Tuesday, October 16, 2018

18/19' NBA Prediction (The almost annual)

Welcome to my 3rd, nearly annual NBA predictions/preview.  
I didn’t play ball at a high level, and I don’t begin to understand the advanced metrics of the Lowe’s of the world, but I LOVE hoops obsessively and have seen thousands play, from the playground to being an NBA season ticket holder.  So this is based on my instincts and eye tests as a mega fan, and since I’m a gigantic nerd, they are sometimes correct.  Enjoy reading and enjoy the season, can’t wait for hoops! 

1) Boston: 2nd best starting 5 in the league, longest bench, healthy return of two all-stars, top 3 coach, trip to last years East finals…barring catastrophe, this is one of the easier picks to make.  Jaylen Brown is your 5th best player, Rozier your 6th…it’s an embarrassment of riches and they all seem to be buying in, all the time.  Oh, and to boot, if they get in any kind of trouble, injury or personnel wise, they have a bevy of resources to make moves from for a playoff run.   The team to beat in east.   

2) Toronto: Kawhi is healthy and engaged, added to one of the deepest rosters in the league.  This could easily be best defensive squad, the antidote to the modern NBA is wings/bigs who can rotate 1-5.  Running Kawhi, Danny Green, OG, Ibaka, Siakam with a bunch of chippy perimeter defenders is really intriguing. High on Toronto making a deep run.  Only wild card is how new coach Nick Nurse fits in and uses his pieces, or if he can even coach, which we don’t know.  If that situation gets bad and Kawhi starts eyeing the door, it could go south pretty fast.  Being said, with guys like VanVleet and Powell being the 9 & 10 pieces on your bench, the ceiling isn’t very low regardless.   

3) Milwaukee:  This is a sexy pick for a lot of people.  The assumption that Giannis with Popeye arms and Mike Budenholzer are guaranteeing the next step for the franchise.  This is likely, and possible.  They still have some questions at guard, what is Bledsoe’s ceiling and most of your shooting guard minutes being used by Brogdon and rookie DiVincenzo.  Thon Maker is still an intriguing prospect, who could potentially cause all sorts of length problems for opposing teams if he can lock in.   Lopez adds a big man perimeter threat to stretch the floor and Ilyasova helps what was a thin bench.  Looking up for the Bucks. 

4) Indiana:  I know it’s uncommon to see the Pacers this high, but to me, this is a team that plays the right way and has the continuity and improved health of last seasons starters.  They filled a hole drafting Aaron Holiday late, who I think can be a steal of the draft.  Suring up some the ball handling, improved shooting with McDermott and some added scoring/slashing from Tyreke Evans, who can play multiple positions,  could see 30+ minutes a night and should contend for 6th man of the year.  I’m bullish on the Pacers, and their depth puts them over the other mid-tier Eastern teams. 

5) Philadelphia: Can’t say enough about Joel and Ben, and if the offseason is any indication they’re development has continued and both should be even more effective this season.  Saric is a strong piece, but still a lot of question marks here.  Fultz being the obvious, as we have only a small sample as to what he can be.  Bellinelli and Ilyasova played big roles off bench that went largely un-filled in offseason.  Unless Wilson Chandler turns into something we didn’t know about, or Ben puts some makeup on that ugly jumper, the team seems too short to wind up much further than they did last season, perhaps a small step back.   
6) Charlotte:  This will be the sneaky good team of the East.  Under new coach Barrego, who plans to run with Kemba and pick up the the pace.  With finally moving past Kidd-Gilchrist starting, using him as utility man will better serve his skill set.  Miles Bridges one of the steals of draft, he’s NBA ready and will take heavy minutes off the bat.  Can imagine Tony Parker helping in the locker room, and especially helping his friend Batum play to his potential all season long.  

7) Washington:  Old Washington.  Wall/Beal/Porter alone are enough to talent themselves to 45 wins.  WE all know that.  One thing we also know, EXACTLY what Dwight Howard is.  I can’t understand all the analysts taking the Dwight bait, again, demanding it’s intriguing.  It’s not, it’s obvious, and we know exactly what he’ll do.  Probably around 14/10, bad plus/minus and create some kind of tension in the locker room, which the Wiz have in abundance already.  But asides from that, the lengthening of bench with Jeff Green and Austin Rivers were two under radar moves that should provide a lot of relief, particularly on offense, and keep them in the mix. 

8) Miami: They are almost too boring to write about.  Most interesting thing will be whatever weird stuff Whiteside does.  But, in the East, Dragic and Richardson and some capable bigs mixed with a great coach is enough to get in playoffs and I don’t imagine make very much noise.  Jimmy Buckets starts wearing pastel shirts in the sun, obviously a different story.

9) Detroit:  Can’t hate on the Drummond/Griffin front court, it’s malleable and dynamic.  But, after that their success is weighted on things like Reggie Jacksons health and the development of guys like Kennard, not too high on their chances of breaking through. Would not be shocked to see Dwayne Casey pull more out of this squad and cracking the playoffs. 

10) Chicago: With a healthy Maarkanen, I projected them to sneak around the 8 seed.  Even with no interest in defense, that lineup looked potent enough to 120+ there way into 37+ wins. Now with his injury projecting long, and them in no rush this season, I don’t think so anymore. The shortening of the bench with Portis taking heavy minutes will thin them out early. Dunn/LaVine backcourt one of biggest question marks of season, they’re development paramount to any version of success. 

11) Brooklyn:  I have bias, this is my team, I’m a season ticket holder and because of this, have fan hood optimism.  In reality, this season is about next season, and a surprise run to the playoffs doesn’t suit the Nets particularly well, as they are going into 2019 with their own first round pick in what feels like 80 years, and the ability to sign two max players.  Now, my dilemma is this.  Seeing the landscape of available free agents next season, who are we getting?  Part of me believes a continuation of winning and culture and building is the best medicine, and getting your young core, particularly Jarrett Allen and Caris LaVert some playoff run might be better in the long term, and also more attractive to free agents.  Expect another humdrum year from D’Angelo Russell and the Nets moving past him after season. 

12) Cleveland:  Tristan Thompson’s pre-season delcration that they are the team to go through in the East is not only wrong, it was plainly stupid.  Now, with all the things this team has to worry about, he put a target on their back from the top 3 teams in the conference.  Love will have 50 Wolve- era type games, mostly for naught.  Could see big jump from Rodney Hood going into contract year and starter level minutes from Sexton

13) Atlanta: I don’t hate the Trae Young move as much as most.  It was bold and clear, and while Doncic should out-perform in his current situation, taking a spark plug at a premium position who can fill seats for a team primed for another lottery run regardless, why not?  He’s a fun player with unlimited range and ridiculous vision for his age, with the amount of volume he’ll see, my choice for ROY.  That being said, shouldn’t translate to too many wins, biggest questions are if Collins and Prince are pieces to built around moving forward.  

