10 Thoughts for the Week of September 27, 2020

1. BREONNA TAYLOR INDICTMENTS

The most insane thing to pop up this week was the state of Kentucky’s refusal to charge any of the officers who shot Breonna Taylor with murder. Ms. Taylor was shot ten times and there was no charge. The only charge was a wanton recklessness for the three bullets that went through her walls into her white neighbors apartment. 

With no charge for the death of Ms. Taylor, the wanton recklessness charge feels like a slap in the face. As Derrick Johson of the NAACP said “the justice system has failed us”. He forgot to put “again” at the end of that sentence.

2. DANIEL CAMERON

The Republican superstar and attorney general of Kentucky made sure to claim he could not find facts for murder. The Mitch McConnell protege made sure to say that mob justice was not justice. What Mr Cameron fails to recognize is the same “mob justice” was used to break the back of Jim Crow in the 1950’s and 60’s.

3. RAIDERS ON MNF


The Las Vegas Raiders opened their new stadium with a very impressive win over the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football. It was a signature win of the second Jon Gruden Era.

4. MICHAEL JORDAN ENTERS NASCAR

Michael Jordan (The GOAT) has started a NASCAR team with Bubba Wallace as the driver. This is a big move for Jordan and it feels like he is kicking the hornet’s nest. I hope he is a better NASCAR team owner than he is a NBA team owner.

5. MARVEL PUSHING BACK BLACK WIDOW MOVIE…AGAIN

Disney announced they were going to back up the release date of the Black Widow movie to some time next year. This is disappointing because it delays the next chapter in the MCU. Disney is delaying it because they want the money that comes from showing it in movie theaters. With all that is going on, why not give it Premiere Access like Mulan? I wouldn’t pay $30 for Mulan but I would for Black Widow.I believe Star Wars and Marvel are cultural property. Disney should not be able to exploit them for profits. Just my feeling.

6. THE ROSA PARKS OF THE PANDEMIC

I read an article in the New Yorker about the Michigan Militia and a barber who refused to close his business during the government imposed shutdown. His supporters claim he is the Rosa Parks of the pandemic. He compared the government control to the Third Reich and he was not going to be a Jew who naively walked into a freight train and to certain death.

I am not sure how refusing to shutter your business to prevent the spread of deadly virus is the same as refusing to move to the back of the bus to protest a system that made black people second class citizens. I am also not sure how it compares to the extermination of a race of people.

7. TRUMP’S ATTACK ON CRITICAL RACE THEORY

I also read an article about Trump’s war against critical race theory. The biggest tenant of critical race theory is that America must reckon with how its values and institutions feed into racism. First Trump issued an executive order banning federal contractors from conducting racial sensitivity training, emphasizing his desire to stop “efforts to indoctrinate government employees with divisive and harmful sex- and race-based ideologies”.

He also believes it is attacking our “patriotic education.” I guess the truth is a dangerous thing.

8. KANYE WEST VISITS HAITI

The Kanye West for President campaign made stops in Jamaica and Haiti last week. In Hait, he said he came to “complete the revolution and rebuild Haiti”. As someone who has spent some time in Haiti, I am grateful someone is giving it some attention. I love the island of Haiti and it breaks my heart all at the same time.

9. THE U

The University of Miami is back in the AP Top 10 (for what it is worth) after spanking the Florida State Seminoles 52-10. There have been many false sightings of the return of “The U”. I have been a sucker for some of them and skeptical of others. This time may be legit. They have a real quarterback and the defense was dynamite.

10. LAKERS ARE BACK IN THE FINALS

The Lakers have returned to the Finals for the first time since the Kobe Bryant Era. This would be a great year to win to honor Kobe. They will face the Miami Heat who are more formidable than anyone believed pre-bubble. The Heat actually scare me because of people like Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic will be the X-factors in this series.

