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Rockets-Thunder First Round Playoff Matchup Is Official

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One year after the blockbuster trade that sent Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets, the two teams will play each other in the NBA Playoffs.

What We Know:

  • On Wednesday, the Thunder defeated the Miami Heat and the Rockets lost to the Indiana Pacers. The outcomes of those games locked OKC and Houston into the 4th and 5th seeds in the western conference, guaranteeing a first-round playoff matchup. The teams still have one more game each to officially decide who will be the 4th seed and who will be the 5th seed, but the lack of home-court advantage in these playoffs makes the seeding for this matchup less important.
  • In addition to the CP3-Westbrook trade, these teams have a lot of history between them, and the series should be full of storylines.
  • The main draw of the series is that both teams traded their superstar point guards for each other just last year. Chris Paul had a short, two-year stint in Houston where he helped the team reach Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals. However, the Rockets ultimately underachieved and Paul’s injury concerns and large contract led the team to trade him. Westbrook played 11 seasons in OKC and he was beloved by the fans. After Kevin Durant left the team in 2016, Westbrook committed to the team long-term and accepted the challenge of being the franchise player. Westbrook wowed the league with triple-doubles and heroic play and even won a league MVP in 2017, but the team was never able to advance past the first round of the playoffs with him being the best player.
  • With Westbrook in Houston and Paul in OKC, both players have had a renaissance year. Westbrook looks like his MVP self, acting as the catalyst for Houston’s faster offense this year, and Paul has led this Thunder team to outplay expectations and they look to be a serious threat in these playoffs. This series could potentially be a revenge tour for both players as they compete against the franchises that traded them away. This could also be revenge for Rockets star James Harden. Harden started his career on the Thunder, but the team traded him to Houston in 2012 to avoid paying him a max contract.
  • In addition to Paul and Westbrook playing their former teams, OKC and Houston have their own history and both teams are out to prove something this year. The Thunder came into this season with no expectations, many assuming they would miss the playoffs and try to trade Paul away as soon as possible. Now that the team has proven that they’re legit, they’re looking to make a deep playoff push: something they failed to do with Westbrook as their leader. In four of the last five postseasons, the Rockets have lost at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors aren’t in the playoffs this year, so the Rockets don’t have that specter looming over them anymore. For a team with James Harden and Russell Westbrook, this season is championship or bust and the Rockets are looking to finally make it over that hump.

The playoffs begin August 17. The Houston-OKC series could be complicated by Russell Westbrook’s recent quadriceps injury. Westbrook has missed three games so far and will sit out Houston’s last seeding game. The Rockets are planning for Westbrook to miss the first few games of their first-round series.

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Sagar is a Digital Intern at UnmutedCo. He graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor's degree in Trumpet Performance and Economics. Sagar writes for Black News Alerts and the BNA Daily Podcast.

Coronavirus

Fan at Chiefs-Texans Game Tests Positive for COVID-19

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A fan who attended the Kansas City Chiefs-Houston Texans game on September 10th has tested positive for the coronavirus.

What We Know:

  • The Kansas City Health Department has confirmed that a person who was in attendance at the NFL season opener at Arrowhead Stadium has tested positive for COVID-19. The department has quarantined 10 other people for possible exposure to the virus as well.
  • The Chiefs were one of the few teams to allow in-person fans for Week 1. The team said that their protocol required all fans and personnel to wear face coverings while inside. Several other NFL teams have stated that they will not allow fans into stadiums for the rest of 2020.
  • The Chiefs defended themselves in their statement, saying that their contact tracing mechanisms and mask mandate limited potential exposure to a single seating zone of the stadium and allowed officials to identify all exposed people. The Chiefs have not made any announcements about allowing spectators for future games.
  • The Chiefs-Texans game was the first NFL game to be held in front of fans. The Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, and Indianapolis Colts are the only teams that allowed fans to be in attendance at the start of the season. Arrowhead Stadium’s capacity is approximately 76,000 and it has been reduced in accordance with coronavirus protocols. Almost 16,000 fans were in attendance for this game.
  • The Chiefs-Texans season opener was also in the news for the scene fans made before the game. Players from both sides held a “moment of unity” pregame and displayed messages supporting Black Lives Matter and racial justice. The fans in attendance could be heard on the broadcast booing the players during this moment.

The NFL has not made any official statements about this positive case of a fan. There is no official league-wide rule about having fans in stadiums. The NFL also announced seven new positive cases among players and team personnel in the latest round of testing.

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A’ja Wilson Wins WNBA MVP

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Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson was named the WNBA’s MVP on Thursday.

What We Know:

  • A’ja Wilson has won the 2020 WNBA MVP. Crystal Dangerfield and Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx won Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year, respectively. Wilson is only in her third year as a professional and averaged 20.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game.
  • Wilson earned 43 out of 47 first-place votes for the award. The Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart finished in second place, and the Los Angeles Sparks’ Candace Parker finished in third.
  • Wilson was surprised with the award by WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert on Thursday. She was given the honor in front of her teammates and called her family immediately afterward to share the good news.

“I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was probably crying before Cathy finished her speech . . . I needed my teammates to know I’m going to produce X amount of things every game, because that’s how you win, when you can count on people. That’s probably the biggest thing for me being MVP.” – A’ja Wilson

  • The 6-foot-4 Wilson was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft and won Rookie of the Year that season.  She led the Aces to an 18-4 record and the best and the No. 1 seed. With Liz Cambage out of the bubble, Wilson stepped up her production across the board and improved upon her previous season in which she was named an All-Star.

Wilson and the Aces will face the Connecticut Sun in the semifinal round of the playoffs. Game 1 is scheduled for Sunday.

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Coronavirus

Big 10 to Begin Football Season in October

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One of the nation’s power 5 college sports conferences has announced that it will begin its football season next month, a reversal of its decision earlier this summer, CBS Sports reports.

What We Know:

  • Teams in the league will play eight regular-season games as well as a Big Ten Championship game set for December 19th. Their schedule will make them eligible for the College Football Playoff as the season’s final rankings announcement is slated for December 20th. Consolation games will also be played at the conclusion of the season.
  • No tickets will be sold and fans will not be permitted to enter any games. Some exceptions may be made for family members of players, coaches, and staff.
  • In regards to coronavirus safety, the conference will institute mandatory, daily COVID-19 testing for athletes and coaches beginning September 30. If a member of any team tests positive for the virus, the earliest they could return to the field is 21 days following their testing.

The decision follows pressure to resume play, including from President Donald Trump who is eager to see a return to normalcy. No decision has been made from PAC-12 officials regarding a reconsideration. The Big 10’s decision makes them the only power 5 conference not playing college football this year.

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