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 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Jack Daniels...and Hillary Clinton.

Preface: I normally don’t do this, because typically I take old writing and edit it prior to posting on this site.  I read this back, and even though depressing (big surprise), it seemed to be a pretty accurate capture of the moment.  I was drunk, and have a bizarre emotional connection with movies. I can’t believe people ever click on this site twice.  Good for you.  

6 Jack Daniels deep, flying from Hamburg to Newark, June 29th 2015…

The things that happen in this world break me. Every ill turn, every death, every lie and every injustice breaks my heart. Not a metaphor.  It hurts, and I cannot make any damn sense of it. 

How is it that other humans can’t see it?  All this beauty and all these souls and all this love and heart and all people seem to do is to view themselves through the spectrum of their  station in life. Lacking the ability to view yourself in another’s shoes. 

I’d vote for Hillary and I’ll tell you why, because she’s a woman.  Because men can’t have compassion for humanity in a way a woman can understand.  She feels the heart beat and feeds life in a biological way.  Man simply has less value on a human life than a woman.  In a way we simply can’t understand. 

Maybe I won’t vote for Hillary.  $45 million to run a campaign.  I’m tired of the disconnected pretending to connect, rich pretending to bend down.  She’s just my reference that women have more value for life.  My assumption that if women were in power the world would be a less murder happy place.  Something biological and real telling them to not press the button to incinerate lives that men maybe lack?  Really, in the wild…we typically fight, fuck and then leave.  Maybe coming back in 6 months to try and eat our kid.  Males…gross.  

Even drunk on an airplane I can understand the fragility of life.  (For the sake of disclosure, a sad scene at the beginning of the film “Chappie” brought this all on.)  I hit turbulence too bad and I’m dead.  One rogue suicide bird or bomber, the wrong gust of wind of wrong strike of lightning and I cease to exist on this world.  No more valuable or invaluable than the two German teenagers sitting next to me, probably about to see NYC for the first time. 

The more I think the less I know.  Sometimes I feel this thing going to the ground and me passing on is the only true adventure left.  This world brings pain and disappointment, love and always loss.  I want to live inside of the good times, but knowing what’s coming doesn’t allow me to do this. 

Of course all these thoughts come drunk on a plane watching Hugh Jackman with a mullet and terrible South African accent.  But I don’t think it’s that silly anymore, my emotional connection to film and how real it feels.  These ideas were created by people.  They were turned into art by people.  Meaning people thought of it, and are clearly capable and culpable in its actions.  

I guess life is just gonna be harder for me than most people.  I hate the type of people who write sentences like I just wrote.   Paging Dr. Freud.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Turtles on the Tour Bus...

"Every trail has some puddles." - Old West Saying 

Woke up at 8:00 AM rolling around in the bunk.  It was dark, someone must have remembered to turn the overhead light off last night.  I seem to have lost my socks in the night, I assume they are on top of Ian in the bunk below right now, I'll get them later when he wakes up.  600 mile trip from Salt Lake City, so the bus is still moving.  John, the driver (also former touring country drummer and extremely nice fella from Louisiana) has had a cough for a week or so now.  I hear him up front hacking away.  Hope he'll be alright.  

The view rolling into Denver area is pretty.  Big, blue sky peppered with clouds.  Far off to my right are the snow capped rocky mountains.  In the closer view are farms, small towns, old silos and mills, new micro condos and assorted rural businesses.  The ground looks pretty dry, bet it hasn't rained much around here recently.  But it's the view I'm accustomed to seeing around here, beautiful rolling green hills for miles heading to the base of the vast mountain range.  It's unique to this place, and I'm lucky for knowing it.    

The front lounge of the bus is empty and quiet.  Only leavings from last nights post show activities.  In sight are 3 backpacks, coats and hats, the floor has maybe 6 pairs of shoes.  All black and ironically all Doc Martens or Vans, I suppose even the non-conformists conform. The table is littered with chargers, papers, wrapped pastries from the nice lady in Seattle who cooked an insane amount of food for us.  There is also a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book, the PS4 equipped with 4 controllers for optimal FiFA use and some floater water bottles.  

