NBA 2017-18, Let’s Get It On !

 

By Lamar Battle

 

Finally, after the best off season in it’s history the 2017-18 NBA season is here !  So with out further ado let’s break it down.

West Side Story:

Oklahoma City Thunder: 2016 MVP Russell Westbrook didn’t need much help to start with (seriously) but the team added in their primes Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.

The Thunder had nothing last season when Westbrook went to the bench but this year will be different and remember, Brook doesn’t need much help.

Golden State Warriors:  Last seasons NBA champs will be in the mix again boasting game changing three point shooting and near flawless defensive play.  Contrary to popular belief the road to repeating will be littered with land mines in Minnesota, Denver, Houston, San Antonio and OKC.

Can the Warriors avoid injuries and chemistry issues to repeat? Note to self, It will not be a cake walk.

San Antonio Spurs:  The leagues flagship franchise for class and consistency will have to survive the injury bug this year to truly compete.

Little known nugget,  Golden State cannot guard Kahwi Leonard who has been developed into a true superstar and future Hall Of Famer.

Houston Rockets:  Top three player James Hardin has sublimated his ego enough to allow the team to bring in super star point guard Chris Paul.  The Rockets were aggressive in their desire to compete for championships and brought in defensive pieces P.J. Tucker and Luc Richard Mbah A Moute that will pay dividends in the playoffs.

Free Throws:

Do not sleep on Denver and the crucial addition of Paul Milsap.

Show Time is back in LA !

The Clippers will benefit from the subtraction of Chris Paul on the chemistry front

OKC over Golden State in 6.

 

Return Of The … Kid:

 

Boston Celtics:  There are two other teams with a symbiotic relationship between management and coaching to match the Celtics they would be Golden State and San Antonio. Boston is built for the future with young thoroughbreds and a legitimate star(Kyrie Irving).  to contend today.  Do not sleep on this team that obtained Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes to deal with Cleveland? No, those two gentlemen were brought in to balance out Draymond Green and the dreaded Zaza Pachulia….Go figure. The Celtics were dealt a bad hand with the devastating opening night injury to free agent star Gordon Hayward but don’t discount the teams prospects.

Second year man Jaylen Brown is according to ace announcer Chauncey Billups “ready right now”.  Back up guard Marcus Smart is a gamer but a lot could be riding on the accelerated development of rookie Jayson Tatum.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers:  Blog contributor Mike B observed that during a pre-season loss to the Bulls the Cavaliers didn’t seem to possess much chemistry or continuity.  Hopefully the Cavaliers will work out the kinks or it could be a truly frustrating season.

Most experts predict another trip to the Finals for this Eras best player LeBron James but the Cavaliers with new editions Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade and Jae Crowder still lack size an aspect that hurt them last year against the Warriors.  A number of players are long in the tooth which could make the team susceptible to younger and more athletic teams like Boston and Milwaukee.

However the Cavaliers still have LeBron James and it will be a challenge for any eastern conference  team to beat him in a seven game series.

Washington Wizards:  This team perhaps more than most will benefit from growing together. John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are locked up and they still have the ever solid Marcin Gortat holding down the middle.  The challenge will be the play of the bench for this team.

Milwaukee Bucks:  There was one player actually playing defense during the 2016-17 NBA All Star game.  That player was Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.  Many have predicted that Giannis will carry the torch as the NBA’s best player after LeBron retires.

The Bucks are young, long and hungry.  Second year players Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdan are poised to make a difference for this team that made the playoffs (5th in the east). even without their second best player, Jabari Parker who will return for this season.

Free throws:

Health and maturity stand as test for the young Philadelphia 76ers

Bulls Rookie Lauri Markkanen can hoop

Calling Kyrie Irving “Kid” is one of last psychological edges LeBron still holds.

Speaking of Kyrie, he is ready and so are the Celtics…Boston over Cavs in 7.

 

 

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The NBA Finals: A Dream Match-up

By Lamar Battle

Time to prepare for a match-up that has been in the works since the beginning of the 2016-17 NBA season.

