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In the decades since the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks became the 13th and 14th teams to join the NBA in 1968, only once has either team managed to win a league championship.
For the Bucks, who won their first and only title in 1971, it’s been 50 years since the Trophy won the championship in their arena halls. For the sun, dryness is all they’ve known.
But now, for the first time in more than 10 years, the NBA Finals are devoid of the last heavyweights in the league – the Golden State Warriors and any team led by LeBron James. Once again, The Bucks and the Suns, buoyed by their long-suffering and now euphoric fan base, are close enough to imagine kissing a 24-karat gold trophy.
Whoever wins this cup may get down to one left knee.
All eyes are on Bucks striker Giannis Antetokounmo, a two-time NBA player who injured his knee during the Bucks’ previous streak against the Atlanta Hawks, stretching it excessively as he came down from trying to block an alley attempt. Injury sidelined him in the Bucks’ last two games of the series – though the Bucks won both games anyway, finishing 4-2.
Prior to Tuesday’s first game, Antetokounmpo was listed as “suspicious” in the Bucks’ pre-match injury report.
“He’s making progress and we’re glad he’s making progress,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters on Monday.
Although the Suns are led by a star of their own – 11-time All-Star goalkeeper Chris Paul, who after more than 1,200 career games is finally playing in the World Cup Finals – the Bucks were favored in early preview before Antetokounmpo’s injury.
Now, Suns is the favorite to take the series. The teams played twice during the regular season, with the Suns winning by one point each, despite a 47-point game by Antetokounmpo in February.
Injuries dominated the playoffs this year. 10 All-Star players, a record, have missed at least one game during the playoffs this year, according to Elias Sports Bureau. In addition to Antetokounmpo, that group includes Paul, who missed two games last month as part of the league’s coronavirus protocols.
Several players and analysts have pointed the finger at the schedule changes that have been made due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Players and team owners agreed to shorten the season – just 71 days, compared to 113 days in the 2019 season – followed by a compressed regular season schedule in order to fit as many matches as possible.
Before the season started, some players, including Lakers star LeBron James, were concerned that not having enough rest coupled with a more demanding schedule could put them at risk of injury.
LeBron James wrote: “These injuries aren’t just ‘part of the game’ In a tweet last month He criticizes the brief respite after another high-profile injury sidelined Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers. “I’m talking about the health of all our players and I hate to see so many injuries this time of year.”
Speaking Monday to reporters, Paul – who is president of the NBA Players Association – did not respond directly to James but said all players had a chance to voice their concerns during the pre-season negotiation process.
“Injuries are always unfortunate,” he said. “You hate to have them.” “All that is good for this man…may not be the same for that man. But everything has always been a conversation and will continue to be that way.”
Game broadcasts, which were produced by the ESPN team and aired on ABC, were completely overshadowed by a separate drama entirely.
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report from The New York Times Over the weekend, she posted an account of ESPN’s internal turmoil over comments made last summer by white journalist Rachel Nichols about the network’s decision to promote fellow Maria Taylor, who is Black, to the role of host for the 2020 finals. Nichols had hoped for a promotion but He was instead assigned to the role of a lesser-known fringe reporter.
In a private phone call that was inadvertently taped to the network’s internal production servers, Nichols expressed her feeling that Taylor had been promoted because the network was “feeling pressure” on diversity.
ESPN has largely declined to comment on the personnel issues involved, but the network announced tuesday That Nichols won’t be the side reporter for the Finals, as was expected. Instead, Taylor will once again host covering the finals with Malika Andrews, who is also black. Nichols, who hosts a weekday NBA-focused show called LeapThis program will host the finals.