14) New York:  As usual, Knicks fans are making Kevin Knox out to be the next Willis Reed.   I live here and legitimately feel bad for Knicks fans, they’re optimism stems from a wonderful fanhood, one as a Nets fan I’m jealous of.  But, being said, this year is about losing.  Would like to see development from Ntilikina and Knox, and see if they got the right guy in coach David Fizdale, which I think is a great hire for this town.  All about some culture building and who you can piece with a healthy Porzingis next season.    

15) Orlando:  Not many interesting things to watch here.  Is Gordon a franchise player, probably not.  Curious about development of Isaac and Bamba, but that’s about it, they’ll be pretty terrible and in position for next years #1. 

1) Houston: Reigning MVP Harden looks sharp this offseason and the team is primed for a big regular season.  Ariza is a very nice player, but the idea he is the key to the demise is overblown.  Ennis is a plus defender and Carmelo fills in the perimeter void.  Think this team is primed for 65+ regular season wins here, they’ll be far more motivated to grab that number one seed and will push harder for it than the Dubs.  Wondering if Brandon Knight can give them anything, if he manages to scratch his health and potential, would be huge ball handling upgrade over MCW.  I expect Melo to have highest shooting percentages in years, perhaps his career.  

2) Golden State:  We all know what they are, but, they are not built for the regular season 82 grind anymore.  Past Iguoadala/Livingston, the bench is eerily thin, and one of them will have to start and the others log heavy minutes if/when Cousins returns to take real minutes.  Draymond is starting banged up, with the normal nicks, bruises and caution they use with playoff certainty, I think they’ll suffer in regular season wins and not come atop the West.  Playoffs, different story entirely. This is the season Steph Curry reminds everyone how damn good he is, and will take his 3rd MVP trophy, I can’t believe he has managed to be underrated.  

3) Utah:  Undervalued thing in the NBA is continuity, and the team who will compete with Toronto for best defense in league is Utah, for that very reason.  With Gobert anchoring, they’re fluid and long and talk and have ability to shut down offenses. Mitchell wasn’t a flash in the pan, and Quinn Snyder seems like the Rubio whisperer.  This team is fun, and chippy and can get in peoples heads, give me Joe Ingles all day long.   

4) Denver: Love this squad, it’s deep and fast and hungry and most of core is on at least 2nd or 3rd season together.  Jokic is so dynamic, and paired with Millsap, who most forget from average 17/18’ campaign what kind of player he is.  I imagine those two being one of the craftier, better shooting and rebounding front courts in the NBA.  Murray is a budding star and Will Barton has always had a chip on his shoulder, can imagine a breakout campaign with the forthcoming starters minutes.  Lyles and Beasley look nice in offseason, firming up the bench. 

5) OKC: I’m high on OKC, as I feel they’re best talents are built to withstand Warriors like systems.  With Carmelo gone, this immediately is a top 3 defense and a year of chemistry building with Russ/PG/Adams should really show.  Schroeder, I imagine will benefit greatly from being around Russ, who loves swag when you deserve it and hates it when you don’t show up.  Exactly what a guy like that needs, and I think we’ll see Dennis’s strongest pro season.  Fear is the chunk of time Russ and Roberson miss early will affect their standings too much, only takes a few games to slip out of it in the stacked West. 

6) LA Lakers:  I know I’m not supposed to judge the preseason, but it’s hard not to once you get your eyes on something.  I really liked the idea of this Lakers team, on paper.  Seeing some of these guys on the floor together and getting a glimpse how it would operate scares me.  Rondo is a good option, a winning option, but he needs to carve and dribble to do work.  I trust he’s smart enough to make it work, by all accounts he’ll be coaching some day, but the eye test is low.  That being said, it’s LeBron, in LA, everything will be stacked in their favor and the league is dying for them to get in, one way or another it’s gonna happen.  .  

7) New Orleans:  Anthony Davis is an absolute monster, who is going to just make the playoffs and than leave New Orleans.  Sorry, he has no choice.  The front court of AD/Mirotic/Randle is intriguing,  and should get them up past 40 wins, another 6/7wins based on AD’s pure dominance and underrated Jrue Holiday.  With Payton now in tow to spell ball handling duties, which they needed badly last year, I see them around 6/7 seed. 

8) Portland:  Almost same roster returning from last season with a few small losses.  Anticipating a jump year from Zach Collins, who showed very interesting flashes last year.  Evan Turner is an underrated piece who can handle and truly anchors the bench.  This 8 seed is entirely dependent on Jimmy Butler, and if he stays with Minnie all year, Portland is my team to get knocked out of playoffs. 

9) Memphis:  Not far removed from Gasol/Conley being a perennial playoff pair, they are being billed as back and healthy, along with Chandler Parsons and the signing of Kyle Anderson to improve the wing.  Some nice young players in Dillon Brooks and rookie Jaren Jackson.  I could see this team winning 50 or 25, but I’m leaning towards solid and un-playoff bound 42-45 wins or so.  

10) LA Clippers: This team could surprise people.  Tobias Harris is the real deal, and on the cusp of an all star season.  A healthy backcourt starting Beverly/Bradley could be lockdown, spelling with Lou Williams and Gilgeous-Alexander, who I think will be top 5 ROY candidate.  So much here depends on health, and I think some major pieces will get knocked up enough to keep them out of playoffs.  But expect strong season and good set-up for next season, which could also include a big late season trade.  An interesting team.  

11) San Antonio:  The deal they got back for Kawhi was about as good as you can get with no leverage.  My heart is telling me, of course, the Spurs will be in it by the end.  But when I I really examine these rosters and with the recent injuries to 2/3 of their primary ball handlers (Murray/White),   I can see the mighty falling out, and I’ll not so boldly predict so.  Welcome to a new era. 

12) Minnesota:  As I write this, Jimmy Butler is scheduled to play game one and be part of the team.  I’m sure he’ll play well, and who knows what this does for team in the long run.  But as it stand, I see the beginning of the year as more of a showcase and expect him to be traded.  I’m nearly done with Andrew Wiggins and his “untapped” potential, which leaves KAT and a bunch of old Bulls.   This setup leaves them well short of playoffs, if Thibs manages to see this through with no incident, they are a playoff team and would move Portland out of the top 8.  

13) Dallas: I expect this team to be fun, and competitive.  Sportscenter will get lit up when Smith, Doncic and Jordan are doing their thing.  This is a retirement tour for Dirk and another rebuilding year for Mavs.  Carlisle will surely have them competitive and fun, but short on wins. 

14) Phoenix: This is a team, roster wise that is trending up.  Booker is a young all-star, Ayton looks like the real deal and a couple young pieces could still flourish.  On the down side, they have almost no ball handlers and as usual, a totally manic front office that instills no calm in the seas.  Not optimistic about Bender and Jackson either, could’ve been two straight bad drafts.  Where’s Thunder Dan and KJ when you need them?

15) Sacramento: Fox is the only starting caliber player currently on roster, back to the top of the lottery.  Curious about Bagley,  could see breakout year for Harry Giles, that’s about it, true punching bags of the West. 