10 Thoughts for the Week of September 20, 2020

1. CLIPPERS GONNA CLIP

Last summer, when the Clippers signed Kawhi Leonard and traded for Paul George, everyone thought they were going to be contenders. They added two all-stars to a team of scrappy players who overachieved with no all-stars the year before. Things were supposed to be different. 

Steve Ballmer and Doc Rivers had created a new culture in LA. The addition of Leonard and George was supposed to be a new era for the Clippers. 

The curse of Donald Sterling is hard to break. I never thought about it until the Clippers made it to the 2nd round and people were excited about a Clippers/Lakers conference finals. The Clippers had never been to the conference finals. The last time they were this close, they were up 3-1 on the Houston Rockets and lost three games. This time the Clippers were up 3-1 on the Denver Nuggets and were up late in two of the last three games before losing.

2. PAUL GEORGE

After watching Paul George over the last three seasons, I have decided he is not the difference maker people think he is. He has had good to great regular seasons and when ended in disappointing performances in the playoffs. One season is not a big deal, but three years of not showing up when your team needed you the most is more than a coincidence.

3. WHAT ABOUT THE NUGGETS

I don’t want to take anything away from the Nuggets. They have come back from being down 3-1 in two straight series. Their resilience cannot be underestimated. It seems like the longer a series goes, they seem to figure the other team out and get better. Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr are dynamite when they are hitting on all cylinders.

They are down 3-0 to the Lakers and it is hard to write them off until they lose that fourth game.

4. RIP RBG

On Friday, we lost an icon. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg passed away after years of battling and fighting to stay alive for the election of a new president. She had made so many strides for women and been a force on the bench. We lost a great one.

5. MITCH McCONNELL

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to quickly get a vote on the president’s next nominee for the SCOTUS. This is the same Senate Majority Leader who would not bring Merrick Garland up for a vote when he was nominated nine months before the 2016 election. He argued it should be up to the American people to decide who picks the next justice. Now that we are forty days away from the election, Mitch has changed his opinion about the American people deciding who should pick the next justice. 

President Trump has promised to nominate a woman. Already two Republican Senators have stood up and said they would not vote for a nominee before the election. Nancy Pelosi has said she will start impeachment proceedings to stall a Senate vote on a nominee. Joe Biden went as far as to say he will demand the nominee withdraw if he is elected.  

6. 8 STRAIGHT FOR THE DODGERS

It’s almost like clockwork. The Dodgers clinched their eighth consecutive postseason this week. As good as the Padres have been this year, I don’t see anyone in the NL West giving the Dodgers trouble for a long time. They have the talent and the farm system to keep this streak going for a long time.

7. WHAT’S UP WITH THE AP POLL?

In its pursuit of normalcy, the Associated Press has released their weekly poll for college football. It seems kind of strange given half of the teams in Division I football are not playing right now. Is there really going to be a national championship this year?

8. JA MORANT GOES AFTER THE ONE REPORTER

Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies was voted the NBA Rookie of the Year. He made a point of forsaking the 99 reporters who voted for him and going after the one reporter that did not vote for him.

9. QUEEN & SLIM

A timely movie I gotta watch this week was Queen & Slim. It had elements of Bonnie & Clyde and a heist movie; while dealing with the civil unrest issues that have plagued our country the last six months.

10. BEST THING I READ THIS WEEK

Check out A Story for Your Daughters, a Story for Your Sons by Rebecca Makkai

10 Thoughts for the Week of August 30, 2020

INTRODUCTION

What a week! Putting this piece together took a lot more decision making than I normally make. There are so many diverse things to talk about as well.

1. Republican National Convention

I could only stomach so much of the Republican National Convention this week. I did suffer through the last half of Tim Scott’s speech. I even heard Herschel Walker spoke at the RNC. The true spectacle was Wednesday night where President Trump turned the convention into a true reality television show. First Trump pardoned Jon Ponder (well deserved). Then he oversaw a naturalization ceremony for five people. I was waiting for him to push the button to launch a missile into Iran or China.

