Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Top 10 NBA Players

Top 10 NBA Players Now
While this list consists of the top 10 players now, the past is taken to account, but it is not a list of the best players who happen to be active. Previous ranks posted on June 28, 2014.

# David (PR) Mike (Previous Rank)
1 LeBron (1) LeBron (2)
2 Westbrook (6) Curry (5)
3 Curry (10) Harden (6)
4 Paul (3) Westbrook (9)
5 Harden (NR) Paul (3)
6 A. Davis (NR) A. Davis (8)
7 Griffin (8) Lillard (NR)
8 M. Gasol (NR) M. Gasol (NR)
9 Aldridge (NR) J. Butler (NR)
10 J. Butler (NR) Griffin (7)

Top 10 NBA Careers Among Active Players
You're making a list of the ten best players in NBA history, but there's one caveat; you can only include players who played during the 2014-15 season. These are our choices, taking the players' entire careers into account. Previous ranks posted on June 28, 2014.

# David (PR) Mike (Previous Rank)
1 Duncan (1) Duncan (1)
2 Kobe (2) Kobe (2)
3 LeBron (3) LeBron (3)
4 Garnett (4) Garnett (6)
5 Dirk (5) Dirk (6)
6 Wade (6) Wade (4)
7 Durant (8) Paul (NR)
8 Parker (9) Pierce (7)
9 Paul (10) Bosh (8)
10 Carmelo (NR) Parker (10)

Top 10 NBA Franchise Players
This list is about which players you would pick to start a franchise right now. They must have played in an NBA game. Previous ranks posted on June 28, 2014.

# David (PR) Mike (Previous Rank)
1 A. Davis (3) A. Davis (3)
2 LeBron (2) LeBron (2)
3 Durant (1) Durant (1) 
4 Westbrook (9) Curry (6)
5 Curry (6) Harden (7)
6 Harden (NR) Westbrook (9)
7 Irving (8) Paul (4)
8 Griffin (5) Lillard (NR)
9 J. Butler  (NR) J. Butler (7)
10 K. Leonard (10) Griffin (8)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Game 6 - 40 Years in the Making

The Golden State Warriors won their first championship in 40 years with a 105-97 win on the road. Andre Iguodala, who won the Finals MVP award despite only starting half of the games in the series, scored 25 points and Draymond Green added a triple double. League MVP Stephen Curry added 25 points including a superb fourth quarter, which sparked Golden State to grab an insurmountable lead.

Cleveland got off to a fast start, but Golden State stormed back. By the end of the first, the Warriors held a 13 point lead. The Cavs turned the ball over too much. Cleveland had a big advantage getting to the line, but struggled to make them once there.

Cleveland got another terrific from Tristan Thompson who had 15 points and 13 rebounds. Timofey Mozgov got a lot more playing time than he did in Game 5 and took advantage. He had 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks. J.R. Smith added 19 points on 33% shooting.

LeBron was his usual incredible self. He scored 32 points and secured 18 rebounds. He added 9 assists. James averaged 35.8 ppg, 13.3 rpg, and 8.8 apg for the NBA Finals. Though the Cavs won only two games, it's hard to argue against LeBron being the most valuable player of the Finals.

Cleveland, down 15 in the fourth quarter, valiantly stormed back late in the game. The fouled shrewdly and began to make shots. At one point, the lead was cut to four. But that was as close as Cleveland came. The Cavs season must be judged a success. Wallowing at 19-20 nearly halfway through the season, smart trades and adjustment by certain players helps catapult the Cavs into the 2 seed int he East. Despite an injury to Kevin Love, Cleveland kept winning. But when Kyrie Irving fractured his kneecap, all hope seemed loss. And still, the Cavs even managed to take a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals against the best team in the league.

Golden State should be remembered as a team for the ages. Their two guards are not only the best backcourt tandem in the NBA, but both are top players in the league. Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut filled their roles to perfection. Harrison Barnes added athleticism. The Warriors' bench was something from a video game. Steve Kerr always seemed to be in control and have the right perspective. The Warriors won 67 games. Their stars not only had tremendous talent, but they were as deep as team in recent NBA history.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Game 5 - Small Ball Comes Up Big

Golden State got off to the quick start for a change. Andre Iguodala came up huge, despite having the reverse effect on the Warriors' average height. Cleveland came back to tie the game by the end of the first thanks to LeBron James's brilliance. The undermanned Cavs kept it close throughout the first half. J.R. Smith finally shot the ball well and scored 14 points.