East Conference Finals : Boston/Toronto 
East Champion: Boston
Western Conference Finals: Warriors/Jazz
Western Champion: Warriors
Finals Champion: Warriors

MVP: Steph Curry
6th man: Tyreke Evans
Defensive Player: Anthony Davis
Rookie of year: Trae Young
Coach of year: Quinn Snyder
Most Improved: Kemba Walker 
Executive of the Year: Jon Horst

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Tour Life versus Home Life

It’s quiet in my house.  A rare occasion of late, with dogs and children and insomniacs running around this place.  To find a moment when I can’t hear the creak of a floor being walked on, the sound of a laundry machine or air filter running, a child babbling…and even though there are still a hundred things that need to get done, they are not present in my mind.  

An un-illuminated Christmas tree.  A black TV screen.  A still record player surrounded by thousands of minions who are eager and ready to come out.  A black blob of fur, known as a dog, sleeping soundly next to my typing fingers.  A cup of coffee, cold and sweet, made well over 90 minutes ago at 5:45 AM that I’m still nursing.  It’s winter and the room I’m sitting in, my living room, is half subterranean and this time of year it’s hard to determine when day and night meet.  A perpetual gray, as uninviting to energy and activity as most anything I know.  

When I’d be sitting on a tour bus, going on a year or two ago by now, I’d yearn for the precise moment I’m in.  My house, my sweatpants, my coffee, my own motives driving the schedule of the morning…my silence.  Those mornings when the front lounge is food and drink and sweat drenched from the night before, the bathroom floor is cold and covered in piss from the swaying dicks trying to pee half awake in a shaking bus.  There is no water, so hands and teeth and face must remain.  A poop inside of you that would no longer inhabit you if you had access to a normal toilet.  But you must remain steadfast, waiting for an open venue or hotel room to bask in glorious feces majesty.  

But, then, there is the other part.  It’s 8:00 at night and things relax around here.  So tired from the day and not normally up for much more activity.  When the TV cranks up or the book cracks or the popcorn kernels rip like fireworks in the other room…I imagine playing a show. 

The new people everyday.  The warming up and the feeling of blood running in my muscles. The gurgling that creeps in my stomach before I hit a stage, the tense and beautiful movement of energy that happens before and after and during.  I miss the sweat and the power and the catharsis. 

These feelings are mutually exclusive.  They each have a home, and neither seems to be particularly welcomed in the other.  I feel so lucky to know both, as I know many people in life haven’t been lucky enough to have found either.  A warm and loving home or a thriving and successful career, based off a childhood dream.  Not too bad.  

There comes a time when you have to look at yourself, inside of human nature and realize all these feelings make sense.  Grass is always greener.  It’s an odd part of humanity that I appreciate.  Our abilitiy to adapt is amazing.  But that means anything can become routine and expected after time, and less time than you’d think.  It’s this fundamental nature of man that can’t allow me to believe in contextually human afterlife…anything would get boring, 72 virgins, hellfire or eternal Xbox.  Either way.  

The important thing is to step back and look.  Take a minute to remember.  Force yourself back, why you started and place what’s really important.  It’s a constant exercise to appreciate.  I’m still working on it, not quite there.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The sometimes not so arbitrary nature of things...

"If you've got a problem, take it out on a drum." - Neil Peart 

   Lying on the floor of my drum room.  A dilapidated 8x12 room with a half sloped ceiling that I share with another drummer.  It has all the accoutrements of a room like this that I have come to expect.  Exposed piping, installation, poor second hand lighting, unvaccumed carpet littered with wood chips and ash…the smell of old groundwater and used drinks ever so slightly above notice. 
A normal person wouldn’t lie down in this room.  And here I am, so accustomed to it that I lie in an akward position leaving my skin vulnerable to the floor.  An OCD I wouldn’t allow in a hotel room or next to a stranger, but my familiarity with this filth leaves me undetered. Crazy to think about the things that come to define you, and the arbitrary and sometimes obvious ways they come to you.  

   Drums came to me that way.  Through a natural understanding they were cool, and chasing the two “hot” girls in school into the 4th grade band.  I took a test, the rest is history.  My Mom especially supported it.  She was a lover of music and the arts and alternative people in general. I was a kid who’s parents just got divorced, who started playing in bands and spent the weekends looking for rare Queen vinyl in the expo halls of hotels off Rt. 22.  I kind of had my fate sealed for me.  Some would resent it…I don’t mind.  And now that I’m raising children myself, a lot worse places you could be than fucking with drums or records and finding music and lyrics and art.  

   I have a soul determined to find itself on the outside of whatever its in.  I’ve accepted this part of my nature as, my nature.  From the first moment I recall until now, the world has looked as if I’m on the outside peering in.  It’s a dangerous way to be, and now in hindsight, I recognize the freedom and push my Mom gave me wasn’t just random.  It was intentional.  She saw something in me that scared her, and she saw an avenue for it go.  And thank fucking God for that.  Those records and drums and songs gave me purpose, direction, community and almost everything leading to here. A grown man with a career, family and home.  Pretty cool.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

16'/17' NBA Predictions, the 2nd annual.

