, I’m contractually obligated to give a prediction for the NFL season. With a horrible offensive line and mediocre quarterback, I’m not expecting to light up the scoreboard. However, I believe in Joe Judge and the defense. The Giants should be on the “In The Hunt” graphic all season. Final record: 8-9.

AFC

Ask yourself one question: Can *insert team here* beat Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs?

That’s the only question that matters. So far, no team without Brady has beaten Mahomes in the playoffs. To go one step further, the Kansas City Chiefs have never played a road playoff game since Mahomes become the permanent starter. Why should that change this year? Frankly, I don’t think it will. Mahomes is going to be a man possessed after the Chiefs were embarrassed in the Super Bowl. A pissed-off Mahomes is a quarterback that I wouldn’t want to see if I’m on the other sideline.

The teams with the best chances of stopping Mahomes are the same two teams that faced the Chiefs in the playoffs a season ago. Those teams are the Browns and the Bills. Top to bottom, the Browns roster is more talented than the Chiefs. Cleveland has the best 1-2 rushing attack in football with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Plus, Myles Garrett is one of the favorites to win MVP. I hate to channel my inner sports talk show host, but Cleveland’s success will come down to Baker Mayfield. If he moves the chains, the Browns will go far.

In Buffalo, the Bills are coming off their most successful season of the 21st century. Last year was not a fluke for Josh Allen (more on him late), and the young quarterback should be even better than he was a season ago. The biggest non-move of the offseason was the return of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. If their defensive line improves, expect a rematch with Kansas City for the AFC Championship.

In other news, Lamar Jackson might rush for three thousand yards after every running back in Baltimore suffered catastrophic injuries. Don’t count out Mike Tomlin, who’s never had a losing season. Also, the “Year Two” jump for quarterbacks is real. CC: Justin Herbert.

AFC Seeds

  1. Chiefs
  2. Bills
  3. Browns
  4. Titans
  5. Ravens
  6. Steelers
  7. Chargers

AFC Title Game – Chiefs over Browns

Super Bowl

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Bucs and Chiefs are still the two best teams in the NFL. I expect a closer Super Bowl this time around, but I’m still picking the GOAT to win by a field goal.

Super Bowl – Bucs over Chiefs

Awards

MVP – Josh Allen

If the Bills make the playoffs again, then Allen will have to be spectacular once again. He still needs to take care of the ball, but there’s a chance his stat line could look like this: five thousand yards, 42 passing TDS, and 10 rushing TDs. That’s good enough to win NFL MVP.

Offensive Player of the Year – Josh Allen

See the above.

Defensive Player of the Year – T.J. Watt

If it’s not Aaron Donald again, I’ll take T.J. Watt, who finished 3rd and 2nd in voting the previous two seasons.

Comeback Player of the Year – Dak Prescott

This is the easiest award to predict. Dak was on pace for record-setting numbers before his injury in 2020. Expect the QB to light it up once again.

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Trevor Lawrence

The bet to place is that a QB will win this award. Why not go with the number one overall pick? Lawrence will struggle at first but expect a huge second half once he gets in sync with Urban Meyer.

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Patrick Surtain II

Surtain II is a s-t-u-d. Add his name to the list of elite Denver cornerbacks.

Coach of the Year – Kyle Shanahan

The 49ers should jump from 6 wins a season ago to at least 11, probably 12, no matter who lines up at quarterback. If that happens, Shanahan should take home this award for the first time.

Enjoy the season.

What are your predictions for the upcoming NFL season? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

NBA Christmas Schedule Takeaways: League Believes In Trae Young

Trae Young / NBA

Christmas Day calls for presents, eggnog, and basketball. As much as the NFL has tried to hijack Christmas Day in recent years, Santa Claus belongs to the NBA. December 25 is the most important day of the regular season.

Yesterday, the NBA revealed its Christmas Day slate. It will feature 5 games that include the faces of the league.

  • Hawks vs. Knicks
  • Celtics vs. Bucks
  • Warrios vs. Suns
  • Nets vs. Lakers
  • Mavs vs. Jazz

Some of these games feature blockbuster matchups and budding rivalries. Others leave me with more questions than answers. Here are my biggest takeaways.

