Top Five 2017-18 NBA Rookie Leaders

By Lamar Battle

 

Most predicted that the 2017-18 NBA rookie class would be one of the best and from the looks of things they were right.

Who are the Leaders in the race for Rookie Of The Year and team contributions?

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers:

At the quarter mark the leader in the race for ROY is 3rd in rookie scoring 16.6 ppg, first in rookie rebounds at 8.6 rpg and first in rookie assist with 7.5 apg.  At 6′ 10″ and with natural point guard skills Simmons is probably the closest thing to Magic Johnson that we have seen in a while. Along with center Joel Embiid the 76ers are looking like a team of the future in the Eastern Conference.

Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz:

The rookie scoring leader at 18.2 ppg Donovan came on late as a spectacular athlete who routinely gets the fans out of their seats (You did see that stupendous dunk against the Cavs right? ).  He has the talent and ambition to be one of the best players in the league.

Kyle Kuzma L.A. Lakers:

Quite possibly the steal of the draft and 2nd leading rookie scorer at 17.9 ppg and 5th leading rebounder at 6.7 rpg.   A  6′ 10″ slasher and quality shooter (39% 3 pointers) from Flint Michigan who gives Laker fans a reason to hope for a better future.

Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls:

4th in rookie scoring, 14.6 ppg and 2nd in rebounding at 7.4 rpg and 2nd in free throw percentage at 83.3%.  All of a sudden the Jimmy Butler trade is not looking so stupid.  Lauri surprised everybody with his confidence and surprising athleticism.  This kid has All Star written all over him as evidenced in a recent game against the Knicks where he took on the challenge to play the Knicks vaunted Kristaps Porzingas to a standstill and did just that.

Markkanen joins 2nd year players Kris Dunn (a sleeper for sure) and Zach Lavine (two time winner of the slam dunk contest) in what will become a solid nucleus on the Bulls for years to come.

Jason Tatum, Boston Celtics:

Boy did Boston G.M. Danny Ainge pull off a heist with this guy.  Tatum 6′ 8″ with what may be an 8 ft wing span will be barring injury the starting Celtic small forward for a long time.  Jason is 5th in scoring at 14.1 ppg and is shooting an incredible 47.1 percent from the 3 point line…That is correct 47.1 percent !  Boston penciled him in as a starter at 19 years old and they knew what they were doing.

Honorable mention:

Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers:

People who know me will say there he goes again drinking that purple kool aid and giving props to a player ESPN’s Steven A. Smith called a bust.

Lonzo started slow but is now starting to shoot better from the outside ( 10 ppg 34.9 fg%) even though you never hear as much conversation about the outside shooting regarding Rajon Rondo, Ben Simmons, Andre Miller or Jason Kidd.

The metric for Lonzo who among rookies is 2nd in assist, 4th in rebounds, 2nd in minutes and 3rd in blocks will be his impact on the culture of the team.  Can he through the force of his unselfish nature transform the Lakers into a respectable team with a promising future ?

And the winner is:

Stay tuned to what will be one impressive race to the finish.

Stats courtesy of NBA.com

 

 

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All Gods Children Got Guns

CJ Powers:  Taking Shots

 

…All God’s Children got Guns… Last week in our Church Men’s Workshop, we got into an interesting discussion. How do you keep your faith…what does faith even mean…in these troubled times in our communities, country and world.

While exploring these issues, we talked about concealed carry, and I gave an explanation of why I obtained mine. I talked about the spirit of violent hopelessness engulfing our communities and our nation. The specter of not only having to be vigilant regarding the criminal intent of certain adults, but even the violent actions perpetrated by a wounded and tragically unrestrained population of youth.

But I was not totally candid with my brothers. Yes these are daily concerns, especially given the recent attempted robbery of a woman by an armed youth near the church entrance. With his partner urging him to “shoot the bitch”.

But what really drove me to join the armed masses in our fearful money driven gun culture?

White people.

This answer may need explanation to my white brothers and sisters. Among my people, who have lived in America’s racist crucible, and feel its impact every day, it does not. In 1959, in the infancy of the television era, journalists Mike Wallace and Louis Lomax produced the documentary the introduced the country to the Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and other early proponents of emerging “Black Nationalism”, which was a human response to American Apartheid. It was titled: The Hate that Hate Produced. The title was so prescient that it could easily serve as theme for the Trump era.

Or better yet: The Hate that Haters Produced.

A president who proclaims that an empty patriotic exercise at a football game is more important than a Black man, woman or child’s life. Even worse, the people…my neighbors, grocers, restaurant servers, parents of my son’s friends, teachers at my son’s school, police officers …who voted for him. Who accept and relate to what he says, does and represents. Who feel he unleashes them to finally be what they what to be and do what they want to do. Who raise their children by this standard, to the point where late in the campaign, my son’s predominately white school held a mock election, after -45 revealed himself to be a degenerate racist, sexual predator, and astounding liar, and -45 won. Who really believe he is the embodiment of what it means to make America great again.