Eastern Conference

1) Cleveland - LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet, and still plays for Cleveland.  Games 5&6 of the finals reminded the world that, as long as he can still run, he should stay at the #1 spot.  Essentially returning the same team that won the finals, adding Mike Dunleavy, no slouch, who is still one of best spot up shooters in league and rarely misses a defensive assignment.  Hearing concerns about back up point guard with only Kay Felder, an exciting, but undersized and offensive minded player to back up the oft-injured Kyrie Irving.  It is a weak spot, but in the same way the Rockets can slide Harden into the 1 when need be, so can LeBron.
2) Toronto - Lowry/DeRozan are the most experienced and consistent back court in the East. Cory Joseph is a very good two way bench player and look forward to a full season from DeMarre Carroll, who when healthy is a terrific wing defender and good outside shooter.  A lot to like on this team, but very thin in the front court, feeling the year to year losses of Amir Johnson and Biyombo. Can’t see them getting over playoff hump without supplementing J-Val with a little help down there.  
3) Boston - Brad Stevens, the NBA’s hottest young coach has a lot to work with this season.  Bringing back the same unit who excelled in playoffs last season who added Al Horford, the closest version to Tim Duncan the league currently has, the new Mr. Consistency.  Could be only team with enough pieces and moxy to actually challenge Clevo in a series.  Don’t except much from Jaylen Brown this season, who analytically is worst ranked lottery pick in years.  I believe Marcus Smart will really solidify himself, I expect an even minutes split in the 1 & 2 spots from him, Bradley and Thomas.  
4) Indiana - Excited, as always, for a healthy Paul George to start the season whom at his peak is a top 10 NBA player.  Add Jeff Teague, a perennially underrated PG in Atlanta for years and Thad Young, mostly worthwhile for rebounding hustle and his ability to cover 2-4 on the floor.  Myles Turner is no joke.  This a good, deep, lengthy team who should cause a lot of waves in the east.  One glaring deficiency is outside shooting, which is hard to win without a bevy of in new NBA.   
5) Detroit - This roster plays out like the modern antidote to Warriors style basketball.  Size, size, size.  Drummond/Baynes in the middle.  Morris/Leuer in the 4,  both who can step out and stretch the floor with shooting.  Harris/Johnson with good length and shooting on the wing. Reggie Jackson, though a great scorer is not the most efficient floor general, solid signing in Ish Smith for that change of pace. SVG built himself an extremely SVG team. 
6) Washington - John Wall, to me, is painfully underrated.  Surrounded by underachievers his whole career.  I expect big jump years from Otto Porter, and more so Kelly Oubre.  Full season of Markeif Morris can pay big dividends.   Ian Mahinmi is a better alternative to Nene at this stage in his career because of defensive contributions.  Biggest question mark is thin back court depth, only Trey Burke and Marcus Thornton are rostered and Beal can not be counted on for 80+.  If they are in contention towards the end, will have to supplement roster at that spot. 
7)   Charlotte - Think this is the sneaky team of the East.  Loss of Jefferson won’t be felt so much due to his age and the system they are trying to run. Bellinelli a nice addition off the bench, but so much of this season is contingent on the health of NJ’s own Micheal Kidd Gilchrist, a dynamic talent who can change a game with defense and energy.  Curious how Batum handles pressure of big deal and being the primary play maker.  
8)  Chicago - Not as sour as most on these Bulls.  Butler is a young star, paired with two solid, rotational youngsters (McDermott/Portis)  Couple change of pace forwards with Taj and Mirotic.  Add D. Wade, a floor coach who commands ultimate respect and a NBA title holding PG in Rondo who dished out 11.7 assists last year.  It should be noted that for someone with an awful shooting reputation, he put up a respectable .365 from 3 point range in 72 games last year.  Obvious chemistry and defensive questions abound, but I find interesting, main variable to me is if Fred Holberg can stay in control of this team and be able to coach.

9)  Atlanta - Forgive me for not having a lot of faith in Dwight Howard, who assuredly will put up huge and useless regular season numbers.  Love the coach and how his defense operates, love Millsap, but just can’t see it.  Losing Horford and Teague too much to take, and I don't trust Korver's health or Schroeder's ability to log full time PG minutes.
10) Orlando - A lot of talk about the “logjam” of rostering Vucecic, Ibaka and Biyombo.  I see three legit big men, two who can stretch the floor, giving Frank Vogel a ton of defensive options and a very deep front court.  Fournier is a nice player, but will probably take a big jumps from Aaron Gordon at his new position and Elfrid Payton's shooting for them to seriously compete, if not, point guard hunt will be on. 
11) Milwaukee - I like a lot of pieces on this team, especially Giannis and Jabari who have only scratched their respective ceilings.  Dellavadova was a crazy signing to me, especially for the money guys like Jeremy Lin and Ish Smith went for.  A serviceable backup PG being asked to log heavy minutes in a much tougher situation than he found himself in with LeBron and Co.  Loss off Middleton is too tough to compensate for on the outside, even with Mizra Teletovic most likely having free reign to fire from the arc.  Still a couple back court pieces away. 
12) New York - I can’t think of a worse scenario for the Knicks to start the season then Derrick Rose being on trial and even when playing in pre-season, looking like a tenuous rotational player more than MVP caliber point from years back.  Noah will miss time, and no way Brandon Jennings keeps his mouth shut all year.  Rookie coach getting handed this is even more cause for concern.  Understood the position Phil Jackson is in to hurry up and put something around an aging Melo, but this is less than a band aid, more of a used and half wet bandaid you found on the floor.   
13) Brooklyn - The Nets are being universally chosen as worst team in the NBA, as I’ll agree their future prospects are about as grim as a Clint Eastwood movie, the ship has been moved in the right direction.  Maybe picking them over 3 teams in overall record (Philly, Miami and Sac) is a homer pick, but this team is playing the right way, coached well and hungry.  Brook/Lin are a formidable pick and roll combination, and RHJ is proving as an elite level wing defender already, with only 29 games under his regular season belt.  Scola/Booker/Grievis will help keep them competitive, and offer contenders some interesting trade chips in the stretch run.  Also, keep an eye on Justin Hamilton, was a nice player a few years back in the NBA and had a winning game in Euro ball, a true stretch 4 with a great stroke from the outside.  
14) Miami - Hasaan Whiteside is a unique talent, but his track record is far too small and sketchy to get max dollars, and with Wade/Bosh gone, him being the face of the franchise is way too much for him.  Spolestra is great coach, Winslow should improve and start cementing it as his squad, but this team does not have enough talent to seriously compete.  Wouldn’t be shocked to see Dragic moved at some point.  
15) Philadelphia - Trust the process.  A month ago I would have had this team somewhere around 12/13, but with Noel/Simmons slated to miss first 2-3 months, can’t see them getting many W’s.  It appears Joel Embid is a truly dynamic talent with great upside, but let him put together a healthy stretch before we crown him anything.  They are developing a hell of a budding roster, but it’s young and needs much more time. 

Western Conference
1) Golden State - What’s to say, only thing that will keep them out of this spot is catastrophic injury or another team really excelling while they rest players in the stretch run.  On a normal team, I’d be concerned about Zaza Pachouli being counted on very heavy starter minutes, and a bench that doesn’t go very far past Livingston and Iguadola.  But the core makeup is too wild, and from all accounts, no front office has any idea how to deal with it not named LeBron James.  Oh, and by the way, Klay/Steph/KD shot 46% from 3-point in the preseason. Yikes! 
2) Oklahoma City - Westbrook already had the biggest chip on his shoulder in the league, perhaps, and that chip has become massive.  He has the unique ability to will his team to wins, and we saw what Roberson/Adams can do to people defensively in the postseason.   Oladipo and Kanter have huge opportunities to score the ball, a lot of how this season plays out relies on their ability to complement Russ on the offensive end.  Don’t sleep on Payne/Sabonis off the bench, as well. I like this team. 
3) Houston - The Houston offseason was on of the best in basketball.  Even though Anderson/Gordon are injury prone, this team can flat out shoot and should score a ton of points, especially with the “7 seconds or less” mentality.  Nene adds front court depth and not too worried about PG depth to start season since Harden can slide over, but defensively they’ll need Beverly back before long.  Will blow the doors off a lot of teams in regular season, but the makeup is not right for the playoffs, will get beat up in a long series.  
4) LA Clippers - This team, as constructed, is and will be the Clippers best chance at a title with this core.  Bringing back all the main pieces, supplementing the bench with Brandon Bass, Paul Pierce and Marresse Speights.  There are weapons and experience and grit at every position, topped by a great coach.  Have a feeling about this years Clips, and as you'll see in bottom of my predictions, think they are only team who could take out Warriors in a 7 game series.  As much as Clips will have hard time covering that perimeter, they could effectively OWN the paint, which historically says something in the NBA. 
5) Utah - My favorite young team in the west.  Not too worried about Hayward injury, once healed shouldn’t be nagging problem.  Assuring up the PG spot with George Hill, and adding veteran bench pieces in Diaw and Joe Jesus.  It’s a great mix of solid coaching, timing, young talent and veteran leadership.  I could see this team getting up to the 3-4 seed and winning a playoff round or two. 
6) San Antonio - Mark my words, it’s finally going to happen.  Every year people have doubted, and every year the Spurs answer the doubts and remain steadfastly at the top of the West.  That was because of Tim Duncan, and that will now change.  Aldridge and Pao on paper are great combo but have a high probability for chemistry clash.  Danny Green is banged up and the guards are a year older.  The decline won’t be out of the playoffs, but the powerhouse may be over. 
7) Portland - Dame Lillard has quickly become one of my league favorites.  Plays with a constant chip and with good pieces around him, have a feeling he is going to come back year after year with competitive teams.  They made some solid front court additions, but behind Crabbe, there are almost zero shooters, ball handlers or play makers coming off the bench.  That little depth won’t go very far, but they’re a playoff squad.  
8) Memphis - Boooooring old, pretty good Memphis.  Same old story, a healthy Marc Gasol could lead anyone to playoffs.  Mike Conley is very good, and now extremely rich.  But ask other teams how relying on Chandler Parsons has gone?  They will defend well and win 40+ games, again…nothing new. 