The Golden State Warriors (67-15) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31) are on a collision course as they meet in the NBA Finals for the 3rd straight time, the series is tied 1-1.

This series has a number of ramifications at stake. To name a few, Cavaliers star LeBron James is sitting smack dab in the middle of a debate as to who is the G.O.A.T. ( Greatest of all time) between him and Former Chicago Bulls player Micheal Jordan.  Opinions vary as voices from all over the internet and networks take sides.

I like what Fox Sports 1 host Colin Cowherd said and I paraphrase, imagine if Micheal Jordan were McDonald’s and LeBron James were Starbucks who had just started making fries better than McDonald’s what would that mean?  In other words the one thing Micheal did better than LeBron was score but LeBron is on pace (as the All Time leader in playoff points) to surpass Micheal in that aspect too.

Warriors forward Draymond Green, so hungry for revenge and redemption (after last years defeat) more or less said that they want to crush the Cavaliers and considering the Warriors undefeated run through the 2016-17 playoffs crushing the Cavaliers is a real possibility.

One aspect rarely mentioned is the opportunity for this series to not only provide the Warriors Kevin (generally considered to be the #2 player in the world) Durant his first title but more important remove him from LeBron’s  considerable shadow.

Durant failed in his first attempt as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder to wrest the title from James but this time he returns armed with a 73 win team  at his back and the desire to beat the man (many have jokingly  referred to as his big brother).

This series represents a crossroads of sorts for both teams and the stakes are extremely high.  For LeBron it represents a chance to test his limits and put himself firmly on the path to becoming the G.O.A.T. as winning a second title against the Warriors would pretty much guarantee.

For the Warriors this represents an opportunity to prove that their 73 win season last year was no fluke and they can be one of the NBA’s great dynasties.

The psychological advantage of winning this title would be so great that a loss for either could mean the end of their hopes period.

Hollywood central casting could not have done a better job.

 

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

 

What’s Wrong With The Cavaliers?

By Gregory Powell and Lamar Battle
What is going on with the once powerful Cleveland Cavaliers, losers of the last three games (most recently to the ninth place Chicago Bulls) and  have slipped out of first place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
I spoke with writer and pod cast contributor Gregory Powell to get his thoughts on his beloved Lebron James and the Cavaliers.
What follows is a pretty thorough breakdown of what ails the Cavs and delivered at a scatter gun pace:
1. I said when the Kevin Love trade was made that LeBron would get a title but might have cost himself a dynasty.
2. J.R. Smith is lost, Kevin Love can’t jump, Deron really can’t jump, Frye is just a shooter, Kyrie can’t play point. Tristan Thompson is being sapped by kryptonite, Imam can’t shoot and all Korver can do is shoot.
Tyron Lue is speaking of secret plans and Golden State just beat the Rockets and Spurs in back to back games on the road.
And nobody plays defense which puts LeBron in the familiar position of having to be the Black Panther for the team to have any chance at all.
3. The team is helpless when LeBron is off the floor and I suspect he was having some Boobie Gibson flashbacks last night against the Bulls.
One of those wild ass teams from the east could take the Cavs out if LeBron isn’t superhuman.  I’m thinking most likely the Washington Wizards though the Boston Celtics will be tough too.
The question remains, will the Cavs have enough left for the NBA
finals?
4. Big problem, when the Cavs go small they play slow and by the way they have no center.
Let me add it was nice to see Bron pass Wilt on the all time scoring list but classless of the Bulls to not acknowledge it at all.
Of course the King is still quite capable of making me eat my words…you know…like last year.
5. The Cavs need to get younger bigger and quicker. No wonder LeBron was yelling for another play maker.
In the off season the Cavs better get rid of all those cast offs and old guys and find some athletes and shooters.
They better plan for LeBrons  golden years before he spends them in LA.
Mr. Powell, why don’t you tell us how you really feel about the Cavaliers?
Let the playoffs begin.

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?
Or……
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

Are The Chicago Bulls Soft ?

