The month of July is usually the off-season for the NBA but this particular year the league is gearing up for its NBA Finals.
After all the smoke and dust has settled, it's the Phoenix Suns out West and the Milwaukee Bucks representing the East that will compete for the Larry O’Brien trophy and the right to call themselves champions forever.
Oddly enough, at the same time Team USA is gearing up for its quest toward its fourth straight gold medal in Olympic play.
Not to sully the moment, but a recent leaked recording surfaced where ESPN host Rachel Nichols made some pretty insensitive comments about fellow ESPN colleague Maria Taylor.
This is your NBA Weekly Wrap for the week.
Tokyo preparation begins now for USA Basketball
The quest for a fourth straight Olympic Gold medal begins this week for the Men’s National Basketball team.
Team USA, led by San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, are in Las Vegas beginning the preparation stages for the Tokyo Olympics.
Training camp will run from July 6th through the 18th with five exhibition games scattered throughout.
The official Olympic schedule begins Sunday, July 25 and will conclude Friday, August 6.
Familiar superstar faces of forwards Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum and guard Damian Lillard highlight the roster selections in addition to three players who will miss the beginning of camp while participating in the NBA Finals.
Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday will have to get reacclimated to the FIBA-style play in a crash-course once they return along with Phoenix’s Devin Booker.
If the Finals goes the full seven games, the last day of the NBA Finals will be Thursday, July 22.
Rachel Nichols in hot water after leaked audio surfaces
Recently news broke that ESPN host Rachel Nichols was caught on audio recording making deprecating comments about station colleague Maria Taylor.
Nichols, who is white, expressed displeasure with ESPN’s decision to have Taylor, who is black, host the 2020 NBA Finals.
As she continued, Nichols explained she believed the move was made for diversity stats for the station more than anything else.
The jealousy-filled conversation was recorded back in July of last year unbeknownst to Nichols and the other party.
During that time, the league was very vocal in expressing its support for its players as they actively protested against racial injustice in the country in the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Taylor works as a host and analyst for both ESPN and the SEC Network covering college basketball (Men’s and Women’s), college football, college volleyball, the NBA and the NFL.
Nichols issued an apology of sorts during the next episode of “The Jump” while explaining she was not going “to become the story.”
On multiple platforms, Nichols explained that she has reached out to Taylor via call and text but has not gotten a response as of yet.
ESPN declined to comment as well.
Taylor’s contract with the company runs through July 20 of this year and she is actively negotiating a new contract in hopes of becoming one of the Top-20 highest-paid personalities at the network.
NBA Finals are finally here
It was a season unlike any other but the NBA Finals are finally here.
The Phoenix Suns will square off against the Milwaukee Bucks with a chance to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy to the heavens.
For the first time since 1977, this NBA Finals features zero previous champions meaning they’re will be new hardware given out to first-time winners by the end of the month.
The Suns are led by team leader Chris Paul who has finally reached an NBA Finals after 16 years in the league.
That 16-year mark is tied for fourth-most all-time without a Finals appearance.
Moreover, Paul’s 123 career playoff games rank third-most all-time without an appearance in the final championship series.
Paul also had the most playoff points without an NBA Finals appearance with 2,535 points.
By his own admission, Paul joined the Suns largely in-part because of his backcourt teammate, Devin Booker.
Sitting with the third-most points in a single postseason run in Phoenix history with 432 and counting, Booker sits behind forward Amar’e Stoudemire’s 449 in 2005 and Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley’s 638 in 1993.
All while making his first run in the postseason and it may conclude with championship jewelry.
A supporting cast of forward Jae Crowder (making his second straight Finals appearance), young core in DeAndre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson.
Head coach Monty Williams has embodied being a fighter his entire career, playing and beyond.
Williams, who played under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio also got the chance to work as a coaching intern under him before getting the opportunity to work in the front office with him.
He now will be competing for his first NBA championship as a head coach.
On the East side of the bracket, the belief by all-star Giannis Antetokounmpo that Milwaukee would get it together appears to have paid off.
While the job isn’t done just yet, the Greek Freak will be playing in his first NBA Finals after being selected with the 15th overall pick by the franchise in 2013.
Fast forward to now and he has almost everything on his award mantle, two-time league MVP, All-Star Game MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.
Can he add a ring to the collection?
Fellow all-star Khris Middleton had a different road to the Finals after being a second-round pick in and traded after his rookie season.
Middleton even spent time in the G-League before becoming the first all-star to ever spend time in the developmental league.
However, the addition of defensive wizard Jrue Holiday has been the difference for this year’s Bucks team.
Not only has Holiday stepped in as the defensive leader but as the team leader as a whole.
The former NBA Sportsmanship Award winner and Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award winner has been the perfect representation of calm and cool for this team.
Toughness is the way the team is built with players like PJ Tucker, Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis and three-point shooting essentially everywhere else.
Head coach Mike Budenholzer has finally gotten past the Eastern Conference and can compete for another NBA Championship.
The man affectionately known as “Bud” grew up a Suns fan in Holbrook, Arizona and can now bring the team their first title in franchise history.
Budenholzer already has two Coach of the Year awards and four championship titles as an assistant coach in San Antonio under Popovich as well.
Interestingly enough, regardless of who wins, Popovich wins.
Another interesting thing to note is that Suns forward Torrey Craig is eligible to win a ring regardless of who wins the NBA Finals after he was a member of the Bucks earlier this year.
Craig was traded from Milwaukee to Phoenix in March.