I took some of those floaters and poured them into the Kuerig machine for coffee.  I ate after the show last night, so it's daring having a coffee while we are still driving and before I'd had my morning poop.  The great tour conundrum ensues, what to consume versus when/where I can empty the tank. 

Everyone is still sleeping, I wonder how long this can last.  It's only a matter of time before somebody slips through that door and begins their morning.  Some brush their teeth, some eat cereal, some go straight to coffee machine.  But I'll soon be distracted by the flow of the herd, it's inevitable.   

My ears are popping, hitting in and out of elevations.  This coffee might have been a bad idea, the turtle is poking and no idea how long we get to Denver. On top of that, no idea if the venue will be open or if I'll be left, as I often am, to wander the streets looking for anywhere to poop. In a cruel twist of fate, I may have to purchase another small coffee for the privilege to sit.  

And so it begins, the herd has risen.  Marv at the sink brushing his grill while two others check their phones.   I'm distracted now, but glad I got to write this.  People say write what you know, the most unique thing about my life is this traveling musical circus and the methods and customs of its inhabitants.  So, that's a tour bus morning.  

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Gamblero…and an Altercation with my Sense of Humanity.

I'm a Brooklyn Nets season ticket holder.  If you asked me 20 years what my goal in life was, in general, it was paying rent through music and eventually getting season tickets to basketball.  I love the game, to me when played correctly it's poetry in motion and I can't get enough of it.  To that end, I have been driving in and out of Brooklyn close to 30 times a year to see my team play.  Even when they lose, I love it, because usually someone has to play beautiful basketball to get it done.  

Since the first few games at the new Barclays Center, a new fan favorite appeared in the lower section.  We've always had Mr. Whammy, an older local attorney who sits behind the hoop and curses the other teams free throws with his devil horns and funky gyrations.  But now appeared the Gamblero.  On the screen, every game, I'd watch this dude wearing hipster big glasses, neon undershirts and hats and a Jersey that says "Gamblero #44".   During timeouts or any stop in action, he would take to the aisles and do his signature dancing to the stadium music.  Soon enough, the camera people took enough attention that he was a regular stadium fixture.  You couldn't get through a game without seeing the Gamblero.  Always smiling, always dancing, always rooting on the Nets.  

Sounds nice enough doesn't it??  Well, here come my blaring lesson in humanity.  I ALWAYS used to make fun of him.  I wondered, who is this clown?  With the hipster rimmed glasses, the neon clothes, the funky dance moves.   He always had the best seats in the lower deck, something I assumed was hooked up through the Nets to have a famous super fan guy to promote, which I resented.  Most of the time when he came on the screen, I, like an asshole, made fun of him.  

About a month ago, he died.  Not in some natural fashion, but by suffering injuries leaping out of a 2nd story window in Queens.   I was shocked and immediately saddened and tried to get any information I could.  Digging through his history has been what's haunting me about my general attitude and judgement towards people.   

He was only 38 years old.  Had a loving fiance who was ruined by the news.  He, for whatever reason, lived life with a prosthetic leg.  He was a pretty well known graffiti and graphic artist.  He has parents and family and a life asides from what I knew of him.  Funky, dancing, smiling guy at Nets games.  

It turns out, in early December he was removed by security at Madison Square Garden during the Nets/Knicks game.  I'm not sure how it happened, but a video surfaced of him being carried up the aisle without his leg and eventually dropped by security guards.  I briefly heard about this story and brushed it over, not knowing the humiliation and pain he felt from this event left him scarred.  By word of his fiance, this was an extremely traumatic experience for him that lead to a lack of sleeping and some fits of panic and hysteria.  He was in bad shape due to this and was having a hard time getting back on track.  

Oddly, I saw him dancing at the Sixers game on December 12th without knowing any of this occurred.    I passed him off as I normally did, I had no reason to think otherwise.   Turns out it was the last time I or anyone would see him there.   The following night while sleeping at his father's house, he woke up hysterical, and threw himself out of a second story window.  The injuries suffered took his life not long after.  