2. JACOB BLAKE

Much like George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks before him, Jacob Blake is a name I should not know that I know. Jacob was breaking up a fight between two women when the police arrived. They tased him and Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times at close range. No matter what he was doing, he didn’t deserve that. The video is horrifying.

3. NIKKI HALEY

Two night after Jacob Blake was shot, Nikki Haley spoke at the Republican National Convention and said America is not a racist nation. 

4. NBA BOYCOTTS

Wednesday was Boycott Wednesday. It started with the Milwaukee Bucks boycotting their game which led to three days of no NBA basketball and questions of whether the playoffs were going to continue. It’s rare that I feel as proud of the NBA players as I do now. Their boycott has led to the teams turning their arenas into voting centers with more to follow. A basketball returned on Friday, the boycott was not over; it was paused to see if NBA owners were going to keep their word and move forward with initiatives for change.

Boycott Wednesday reminded me of the Montgomery Bus Boycott led by Dr. Martin Luther King. You mess with peoples’ money and they become more open-minded to change.

5. MLB BOYCOTTS

On Boycott Wednesday, only three games were postponed due to boycott. I am proud of my Dodgers being one of those games (Thank you Mookie Betts). It would be super ironic the franchise that opened the door to Jackie Robinson would ignore people of color at this time.

The fact that only a fraction of the games on the schedule for Wednesday were postponed says a lot about the game itself. There are very few African American players in the game and there are fewer who stand up at times like these. 

They should take a note from Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from a tournament she was favored to win to protest the Jacob Blake shooting.

6. KYLE RITTENHOUSE

Rittenhouse is another name I should not know…but I do. He showed up at a protest in Kenosha with a Smith and Wesson AR-15 style rifle to protect a friend’s shop. After he allegedly shot two people to death because he felt his life was threatened and wounded another, a photo showed how Kenosha police ignored him as he walked down a street with his hands up. He was charged with first-degree murder.

7. HURRICANE LAURA

In the midst of all this drama, Louisiana has been battered by Hurricane Laura. It is

sad that with everything going on this #7 on my 10 thoughts this week.

8. BACK TO SCHOOL

My son started 2nd grade this week and school was online. He worked in my office with me while I was working. It was super EXHAUSTING. I am trying to be patient because I know there is no proven playbook for online learning. We were all volunteered and our kids are guinea pigs to figure it out or all the kids get the vaccine; whichever happens first.

9. BOLAWRAP

The LAPD has been testing out BolaWrap as a safer alternative to chokeholds and shootings. The LAPD has requested an extension of time to continue testing. I support anything that would reduce chokeholds and shootings.

10. MESSI WANTS TO LEAVE

Last week, I mentioned FC Barcelona’s loss in the Champions League and the leadership’s contemplation of making Leonel Messi available for transfer. Messi got his feelings hurt and now there are rumors of Messi moving on to Manchester City or Juventus with Cristian Ronaldo.

Who Makes a Difference – The X-Factors – Part 2 – 10 Thoughts on the NBA Conference Finals

Who Makes a Difference Part 2 (The X-Factors) – 10 Thoughts on the NBA Conference Finals

 

With the Conference Finals here, I thought I’d make another stab at ten players who have the ability to turn series for their team.