With the Cavs able to take the last shot of the first half and potentially extend their lead, James failed to cross halfcourt in the requisite eight seconds. Instead of the Cavs at least going into halftime up one- and possibly up four- Golden State had a one point lead and Cleveland walked into the locker room scratching their heads.

Both teams played their centers for a grand total of 12 minutes- Timofey Mozgov played 9 minutes and the Warriors' Festus Ezeli got in for three minutes. Cleveland's Tristan Thompson, at 6'9", was the tallest player to see major minutes. He had 19 points and 10 rebounds. The Warriors truly went small with Leandro Barbosa and Shaun Livingston used as the primary substitutes.

Cleveland kept it close. James Jones, playing at center at times, took two charges under the basket. The Cavs trailed by six at the end of three. With time dwindling in the fourth, Cleveland began to intentionally foul Iguodala. Igoudala finished with 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists, but he missed nine consecutive free throws at one point. He only made his first and last attempts. It allowed the Cavs some home.

Cleveland's real source of hope centered around LeBron. By the end, James had another incredible performance. He scored 40 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and dished out 11 assists. But the Warriors are a far more balanced team. In addition to Iguodala, Barbosa had his best game of the series with 13 points on 4 of 5 shooting. Draymond Green Contributed 18 points and 9 rebounds. Harrison Barnes had 10 rebounds and a thunderous dunk. Klay Thompson, the All Star guard who has struggled to shoot and has not stopped LeBron when he's been asked to guard him, added 12.

The true hero for Golden State was the MVP, Stephen Curry. His 37 points- including a step back three late in the fourth that effectively sealed the outcome- helped the Warriors take 3-2 series lead with a 104-91 win. The game was closer than the score.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Game 4 - Out of Gas

Cleveland got out to their customary quick lead scoring the first seven points of the game. Golden State raced back and from that point forward, Cleveland was treading water. The Warriors put the clamps on LeBron James, who scored only 20 points on 22 field goals.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr decided to start Andre Iguodala over Andrew Bogut for Game 4. Iguodala had started every game of his All Star career before this season. Before Game 4, he had come of the bench in every game this season. At first, the Cavs bullied the undersized Warriors down low. Timofey Mozgov finished with 28 points. Mozgov was the only true center who saw big minutes for either team. Tristan Thompson finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

But the move to Iguodala turned out to be masterful. AI scored a season-high 22 points and grabbed 8 boards. Draymond Green added 17 points and Harrison Barnes scored 14.  Stephen Curry contributed 22. Though Golden State gave up size, they added quick-strike capabilities on offense, which led to some key runs. The smaller lineup only turned the ball over a total of seven times.

The Warriors used to two guys off the bench to great success. David Lee scored 9 points in 15 minutes and Shaun Livingston was a valuable player. Meanwhile, the Cavs' perimeter players seemed tired. Matthew Dellavedova had spent the night after Game 3 in the hospital due to exhaustion. He gave a great effort, but struggled. Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith didn't add much offensively. James Jones didn't score in 18 minutes.

Cleveland trailed only by 6 after three quarters, but had nothing at home in the fourth. Mozgov's 28 points was only the fourth time in NBA Finals history that an undrafted player scored at least 20 points. Dellavedova had been the third player in Game 3.

Golden State won 103-82 to tie the series. The extra day's rest before Game 5 in Golden State should help Cleveland, who needs the rest more.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Game 3 - LeBron, Dellavedova help Cavs

Cleveland got out to another quick start in Game 3, but Golden State hung tight and trailed by only 4 after 1. Tristan Thompson clearly felt more comfortable offensively at home than he had during the first two games on the road. He finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Golden State fell three points in the second quarter as Stephan Curry struggled mightily.

The game fell apart fore the Warriors in the third quarter. Matthew Dellavedova's hustle continued to be the story. His first half defense on Curry was outstanding. He was often the first player to risk his body and dive on the floor to gain possession. He finally had a good game scoring as well in the Finals. He scored 20.

Curry shot much better in the second half, even as the Warriors' fortunes plummeted. Head coach Steve Kerr utilized Andre Iguodala and David Lee, a former All Star who hadn't played yet in the finals, with success. Iguodala scored 15 points and Lee, who scored 11, was a force in the pick and roll.

The story was, as it has been through the Finals thus far, LeBron James. He scored 40 points while adding 12 rebounds and 8 assists. He also had four steals. James has willed his team to a 2-1 series lead. Cleveland won 96-91 after the Warriors made a furious run in the fourth quarter. At one point,. Curry's hot shooting cut the lead to three points. He finished with 27 points despite a miserable first half. The Warriors' problem was they didn't get much else from their starters. Klay Thompson scored only 14 and the other three starters combined for 11 total points.