When did things start to change?

Chicago Sun-times columnist Rick Telander suggested that he resembles a big rusty anchor. The person of note is one Zaza Pachulia, starting center for the Milwaukee Bucks. Blog co-conspirator A.J. suggested that up to game two of the NBA playoff series between the Chicago Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks the Bulls were more or less having their way.

Only after an incident during game two when Zaza hit Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic’ in the back of the head only to follow later with another elbow to the head during a scrum did this series actually become a series.

Of course this could be a bit of a stretch to suggest that this incident was the catalyst for a Milwaukee resurgence but after it happened the Bucks took the Bulls to triple overtime and then defeated them twice prior to game six scheduled for Thursday night in Milwaukee.

During the Buck victories Zaza Pachulia could be clearly seen literally taking the ball right out of the hands of Bulls players after rebounds.

The Bulls have tough players I mean Derrick Rose is from Chicago’s Englewood community and others like Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler back down from no one.

But it wasn’t until game three where 161 pound back up point guard Aaron Brooks landed a punch in the chest of Bucks guard Jarryd Bayless that I was reminded that he may have been the first Bulls player since former center Bill Cartwright to fire off a retaliatory foul for his team.

Now a team does not have to be well versed in the art of hand to hand combat to win a championship but it was interesting to see Nikola Mirotic’ approach Aaron after the punch to offer comfort, support and probably thanks.

Intimidation is and has always been a part of sport and teams normally address it by maintaining focus and execution however the Bulls now have a hungry, well coached and motivated team in their way.

The Answer ?

The answer is no, the Bulls are not a soft team . They have historically been a defensive oriented team even during the halcyon years of Micheal and Scottie.
These Bulls are known for a physical brand of defense which includes fighting aggressively through screens and chucking cutters coming through the lane.

What may be lacking is the need for time spent together during this injury ravaged season. That is one of the reasons Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau kept stressing the need for increased practice time.
Injuries to key players have played a part in inhibiting the progress needed to improve defensively.

The team, as it currently stands is engaged in a bit of a dog fight with a young, long, athletic and suddenly awake Milwaukee Bucks team and the Bulls may have to take advantage of their experience by controlling game tempo and by exploiting their size advantage.

In the meantime:

Bucks guard Middleton is a deadly shooter, stay home on defense !

Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo must be kept out of the lane as he and point guard Micheal Carter Williams are poor outside shooters. Play off of them and step up high to cut off dribble penetration when they drive.

Center Zaza ( the aforementioned anchor) Pachulia is not a shot blocker and should be challenged off the drive…If you dare.

And finally the Bulls might want to send in a big man to follow Rose or Brooks as they attack the lane. Drive and dish opportunities along with lob passes should result.

The Bucks collapse their entire defense at the first inkling of dribble penetration. The Bulls guards should pass out to shooters where the resulting second or third pass rotations should lead to wide open shots.

Next up? The Cavaliers and Vader.

Not Your Fathers NBA Finals Preview

By  Anthony Powers

 

Image

 

“If I see a black kid in a hoodie on my side of the street, I’ll move to the other side of the street. If I see a white guy with a shaved head and tattoos (on the side he now is on), I’ll move back to the other side of the street. None of us have pure thoughts; we all live in glass houses.” Says, Dallas Mavs owner Mark Cuban, to which I as a self-appointed representative of the African-American people indignantly reply…um…ok.

I mean if after 240 years of slavery, followed by, with a brief respite of hope for an outbreak democracy during reconstruction, followed by another century and a half of state sponsored terror, legislative apartheid, red-lining, ghetto creation, job discrimination, social and cultural dehumanization and state sponsored economic exploitation etc. etc., we are surprised and taken aback when a wealthy white man is prejudiced…well in the old school lyrics of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes: wake up everybody, no more sleeping in bed.

Of course, and given my sample size is small, but I haven’t run into a single Black person in the least bit offended by Cuban’s comments. Most reactions I encountered were along the line of either: well…um…duh…ok…or…hmm.. It’s kind of refreshing to hear a White man tell the truth.

