2016-17 NBA Eastern Conference Outlook

There was a point during NBA Finals game four that would be lost by the  Cleveland Cavaliers and their star player LeBron James.
The Cavs were about to go down 3 games to 1 to the Golden State Warriors during the 2016 NBA Finals.
No team had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit and for most part that was the death knell for all NBA teams up to this point.
During a time out Le Bron sat motionless staring straight ahead seemingly oblivious to everything going on around him.
It was at this point that LeBron may have stared into the figurative abyss and his own soul to summon that which was needed to overcome an opponent with a 73-9 record, the expectations of a title starved city and a short tempered undersized power forward calling him every name in the book.
LeBron then executed  the systematic deconstruction of a proud championship team in this order:
1. He stepped over a fallen Draymond Green as slowly as he could and waited for the result.
2. He promptly explained to the media and (Commissioner Adam Silver)
of how offended he was by the verbal onslaught used by Draymond during the game that resulted in a subsequent game five suspension.
3. He finally orchestrated a tempo controlling pace utilizing the size advantage held by by the Cavaliers.
After it was over Cleveland got their Title, the Warriors, maybe their last shot and Lebron ? The vindication of a turbo-charged push through doubt and fear and possibly a challenge to Kareem Abdul Jabbar as the GreatestOf All Time.
Can LeBron repeat? To pull that off he will have to go through a much improved Eastern Conference so without further ado let’s look at the best of the  rest as we breakdown the Eastern Conference contenders in order of finish.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Please see the above.
Toronto Raptors: 56-26 Last season:
 Last seasons record 56-26 (franchise best).  This is the team that took the Cavs to six games in the conference finals and that was with ever improving center Jonas Valanciunas hampered with a bad ankle. Guards DeMar Derozan and Kyle Lowry are veteran All Stars providing big numbers and leadership.
The team lost backup center Bismack Biyombo to free agency but should rebound with the solid work of top shelf and underrated GM Masai Ujiri.
The Raptors are a gritty defensive minded team that will give Cleveland all they can handle for a second straight year.
3.  Boston Celtics: 48-34 Last season:
If there were ever a team that Nick Fury would be proud of it would be this one.  Top five head coach Brad Stevens has assembled a team of leathernecks reminiscent of some of the throwback teams of the 60’s and 70’s.  There used to be a term, I believe it was junkyard dog and most teams had one maybe two.
This Celtic team has at least six starting with Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Gerald Green (yeah, I said it) and rookie Jaylen Brown. The C’s have chemistry and toughness to augment an absolutely relentless defense.
The challenge in last years playoffs was scoring (11th in points per possession) and a key injury to guard Bradley that turned out to be devastating.
New for this year is Horford (15.2 ppg) and promising rookie Jaylen Brown ( for whom coach Brad Stevens said ” is going to be really good”)
No this Celtic team is not good enough to win the NBA title this year.  But they are good enough to win the east.
4. Indiana Pacers: 49-33 Last season:
Some are projecting this Pacers Team to win the eastern conference and they may well be in the conversation but first they will have to prove that they can pull together some newly acquired firepower.
Jeff Teague (15.7 ppg) joined the Pacers from the Hawks to help fulfill team president Larry Birds vision of a higher scoring offensive team.
Joining Jeff are Big Al Jefferson(10.1ppg), Thaddeus Young(15.1) and the return of promising second year center Myles Turner(10.3ppg)
NBA All Star and team leader Paul George (23.1ppg and 7.0 rpg) looks to seriously challenge his rival LeBron James for the conference title.
Paul just may have a point if the pacers can capitalize on upgrades at the point guard and back up center.