9) Minnesota - I love Towns as much as the next guy, and as intriguing as pairing the young core of KAT/Wiggins/LaVine/Dieng with a coach like Thibs, I still think they are one year or one piece away from the edge that gets you over the hump in close games.  Exciting, but not quite there. Hopefully the CBA changes in a way that allows teams like the T-Wolves to lock up their starters long term, could be an incredible core a little down the road.  
10) Dallas - Cuban did nice job of stocking decent pieces for Rick Carlisle to work with.  Just enough to stay respectable for Dirk’s finale while leaving no chance of winning it all.  Even with a Harrison Barnes turnaround this season solidifying him as, perhaps not a max contract guy, but at least a go to scorer and wing defender on solid team, Dallas will fall short.  Deron Williams is sure to wet Mavs fans palletes with a stretch of good games, then fake an injury and be in and out rest of season.  If Salah Mejri and Draymond Green wind up on court together, Dray will leave with some sort of ejection/suspension.  In short minutes last season, Salah pissed a lot of people off.  
11) Phoenix - Love the back court and also on the “Devin Booker is the real deal” train.  Len/Chandler nice pair of rim protectors.  But seeing gaping holes at the 3/4 spots that Chriss/Bender are not ready to yet fill on a full time level.  See improvement and some nice stretches, but can’t see the playoffs. 
12)  New Orleans - Starting to feel bad for Anthony Davis.  Every year we talk about the success of the Pelicans contingent on the health Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday.  A few low risk and high ceiling pick-ups, like Solomon Hill and Tim Frazier were solid, but unless Buddy Hield turns into an absolute star right off the bat.  Same old for New Orleans.
13)  Denver - Nice core building in Denver, Jokic/Mudiay/Harris mixed with another good rookie class, there is hope in Denver.  Just not playoff hope quite yet. 
14) LA Lakers - Excited to watch D’Angelo Russell shoot 35 times a game, Brandan Ingram get blown around by a swift breeze, and Julius Randle do his best Colossus impression, shoving his head into the chest of whoever is in front of him.  Joking aside, love Jordan Clarkson and that was a sneaky good re-signing.  The core is young and fun, might start getting some people in the seats but not a lot of W’s.  
15) Sacramento - Well, well, well.  Old Demarcus Cousins lost again in the landlocked California city of Sacramento.  Starting to feel for him, he wouldn’t be winning in Brooklyn, but at least he’d have some cooler places to go eat.  Hard to see this team making a jump, barring big strides from anyone of Cauley-Stein or McLemore.  

Eastern Conference Finals:  Cleveland v Boston
Western Conference Finals: Golden State v LA Clippers

Finals:  LA Clippers v Cleveland
Finals Champ: Cleveland Cavaliers 

MVP - Kevin Durant
6th Man of the Year - Marcus Smart
Coach of the Year - Billy Donovan
Finals MVP - Kyrie Irving 
Most Improved Player - Andrew Wiggins
Rookie of the Year - Joel Embiid
Executive of the Year - Dennis Lindsey

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Real life story of a white trash Jew...

"Substantial progress towards better things can rarely be taken without developing new evils requiring new remedies" - William Howard Taft 

In my life, I’ve had to deal with a little anti-semitism, but it has never felt omnipresent.  There have been moments, but it hasn't been a lifelong struggle.  I knew, and could see, that culturally I was a little bit different, but not enough to impede my movement in life.   I listened to the stories of my Grandparents, two of which were immigrants from Russia and Poland.  Listened to the stories of my parents, raised in the 40’s and 50’s in Brooklyn and the Bronx. There were plenty of tales, and more than enough about anti-semitism and the battles they fought to know that I had a much different, and easier reality.  The fact that it was an afterthought, in my mind, had always highlighted the progress made prior to me. 

I lived in an area during my teenage years that was on the outskirts of where a lot of working class white people lived.  I was in some new apartment complexes out of the thick of it, but bussed, went to school and hung out with them.  It was hiding in plain sight, I was raised by educated, Jewish New Yorkers, but since I also lived in affordable housing with my Mom, wore Metallica t-shirts, had long hair and was a smart ass in school, I fit right in.  I saw, from kids and adults alike, a lot of your general working class, racist, ignorant shit.   The worst was usually overhearing a neighbor or friend’s parents say they “Jewed someone down on the price”, usually looking at me shortly after saying something like, “don’t worry Benny, you’re like, a good one”.   I know it’s weird to say, and I’d like to keep a black and white line on racial issues, but there is a difference between truly racist and kind of dumb.  It was annoying, but we’re not talking about holocaust deniers or anti-Semites here, just general dumb asses, who usually had something shitty to say about everyone, themselves included.  In fairness, dumb asses like this are still half my friends, and I’m basically one of them.  

The issues I had with proper neo-nazi, white power dudes came about via hardcore shows.  When I started going in the early/mid 90’s, the trail off of skinheads at shows was still there.  Apparently not very long before I started attending, it had been far worse, and a lot of the scene had organized or become violent against it.  By the time I got there it had mostly been removed, but we had our problems, two stories below highlight this.    

My first real face to face with it was somewhere around 1994, ironically at some kind of charity event hosted outdoors on a high school football field in Hillsborough, NJ.  A nice town that I had many good friends in, but the part of NJ that starts to be far away enough from the city that it’s getting closer, culturally, to a more conservative mindset.  A couple friends and I had gone to see XBoundX, our favorite local hardcore band at the time.  The show had an outdoor stage, an odd mix of older/younger bands and a bunch of unusual show goers in the crowd.  