Personally, as long as he doesn’t shoot the kid to death and get away with it under the cloak of White privilege, I don’t care. I in fact encourage him to move on to the other side of the street before his fear gets that boy into trouble. American history teaches us that he is most dangerous when afraid of his manufactured image of us. Just remember young man….never wink at his woman.

And young man, if you get the opportunity to work for Mr. Cuban…leave the hoodie at home.

By the way, isn’t it interesting that the hardest playoff test in the Spurs amazing run to the finals came from Cuban’s appropriately named Mavericks. The Spurs had the most trouble with the team and organization most like themselves. Cuban and his alley mechanic coach, Rick Carlyle, continue to tinker under the hood of their hot jalopy, keeping Dirk and the ex-Matrix et al well oiled, doing the Vulcan mind meld on Vince Carter to grease his way into the Hall of Fame, riding Monte Ellis, for whose acquisition they somehow evaded prosecution, and generally high level collaborative balling enough to push the mighty Spurs to seven in the first round.

Note to Sam Presti and the OKC bean counters: you can’t construct a roster that requires you on offense to go 3 or less on 5 and expect to beat the Spurs or the Heat when it truly counts. And no, Derrick Fisher doesn’t count. Let me be the first to welcome you to New York, Mr. Fisher. Save the Knicks! And by the way, Mr. Presti, you have zero post-up game. Granted you have the beatific St. Durant on the perimeter, Neutron Man at the point and Son of Neutron Man aka Reggie Jackson coming off the bench. But damn if every shot the Thunder seemed to take in losing to the Spurs seemed to be either a contested fade-a-way 25 foot three or Neutron Man flying through three bodies at the rim. Or Neutron Man jacking up a quick three. Or Neutron Man firing a long contested two whilst St. Durant seeks peace of mind and tranquility of soul standing idle and open behind the arc on the opposite side. God I love Neutron Man! Long live Neutron Man!

On the other side, it was painful watching the Heat on its 12-3 cakewalk to the mountaintop once again. The basketball god’s convened on Olympus, Indiana, and decreed no team named the Bobcats shall ever win a playoff series. (Pelicans should also take note: yes. The Pelicans…the name that strikes fear into small fish!). So Al Jefferson had to get hurt. They also had to dissuade Chicago Bulls fandom of the notion that repeated 5 game ousters by the Heat in 2012 and 2013 constitutes being “close”. So they were matched up with the Wizards….the wayward child with potential. Out in 5 again. But rest assured Bulls fans. Take a little sip of Kool-Aid. Let me sing you a shareholders lullaby: Derrick Rose is going to come back and make it all right! Now go to sleep children and dream of Nikola Mirotic becoming the next Dirk. Butler learning to shoot the corner three. Noah trying really hard and passing, always passing out of the high post. Dunleavy and Kirk doing whatever it is they do. Good night Bulls fans…sweet dreams. Cha-ching!!!!

And then those Pacers, those wacky unlovable Pacers. A team only a mother and Larry Bird can love. Apparently Bird went to the New Orleans Pelicans workshop on how to fix what isn’t broken and how to break what was fixed. Sooo…that Plumlee and Gerald Green and a first round pick for Luis Scola didn’t quite work out so well. Two players and a pick for what at best would’ve been an ok backup for West at the four…wow. You’re left with a thin bench; a prematurely anointed superstar who plays like a caricature of Scotty Pippen in search of MJ, unless his 3 is falling, when he becomes Tracy McGrady; a little-birds-flapping-around-and- singing-between-the-ears waste of immense talent in Lance “The Minstrel” Stephenson, and of course, the only man big enough to inherit Gilbert Arena’s nickname: Agent Zero. As in Zero points. Zero rebounds. I wonder how Bird as a player would’ve responded if Perish or McHale ever put up a double zero in a playoff game. There would be blood.

The next sound you hear is their window slamming shut.