5.  New York Knicks  32-50 Last season:
Team president Phil Jackson has managed to finally put some realistic pieces around star forward Carmelo Anthony (21.8ppg) who with second year potential All Star Kristaps Porzingas (14.3 ppg) and new trade acquisitions have given Melo maybe the most talent he has had to work with yet.
The new teammates include Derrick Rose, healthy and in a contract year, Joakim Noah a former NBA defensive player of the year, Brandon Jennings and defensive stalwart Courtney Lee.
Noah and Lee give the Knicks starting lineup some sorely needed defensive balance and in Noah’s case mentoring for young star in the making Porzingas.
 New head coach Jeff Hornacek is faced with the task of melding this collection of players with his desired fast paced attack while attempting to utilize the triangle offense.
Oh yeah, the much maligned Triangle offense which seems to gain a new group of detractors weekly. Here’s the deal.
  Horace grant was on the money recently when he said the offense requires intelligence.  It’s not an easy offense to learn but the payoffs are worth it because when ran correctly the triple post offense can force defenses to keep up and identify match ups while offensive players are constantly moving based on the position of the ball.
Will the players buy in or will you have hold outs who for whatever reasons choose to lean on a more conventional pick and roll attack.
One thing is for certain and that is this shapes up as a truly interesting year for long suffering Knick fans and for this franchise who could very well face Indiana in the 1st round of the 2016-17 playoffs.
6. Milwaukee Bucks 33-49 last season:
The Milwaukee Bucks are in full rebuilding mode while developing their two cornerstones Gianianis Antetokounmpo (16.9 ppg 7.7 rpg) and forward Jabari Parker(14.1 ppg 5.2 rpg), both 21 years old.
Joining the Bucks is recent free agent signee Matthew Delavedova from the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Delavedova will back up Giannis at the point in light of the recent trade of Micheal Carter-Williams.
The 2016 NBA draft netted the Bucks 6-2″ point guard Malcolm Brogdon out of Virginia and 7-1″ forward Thon Maker out of the South Sudan.
The Bucks will make the playoffs this year on the strength of their young promising players.
7.  Detroit Pistons 44-38 last season
The Pistons look to build on last season which saw them making the NBA playoffs only to lose to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.
Coach and team president Stan Van Gundy has earned respect around the league for his ability to turn around franchises and he is pinning his hopes on key player Andre Drummond a 6-10″ center who last season averaged  (16.2 ppg and 14.8 rpg ).
Drummond is joined by promising point guard Reggie Jackson(18.8 ppg) who for this year will be backed up by lightning quick Ish Smith.
The Pistons are on the right track but until they develop their weak bench expect a 7th place finish and between 46 to 50 wins.
8. Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets tied for 8th:
After trading guard Derrick Rose the Chicago Bulls had to make a decision;  Do we rebuild or do we give the fans some semblance of hope that we can contend for the conference? The entire choice rested on the decision to keep or trade guard/forward Jimmy Butler.
Once the team decided to keep Jimmy the task became to put the most competitive team around him that you can
Guard Rajon Rondo was obtained for a year and to top it off future Hall of Fame guard Dwayne Wade was brought in to provide in equal parts credibility and leadership.
Can this team contend? Well, the 3pt shooting percentages for Jimmy Butler 31.2, Rajon Rondo 36.5 and Dwayne Wade 15.9%.
Pencil them in for 40 wins.
Who will win the East?
It’s hard to believe that this NBA season could surpass the last one in terms of excitement but  with a new influx of talent in the conference Cleveland will have their hands full.
However, at the end of the day don’t bet the mortgage money against the guy hellbent on re-writing history.
Welcome back LeBron.