The NBA Believes In Trae Young

Trae Young is a budding superstar. Yes, I said superstar. Before this season, Young was considered a “good stats, bad teams” player who elected to shoot 35-foot contested jumpers instead of getting his teammates more involved. An in-season fight with John Collins, the firing of Lloyd Pierce, and the addition of Bogdan Bogdanović made Young a completely different player in the second half of the season, catapulting the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals. Young averaged 28 ppg and 9 apg in his first three playoff series. Pretty good for a “chucker.”

Putting Young against the New York Knicks in MSG to kick off the Christmas Day slate is a strong statement from the NBA. The league (and I) believe Young can take his game to further heights and become one of the fifteen best players in the NBA. Young is now eleventh in jersey sales as of July, which is his highest ranking since he’s been in the league. Young became a true heel in the first round against the Knicks. I went to Games 1 and 2 against the Hawks, and Young was the most hated man in the Garden. The Mecca hasn’t generated heat like that since the days of Reggie Miller in the 90s. Don’t expect Knicks’ fans to show Young some Christmas compassion.

Nets vs. Lakers Is The Biggest Matchup Since 2016

As Stephen A. Smith likes to say, “This game is box office.” The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers were supposed to be on a collision course to meet in the Finals last season. Injuries and Giannis got in the way from those two juggernauts facing off. The Nets and Lakers are the heavy favorites to win the championship so their showdown is the most anticipated matchup of the season. For Christmas, I’m wishing for good health so KD, Harden, Kyrie, LeBron, AD, and Russ can play in the game.

The Mavericks Vs. Jazz Is A Head-Scratcher

Luka Doncic playing on Christmas makes sense. He’s a future MVP and arguably one of the five best players in the game today. So why is Luka playing the Jazz? This doesn’t make sense. Christmas should be reserved for star power and rivalries. The Mavs bring the star power, and the Jazz bring the… what do they bring? I really like Donovan Mitchell. I respect Rudy Gobert more than most fans. However, the Jazz do not move the needle. The Mavs should be playing the Clippers because of their recent playoff history or the Nuggets because of Nikola Jokić. There’s still time to change the schedule, Mr. Silver!

Fantasy Booking Christmas Day

It’s time for me to be Vince McMahon and become a matchmaker. If I’m being honest, most of these games are solid matchups. I would make a few minor tweaks.

  • 12:00 PM – Hawks at Knicks – Keep this game. It’s a rilvary with a villain. That’s great television.
  • 2:30 PM – Mavs at Celtics – Luka has to play on Christmas. Luka vs. Tatum is a battle for the future face of the league.
  • 5:00 PM – Suns at Bucks -The two teams who meet in the Finals should run it back on Christmas.
  • 8:00 PM – Nets at Lakers – Box Office. Enough Said.
  • 10:30 PM – Clippers at Nuggets – This has some history with the Nuggets coming back from a 3-1 defecit to defeat the Clippers in the Bubble. Kawhi and PG vs. Joker is a fun, enjoyable matchup.

See you all on Christmas.

Do you like the Christmas Day matchups? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Field Of Dreams Game: Determining Other Fantasy Locations

If you build it, Kevin Costner will come to the Field of Dreams game.

I’m covered in goosebumps watching right now. The Field of Dreams game between the Yankees and White Sox was tremendous. Between the entrance, the old uniforms, and the atmosphere, the game blew my expectations out of the water. Walking to the field from the outfield didn’t feel corny. (I couldn’t help myself.) The walk was special and made this regular season game feel like a championship.

Did I mention how cool it was to watch a home run land IN A CORNFIELD?

Every single camera view of the stadium and skyline was picturesque. How could you not want to watch a baseball game here every single day for the rest of your life?

Then, the game ended in complete madness.

Was this the best game ever? Might have been! Now, with a hockey game at Lake Tahoe and a (perfect) baseball game at the Field of Dreams site, where to next? Let’s take a look at some dream venues.*

*Assume logistics won’t be an issue. Pretend this is a perfect world, and a professional sporting event could take place at the venue.

Rucker Park

This is the clear number one answer. I’m not kidding when I say this game would shut down the city. To some, basketball at Rucker Park is more important than basketball at Madison Square Garden. Rucker Park is where legends are made. Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rafer “Skip To My Lou” Alston, Nate Archibald, and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe all became playground legends before playing in the NBA. NBA stars like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant have dropped by the streetball Mecca to put on a show. If the Knicks were to beat the Nets at Rucker Park, the city would party like the Knicks won the title (sigh).