I know I didn’t mention the Nets. Their window never opened. Watching KG in these playoffs against these young athletes was real cycle of life type shit. The old giraffe being dragged down by a pack of hyenas.

So here we are: the rematch for b ball nirvana! Heat-Spurs. But in the tenor of NBA news these days let me digress for a moment to Donald Sterling. I don’t care about Donald Sterling’s thoughts. I don’t care about his words or world view. I do deeply care about the power over the lives and destinies of American families that accrued when owning thousands of housing units in Los Angeles County. The evil is in the manner in which he used his power…to deny American families access to housing based on racist intent.

In the discrimination suit against him settled in 2009 in which he paid 2.7 million to make it all go away…and to the eternal shame of the NBA it did all go away….It was alleged he also denied families housing based on children. The NBA had an owner who was even anti-child.

The point is racism is more than a feeling. It’s more than some statements. I don’t care if you think I’m a nigger. Just don’t pull me the fuck over when I’m trying to get to where I need to be. To adapt an image Malcolm X used to describe the pervasive pernicious effects of racism; if you shove a knife in my back, the primary issue is not how I feel about it. Nor is it the emotional

state and verbal articulations of the assailant’s prejudices. Racism is defined by the knife lodged in my back, with the assailant’s fingerprints all over it. As long as racism continues to be trivialized and relegated to the TMZ zone, the effects of the exploitative cultures that created the concept will continue to fester. It’s so very easy, comforting even, to pretend racism is all about slogans and labels. Sterling says black people shouldn’t come to Clipper games? Great opportunity to burnish your anti-racism credentials. Repeat after me: Oh I would never say something like that! I’m not a racist like him. Where were you when he was driving Black and Hispanic families out of their Korea town homes?

Racism as an artificial construct for the continuing exploitation of human resources has far more import than words. Racism has infrastructure and impact on day to day lives. Racism is the criminalization of Black children in schools. Denial of access to quality education. Double standards of qualifications for business loans. Food deserts in American residential communities. Chronic unemployment double and triple the national rate. Double standards for corporate survival and advancement. Criminal codes and sentencing laws that have turned prisons into plantations. Racism is the knife. Still lodged. Still drawing blood. Still covered with fingerprints.

Heat-Spurs!!! Hot damn! Historic! Epic! High drama about to go down. I have no clue which team to pick. Been going back and forth ever since the Spurs sent St. Durant packing. My brain says Spurs winning it in game seven at home. My intellect observes that after playing the Heat even last Finals, they’ve gotten better. We know what Duncan, Ginobili, Parker bring to the table. But it’s those other weapons: bad ass Kawhi Leonard, Boris Diaw…another dude like the old man with the long beard in the old Kung Fu movies who would kick some young upstarts ass with a fan…Mario Bellinelli, Danny Green, and Paddy Mills. They’ve all gotten better. Look out for Mill’s in this series!

Too many weapons. Too much brilliance in execution. Too much Pops. Too much GOAT-PF. Too many intangibles after coming back from last year’s devastation. And Paddy Mills! This is what my brain tells me. This team top to bottom is obviously superior to this year’s version of the Heat: no Mike Miller, no Shane Battier…oh what, he’s still playing? Depending on Rashard Lewis to give quality minutes and score? Wade crafty and less crippled but still a shell of what he once was. Ray Allen older. Cole and Chalmers forced to contain Parker, Ginobili and….. Paddy Mills! Nothing but journeymen (Birdman, Haslem) to feed to GOAT-PF and Diaw.

This is what my higher intellect tells me…Spurs in 7.

But my lizard brain has a different point of view. My lizard brain has witnessed the emergence of the next evolution of the species, which in about 100,000 years will prevail and wipeout my own, if he is allowed to procreate. What? LeBron James has children?! Oh well… I guess it’s time for this funky Homo sapien to party like its 99,999.

My higher brain appreciates the resourceful brilliance of the Spurs and expects it to prevail over the defending champs.

My lizard brain is simply afraid of LeBron James. I’m going with the lizard brain here. Heat in seven.