Will A Trump Victory Be A Triumph For The Corporate State?

With one day to go before the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and republican challenger Donald Trump and the stakes as high as ever one must wonder why is this still a contest?
Nate Silver’s 538 Blog has Clinton up by around six points with 58.1 to Trumps 48.9 and roughly a month to go.
Who are they?
Hillary Clinton is a person who has spent most of her adult life involved in politics and public service.  She is married to former president Bill Clinton, was a U.S. Senator ( out of New York ) and Secretary of State under current President Barack Obama.
 Clinton, who has been characterized as more liberal than her husband Bill Clinton has adopted as part of her platform some positions held by former democratic challenger Bernie Sanders (such as free state college for children of families making less than 125,000 per year).
A Clinton presidency would more than likely mean a continuation of the successful economic policies of President Barack Obama as well as a foreign policy reflecting the shared vision and cooperation of like minded nations looking to face a future that must include  underdeveloped and war torn nations.
Donald Trump is a real estate developer and successful reality show creator.  Trump has no previous public service experience to speak of and has gone on record insulting Mexicans and women.
Trump has suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a stronger leader than our current President and has called for a re-introduction of stop and frisk laws in U.S. cities (most notably Chicago).
Never in recent presidential history has there existed such a lop sided difference in qualifications.
So why are the candidates so close in the polls?
To answer that question why don’t we try looking at the stakes.
To date we are looking at the largest gap between the rich and poor ever in the history of the nation. CEO’s make hundreds of times more than their employees and the political power derived from this economic advantage drove former president Jimmy Carter to say on the Thom Hartmann radio show said that America is now an Oligarchy
The next U.S. president will have an opportunity to select two and possibly three Supreme Court justices.  At stake, Citizens United, the law enabling unlimited spending in elections by corporations.  These are  high stakes indeed and that explains in part why at this point the polls are still close.
The Deconstruction Of Hillary
Hillary Clinton does have challenges as she is not the most polished candidate and like most politicians she has done some flip flopping but she is nowhere near the criminal and liar that her detractors make her out to be.
A little discussed aspect of this candidate is the poise and focus she displayed after years and years of scrutiny and congressional hearings over essentially two issues: Bengazi and the e-mail scandal.
Far right pundits with an assist from just about all of our news outlets have successfully and relentlessly planted in the minds of every day Americans that both candidates are equally flawed.
The false equivalence of both candidates being flawed could lead to low voter turnout. ( which always seems to favor the republican candidate).
Couple low turnout with the possibility of Russian hackers and those dreaded Diebold voting machines (remember those Mr. Kerry) and there you have it.  An upset of epic proportions.
It seems that we are all on the clock as for the first time in recent history America will be forced to take a serious look at herself.
Are we the beacon of hope and fairness that is our potential?
Or will we succumb to the seduction of fear and greed?
Could Jimmy Carter be right?  Let’s hope the answer to that question is a heartfelt no.

Salute To A Ballplayer

Saint Pauls College former student and basketball player ( # 52 on above photo) Neil Woodard passed away recently at the young age of 61.
Neil was my roommate and teammate on the Fighting Tigers from 1973-1977.  I remember meeting the brother for the first time and he made an immediate positive first impression.
Neil was a sincere and down to earth brother with an incredible sense of humor.
And who could forget those dance moves !  Part of the beauty of attending college away from home is that you get to make lifelong friends with people from different backgrounds.
I’m from Chicago and possessed what I thought were modest but presentable dancing skills.  Like most youngsters back in the day you would watch Soul Train and try to copy something.
However, my boy Neil surprised me and I’m sure many others with dance moves that looked like they came straight from the T.V. series “Fame”
Neil would leap and spin in a manner that resembled modern dance more than anything else.
It wasn’t until I learned Neil attended Music and Art School in New York that I began to understand the depth of this man’s skill set.
I learned later that Neil was a musician and to my surprise was also a great writer.
 I can recall meeting this 6′ 8″ brother blessed with great hands and footwork branding him as a prototype basketball center/power forward.
Neil was strong and would not hesitate to slam on you given his considerable leaping skills. ( Believe me, as the guy on the wrong end of some of those dunks I know).
Neil also personified what I would like to call the New York ball player.
New York ball players strutted as healthy a sense of bravado as most other cities but in Neil and others I sensed a dedication to the game that showed up in just about every aspect of their lives.
When you saw NYC guys you could tell just by looking at them that they were basketball players and they were from New York.
What I found is that these brothers would talk basketball and walk basketball, Neil was no different as he helped the Saint Paul College Tigers play some of the most competitive basketball in an extremely tough conference the CIAA.
I remember a recent conversation shared via group text that I shared with Neil and a couple of former teammates William Cozart and Brady Whaley.  The talk was hilarious as we all traded good natured stories about who shot too much and who  coach Moses Golatt fussed at more.
We teased Neil about leaving Saint Paul’s for rival Virginia State to collect on a promised Chevy Camaro.
It was a great time and reminded us just how important the maintaining of relationships can be.
We were all shocked and saddened upon learning of Neil’s death and the outpouring of love and respect at his home going only solidified what we already knew about this man who has spent much of his life in service to others.
As I mentioned Neil was a Jazz musician and writer but most importantly he expanded his love for the LORD by starting the Remnant Church and Magazine with a fierce dedication and first rate staff.
It is a common saying that the LORD reaches us by using other people a point driven home by all of the testimony’s of people who’s lives were impacted by Neil (mine included).
We will all miss this gentle giant who drank freely and enthusiastically of life and all it offered.
This poem by Dylan Thomas typifies to me the essence of this peaceful warrior:

poet Dylan Thomas

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night – Poem by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Neil got every inch out of every day as the self proclaimed “Superman”
touched and helped  many over the course of a full and meaningful life.
RIP Big Man, you will not be forgotten.
Reprinted courtesy of The Remnant Magazine.
Lebron at ESPYS