Lake Placid

Name five more important words in sports than “Do you believe in miracles?” The U.S. didn’t just defeat the Soviets in a hockey game that day. Democracy defeated communism. It doesn’t get much bigger than that. Now, the Olympics probably won’t return to Lake Placid. However, an NHL hockey game would be a great alternative. For this game, Al Michaels has to be the play-by-play announcer. I don’t know Al personally, but I’m sure he would oblige especially if the network let him discuss his gambling plays of the day.

Venice Beach

Come on, Billy! As a New York guy, I can’t speak to the mystique of the Venice Beach courts. However, I have watched a few games there on my rare trips to California and it’s super competitive. Most of my knowledge of Venice Beach basketball comes from White Men Can’t Jump. If the Lakers and Clippers played at Venice Beach, then they must wear the uniforms that resemble the clothes worn by Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes.

White Men Can’t Jump

I would love to come up with a venue for football. The first thing that comes to mind is in the middle of a NASCAR track like the Battle at Bristol.

UFC event on the White House North Lawn? You never know!

What is your dream venue for a sporting event? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.

NBA Draft: League Needs To Stop Reporters From Tipping Picks

NBA Draft 2021

There are two instances in the NBA where I become irrationally angry and channel my inner “old man yells at cloud.” The first occurs when the home team doesn’t wear white uniforms. The second occurs on draft night when reporters tip picks before they’re announced on stage.

I love the NBA Draft. Seeing teams potentially draft their next superstar is great television. The first few picks are usually predictable, but the first “oh shit” moment at pick 4 or 5 can make my jaw drop. Despite reading countless mock drafts in preparation for tonight, the suspense and “what if” questions keep me on the edge of my seat.

However, the NBA Draft has a massive problem with tipping picks on the Internet before they’re announced on television.

Woj, I’m sorry brother, but this is my least favorite day of the year to follow you. I just finished lunch earlier today and Woj decided to tweet out the first three picks of the draft.

People will say “But Dan, we already knew Cade, Green, and Mobley were going 1-2-3.” I agree with you, but to tweet it out seven hours before the telecast ruins the draft experience.

Once the draft starts, Woj and Shams will be tweeting out picks as soon as they receive them from their sources. Sometimes, these two reporters will be two, sometimes even three picks ahead of the telecast. It drives me insane. How can people support this practice?

I’m fully aware that Woj and Shams are only doing their jobs. If they receive information, they report it. That’s what good reporters do. Now part of the reason why these two race to tweet out picks is to see the other one looking silly when they’re late to the news. The rivalry between Woj and Shams becomes personal on draft night. At times, it’s entertaining to watch, but my draft viewing experience worsens because of the rivalry.

The NFL Draft is the best in sports partly because of its league mandate to discourage tipping picks. Reporters from ESPN and the NFL Network agree to not tip picks during the NFL Draft. The result is a television product that’s filled with more excitement and drama than most procedurals.

The NBA tried to follow suit with a mandate for ESPN reporters to refrain from tipping picks. However, once Shams, Marc Stein, and other reporters started to spoil the draft, Woj turned to his thesaurus and rattled off adverbs on adverbs on adverbs.

In Woj’s defense, it’s not fair that other reporters can tip picks while he’s forced to sit on these scoops. This problem stems from the fact that ESPN is the only network that holds the right to broadcast the draft. Many basketball reporters work for outlets like Yahoo, Stadium, or the NY Times, where there is no mandate to withhold spoiling picks on Twitter.

For the crowd telling me to just stay off Twitter, it’s gonna be a no from me, dog. I love NBA Twitter on draft night. I love reacting to the big moments of the night especially from my team, the New York Knicks. I’m a social media manager and blogger so, therefore, I’m not logging off for the night. I have unfollowed and blocked Woj and Shams during the draft, but if they tweet out a pick, someone on NBA Twitter will tweet about it and I’ll inevitably see it.