I haven't been able to stop thinking about this.  My personal judgement, passed off for what reason?  Because he's not like me?  All subtle and wearing black in the upper deck, un-willing to show my spirit and judging people from afar.  What is it about me, about people, that has this tendency.  A tendency to de-value anything or anyone you don't know, minimizing them out of your conscious as something not worthy of authentic thought or compassion.   Was I insecure because he had the balls to wear what he wore?  Put himself out there like that?   He was always positive, always having a good time.  From the reports that poured in after his death, he was warm and giving and only looking to have a good fucking time.  I didn't see this guy with a story, with parents, with pain and suffering like everyone else, I just saw this image.  An image that wasn't congruous with my own, distorted sense of what people "should" be like.  

Luckily I never met him, or his fiance or loved ones.  I never took to social media to bash him and only shared personal shitty jokes about him in private to my friends I share basketball games with.  Harboring my own sense of judgement, almost definitely predicated on my own insecurities.  He never knew my attitude, and I'm glad.  But I'm living with guilt.  Am I really THAT guy?  Someone who sits hundreds of feet away holding vitriol in their stomach for no apparent reason.  What a dick.  

It's no way to live.  And it's no way to be with other people.  It's no way to help the world and my own personal community.  We should all be more positive and warm and giving.  Actually, he was doing that, and I wasn't.  I was silently judging the person who was putting themselves out their in a positive and refreshing way.  I mean, fuck, this guy was so positive he wouldn't allow disparaging remarks or signs about the other teams, because it brought the wrong message.  

All these things I learned about the man posthumously.  I had no idea his story was complex and cool and rich.  A full life that is not mine merits the same respect as my own.  And I will no longer view people as random, and less important than me.  Everyone has a story.  Everyone has pain.  Everyone.  It will have to be my responsibility moving forward to make that a focused and serious discipline for my life. 

See you later Gamblero, I hope you're in a good place.  You taught me a lesson without even knowing me.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kicking Away the Line in the Sand...

"If civilization is to survive, 
we must cultivate the science of human relationships - 
the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, 
to live together, in the same world at peace."
- F.D.R

I want to live in a place with strong workers unions, legal weed, gay marriage and overly strict gun laws.  I want to pay higher taxes so my parks and roads and schools and hospitals and social programs are well funded and work.  I want food that's not grown in a chemical process and I want some pony-tailed transplant from Iowa to make me a coffee with an option of almond milk.  I want politicians to run clean without big money financing. I want my country, which was colonized and then built by immigrants, to have a sensible, non-nationalistic approach to immigration.  

Uhhhh….I just erased the rest of this.  It sounded like a 14 year old kid reading the back of a Bob Marley record.  I'll re-think this one…hopefully from the perspective of an adult male.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Humans (Part One)

"Seven to eleven is a huge chunk of life, full of dulling and forgetting.  It is fabled that we slowly lose the gift of speech with animals, that birds no longer visit our windowsills to converse.  As our eyes grow accustomed to sight they armor themselves against wonder."  - Leonard Cohen  

The fact that a person has the ability to get accustomed to anything might be the largest reason the concepts of heaven and hell do not make much sense to me.  This thought coming from a logical standpoint over a theological standpoint, since the two are often at odds.  

I imagine a billowy cloud with everything I could want on it…endless cheese, peanut butter, weed, baseball games and scottie dogs.   But eventually, I'd get used to it.  I'd want more or less of what I have, it's simply human nature.  And begrudgingly, I still have to be honest and check homo sapien on my census report. 

Not to mention hell.  Masochism, I figure…has to be a learned and nurtured trait in most humans.  Because of this, eventually you might grow fond of the steady heat of fire and brimstone…and according to the film 'Little Nicky', pineapples up your asshole.  

I've recently watched doctors and nurses work a lot, which brought up this thought in the first place.  Though they can come off forbidding and cavalier on the prognosis of a human you love dearly, I can understand how they become accustomed.  Eventually numb, maybe bored.  They still need to come home after work and manage to compartmentalize what they saw all day.  Not bringing that pain and agony you see back home with you.