Micheal Jordan Speaks Out On Racial Strife

All time NBA great Micheal Jordan addressed the ongoing spate of police shootings of unarmed black men and the violent retaliatory responses of some African Americans to those shootings.
After spending most of his career avoiding controversial topics as they related to race and politics Jordan felt compelled to speak out and show support for both sides of the apparent conflict between Police officers and African Americans throughout the country.
Micheal Jordan issued his statement through the site, “The Undefeated” and it read as follows:

As a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers. I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well.

“I was raised by parents who taught me to love and respect people regardless of their race or background, so I am saddened and frustrated by the divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late. I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent. We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers – who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all – are respected and supported

“Over the past three decades I have seen up close the dedication of the law enforcement officers who protect me and my family. I have the greatest respect for their sacrifice and service. I also recognize that for many people of color their experiences with law enforcement have been different than mine. I have decided to speak out in the hope that we can come together as Americans, and through peaceful dialogue and education, achieve constructive change.

“To support that effort, I am making contributions of $1 million each to two organizations, the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The Institute for Community-Police Relations’ policy and oversight work is focused on building trust and promoting best practices in community policing. My donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s oldest civil rights law organization, will support its ongoing work in support of reforms that will build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement. Although I know these contributions alone are not enough to solve the problem, I hope the resources will help both organizations make a positive difference.

“We are privileged to live in the world’s greatest country – a country that has provided my family and me the greatest of opportunities. The problems we face didn’t happen overnight and they won’t be solved tomorrow, but if we all work together, we can foster greater understanding, positive change and create a more peaceful world for ourselves, our children, our families and our communities.”

   Jordan managed to put his money where his mouth is with separate donations of one million dollars each to the NAACP legal defense fund and the International Association of Chiefs of Police Institute For Community-Police Relations.
While applauding Jordan for finally making his voice heard after an entire NBA career of sitting on the fence and making statements like “Republicans buy shoes too” I have to wonder where did this commitment to social justice come from?
Well, look no further than the 2016 ESPY awards sponsored by ESPN. At the start of the show LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwayne Wade spoke on the violence particularly the shootings by police officers of unarmed African American men in New Orleans and Minnesota.
All of the players were impressive but LeBron James managed to convey a genuine determination to do whatever he could to help in his community but more importantly to inspire other athletes to do the same.
What does this have to do with Micheal Jordan ?
Micheal Jordan more than any other athlete in history has a brand that is unsurpassed in terms of it’s marketing reach and profitability.  Possessing a net worth of over a billion dollars and an NBA team (Charlotte Hornets) the Micheal
Jordan clothing line & shoe sales have literally changed the way people all over the world dress as sport and active wear have become the norm. Throw back Jordan brand shoes cost upwards of 200 dollars even though they are exact replica’s of Micheal’s first Air Jordan’s.
Micheal Jordan is smart and highly successful so he had to notice LeBron’s slow ascent to legendary status as an athlete who wins on the court and off.  A player who will occasionally speak out when injustices occur.
LeBron James accomplished a seemingly impossible task of winning a major sports championship for the state of Ohio. ( His Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2015-16 NBA title). The Cavaliers also made NBA history as the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals to win.
But don’t stop there, taking into account what Lebron has accomplished so far in winning three NBA championships It is also worth noting that he has also pledged 41 million dollars to send 1100 Akron Ohio kids to college.
 That’s right, I said 41 million !
So, when LeBron, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony stood on that stage and vowed to follow in the footsteps of Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bill Russell and Muhammad Ali one has to wonder just how did Micheal Jordan feel about these events and more importantly, his own place in history.
Micheal has endured some criticism through the years for what some perceive as a profit above all else approach but M J  has a solid record regarding charitable contributions. However, for the first time Micheal Jordan has decided to offer his opinion on a controversial topic.
Could it be that Micheal Jordan has finally found his social voice while risking an image that has been carefully crafted and nurtured through the years?
Could it be that Micheal can see the slow erosion of his brand and or market share?  Only time will tell but one thing is certain.
Considering the state of ever increasing violence in this country one can’t really complain about any athlete trying to contribute to the cause no matter the motive.
Moving forward though it will be interesting to see just how far LeBron James will go and to what degree will his candor regarding social issues expand.
Article reprinted courtesy of The Remnant Magazine@yahoo.com
Dr King V

