Bucks hope(?) — International Harden — Rachel Nichols situation

Friday, July 9th, 2021

  The Opening Tip

  • A few reasons why the Bucks might still be able to make the Finals competitive. 
  • A Suns play from last night was reminiscent of how the 2014 Spurs played. 
  • A quick primer if you’ve been out of the loop on this Rachel Nichols story.

This weekend's Finals game

1. There’s still some hope for the Bucks

After last night’s 118-108 win, the Suns are two games from their first NBA title in franchise history. 

For the Bucks, here’s the bad news:

  1. They are two games from losing the NBA Finals. Let’s not bury the lede here.
  2. They played much better in Game 2 last night than in Game 1, and lost again by a nearly identical score. Milwaukee’s defense, in particular, looked snappier. (In section two, you’ll see that sometimes that didn’t matter.) 
  3. Giannis had a near-perfect game last night. He scored 42 points on 22 shots, shot 12-of-13 in the paint, and was the only Buck on the plus side in plus/minus. (He also scored 20 in the third quarter alone.) It was a virtuoso game, indeed, but it didn’t equal a win. 

The good news:

  1. Jrue Holiday, Mr. $40 million Man, has been dreadful. Through his first two Finals games, he’s shooting 11-of-35. He’s forcing shots with zero feel for the game. If he and Khris Middleton (16-of-42 in this series) are even slightly better in Games 3 and 4, this could be a tied series going back to Phoenix. 
  2. *Switches to Mark Jackson voice*Role players play betta at home! If Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Torrey Craig and Cam Johnson combine to shoot 10-of-21 from 3 again in Game 3 in Milwaukee, we will eat our Grip business cards we shelled out for in early March, 2020.

To use another tired cliche that sometimes holds its value … a series doesn’t start until the road team wins. Let’s give the Bucks a chance to settle in before we bury them. If they lose Game 3, we’ll bring the shovels.

[READ: The Bucks’ scoring has abandoned them]

2. Daily GIFThis play was perfect

Counterpoint to the idea that the Bucks could actually still be in this series: The Suns are capable of doing things like the sequence above. (Full play here.)

While this 2021 Phoenix team doesn’t have the overwhelming talent of the 2014 Spurs, they're certainly capable of capturing the levels of basketball mastery that San Antonio reached. 

3. Trivia time

Who is the last point guard to win Finals MVP?

Answers at the bottom.

4. James Harden caught traveling 

This is a segment mostly because of the chance to assimilate a pun into the headline, but James Harden was actually stopped and frisked (he’s a true New Yorker now) in Paris yesterday.

He was not arrested or detained -- presumably, he simply hit those guys with a Je suis James Harden! -- but he was prodded by police for the innocuous offense of being super high. (He was stopped on the street “after police smelled cannabis,” according to ESPN.)

If this picture of him from Wednesday is any indication of how his Thursday went, then, yeah, the cops were probably on to something.

5. This Rachel Nichols story, in eight bullet points

There is a media story involving ESPN and the NBA Finals that has been arguably more interesting so far than the NBA Finals.

Here’s what’s happening:

  • Last year, while inside the NBA bubble, ESPN personality Rachel Nichols, who is white, was accidentally recorded airing her grievances to Adam Mendelsohn, long-time PR advisor to LeBron James. She was mad that Maria Taylor, who is black, got the hosting job for NBA Countdown during the bubble Finals between the Lakers and Heat. 
  • She said, in part: “I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world. … If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity -- which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it -- like, go for it. Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away.”
  • So … Nichols did the classic diversity hiring trope: Assuming her own white competence while assuming a black person’s incompetence. It’s obvious bullshit by someone who has publicly presented herself as a black ally. 
  • The conversation was recorded via a camera that was linked to ESPN HQ, which Nichols did not know was on. 
  • An employee discovered it soon after it was recorded (in 2020), clipped it, and sent it as a tip to the new, weird and terrible version of Deadspin, which somehow turned it into this story disparaging the leaker. 
  • Kevin Draper of the New York Times obtained the recording at some point in the last year, did some actual reporting, and wound up with this in-depth piece, which came out last Sunday, on July 4. 
  • Since Sunday, it’s completely taken over the world of sports media. Nichols apologized on her NBA show on Monday, which was taken off air for one day on Tuesday. She was also pulled off sideline coverage for the Finals in favor of fellow ESPN personality Malika Andrews. 
  • In another strange twist, Taylor’s contract expires on July 20, which means, if there’s a Game 6 and she doesn’t re-up with ESPN, the network will have to find a new host for NBA Countdown. 

[READ: The current version of Deadspin can’t even eat shit correctly]

6.  Quick hits

  • Monty Williams seems like a good person to have as your coach. 
  • Click here for a video of Gregg Popovich running suicides. 
  • Here’s Guy Fieri getting some shots up after last night’s game.
  • Chris Paul on being surprised by his team’s volume of 3s: “I played in Houston.”
  • In case you wanted a reminder on how good Isiah Thomas was, here you go.

7.  Reads

  • The Suns have all the answers [The Ringer]
  • Friends, family worried rock-bottom Scottie Pippen will end up with own ESPN morning show [The Onion]
  • Rachel Nichols insists she would win Finals MVP if not for diversity hires on Suns, Bucks [The Onion]

Trivia answer: Tony Parker (2007)


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