The prevalence of crime, and the determination to protect my family, made me think about it. The election of -45 motivated me to do it.

White people. That’s why I got my concealed carry.

White people. I need to chat with you for a minute. Listen for a change.

…White people!… Hello white people! I’m going to need you to stop agonizing over how I should protest your centuries of dehumanizing me. The world, and the emerging majority of the country, needs you to have some serious conversation among yourselves. Do you really care about your country? Your planet? Your eternal souls?

Maybe -45, this reptilian swamp thing you have been duped by our national enemies to elect by an almost white-only minority vote, once the damage to our nation is EVEN MORE CLEAR, will at last lead you to embrace what Lincoln called your better angels. Pain brings clarity.

I am only hoping and praying, based on my naïve belief in your capacity for good (or in reverse Trumpian illogic…you are all sociopathic racist mass murderers…but some of you are good people), that -45 does not represent your final answer. The world is anxiously watching. And presumably building bomb shelters.

Now comes the obligatory disclaimer. Obligatory because it is obvious. This is not all white people. Just the 30-40 percent of all white people…3 to 4 of every 10…who support his antics, relate to his insanity, and accommodate his utter ineptitude. And perhaps the 1 or 2 more out of every ten who are suddenly forgiving…more forgiving than white Jesus…of every morally bankrupt episode, springing eternal hope for -45’s pivot, when he suddenly becomes a reasonable, presidential racist…

…and the additional 1 or 2 who were so morally appalled at the out-of-context snippet of a brilliant theologian (the Honorable Jeremiah Wright) that Barack Obama was compelled to seek atonement with the sensitive white psyche by repudiating, disassociating, renouncing, disavowing and all but presenting his nuts for ceremonial castration his own CHRISTIAN pastor…

…and the additional 1 or 2 who while vaguely sympathetic to the abstract (for them) issue of social inequality, economic inequity, mass incarceration and police violence, are far more invested in narrowing the options of how the victims should protest their victimization: Black Lives Matter! No! You may say All Lives Matter…or better yet…Police Lives Matter. But asserting your lives matter is disruptive to our American Zen. Hands up. Don’t shoot! That’s not fair. Some police don’t shoot Black people. I can’t breathe! -45 is gutting the EPA. Soon everyone can’t breathe! Stand your ground! Nope. We own that one. And please do not wear a hoodie. Or threaten us by walking and minding your own business. Or being Black, male or young. Or Black, female and old. Officer, I am reaching for my license. Then die nigger die. Officer I have a legal firearm. He’s got a gun!!!! You think the 2nd Amendment is for you????

Btw, it is amazing when I go to the range to shoot with my friends how much attention from store security we attract. Makes it difficult to breathe sometimes.

…Let’s have nonviolent civil disobedience, as the dude with the beautiful DC statue and the National Shopping Day whom you claim to love advocated. Get military gear. Deploy Urban Assault Vehicles! Now we’re angry because we are not being policed. We’re being occupied!

The thugs are rioting! Lock them up! Lock them up! No Justice, no peace. We only give peace. That’s why we shoot you. We kneel to protest injustice. You’re disrespecting OUR FLAG! (Union and Confederate), the military, first responders, Anheuser Busch, fried Twinkies, cute puppies, and everything else holy including our god himself! We stand up! Now we got to shoot ya (or at least knock you upside the head and send you to our prisons for profit…

(Interlude: I am currently praying, fasting and undergoing a period of intense personal denial, including self-flagellation, in order to attain enlightenment…a state of mindfulness in which I am less moved by football players kneeling than by how I am standing. Revolution is not a spectator sport. The Declaration of Independence is not a spectator sport. Our national survival is not a spectator sport. Which is the point, right?)

I’m bad at math so please forgive me if it seems to add up to all white people. Really…it’s just my public school education. When I took the ACT in high school, a teacher told me I had all the math aptitude of a plant. So blame it on my seventh grade class that met in the school auditorium because of overcrowding and was assigned a clueless first year teacher after all the whites fled my neighborhood when we moved in during sixth grade.

My bad math may be what motivated me to get legally strapped.

(Lets now take a deep breath and enjoy a peaceful Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. interlude: “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klaner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice”)

…My First Shot…. The first time I ever fired a gun was at a church youth retreat. My church back then owned some acres of land in Indiana near New Haven, not far from Lake Michigan. The church built on it and turned it into a “roughing it” retreat center called Camp Exodus. It was a deeply spiritual place. Boys and Girls learned to be men and women there. People from the community discovered the meaning of community and got closer to God there. We took homeless drug addicted men up there to get free ( back in the days when drugs were dope and addicts were locked up; unlike now where drugs have become opiates and addicts are to be rehabilitated).