Iman Shumpert hurt his shoulder in the first half. The Cavs only played eight guys and that inludes Mike Miller and James Jones who played a combined 15 minutes. Both James and Dellavedova seemed spent after the game.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Game 2 - Those Tenacious Cavs

Without Kyrie Irving, down 1-0 with Game 2 in Oakland, the Cavs didn't appear to have much of a chance. Irving's explosiveness of the dribble not only leads to his own points in the paint, but opens up opportunities for his teammates. His defense can change games when he feels inspired. But a broken kneecap has sidelined him for the remainder of the series.

The Cavs plodded on. Irving's replacement, Matthew Dellavedova. He primarily guarded the season's MVP, Stephen Curry, and did an admirably job. Curry missed 13 of his 15 three point attempts and turned the ball over six times. Dellavedova, who was a source of controversy for his hard-nosed play in the Eastern Conference Finals, grabbed five rebounds from the point guard position, including one key offensive board late in the fourth quarter.

After a close contest, Cleveland stretched the lead to eleven with three minutes to go. In crunch time, J.R. Smith committed three ill-advised fouls. In the fourth, he grabbed Curry in the backcourt, and touched Harrison Barnes as Barnes was dunking home two. Those extra three points were crucial as the Warriors stormed back to tie the game. LeBron missed a game winning shot and Tristan Thompson, who had missed some key free throws late in the fourth, grabbed the rebound but missed the putback.

Cleveland raced to a five point lead early int he overtime. LeBron, who scored 39 points on 35 shots in 50 minutes, was the catalyst. He ended with an incredible triple double that included 18 rebounds and 13 assists.The Warriors came back. Their forwards Barnes and Draymond Green each scored in double figures once again. Though Curry scored fewer points than field goal attempts, Klay Thompson more efficient in leading the way for the Warriors with 34.

Dellavedova's lone offensive rebound came with ten seconds left down one. He sunk both free throws. He forced a Curry miss on the other end and LeBron made one of two free throws to increase the lead to two. Curry turned it over and the Cavs had one. LeBron and Dellavedova were the most forceful in celebrating and rightfully so. Though Timofey Mozgov added 17 important points and 11 rebounds early, he didn't play much in the clutch. Tristan Thompson did and grabbed 14 rebounds, including seven offensive.

The Cavs tied the series at one with a 95-93 victory. It's the first time in NBA history that the first two games of the Finals went to overtime.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Game 1 - The Stars are Out

In Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals, the All Stars of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors proved their worth. Cleveland's LeBron James and Kyrie Irving kept their team in the game throughout. Golden State's Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were the clear leaders of a more balanced squad.

Cleveland's Timofey Mozgov, who finished with 16, gave the Cavs something precious early: easy baskets. The Cavs took control early in Oakland and finished the first with a 29-19 lead. The Warriors, of course, did not fade away. Known for their quick strike offense, led by the Splash Brothers, Curry and Thompson brought Golden State back. The Warriors were down just three by halftime.

The third and forth quarters featured the teams taking turns. As soon as it appeared Cleveland would steal Game 1, Golden State came changing back. Unsung forwards Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes both scored in double figures. So did former All Star turned reserve Andre Iguodala, who finished with 15 impactful points.

Besides Mozgov, Cleveland didn't receive much help from its role players. Kevin Love, another star, has been out since the first round. Iman Shumpert played effective defense, and Tristan Thompson added 15 rebounds- including 6 offensive- but both can give more. The streaky shooting J.R. Smith was cold from the field. Cleveland went with an eight man rotation.

Late in the fourth, Curry drove to the basket and got past Irving. Irving recovered to block Curry's shot with his left hand, saving the game. The contest went to overtime after Shumpert threw up a last second shot.

In the overtime, Cleveland suffered a horrific blow. Irving, who had scored 23 points, fractured his kneecap. He's out for the Finals. Golden State took control at home. Curry ended with 26 points and Thompson added 21.

LeBron finished with 44 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. He added to his brilliant legacy even in a loss. He willed his short-handed team into a highly competitive contest with the best team int he league. Golden State not only notched the most wins in the NBA by far, but they a top team offensively and defensively in terms of efficiency.

Golden State took Game 1 with a 108-100 overtime victory.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Rating the Baltic States

These rankings are based on my limited experiences.

Prettiest scenery in countryside
1. Estonia
2. Latvia
3. Lithuania
note: There's not much to choose between the three. All are strikingly beautiful.