I’m not naive. Reporters aren’t going to have a meeting and decide to not tip picks during the draft. A mandate has to come directly from Adam Silver. One way to solve this problem is to give other media outlets the right to broadcast at the draft. If the league is worried about the ratings going down with more broadcasts, think again. The draft ratings continue to decline. People don’t have to watch the draft if it’s spoiled on Twitter. Allowing more outlets to do their own broadcast at the draft means a league mandate could prevent reporters from spoiling picks, which means the draft becomes appointment television again.

Obviously, giving rights to other outlets is not cut and dry since money will always be an issue. But the league has to get more creative to stop reporters from tipping picks.

Make The Draft Great Again. Print the hats.

P.S. Feel free to tip all of the trades. That I will allow.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: It’s Your League Now

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Behind a legendary performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks overcame a 2-0 series deficit to defeat the Phoenix Suns and win the NBA Championship. After scoring 50 points in the series-clinching game, Giannis could not hold back tears when describing his journey to the top of the NBA.

We’re running out of adjectives to describe Giannis and his journey to the NBA. Inspiring stands above the rest. From selling purses in the streets of Greece to picking up a basketball for the first time at age 12, Giannis is the culmination of how a dream and a strong work ethic can lead to great things. My favorite Giannis story is the time he wired all of his money back to his family in Greece, which meant he had to run to the arena in the cold since he couldn’t afford a cab.

Giannis’s journey off the court should not overshadow what he did on the court to win the championship. Giannis has been knocking on the door of greatness since the 2019 season, where he won his first MVP. After losing to the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals despite having a 2-0 series lead, doubt started to creep in as many felt Giannis would need to join up with other superstars to win a title. Kawhi shut down Giannis in those last four games, and Giannis’s offensive limitations started to stand out.

The next season, Giannis went scorched earth, averaging 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.0 blocks on his way to his second-straight MVP. Oh, by the way, the Greek Freak also won Defensive Player of the Year in that same season. Giannis ascended into the top 5 for player rankings, but his team came up short again, losing embarrassingly to the Miami Heat in the Conference Semifinals.

Let’s be honest. There are a lot of players who would’ve left Milwaukee if they were in Giannis’s shoes. At the very least, most players would have entertained free agency instead of signing an extension before the season. The possibility of teaming up with another superstar like Luka Doncic would entice many players to consider their options.

To steal a quote from LeBron James, Giannis is “built different.”

Giannis signed the supermax before this past season, lead the Bucks to the NBA Finals, and won the whole damn thing. Not bad for a guy who shot 18% from behind-the-arc in the playoffs.

It cannot be understated how good Giannis was during the Finals. These numbers are staggering, considering it came on the biggest stage in the most important spot of the season.

  • Game 1 – 20 points, 17 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 2 block
  • Game 2 – 42 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 3 blocks
  • Game 3 – 41 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1 steal
  • Game 4 – 26 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, and an iconic block
  • Game 5 – 32 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists, and an iconic alley-oop
  • Game 6 – 50 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 blocks, and 17/19 from the line

Going into the playoffs, Giannis solidified his spot in the top 5 for player rankings. Before the Finals, the Greek Freak was in the top 3, no questions asked, alongside LeBron and Kevin Durant.

After last night, Giannis became the best player in the NBA. Giannis crowned himself a year too early, but he earned that crown last night. LeBron and KD are talented enough to take back the title of best in the league next season, but for now, it’s Giannis’s league.

When you look at Giannis’s resume, it’s arguably the best resume of all time through age 26.

Only two players have multiple MVPs, DPOY, and a Finals MVP. It’s Michael Jordan and Giannis.

The NBA has been searching for someone to take the torch from LeBron as the face of the league. An athletic, humble, and likable superstar from Greece might be the perfect option.

Do you think Giannis is the new face of the league? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Team USA: Second Straight Loss Highlights Poor Roster Construction

Kevin Durant of Team USA vs. Australia

On paper, Team USA is the most talented basketball team in the world. After two exhibition games, their superior talent hasn’t translated to victories.

Team USA lost their second exhibition game on Monday night, falling to Australia, 92-83, in Las Vegas, NV. This comes off the heels of their historic 90-87 loss to Nigeria this past Saturday night, where Team USA was a 29.5 point favorite going into the game. For context, the United States defeated Nigeria, 156-73, at the 2012 Olympics.