Some local Klan members started riding by our camp harassing the children. The local Klan had rallies in town every Thursday. One boy who liked to go into the woods to collect bugs was accosted by a young white man who shouted “bang nigger you’re dead”. This was in 1998 Yall. Maybe we really should’ve seen -45 coming.

We called the local police over several days but no one came. Finally, late one night when some idiot banged on the windows of the girl’s cabin, terrifying them, we put in a call to some guys we knew in Chicago. They arrived in an hour and a half, with a trunk full of hardware. The older boys, standing erect as soldiers, stationed themselves in the girl’s cabin, guarding them with baseball bats. The men got the pieces and laid out a line of fire in every direction, just to let them know we were serious about protecting our children. As we walked back to the cabin, guess who suddenly developed rapid response capability…

Yep…local police. They obviously didn’t want an “incident” because they sent a young white woman and an older black man. The newly formed special Black people relations unit?

We talked it out with them, calmly and intelligently expressing our point of view and intentions. The white woman officer was very understanding and the Black officer, the silent partner, was nonetheless impressed.

This was the first time, I ever fired a gun.

I obtain no added confidence, no shallow swagger, no pleasure whatsoever in my concealed carry license. I actually hate guns (though I uphold the constitutional right for you to own one, or two, or 30….Ok?) I simply acknowledge the obvious to all but the willfully blind. These are dangerous times to be Black in America. Even more dangerous than typically dangerous times to be Black in America.

Dangerous like seeing confederate flags in my neighborhood. And the white man trying to curse me out at the gas station because I backed up near his angry white man pickup truck which I had clearly in sight via my rear view camera (he tried but didn’t succeed). And the blatant disregard for human life and suffering of non-white people encapsulated in -45 paper towel tossing obscenity in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rican lives matter!!!!!!

…Are You Ready for Some Football?!!!… In light of all of the above, I wrap my head around the predicament of the toughest Black men in America: NFL Football players, discovering that author William C. Rhoden was right: they really are Forty Million Dollar Slaves. You got to love the cynical gall of “America’s Team” owner Jerry Jones kneeling with his players in a show of “unity” for marketing purposes, then threatening to bench any players who kneel in protest of injustice in America. This begs the question: If protesting against injustice is disrespecting the American flag, does that mean the flag upholds injustice? Is the flag yours or all of ours? If your flag upholds bigotry and systematic injustice, then fuck your flag.

If, on the other hand, the flag, under which my father served in the military, presents what the slave holding founding fathers declared to be the inalienable rights of every human being, then I’ll fight and give my life for that flag.

After all, I just bought a flag t-shirt from Walmart! Manufactured in Taiwan.

To my brothers in the NFL…keep that job and save your money. Do what you got to do. Stop kneeling if rules they just made up command you to stop kneeling. But don’t let -45 and your owners punk you out. Keep standing up for your communities. Keep standing up for what is right, justice indivisible! Just be creative, like a few men and some children at the Exodus Camp. Like Barry Sanders ducking and dodging and driving his way to the end zone.

Any manner of self-determined protest is going to be outlawed, punished, or otherwise

marginalized by your owners. They will pose variations of the argument that protest is offensive to fans, which is bad for their business. Their angst is not caused by you protesting during the national anthem. Their tender sensibilities are disturbed by you protesting at all. White privilege is a very sensitive topic for privileged whites. So you have to be creative. You have to duck and dodge. Juke and dance behind the line until you find an opening to break through to the end zone.

Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

Modest proposals: They say you can’t kneel. Come out with black tape across your mouth to protest your denial of freedom of expression. They outlaw black tape protest? Refuse to speak at the after game press conference. Answer every question with: I will not speak because I am being denied freedom of expression. They order you to speak and answer all questions. Begin every press conference with: I am here under protest because of the systematic injustices in American society and the bigotry of its president. Questions? They make you stick to a script? Pretend that because of football related CPD, you can no longer speak English and from now on you will answer all questions in the language of the Kingdom of Wakanda. Hire Ta-Nehesi Coates as your official interpreter.

You must talk the way they want you to talk? They throw down new slave codes….um…codes of conduct on you? Come out on the field carrying copies of William C. Rhoden Forty Million Dollar Slaves…

They kick you off their billion dollar plantation? Take your mad skills and build your own damn league.

Feel me? Protest against injustice never happens with permission. So do whatever you can to make the change you can.

Be creative like the OS (Original Slaves). Grind glass in massa’s food. Burn some crops. Organize field labor slowdowns. And always listen for the voice of old Harriet Tubman…Steal away…. Steal away to Jesus we don’t have much time.

 

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