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Clippers Advance to Second Round, Nuggets Force Game 7

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Coming off of a historic work stoppage where NBA players took a stand in wake of Jacob Blake’s shooting, the NBA resumed its games this weekend.

What We Know:

  • The most anticipated matchups of the weekend took place on Sunday evening where the Los Angeles Clippers took on the Dallas Mavericks and the Denver Nuggets played the Utah Jazz. Both were crucial elimination games full of drama and excitement.
  • Coming into Game 6 of Clippers-Mavericks, the series had been extremely physical and chippy. Kristaps Porzingis had already been ejected in Game 1 for a physical altercation and Montrezl Harrell stirred up some controversy when he was seen on camera saying some nasty words to Luka Doncic. Furthermore, there was tension brewing between Doncic and Marcus Morris after Morris repeatedly stepped on Luka’s injured ankle. Nevertheless, it has been one of the most exciting series of the playoffs with some dazzling play from Kawhi Leonard and Luka Doncic’s unforgettable Game 4 buzzer-beater.
  • The Clippers entered the game with a 3-2 series lead looking to close out the Mavericks. The game started off with some drama when Marcus Morris was ejected in the first quarter for a flagrant 2 foul on Luka Doncic. The Clippers took control in the second half with a 23-point lead that looked insurmountable, but Doncic got the Mavs back into the game during the fourth quarter. Doncic led a Mavericks run which cut the Clippers lead to 6, but Kawhi Leonard took over in the clutch and put Dallas away for good.
  • Luka Doncic finished the game with 38 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists and Kawhi Leonard ended with 33 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, and 5 steals. The Clippers will advance to the second round and play the winner of the Denver Nuggets-Utah Jazz series.
  • The final game of the night was an intense Game 6 between the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets. The series initially looked like it would be over quick when the Jazz took a 3-1 lead, but it has surprisingly turned into the most exciting first round playoff series. Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has been on a tear the last three games of the series and has brought the Nuggets back to even the series at 3-3. Murray took over in this game scoring 50 points to defeat the Jazz 119-107 and force a win-or-go-home Game 7. Murray gave an emotional and powerful postgame interview discussing what the past days have been like for NBA players.

  • The Nuggets-Jazz series has boiled down to the showdown between Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray. Both guards have put on a show in each game trading 40-point and 50-point performances. In Game 1, Mitchell tallied the third highest scoring performance in a playoff game with 57 points. Murray has scored at least 40 points in the last three games, making him the first player to do so in a playoff series since Allen Iverson in 2001. Both guards have scored 50 points twice in this series, joining Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan as the only players with multiple 50-point games in a playoff series. This is also the first time two opposing players in a series have scored 50 points in multiple games. The tremendous scoring of Murray and Mitchell and the close games have made this one of the most intense first round playoff series in recent memory.

The Jazz and Nuggets will play Game 7 on Tuesday night. If the Nuggets win, they could become one of the few teams in NBA history to complete a 3-1 series comeback.

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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. He also produces the BossFM Morning Show.

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LiAngelo Ball Signs With Pistons, All 3 Ball Brothers in NBA

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LaVar Ball once vowed that all three of his sons would play in the NBA. It’s finally happening.

What We Know:

  • LiAngelo Ball has signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Pistons, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. The deal is non-guaranteed, so LiAngelo will have to earn his roster spot and could be cut from the team at any time, but the famous Ball family has finally gotten all three brothers into the league.
  • The Ball brothers gained notoriety on Instagram when they were in high school. They also gained fame because of their father LaVar, who became a media sensation for his boisterous and overconfident personality.
  • LaVar has attracted attention for his sons by making media appearances, starting the Big Baller Brand for apparel and merchandise, having them play overseas and in his own Junior Basketball Association, and producing a reality TV series about his family called Ball in the Family. He has loudly sung the praises of his kids’ basketball skills and, in his own words, spoken this into existence.
  • Lonzo, the oldest brother, was a top high school and college prospect. He was selected 2nd overall in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Lakers. He was sent to the Pelicans as part of the Anthony Davis trade. He hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations of a top draft pick, but he has carved out a solid role for himself as a player with great court vision and perimeter defense.
  • LaMelo, the youngest brother, was recently selected 3rd overall in the 2020 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets. Similar to Lonzo, he is seen as a high-level playmaker. His selection marked the first time that two brothers were both selected in the top 5 of their respective draft classes.
  • LiAngelo’s path to the NBA was the most farfetched of the trio. LiAngelo was never a highly-touted prospect like his brothers and to make things worse, he was arrested in college for shoplifting in China. After that scandal, LaVar pulled both LiAngelo and LaMelo out of school and took them overseas, vowing to have them join Lonzo in the NBA while circumventing the NCAA system.
  • LaMelo’s draft stock continued to rise through overseas play as he impressed scouts in Lithuania and Australia, but LiAngelo continued to struggle to find his way to the NBA. He went undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft and was not signed by any teams. He eventually signed with the Oklahoma City Blue of the NBA G League in 2019. Unfortunately, he did not play a single game as the G League season was cancelled due to Covid-19.
  • With LiAngelo joining the Pistons and LaMelo joining the Hornets this season, the Ball brothers join the short list of three or more brothers to play in the NBA at the same time. In just the 2019-2020 season, Jrue, Justin, and Aaron Holiday became the first trio of brothers to play in an NBA game at the same time.