Team USA has been the most dominant international basketball team for the past 30 years. Since 1992, Team USA is 53-3 in the Olympics with all three losses coming in 2004. Furthermore, the United States had been 54-2 in major exhibitions since the 1992 Dream Team before dropping two straight games over the last three days.

Exhibitions are unofficial games but don’t tell that to the rest of the world. Playing against the USA is the equivalent of playing for a championship. Because almost every top International team has NBA players, the days of fearing Team USA may be of the past. Just ask Joe Ingles, who said that his Australian team expected to beat Team USA.

Losing two exhibition games is not the end of the world for Team USA, but it’s a cause for concern. The offensive chemistry will most likely improve considering the team has some of the most talented scorers in the world like Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and Jayson Tatum.

The problem with Team USA is rooted in its roster construction. On paper, 11 of the 12 players on the roster have made an all-star team. The team is constructed of combo guards and versatile wings that can guard multiple positions on defense.

This roster would thrive in the NBA, but the International game is much different. Teams are more traditionally structured, where multiple big men play at once, defenses pack the paint (no defensive three seconds), and teams consistently run offensive sets. It’s not the “3 and D” style that the NBA has morphed into over the past few seasons.

Plus, there is more physicality, and the US team lacks a dominant big man. Small ball will work against the inferior teams, but the United States could run into problems with bigger opponents due to their lack of size. It’s important to note that Australia outrebounded Team USA, 23-20.

The international game is officiated much differently. The refs are not as inclined to call touch fouls like they do in today’s NBA. To be honest, it’s refreshing, but so far, the Americans have failed to adjust to the officiating.

Team USA’s late-game execution has been horrendous. Australia ended the game on an 11-1 run to seal the victory. The Americans are looking to players like Lillard and Durant to bail them out on offense by playing iso-ball. That hasn’t worked in two exhibition games. Although Devin Booker, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday will join the squad after the NBA Finals, this team desperately needs a traditional, playmaking point guard like Chris Paul to get into their sets and generate easy buckets.

Why did Team USA select Kevin Love? In two exhibition games, Love has 0 points, 1 rebound, and 1 assist. In other words, Love has been nonexistent. Instead of selecting an aging veteran who could be bought out of his contract, the United States would have been better off filling this spot with a young point guard like De’aaron Fox, LaMelo Ball, Ja Morant, or Trae Young. If they elected to go with a rim protector instead, then Jarrett Allen or even Evan Mobley come to mind.

Team USA may still go undefeated at the Tokyo Olympics and frankly, they shouldn’t lose a game with their talent. If they do lose, then roster construction will be the reason for their downfall.

Do you think the United States men’s basketball team will win the gold medal? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Khris Middleton Is An Enigma

Khris Middleton reminds me of M. Night Shyamalan’s filmography. It’s a neverending circle of confusion that starts as good, turns to bad at the halfway mark, and circles back up to good.

There are times where Shymalan looks like one of the most important directors of the last 30 years with films such as The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs. Then, Shymalan will direct bad films like The Happening and After Earth and make you question if he’s the same guy who was nominated for two Oscars. But, the circle must close back at the top, and adding good films like The Visit and Split completes the circle of confusion.

Apologies for my handwriting

Are you confused yet? Thankfully, HoopAnalysisNet created Middleton’s circle of confusion.

Just like Shyamalan’s plot twists, Middleton is an enigma. There will be games where he looks like the best player on the floor. Down 3-2 to the Brooklyn Nets, Middleton played the game of his life in a Game 6 win, scoring 38 points. He followed up that performance with 23 points in Game 7 including 11 points in the fourth quarter to help the Bucks advance past the Nets.

Following the circle, Middleton must come back to Earth, which he did in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, scoring 15 points in a Game 1 loss and 15 points in a Game 2 win. In the next four games, Middleton becomes Michael Jordan as the Bucks win three of the next four games to advance to the NBA Finals.

https://twitter.com/KB824Lukas/status/1411715658358923264?s=20

If we follow the circle, Middleton must forget how to play basketball at some point. Guess what? That’s exactly what happened in Game 2 of the NBA Finals where Middleton looked lost on the offensive end. Middleton ended the game with 11 points on 5 of 16 shooting and a Plus/Minus of -15.