During their set we started a circle, there weren’t many of us but we managed a few solid pile-ons.  Then two guys, not kids, grown ass men started thrashing around the circle.  They seemed drunk, they were shirtless, and just getting off on anything amplified.  In the spirit of a positive pit, there were smiles and these dudes were just trying to have a good, drunken time.  No harm, no foul.  Then I saw this huge tattoo on the big guys back, clear as day, a giant swastika with an SS solider pointing a gun over top, a full size back piece.   I was floored, never seeing anything like that before and my head started to spin.  My friends saw it too and it made for an uncomfortable couple songs until there set was over, we were trying to have fun and avoid these guys at the same time.  

After the set, the tattooed guys were milling around and eventually made their way over to my crew.  Drunk and loud and rambunctious, they walked over and started saying what’s up to everyone and bumping/shaking hands.  This dude got up to me, and I froze.  In my memory it feels like I was sitting there for an hour, thinking about this tattoo, this guy, this place, imminent regret for not standing up for myself and eventually thought of my family.  I can’t conceive Judaism without thinking of my Grandparents, and in some terrified but willful show of disobedience, I pulled my hand back and told him “I can’t shake your hand.”   Still happy and confused, he asked “Why?”  And I said, “Well, honestly, I don’t like that tattoo on your back”, to which he replied, “What, are you a fucking Jew lover.”  I said, shaky and small, “well actually I am a Jew”, he said, with great disdain “well you’re a fucking Kike then”, and stormed away.  

I have to re-iterate how scared I was, and how my little protest wasn’t done with a puffy chest.  I was seriously shook and thought I would get killed if I didn’t leave.  There were no more bands anyway, and I had all the people I knew there walk me out to my friend’s car.  There was no further incident.  But I didn’t take it lightly, and the further into adulthood I get, I despise the man who treated a kid like that more and more.    

A couple years passed, and that incident took a backseat in my head, it’s Central Jersey after all and you don’t have to go far to find many cultures living closely and comfortably with each other.  As a joke and half-hearted attempt at showing pride, my brother and I made a little run of shirts.  6 were printed, they said the ‘Jewish Mafia’ on the front, and had a star of David on the back with NJJC written around it, for New Jersey Jew Core.  Since we were naive to actual realities and struggles of Jews present in our community, it wasn’t more than a goof to us and most involved.   Actually two shirts were traded to an unknown fellow for Warped Tour tickets, there whereabouts are still a mystery.  
Not long after, I went to see Snapcase, Refused and Turmoil at the Trocadero in Philly.  I had taken the train in with one friend, neither of us the tough guy types.  I wore my NJJC shirt, thinking not too much of it again, assuming what happened previously was an isolated incident.  Anyway, I sort of liked the attention it brought, I was and am a bit of a ham and liked the “conversation starter” aspect of the shirt.  Turmoil opened the show,  being one of my favorite bands at the time, I naturally started dancing and singing along and piling on bodies.   As I was finger pointing at the front of the stage, having a blast,  I got cracked in the head, really hard.  I was literally seeing stars and stumbled off to the side, I got myself together and quickly assumed I had taken a foot or fist from a stage diver, accidentally, it happened pretty often.  

During that era the Philadelphia scene had a group of dudes that called themselves “Philly Straight Edge”.  If knowledge serves, it was mostly local, drug free, bike messenger guys, who always wore Philadelphia 76ers Clarence Weatherspoon basketball jerseys and started many circle pits  at shows.  I had met one of them backstage at an H20 show,  he had long dreads, can’t remember his name.  This guy walked up to me and said, “you alright man?  That dude fucked you up”.  I didn’t know what he was talking about, but points to a few dudes staring at me across the room, skinheads, and big boys too.  One of them, apparently, had run full speed behind me when I wasn’t looking and punched me in back of the head.  A fucking weak move, due to me being about 16 years old, and the guy not even having the courage to face up on me.  

Getting my bearings, rubbing a baseball sized lump on my head, I saw a group of 3-4 of them, and they were talking and pointing right at me.  I was about to get rushed and stomped.  But, luckily, before I knew it, about 6 Clarence Weatherspoon jerseys and two security shirts rushed the guys and forcibly removed them from the building. Those dudes, luckily for me, were not about racist shit, and were quick to come to my aid.  Security probably wanted to get ahead of it since it was the 1st band and they’d already started punching people, just to maintain the peace.  I recovered, and watched rest of the show.  Refused and Snapcase were great.  

They were crazy times, but they ended...at least in my perceivable reality. It’s something that hasn’t come up in so many years for me in a tangible way.  I moved to New Brunswick area at the end of high school and ran with groups of either musicians or artists or students for many years.  Then I toured, then I wound up in a newly gentrifying part of Jersey City.  All these places were safe, and somewhat secluded from the sentiments of so many I share not only the country with, but the state.  Well, thanks to some recent loud-mouth celebrities, it’s come back into my life. 

It’s a long story, but I have been actively trolled by white nationalists and anti-Semites on twitter for the last few months now.  It started one night on a Hillary Clinton thread with someone using the (((echoes))) around my name, which are a new online Star of David.  A way of branding Jews on the Internet to be attacked by other like minded jerkoffs.  I was honestly crushed, I tried to take the high road and not engage.  Later that night I was so upset I just blocked anyone involved and deleted all messages included.  I decided that it was social media’s fault, if I wasn’t active on this site, I wouldn’t know that these people and their thoughts existed.  I live in a good community where this isn’t tolerated and I don’t have to see it, so why am I subjecting myself to it?   I decided if it’s on your doorstep, engage, if not, be the better man and leave these fringe thinkers alone.  They’ve always existed, and now they have a medium to share besides for local Waffle House’s and shit…then it followed me home. 

I can’t tell the whole story here, for sake of real life fluidity, but the day after this incident it came close to my doorstep.  It involved a colleague of my wife making a rude and totally out of line comment about changing her name to Horowitz, and the problems such a name will bring about in her life.  

These two instances have had my mind spinning for weeks.  Why, how, what the fuck is going on!?!?!  All this displaced anger and rage and sadness I don’t know what to do with.  My John Wayne side furious, knowing that if these people were standing eye to eye with me they would never say these things.  Emotional at the thought of my Grandparents, my Grandpa, who went to Yeshiva and nearly became a rabbi.  Who instead, ran grocery stores in Harlem & the Bronx and had a reputation for being extremely liberal and generous to people of all kinds, a rarity in those days.   My Grandma, who escaped Poland with her family before the war and would quietly turn the lights off Friday night and light a candle and say a prayer.  My Aunt, the Rabbi, who has such great faith in God and religion that she navigates the bureaucracy of it as a lesbian woman despite the struggles she’s faced.  