Because he made good on his word and got all three of his sons into the NBA, many took to Twitter to praise LaVar Ball for speaking it into existence. LaVar also tweeted how proud he is of his boys.

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Rockets, Wizards Agree to Russell Westbrook-John Wall Trade

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The Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards have agreed to a blockbuster deal centered around Russell Westbrook and John Wall.

What We Know:

  • The Wizards are sending Wall and a lottery-protected 2023 first-round draft pick to the Rockets for Westbrook. Both stars have expressed a desire to move on from their teams and rumors of this trade surfaced weeks ago.
  • The draft pick involved in the trade is lottery-protected for the Wizards, meaning that the Wizards keep the pick in 2023 if it lands in the top 14. If the pick does not convey in 2023, it will move on to 2024, 2025, and 2026 with different protections. If the pick hasn’t conveyed for Houston by 2026, it will become two second-round picks for 2026 and 2027.
  • Discussions of this specific Westbrook-Wall trade emerged in mid-November, but they stalled pretty quickly. That was until Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard and Rockets general manager Rafael Stone connected on Tuesday afternoon. After hopping on a phone call, they had a deal worked out within hours, per sources.
  • Many basketball fans and pundits view this as a lateral move for both teams because of the similarities between Wall and Westbrook. Both are point guards whose best days are behind them. Both have relied on athleticism for their success and are now over 30. Finally, both are making over $40 million per year for the next three seasons. Their undesirable contracts made both of them virtually untradeable, unless of course, it was for each other.
  • For Westbrook, Washington might actually be a good fit for him. The Wizards have missed the playoffs for the last two seasons and his addition should catapult them back into contention for those middle playoff seeds in the Eastern Conference. He is also reuniting with his former coach Scott Brooks, who coached him in Oklahoma City for seven seasons. Westbrook also has a rising superstar of a teammate in Bradley Beal who averaged over 30 points per game last season and looks like he’s only getting better.
  • For Wall, Houston will offer a change of scenery and an opportunity to prove that he’s still an elite point guard. Wall has spent his entire career in DC and is beloved by the community and fan base, but the last few years have been soured by injury. Wall’s last fully healthy season was 2016-2017 when he made the All-NBA Third Team and led the Wizards to within one game of the Eastern Conference Finals, including an epic Game 6 game-winner to avoid elimination.

  • Since the 2017-2018 season, Wall has dealt with a knee injury, heel injury, an infection from surgery, and a ruptured Achilles tendon. He has suffered some of the worst injuries that a professional athlete can experience and he hasn’t played an NBA game since December 26, 2018. He’s missed two full years of basketball, so it’s reasonable to question how good he’s going to look coming off of several catastrophic injuries. With that being said, he won’t be expected to be the number one option while playing next to James Harden.
  • This trade does have serious implications for the futures of James Harden and Bradley Beal, two of the most sought after trade pieces heading into this season. Beal can become a free agent after this season and leave the Wizards and James Harden has formally requested a trade to leave Houston.

For Houston and Washington, the hope is that exchanging Westbrook and Wall will improve their situations with Harden and Beal and convince both to stay long term. Both teams are also hoping that Wall and Westbrook can still be top-tier point guards in this league.

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Rafer Johnson, 1960 Olympic Decathlon Champion, Dies at 86

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Rafer Lewis Johnson was an American decathlete and film actor who also won the decathlon at the 1960 Rome Olympics and helped subdue Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin in 1968. At 86-years-old, the champion passed away in his home in Los Angeles, discovered by a family friend Michael Roth. No cause of death has been announced. 

What We Know:

  • Rafer Lewis Johnson was born on Aug. 18, 1934, in Hillsboro, Texas. There are sources that say he was born in 1935, but his family says they are wrong. He moved to California in 1945 with his family, including his brother Jim, a future NFL Hall of Fame inductee. He played football, basketball, baseball, and ran track and field at Kingsburg Joint Union High. According to CBS News, as a freshman at UCLA, where he received academic and athletic scholarships, Johnson won gold at the 1955 Pan Am Games and set a world record of 7,985 points.
  • In years past, Johnson won multiple Olympic medals nationally and internationally. From 1955-1960, he received national decathlon medals and won the silver in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He did this all while carrying a rivalry with his UCLA teammate C.K. Yang and others from the Soviet Union. He has also carried the US flag at the 1960 games and lit the torch at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to open the 1984 Games. 
  • In June of 1968, Johnson was working on Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign when Kennedy was shot in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Johnson, retired NFL athlete Rosey Grier, and journalist George Plimpton were able to subdue the shooter, Sirhan SirhanJohnson referred to the assassination as “one of the most devastating moments in my life”.
  • Rafer Johnson held many titles in his lifetime. He worked for the Peace Corps, March of Dimes, Muscular Dystrophy Association, and American Red Cross. He remained active for many years at UCLA, serving on various committees and boards. In 2016, he received the UCLA Medal, the university’s highest award for extraordinary accomplishments. The school’s track is even named for Johnson and his wife Betsy. 

Johnson is survived by this wife of 49 years Elizabeth “Betsy” Thorsen, his two children Jenny and Josh, and four grandchildren.

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