  1. Steph Curry – With Kevin Durant out for at least Game 1, the Warriors will go as far as Steph takes them. He needs to put up at least 30 for a win. He has a history of being streaky in the playoffs. Golden State cannot have a bad Steph Curry day.
  2. Kris Middleton – A remnant from my last list. Middleton is the key to their offense and I imagine he is going to spend some time guarding Kawhi Leonard. Middleton needs to provide the shooting that opens up the lane for Giannis. He also had to do the best he can to slow down the hottest player in the playoffs.
  3. Draymond Green – Guarding Dame Lillard and CJ McCollum is a daunting task. It cannot be done by one person. Steph and Klay are going to need the support that Draymond provides defensively and keeping Enis Kanter off the glass.
  4. Eric Bledsoe – When Bledsoe is hot, Milwaukee is unbeatable. He needs to be more than hot. He has to be smart. Kyle Lowry, who is not as athletic as Bledsoe, knows how to play intelligent defense. Bledsoe has to make smart plays and timely three-pointers.
  5. Kyle Lowry – The Raptors cannot be dragged to the Finals by Kawhi the way he dragged them to the Conference Finals. Lowry needs to take and make big shots. The rest of the team struggled through the second round and Lowry cannot be passing up shots if the Raptors are going to make it to the Finals.
  6. Andrew Bogut – The Warriors weakness is rebounding. Enis Kanter has dominated the glass in the playoffs. If the Blazers have any chance to dethrone the Warriors, they need Kanter to change the game by dominating the glass. Bogut is tougher than Nikola Jokic and he needs to physically dominate Kanter.
  7. Rodney Hood – Hood showed he can swing a game in playoff series. The Blazers probably need him to swing at least two. He has found his confidence and that makes him dangerous. His size and skill make him difficult to guard. If he commits to playing defense, he is a tenacious defender. Will his confidence wane when he is face to face with the defending champions?
  8. George Hill – Since he is healthy, Hill is the kind of point guard the Bucks need leading their bench. Hill was a surprise game-changer against the Celtics. I almost forgot that he was the point guard on those Indiana Pacer teams that made it to the conference finals. A healthy George Hill makes the Bucks such a deep team. They may be able to wear down the Raptors.
  9. Pascal Siakam – Siakam is not a second scorer on a championship team, but he is a third scorer and he can cause problems on defense with his length and athleticism. He needs to make his mark on the series or the Raptors are going home.
  10. Zach Collins – Collins showed in Game 7 against the Nuggets the effect he can have on a game. He is the type of player that could give the Warriors trouble. He could also spend a lot of time on the bench with foul trouble. We will see which Zach Collins comes to play.

 

Who Makes the Difference – 10 Thoughts on Who is the Impact Player in the NBA Conference Semifinals

As I watch the NBA Playoffs, I realize (1) how good the games are and (2) the series will not always be decided by the marquee players. Here are ten players to watch out for if their teams are going to advance to the Conference Finals.

  1. Pascal Siakam – If you saw my previous post, you know that Siakam was the MVP for the Raptors in the first round. Now he means even more to them. When the Raptors have won, Pascal has been amazing. Without him, Toronto is to easy to defend for the Sixers.
  2. Jimmy Butler – Jimmy Butler was exactly the guy that Philadelphia needed for the playoffs. While I thought he would have more of an impact on defense, Jimmy’s offense has been indispensable. The Sixers needed someone to take big shots and make his shots (sorry J.J. Redick). Jimmy grinded the Sixers to victory in Game 2. The team rode his grit in Game 3.
  3. Joel Embiid – Embiid is a force of nature. When he is aggressive and active on both ends of the floor, the Sixers are pretty much unbeatable. When he is injured or unengaged, the Sixers defensive flaws will destroy them.
  4. Kevin Durant – Durant, who arguably has been the best player in the playoffs the last three years, is the Warriors unstoppable force. Curry and Thompson are great shooters. Draymond is the heart of the team. Durant is what makes the Warriors the favorites for a third straight championship. He can do everything on offense and he is underrated on defense. He can line up in all five positions and he may be the guy who breaks Kareem’s scoring record.
  5. Al Horford – Boston has their work ahead of them. They are facing the team with the best record in the NBA and the this year’s MVP of the league. Horford has to be the guy to put some form of handcuffs on the Greek Freak and be the ultimate mismatch for his team to stretch the floor.
  6. Al-Farouq Aminu – The Blazers are powered by Dame and C.J.. The difference maker is Aminu. You can tell how well Portland is doing by how many point Aminu has. He also has an impact on defense that makes up for the two undersized guards.
  7. Kyrie Irving – Kyrie is the winningest player in playoffs history. He is the ultimate clutch shotmaker. He was unstoppable against the Pacers. He needs to be just as unstoppable to you against the league’s best defense. For all it’s talent, Boston
  8. Torrey Craig – Torrey Craig is the only real defensive stopper on the Nuggets. They need someone to do something to slow Damian Lillard down he can. Denver is not a defensive juggernaut and needs Craig to make some plays, both offensively and defensively, to get them past a very talented Portland offense.
  9. Kris Middleton – The Buck will go as far as Middleton will take them. Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to put up numbers. The Bucks are offensively limited. They need Giannis and Middleton to be great.
  10. Chris Paul – If the Rockets are going to have a chance against the Warriors, they need more than James Harden. They need the return of the point-god. Paul needs to make an impact on both sides of the ball.

