10 Thoughts For the Week of September 13, 2020

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1. 9/11

After 19 years, it is pretty amazing how 9/11 feels as fresh as yesterday. I still remember when I first heard about the planes hitting the tower. I remember going to work and being sent home. It was confusing and slowly developing for someone living in California. I guess that is what they mean when they say “We Will Never Forget”.

2. MILWAUKEE BUCKS

For the second year in a row, the Bucks have had the best record, the best defense, and the best player in the league. For the second year in a row, they didn’t get to the NBA Finals. The Miami Heat played inspired basketball and Giannis got hurt. Outside of Game 4, it didn’t appear the Bucks had the next gear that championship teams have to make it to the next level.

When I look at comparisons, I think of Jordan’s Bulls and Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers. They were both teams that had spent two or three years to get over the hump.

3. DANUEL HOUSE

When I heard about Danuel House being expelled from the NBA Bubble because he was entertaining one of the on-site testers, I thought of the Morris Day song “Gigolos Get Lonely Too”. The players were in the bubble for two and a half months and I guess it was too much for House; or was it love at first sight?

4. LAKERS ARE BACK IN THE WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Due to Danuel House’s indiscretions, the Lakers destroyed the Rockets en route to the Western Conference Finals. This is the first time the Lakers have been in the playoffs since Kobe hobbled off with an Achilles injury. I would like to think of them as the favorites but their play has not inspired me they will steamroll the rest of the competition. Truth be told, they are a Dame Lillard injury and a Danuel House expulsion from being in two tough playoff series.

5. R.I.P. TOOTS HIBBERT

The music world lost a legend this week when Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals passed away. Their music was so joyful and Pressure Drop is a classic.

6. BLACK REPUBLICANS

This week, I listened to an interesting podcast about Black Republicans. It was a great conversation about the movement of African Americans from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party in the last half of the twentieth century. 

What I found most interesting is that as a people African Americans are conservative. They have conservative views, but they have zero tolerance for racism.

7. A COMPETENT PRESIDENT

Last week, I mentioned the challenging opinions of how many people in the United States would have died of COVID. Well German Lopez, of Vox, claims if the US had the same response to COVD that Canada did, 100,000 would still be alive.

8. THE NFL IS BACK

The NFL is back at a time that does not feel as strange as baseball and basketball. After watching the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday, I think they are the favorites by a lot. Tom Brady lost his first game as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. Bill Belichick looked like he didn’t miss Tom Brady. It’s only Week 1.

9. DOG MAN

Dog Man is a family favorite at my house. The latest installment of the Dog Man saga Dog Man: Grime & Punishment has been the best selling book in North America for the last three weeks.

10. SOCIAL MEDIA & POLITICS

A recent poll from the Pew Research Center asked Americans their opinions about social media platforms’ ability for raising awareness was very surprising to me.

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.

 

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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.