Middleton either plays like of the 20 best players in the NBA or someone outside of the top 100. It’s baffling considering the Bucks paid him a max contract when he only showcases his true potential 70% of the time. Players can have bad games, but as the second-best player on the Bucks, it’s inexcusable to have this many no-shows.

For the Bucks to win, Middleton needs to become the lethal scorer from the end of the Nets and Bucks series. Jrue Holiday isn’t helping out whatsoever on the offensive side, but he’s still the third option. Middleton is the clear second option behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Greek Freak cannot win this series alone.

We can sit here and draw up offensive strategies where Middleton can exploit the Suns’ defense. If the Bucks can get Deandre Ayton into foul trouble, then Middleton can put Ayton’s backups (Frank Kaminsky and Jalen Smith) into pick and rolls and either create easy jump shots or get to the foul line.

That being said, it comes down to consistency. If Middleton can shoot over 40% from the field and score more than 25 points, the Bucks will win games. If he doesn’t, then it could be a short series.

Middleton has been good with his team’s back against the wall all playoffs. Let’s see which player shows up for Game 3 on Sunday night.

How The Match Provided Insight About The Future Of Aaron Rodgers

The Match

In a match between two Hall of Fame quarterbacks and two elite golfers, no one wanted to talk about who could drive the ball the longest or birdie the most holes. All everyone wanted to discuss was the future of Aaron Rodgers.

Well, everyone except Rodgers.

During Capital One’s The Match, Rodgers teamed up with Bryson DeChambeau to defeat Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson. It’s hard to look at Rodgers and Brady on the same course and not think of what transpired during the 2021 NFC Championship Game. I’m sure Green Bay’s star player would happily trade this golf win for a chance to go for it on fourth and goal.

Most people including myself use golf as an escape. Nothing beats hanging outside with your friends, drinking a few beers, and hitting a tiny white ball around for a few hours. The last thing anyone wants to talk about on the course is work.

However, The Match was anything but an escape as the topic of his future in Green Bay was discussed multiple times throughout the broadcast. The most relevant clip occurred when Brian Anderson asked Rodgers if he would be the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers on Opening Day.

Like he’s done all offseason, Rodgers sidestepped the question with a cryptic remark, saying “I don’t know. We’ll see.”

Does he really not know what’s going to happen? The reigning MVP acts cool, calm, and collected, but he’s just as calculated as Brady. These remarks were another chance to express his unhappiness with the Packers organization.

“I don’t know” is an answer of uncertainty, but in this case, it’s Rodgers who doesn’t know what to do, not the Packers. He wants a breakup with the Packers, but he wants the Packers to do it for him. Reports of frustration and unhappiness have been reported in the media, and Rodgers skipped OTAs to hang with Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller, and Keleigh Teller. (For the record, I would also choose Hawaii over OTAs.)

If Rodgers wants out so badly, all he has to do is ask. Yet, he’s never publicly said he wants to leave the Packers or demanded a trade.

Rodgers didn’t anticipate the Packers to bluff when the report about his disappointment with the organization leaked on draft night. He thought the team would cave into these reports and trade away the superstar. To the Packers’ credit, they stood their ground and didn’t budge. Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said they will “not trade” Rodgers.

It all comes back to the “I don’t know” remark. It’s not about the Packers. It’s about Rodgers and if he will play the one card he has left, which is to demand a trade and hold out of training camp. This is the nuclear option, but it’s his only remaining option. If Rodgers doesn’t ask out of Green Bay, he will be a Packer for at least one more season.

If Rodgers doesn’t want to talk about the Packers anymore, then I suggest he stays off the golf course.

What do you think the Packers will do with Aaron Rodgers? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.

What Is The Best Trade Offer For Damian Lillard?

Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers

It’s time to jump into the NBA Trade Machine and come up with unrealistic trades for Damian Lillard. To quote Michael Keaton in Batman, “You wanna get nuts? Come on! Let’s get nuts!”

Who says no first?

The entire NBA community is waiting for Lillard to demand a trade out of Portland, and the first domino fell this past Sunday when Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reported that the inability to build a contender and the hiring of Chauncey Billups could push Dame out of town. Haynes is as locked in with Blazers’ news as one can be due to his time spent covering the team and his relationship with Dame so I believe this story.

