Shout out to the Toronto Raptors for earning the franchise’s first NBA Championship. Powered by Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors knocked off the Golden State Warriors in six games. Yes, I picked the Warriors in five. Who knew Kevin Durant would only play 12 minutes in the series, Klay Thompson would suffer a serious injury, Kevon Looney would be playing with broken bones or that DeMarcus Cousins would defend like he was playing on two broken legs?

Though the injuries will always be a part of the narrative, the Raptors still played lights out basketball and earned the victory. Leonard, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet showed up and showed out on their way to winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Both teams could be absent from the Finals next season. Leonard’s free agency is looming large in Toronto. It is possible he could stay up North after winning a championship. However, speculation has run rampant that Leonard has his eye on the Los Angeles Clippers.

For the Warriors, both Durant and Thompson will likely miss the entire 2019-20 season due to their injuries. Plus, Thompson is an unrestricted free agent. Durant is expected to waive his player option to become an unrestricted free agent as well.

Should neither team make it to the Finals next season, it would mark the first time since 2011 the Finals did not include at least one team that played in the Finals the previous year.

Free Ujiri

Winning an NBA championship is one of the happiest times in the lives of players, coaches and team executives. Unfortunately for Raptors President Masai Ujiri, that grand celebration was marred by a case of walking while black.

After the final buzzer sounded, Ujiri made his way down one of the tunnels in the Oracle Arena to the court. He was on top of the world…until he was accosted by an overzealous sheriff’s deputy. According to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, the white officer asked Ujiri, an English-born Nigerian/Kenyan, for his credentials. Ujiri refused and attempted to push past the deputy. The deputy pushed back and Ujiri punched him in the jaw.

Wait one second.

So you’re telling me Ujiri, who just helped bring the Raptors the first championship in franchise history, decided to celebrate by punching a cop in the face? Nah. I’m not buying it.

Despite the claim that Ujiri refused to provide his credentials, video and photos immediately before and after the incident show Ujiri holding credentials in his hand. Unless he tucked them into his back pocket so he could channel his inner-Deontay Wilder, then immediately grabbed them again, that story doesn’t pass the smell test.

Instead, it looks like a law enforcement official first taking one look at Ujiri and determining that he doesn’t belong. Now the sheriff’s office has decided to rely on the tired, bogus narrative that this black man was a violent, aggressive animal that could not be contained. Instead of saying “Our bad” and chalking it up as a misunderstanding, the cops are seeking misdemeanor battery charges against Ujiri. The involved officer is also expected to file a civil suit.

That should come as no surprise. After initially claiming there were no significant injuries sustained, the unnamed officer is now said to have suffered a serious jaw injury and a concussion.

Unsurprisingly, this is the same Alameda County Sheriff’s office that “accidentally” retweeted white nationalist leader Richard Spencer from its official account.

As Wilder would say, “To this day!”

Crazy offseason ahead

With the Warriors out of the way, the NBA offseason is about to be a crazy one. In fact, it’s already off to a wild start.

Saturday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped the bomb that the Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to acquire Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks.

Even with Davis and LeBron James on board, the Lakers are still expected to have enough cap space to sign another elite player. Possibilities include Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler or even Leonard. Adding any of those talents alongside James and Davis and the Lakers would morph into a team that missed the playoffs into an instant title contender.

It will also be interesting to see what the Pelicans do with their newfound influx of young talent and draft picks. It’s a no-brainer that the Pelicans will select Zion Williamson with the first pick of the draft. However, the deal with the Lakers also included the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft.

Williamson, Ja Morant (Murray St.) and RJ Barrett (Duke) are considered the elite talents in this draft. They will all be off the board by the time the Pelicans reach their second pick. After those three, projections are all over the place for the next best talent.

New Orleans could be considering Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech), Darius Garland (Vanderbilt), DeAndre Hunter (Virginia), Coby Wright (North Carolina) or Cam Reddish (Duke). Another option would be for the team to trade the No. 4 pick for a talented veteran. Names like Bradley Beal, Aaron Gordon and Miles Turner keep popping up as potential Pelicans targets. Making a move for any of the aforementioned vets would likely propel the Pelicans into the playoffs in the first year post-A.D.

 

Blues Nation

I can’t let this column end without also giving a shout out to the St. Louis Blues on winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. There is no coincidence that the first time I went to see multiple Blues games in a single season, happened to be the year they won the Stanley Cup. I’m just saying…

Great job to the entire team. St. Louis went from worst-to-first to capture the Cup. Nearly every hockey fan outside of Boston was rooting for St. Louis. It was a magical season that won’t soon be forgotten. #LetsGoBlues!

Be sure to check In the Clutch online and also follow Ishmael on Twitter @ishcreates. Subscribe to The St. Louis American’s YouTube page to see bi-weekly sports videos starring Ishmael and Melvin Moore at youtube.com/stlamericanvideo.

Ishmael H. Sistrunk is a columnist and the website coordinator for the St. Louis American and www.stlamerican.com.

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