And the funny thing is, I’m not a religious man.  As anyone who has ever read this blog knows, I’m spiritual and agnostic but generally live in a continuous state of existential flux.  I think most conservative brands of religion come with great and unnecessary social consequences.  But now I’m branded a Jew Zionist because of my last name.  Even though, I’m questionable about Israel, its policies and its close and often questionable ties to America’s military.  I hold all atrocities accountable to the people creating them, hence my open admission to America and Israel being fucked up places with blood on their hands, as I believe all countries in the world, in order to become sovereign nations have had to have been fucked up places with blood on their hands.  I’ve been around a lot of the world, and no place exists without internal turmoil over its past and divisions...regionally, socially, religiously or otherwise that separate them and cause some degree of strife.  

Call me a hippy, but I believe the end game has to be universal peace.  How many history books do you need to read to understand that borders and war and dogma lead to the same result, literally EVERY time.  I believe these lines in the sand and dirt that people bleed and die over are fake and artificial.  They’re not divine, they’re man made and should be as fallible as man is.  Just as the stories they bleed and die over are essentially man made at this point, the reason I believe these words and books should also now only be used as guidelines, not instructions.  

But, even with that said, these people look at me and see 8 hook nosed Hassidic men who apparently control with world via media and banking conglomeration.  They tell me Hitler was right, and just didn’t finish the job.  They tell me all I learned of the Holocaust is artificial and the forearm tattoos I saw at my Grandparents wedding anniversary as a kid were apparently fake.  That it’s a Jews inherent sketchy and evil qualities that lead to their own persecution.  That they want my wife and my son displaced or dead.   

My mental instinct is to rise above, to push out this negativity and meet it with optimism.  The emotional side wants to fight, engage, and literally beat the shit out of all who think in this way.  It’s confusing, and sad, and I suppose I naively thought the progress that developed would just continue.  It’s also the natural ebb and flow of thought and society to have setbacks, I just hope it’s not a permanent one, and will try to remain optimistic.  What other choice do I have?  

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Vegans vs Killer Cows...

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and 
conscientious stupidity" - MLK

“Go Vegan and no One Gets hurt” is the sticker I saw on a sign a few days ago.  I pass by a lot of stickers living in a city…graffiti, promotion companies, bands, causes, etc, but this one really caught my attention.  Nobody gets hurt? Made me think, but only about how much the sentiment bothered me.  Too simple, too blanketed, not a thoughtful perspective.  It didn't make a clear point, it doesn’t make you question your decisions as a meat eater. The longer I thought about it the more and more angry I got.

Please know this post isn’t coming from some holier than thou bacon eater who wears a shirt that says “vegetarian is Native American for bad hunter”.  This is coming from a nearly 22 year vegetarian.  No meat, poultry, fish, leather or animal tested products for over two decades of my life.  I’ve made huge sacrifices throughout these years to maintain what I believe to be right.  And stickers like this make it feel trivial and elementary.

I could only imagine the 14 year old in a new Hot Topic purchased Grateful Dead shirt sticking that on a sign.  Adding fuel to the fire to the generalization that pervades liberalism and progressives at every turn.  That we’re soft.  Naive to the realities of the world.  A generalization I take very personally, that often pisses me off.

Not only that, but if the creator of this sticker understood human nature at all, they’d realize they are doing no service to our cause…but more than likely a disservice.  In these 22 years I’ve never altered someones  opinion on animal rights by force and very rarely tell anyone they are wrong.  I’ve lived well, made a vegetarian lifestyle look simple and easy.  Show that it’s a legitimate option by example, not by force.  No person likes to be told what to do, and will more often than not put their guard up if you do.  Have to just do your thing, and be educated and engaged when someone starts asking about it.

We need to be culpable as progressives for not being the opposite version of our counterparts, but a better version that doesn’t slip into the modern, acceptable levels of thought and dialogue.  The current barometer is obviously low, between the media now only catering to its ratings/sponsors and social media dictating the conversation, intellectualism, or more simply put, thinking, has become elitist and uncool.  It makes me think of Obama’s Rutgers commencement speech from early May when he said “We have access to more information than at any time in human history, at a touch of a button.  But, ironically, the flood of information hasn’t made us more discerning of the truth.  In some ways, it’s just made us more confident in our ignorance.”

I fear that sentiments like “Go Vegan and No One Gets Hurt” is the intellectual reverse of the “Make America Great Again” mentality.  A bold and sweeping generalization.  Not really helping anyone.  The thoughtless ruins of a 140 character society that has to wrap up the worlds largest problems in the space of a tweet.  Of course I believe Veganism is a much better movement for the world than Trump, don’t get me wrong, but I’m using him to make a point.  

Things are nuanced, and with every change people will inevitably suffer.  I know it’s not a popular thing to discuss, but the meat industry is a real thing, and it’s gigantic, and not every person who lives off of it are rich and filling their horn carved coffers.  Based on 2013 stats from the North American Meat Institute, there are over 450,000 people employed in some facet of the meat industry in the US alone, earning a projected 19 billion dollars in salary.  Not to mention if you add distribution, delivery and retail it amounts to over 6 million people employed with an estimated 200 billion in wages.  All those people don’t deserve anything?  Families, and entire towns and cities would crumble, and I’m to believe if you “Go Vegan: No one Gets Hurt”.     

And do you have a plan after the worldwide change?  If everyone decided to go vegan tomorrow, you have a way to roll that out?  If these animals were currently left to their own devices, they would probably all die.  Pasture after pasture of rotting cows, being munched on by vultures and coyotes and shit.  The years and years of harvesting these animals for meat has left them completely inept at surviving on their own.  And if the species managed to survive?  They would have adapted, and in 200 years, people would be fighting off killer gangs of carnivorous cows roaming the same countryside.  And then the “animal wars” begin, thanks to you, vegans…

People have to remember that while waging a morality war, both sides know for a fact they are doing the right thing, and most in the middle crave leadership, and 140 character leadership is dooming us. 

At this point, I’m interested in NO bold declarations without plans.  NO biting statement without substance.  NO change without real dialogue and a stop to this divisive thinking and language that only sees a line in the sand, and not all the gray surrounding it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

15/16' NBA Predicitons...The Inaugural.

This is a first for me, I obsessively follow hoops and had so much fun getting this together.  Hit me up with any thoughts!