I can relate in a similar sort of way.  I have a job that's incredible and unique.  What I get to do is special and rare and fueled by drastic physical and emotional responses on each side of the stage.  But, through the years,  I've eventually grown accustomed to it.  I can't lie and say that at times, my mind hasn't wandered.  I'm usually tied to every note in a very cathartic way.  But...maybe once or twice, on the 486th show during Great Expectations, I thought about the standings of the NBA Eastern Conference…or, will Ian eat all the pizza before I'm done showering later?   

In a former reality I used to beg people to book and enjoy my bands.  I was ecstatic if someone who wasn't my friend bought a demo or a t-shirt.  Trying to accrue fans one by one by one.  Now it's possible to walk into an undersold House of Blues somewhere and manage to muster up a feeling of regrettable disappointment.  How that happened?  I don't know…but it happened.  A particular example of how a human can view themselves in dangerous ways without the appropriate checks and balances in their life.  

Life is funny like that.  Humans are some adaptable motherfuckers.  One of the reasons I still have hope in my species is our ability to adapt and grow accustomed and move on.  But, if there is a heaven or hell…I imagine it HAS to be something so far beyond human perception, because anything inside of the human paradox can get old.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

East London Insomnia…(Fear of the Dark)

"I am a man who walks alone
And when I'm walking a dark road
At night or strolling through the park

When the light begins to change 
I sometimes feel a little strange
A little anxious when it's dark"

- Iron Maiden 

Do we choose to be afraid?  

It's 3:30 AM, I'm in a posh East London hotel watching World Cup replays and deciding whether to shower or exercise, or both.  Stomach hurts from the flight and coffee and beer and shitty finger foods I've been eating all day.  The air is thick in here, and for some reason hotels don't trust me to not throw myself or large objects out the window, so it's sealed.  I could go outside, but then I'd have to put on clothes, and who knows what variable could throw itself at me at this time of night in a neighborhood I don't know.  These difficult choices that muddle my mind from the real gray area of my life I should be paying attention to.   

Part of my long and tenuous battle with the night is clearly based on fear.  When I was a child it was of death, basic….I knew my greatest fear and met it head on every night.  Now I just lay anxious, my fears so muddled through time and thought that they lay in an unrecognizable pile.  A pile that should get sorted through, piece by piece…cleaned and then re-assembled, like an engine.  But instead, at 33, I meet it with a begrudging inevitability.  Digging through that pile sounds exhausting and painful and the idea of letting it sit is so much easier.  Maintained happiness feels like a full-time job. 

Anyway…the question is, do we choose to be afraid?  This topic has been taking more brain space recently because of a documentary I watched called 'Don't Look Down.'    It's about two "urban free climbers", one from the UK named James Kingston, who travels to the Ukraine to team up with acclaimed Internet sensation Mustang Wanted for a couple of tandem climbs.  Essentially, these guys climb up cranes, bridges and old or new building frames, with no roping or safety, and dangle from hundreds of feet taking pictures of themselves.  It's fucking gnarly, and kind of rad, and gives you that "too high" feeling which leaves a knot in the bottom of your stomach and top of your balls just watching it.  

Overcoming and not recognizing fear, clearly plays a role in such a task.  At one point in the film, Kingston talks about the only difference between your hands hanging on to a bar at 10 feet or 300 feet is how your brain decides to see it.  I love this.  It's the same hands, and the same piece of metal you're holding on to.  He just doesn't allow his brain to receive it as fear, knowing he's done it thousands of times and has trust in his ability.  I'm inspired by this, irrational fear comes from a place that can be conquered, not simply dealt with.  

So now I find myself in a battle of wits with different parts of my brain.  The rational and irrational meeting in a heated battle to determine the speed of my heart palpitations.   Tonight I'll choose to not be afraid, and I'll win.  Tomorrow night, well…I'll deal with that when it comes.