Dr.Kings Memorial…A Must See


I’m a little embarrassed to say that I just got around to visiting the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington DC.
While always planning to go I never got around to it even while acknowledging the  initiative it must have taken took to complete a project that was long overdue.
President Obama has achieved a lot during his short tenure in office but the Dr. King Memorial along with the much anticipated African American History museum will go a long ways in cementing a formidable legacy. ( I’m not certain it would have gotten done with out him).
The entire experience of visiting D.C. is impressive just from the standpoint of appreciating the history associated with all of the historical sites including the White house, The Capitol, The Lincoln Memorial, The Washington Memorial etc.
However, visiting the Dr, King Memorial served to drive home just how impactful and overdue this effort really is and how it so belongs along side all of the others.
Up to this point I had only newspapers and magazines photos to rely on and I was unaware as to how large an area was carved out to pay homage to one of the giants.
The site itself is facing the tidal basin across from the Jefferson Memorial.
It is a massive block of granite with Dr. Kings image carved out of it.  That was the image I was accustomed to but what I didn’t know was there were two other sections of stone which gave the impression that Dr. King was actually separated from a mountain.
The inscription serves to drive home this point:
To each side of the memorial are marble walls that showcase passages from some of Dr. Kings speeches.
My favorite:

Harry E. Johnson, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the memorial foundation, added these words in a letter posted on the memorial’s website:

The King Memorial is envisioned as a quiet and peaceful space. Yet drawing from Dr. King’s speeches and using his own rich language, the King Memorial will almost certainly change the heart of every person who visits. Against the backdrop of the Lincoln Memorial, with stunning views of the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial, the Memorial will be a public sanctuary where future generations of Americans, regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, can come to honor Dr. King.[
One cannot come away from this memorial with any feeling other than one of respect for this visionary who was at equal times prophetic, spritual, metaphysical and selfless.
You could do a lot worse than paying a visit to Dr.Martin Luther Kings Memorial, that is, If you happen to be in the area.
Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) grabs a rebound during the first half on Monday, March 23, 2015, at the United Center in Chicago. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

The Time Is Right To Trade Jimmy Butler

Many thought the Bulls would move Jimmy Butler during the 2016 NBA draft due to his value and potential to bring in a combination of top picks and established players.
The Bulls inactivity led most to believe that it was time to build around Jimmy Butler going forward but then something happened.
1. The Bulls acquired Rajon Rondo. On the surface it would seem reasonable given the Derrick Rose trade and the need for a point guard.
However Rondo presents with a couple of challenges for Jimmy Butler since he is at equal points a ball dominating guard, a poor outside shooter and an alpha male in the locker room.
The trading of Derrick seemingly alleviated a leadership log jam between Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose so what do we do? We bring in an Alpha dog in Rajon Rondo.
Some had envisioned the Bulls becoming the Houston Rockets 2.0 featuring Jimmy and the shooters. Let’s see Butler 31.2% from the three, Rajon Ronda 36.5% from the three, could we be witnessing a shift from Hoi-ball (Bulls head coach Fred Hoiburg) to something else entirely different?
  And what does that mean for shooters Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic’ ?
 Well the Bulls could:
Trade Jimmy Butler to Boston for their # 3 pick which turned out to be Jaylen Brown from the University of California and two number one picks.
A possible starting line-up could be Rondo, Brown, Dunleavy, Gibson and Lopez.
Reserves ? Valentine, McDermott, Mirotic’, Calderon and Felicio.
Those moves would leave the Bulls flexible and competitive….As it stands now this team misses the playoffs again this year and the next.
Bulls fans, the iron is hot.