Eastern Conference 

1) Cleveland Cavaliers - Very deep, Mo Williams pickup fills a big hole for secondary playmaker,  and the obvious, LeBron James.  He has made it to the finals twice with extremely thin Cavs teams, this season coming in with so much talent and depth, no reason to doubt The King. 
2) Miami Heat - Best starting 5 in East.  Addition of Gerald Green off bench adding 29.3 PPG in 48 minute average last year who could contend for 6th man award.  Do not trust Hasaan Whiteside after only 32 NBA starts, but imagine they have enough talent to give the league their ratings wish, a Lebron/Wade Eastern finals.  
3) Chicago Bulls - New coach, new system, same old Rose.  Butler takes this team over and starts the new look Bulls, which I think will thrive under Holberg.  Bobby Portis is biggest rookie sleeper and will contribute big minutes right away.  Too many injury concerns to contend with the top 2 though, I’m afraid. 
4) Atlanta Hawks - Love their system, coach and big 3.  But, they leave a big gaping hole for  a wing defender with loss of Carroll, and stayed even while the East greatly improved.  Should see big strides from Schroeder but can’t see them getting past the top 3 teams.  
5) Milwaukee Bucks - They are long and versatile and create mismatches at 4 positions.  Have the option to play small or big, and added Greg Monroe’s nightly double/double, coming off a 16PPG/10RPG off-year in Detroit.  Kidd, jerk that he is,  has proven he’s top 10 coach and can see this team advancing a playoff round or two.  
6) Washington Wizards - One John Wall injury from disaster, but lucky for them a few solid trees  in the middle and Beal on a contract year should still bring them to playoffs.  Not convinced they can make any noise past first round.  Whitman is a ghost in DC if they don’t. 
7) Boston Celtics - Isiaah Thomas averaged 30.6 PPG per 48 minutes last season.  Amir Johnson and David Lee will balance Sullinger-gate, Marcus Smart on second year, maybe best on-ball perimeter defender in East with Avery Bradley.  And, in my opinion the best young coach in the league.  Boston is on the rise. 
8) Detroit Pistons -  Greg Monroe is a good player, but the floor chemistry suffered greatly with him on roster.  I expect big years from Jackson/Drummond and a full season under Van Gundy.  Hopefully Marcus Morris doesn’t have another twin-loss meltdown.  Think they ride high off last years strong finish and crack the Eastern playoffs. 

9) Toronto Raptors- Just like Wizards, one Kyle Lowry injury away from being  a 30 win team.  Don’t love the makeup, and could see Casey losing his guys with a poor stretch.    They could be on the outside looking in come playoff time.  
10) Charlotte Hornets - Quiet additions of Batum/Lamb/Lin, don’t think they can get past MKG injury.  Al Jefferson has proven to be a serviceable NBA big man/scorer, but he’s no leader.  
11) Indiana Pacers - George off injury and CJ Miles/Ian Mahinmi in starting lineup. Departure of David West a big hit for locker room chemistry.  Vogel is a great coach but don’t think they have the roster, especially with your big wing scorer (Monta Ellis) hitting threes at a .285% clip last season. 
12) New York Knicks - Had a solid offseason and started building a real team around Carmelo.  Started being the operative word.  Hopefully he’s not 45 when they complete the process.  
13) Brooklyn Nets - Post Deron Williams era brings life and more uptempo system.  Sneaky additions of youth/speed in Larkin, T-Rob, RHJ paired with a full year from Thad Young.  It will be more fun, but sadly for us BK fans, won’t translate to enough wins. 
14) Orlando Magic - Love the young pieces, but until Oladipo or Harris can be someone to lean on for scoring, can’t crack the playoffs just yet.  Would need huge improvement years from Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon to even sniff the 8 seed. 
15) Philadelphia Sixers - You know the deal, Okafor/Noel should be fun to watch down low.  Won’t result in W’s.  Time for Philly fans to stop attending games and force their hand in giving fans a legitimate team, too good a basketball town to not.  

Western Conference 

1) Oklahoma City Thunder - Durant shot 60% from field in preseason, full year for DJ Augustin off bench, and fresh start with Billy Donovan.  Oh yeah, and the best athlete in the game, Westbrook.  With so much to lose, Spurs bound to rest down the stretch and Andrew Bogut’s inevitable injury, see them as the #1 seed. 
2) Golden State Warriors - Love this team but hard not to feel they had a special year and will drop down to earth a touch.  That being said, cannot devalue a dominant championship team who brings back all the pieces.  Will eventually win the Western Playoffs, but might have a couple tough stretches in regular season. 
3) San Antonio Spurs - The always tricky Spurs, is it the year the big 3 breaks down?  Probably not.  But I do think they feel the loss of Bellinelli on perimeter and have an adjustment period to get through.  Will drop regular season games for rest, as we know, but be right there in the end, as always.
4) Houston Rockets - I have Houston as the 4th best team in league behind SA/CLE/GS…but sadly for them, I see a repeat of their 14/15’ season.  Harden will beast, Howard will defend and kill the playoffs, but will come up just short against one of the big boys. 
5) Memphis Grizzlies - Same old power basketball juggernauts who are experienced and added depth.  This team could annoy the league into a frenzy, but still feel they’re one big time shooter away from cracking the West finals.  
6) LA Clippers - How can you believe in this team?  Even with the quality additions of Pierce/Stephenson, hard to see them putting together 4 good enough games to get through the West’s top 5 in playoffs.  Rinse/Repeat for the Clippers. 
7) New Orleans Pelicans - 45 wins with A. Davis putting up MVP numbers by himself, or 55-60 wins with a healthy and engaged Jrue Holiday and eventually Tyreke Evans.  Eric Gordon was 3rd in NBA shooting threes at .448% clip.  Inside/out game could be huge, especially if Ryan Anderson stays on floor.  
8) Sacramento Kings - Of course this pick could blow up in my face.  Cousins is, when engaged, the second best big man in the league (behind A.Davis) … Rondo/Collison give you different styles from the PG spot and they improved their outside shooting.  If they don’t collapse horribly, watch out. 

9) Phoenix Suns - Potentially dynamic backcourt of Knight/Bledsoe with addition of defensive lynchpin Chandler is strong core.  Development of Len/Warren/Goodwin off bench could be sway that gets them the 7/8 spot or get left home. 
10) Utah Jazz - Gave up a league best 94.9 PPG last year, and bring back core of Favors/Hayward/Gobert…worried about production from guard spots and sadly…two good teams have to be left out of playoffs in the West. 
11) Dallas Mavericks - Can’t stress enough how I hate how this team looks on paper, but Carlisle is one of the best and will eek 40+ wins out of them.  
12) LA Lakers - Should be fun to watch, but shocked if it comes together so fast.  Clarkson/Russell/Randle should at least cushion Kobe enough to make this a watchable team. 
13) Portland Trailblazers - In the West, Lillard will have to shoulder too big of a load.  He will likely be top  5-10 in league in scoring, which essentially means he had to do too much with no help. Enjoy Air Plums, just hope he doesn’t get fouled.   
14) Minnesota Timberwolves - Rubio/Wiggins/Towns/Dieng/Mohammed might be most fun core of youth in league next to Orlando, don’t see it turning into wins yet.  But should start seeing an ascension from the cellar.  RIP Flip.  
15) Denver Nuggets - Love Mudiay, and that’s about it.  Same old for Denver, expect high volume and low percentages from Gallo/Foye/Chandler.  

Eastern Conference Finals:  Cleveland vs Miami
Eastern Conference Champs: Cleveland Cavaliers
Western Conference Finals:  Oklahoma City/Golden State
Western Conference Champs: Golden State Warriors
NBA Champs:  Cleveland Cavaliers  

MVP - Kevin Durant
6th Man of the Year - Isiaah Thomas
Coach of the Year - Brad Stevens
Finals MVP - Lebron James
Most Improved Player:  Giannis Antetokounmpo 
Rookie of the Year: Karl Anthony Towns
Executive of the Year: David Griffin