The story is not a direct trade request, but the groundwork for a future trade has been set. The ball is in Dame’s court. If he wants out, he can go right to management and ask for a trade. Due to his loyalty to the organization, I don’t know if Dame has it in him to publicly request a trade. However, stories like Haynes’s might be a way for Dame to express his frustration with the Blazers and ask the front office for a trade privately.

Because of this story, every single GM should call the Blazers to discuss Lillard’s availability. Dame is one of the 10 best players in the NBA and a true cornerstone for a franchise. Did you watch what he did in Game 5 of the opening round of the playoffs? Imagine if Lillard finally teamed up with other superstars to form a superteam? It’s a scary thought.

Let’s take Lillard’s opinion out of this conversation for one second because we all know he wants to end up on the New York Knicks. (Yeah, I went there.) But seriously, Lillard will have a say in where he wants to end up, but let’s pretend he doesn’t. Which team provides the best trade offer?

Unlike my LeBron for Lillard trade, I’m going to keep this realistic, which means the real trade will be Anthony Davis for Lillard.

Shut up, Dan.

OK, here are some real packages I’ve been seeing that could make sense.

Celtics trade Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, younger players, and multiple first-round picks to the Blazers for Lillard.

Sixers trade Ben Simmons, younger players, and multiple first-round picks to the Blazers for Lillard.

Knicks trade RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, and multiple first-round picks to the Blazers for Lillard.

Thunder trade every first-round pick known to man and players to match salaries for Lillard.

Warriors trade Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman, a younger player, the 2021 No. 7 pick, 2021 No. 14 pick, and pick swaps for Lillard.

Pelicans trade Brandon Ingram, younger players, and A LOT of first-round picks for Lillard.

Every team could (and should) create a trade package for Dame. If the Blazers trade Lillard, do they want an ungodly amount of first-round picks or will they only request a few firsts if they receive a talented player in return?

Out of all the trades listed above, the Celtics have the best offer. Brown is an ascending star with a huge upside. Having Brown and multiple first-round picks to build around is a nice consolation prize. Plus, he’s under a fair contract until 2024 so the Blazers have time to construct a winning roster around the 24-year-old.

As good as Boston’s trade might be, there’s still another offer for Lillard that I haven’t mentioned yet. It happens to be the best offer for Lillard. That offer belongs to the Denver Nuggets.

Lillard for Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. is the best offer for the Blazers if their goal is to receive as much talent in return as possible. Murray is a budding star-guard in the NBA who was averaging 21 points per game before tearing his ACL in April. An ACL injury may be a cause for concern, but medicine has come so far in the last 20 years that he could return by the first-quarter of 2022. Barring a huge setback, Murray should return to full strength by the 2022 NBA Playoffs. Plus, for salary cap purposes, the 24-year-old is under his rookie max extension until 2025 so the Blazers have a solid building block for the future.

*For the Dame-Murray/Porter Jr. trade to happen, there are some salary cap issues that Denver would have to maneuver around including Will Barton’s player option. If Barton declines his option, it’s easier to make the trade for Lillard. If Barton opts-in, then Denver would probably have to trade him, which shouldn’t be an issue because many teams would want Barton for at least one year.

Then there’s Porter Jr., who fell down draft boards to No. 14 in 2018 because of a bad medical report. After averaging 19 points per game this past season, many teams regret passing on the talented 23-year-old. Porter Jr. is an electric scorer who hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential. He’s a 6’10” forward who can create his own shot and hover around 40% from behind the arc. Porter Jr. is a special offensive player who could be a 25-points-per-game scorer in the future.

If the Nuggets want to keep either Murray or Porter Jr., the Nuggets could package one of those stars with multiple first-round picks attached. However, the best deal for Portland is to get both Murray and Porter Jr.

Why would the Nuggets trade two of their star players? Teams need to be more willing to sacrifice young stars for a hall of fame talent like Dame. Once again, did you watch Game 5 of their first-round series? Lillard is one of the three best guards in the NBA. Pairing Dame with Nikola Jokic expedites Denver’s title chances. The Nuggets go from a team on the fringe of being a contender to an immediate contender in the West. With Dame’s ability to create his own shot and Joker’s dynamic passing, this duo would be one of the best in the NBA.

Now, all we can do is wait for Lillard to make a move. Denver, get on the phone.

What do you think the best trade would be for Damian Lillard? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.