 

Honorable Mentions

Jamal Murray, Danny Green, Kyle Lowry, PJ Tucker, Eric Bledsoe, Marc Gasol, Andre Iguodala, Jaylen Brown, Fred Van Fleet and Tobias Harris.

 

All the Favorites Won: 10 Thoughts On The First Round of the NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs

With Round 2 of the NBA Playoffs getting started, I wanted to drop some thoughts on Round 1. The Eastern conference was the most interesting for Round 1(well to me maybe). 

 

  • Pound for pound – The Milwaukee Bucks look like the pound for pound best team in the East. Detroit had no answer for the Greek Freak. The Bucks as a team has so much depth and they look like they can play any style of basketball.
  • Most Improved Player – Pascal Siakam should be the NBA’s Most Improved Player. He was the most valuable player of the round for his team. Orlando put up a good fight, but Siakim always made the momentum changing plays.
  • Rocky 3 – Philadelphia needs the Eye of the Tiger. An undermatched Brooklyn team gave them all they wanted for four games. This team is hanging on by Joel Embiid’s bum knee. I think Jimmy Butler is the key to the next round.
  • Kyrie Time – This is Kyrie Irving’s time of the year. He is the winningest player in playoff history and he showed it in this series. He played like a man no one could guard and he made the shots as well. Jaylen Brown also picked the right time to take his game to another level. As good as Kyrie and Jaylen played, the team did not look the same without Marcus Smart. They are going to need him if they expect to play with Milwaukee.
  • No Victory Without Victor – Indiana battled and played as hard as they could with Darren Collison and Wes Matthews. In the end, they were not Victor Oladipo. Even with Tyreke Evans and Bojan Bogdanovic shooting their minds out, Indiana needed a closer. Myles Turner was a force on defense and will continue to be for the next couple of years.
  • Kudos #1 – The Nets get a serious pat on the back. They are a bad call away from taking the Sixers to maybe seven games. D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert did some major damage to the Sixers defense. If they had any size, they would have given the Sixers fits.
  • Kudos #2 – The Orlando Magic made it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2012. I was ready to see a young team that stumbled into the playoffs. However Steve Clifford coached these guys so that were efficient on offense and tenacious on defense. I know D.J. Augustin made the game winning shot in Game 1, but they are a point guard away from doing damage in the Eastern Conference. Hint – Kemba Walker is a free agent this summer.
  • You Got In…Now What? – Well Detroit made it to the playoffs. It had been three years since the Pistons had been in the playoffs. The Pistons had not won a playoff series since 2008. I am glad they got something from last year’s Blake Griffin trade…but now what? It will be interesting to see what Dwayne Casey gets out of this roster next year.
  • Boston v. Milwaukee – I am picking the Bucks in 6. While I think the Bucks can slow down Kyrie, I am not sure the Celtics can slow down Giannis.
  • Philadelphia v. Toronto – I am picking Toronto in 5. The Sixers don’t have the firepower to overcome a Raptor defense that is just plain nasty. The Sixers could not stop the Nets. Now how are they going to stop the Raptors.