Best drivers
1. Estonia
2. Lithuania
3. Latvia
note: Estonians are better by far. They drive slower, are more courteous, and fewer try to pass within an inch of a collision.

Most attractive women
1. Latvia
2. Lithuania
3. Estonia

Most attractive men
1. Estonia
2. Lithuania
3. Latvia

Friendliest people in the capital
1. Lithuania
2. Estonia
3. Latvia
note: Lithuania wins by a wide margin

Best Indian food
1. Latvia
2. Estonia
3. Lithuania
note: Latvia wins by far

Most Russianness
1. Latvia
2. Estonia
3. Lithuania

Most wheelchair accessible
1. Lithuania
2. Latvia
3. Estonia

Best honeymoon
1. This one

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Tallinn to DC

We woke of at the crack of dawn in Estonia, whch is ridiculously early over there. We checked in at the airport and well, checked in and checked in. EstonianAir didn't quite know what to do with the scooter. At one point, the woman behind the desk asked how much it weighed. I froze. I completely forgot how to convert pounds into kilograms and muttered incomprehensibly. Candace spoke up and said, "One hundred pounds!" The woman had the same frozen look I had just had. Eventually someone had the bright idea to actually weigh the scooter.

We finally made it on the plane. I told a flight attendant that I wanted to check a bag. She had no idea what that meant. The flight to Copenhagen was rough. I got quite motion sick.

Our wait in Copenhagen was long. Candace got some sleep; I got less. I still like the trees in the airport.

I'm not a fan of SAS airlines. The entertainment starts at the same time for everyone. There should be morecuser control. They started the entertainment late and ended it early. The food was not good and I usually like the food on international flights. For the second meal, it was a ham sandwhich or nothing. As a Jew, I chose nothing. The flight was also bumpy despite clear skies.

Waiting for the scooter after we land can be nervewracking. We're more calm after a few go rounds. At first, everyone is real concerned about getting the scooter to us as quickly as possible. When that proves difficult, everyone washes their hands of it and only the attendant who pushes the airport's wheelchair is left. Luckily, we got a good one who was on the case.

The passport and customs officials were only concerned with whether or not we had traveled to West Africa in the past 30 days. It was cool to only have to fill out one custom declaration form since we're a family now. DC brought us Baltic-like weather. We took a taxi home an  I nearly threw up due to his continuous slamming on the brakes in traffic on the beltway.

But we made it home, completing the best honeymoon anyone could have hoped for.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Parnu to Tallinn

We drove from Parnu up to Tallinn. The route is filled with speed cameras and mostly courteous drivers. We returned the car to the airport. Then we walked to what I call Hotel YouLemmeStay. It's a 4 star hotel, but the staff seems to have never heard of a microwave and especially not for guest use.

We went to the nearby mall. I was impressed. It was huge and there were numerous electronics stores. I was ecstatic to find a free water closet. Then we walked to Kadriorg Park. It wasn't as easy as it could have been.

On route, tracks are being laid, possibly for a tram. A new huge entertainment complex is just beginning to be built. The construction was hard on the scooter. Then there was a pedestrian overpass. With a lot of a lot stairs. We took a long detour around the stairs.

We made it to Kadriorg Park. We realized that you can pretty much walk right up to President Toomas Hendrick Ilves's front door. That door is being guarded by two goofy soldiers. We speculated that they were the B Team since the president was out of the country. We knew because there was no flag above the presidential palace.

Ilves- who is in Tblisi, Georgia- is a vocal critic of recent Russian agression. Some pundits believe that the Baltics are under threat from Russia. Ilves has called for permanent NATO troops in Estonia as a deterrent to Russia. Currently, NATO is honoring a 1997 agreement with Russia to not station troops permanently in the region although there have been troops temporarily placed and NATO military exercises in the Baltics.

Estonians proudly display their flag much more than the two other Baltic states. This is not only nationalism, but there is a sense of ethnic pride. The large Russian minority have endured discrimination although economic inequality between Estonians and Russians has decreased. Some argue that Estonia could be in Vladimir Putin's plans for a Greater Russia. President Ilves believes that Estonia's Russians would rather stay in Estonia because wages and the standard of living are much higher.

The book store at the mall had a much bigger section of Russian-language books than English books, but was still a paltry amount compared to the Estonian selection.

The walk to and around the beautiful Kadriorg Park drained the scooter's baterry and there was some pushing involved. This scooter has a mechanism that protects it from rolling down a hill. So it locks when any speed is built. We made it back to the hotel and have been relaxing since.

Monday, June 01, 2015

In Parnu

Despite its small size- about 40,000 people- Parnu has had an important role in Estonian history. The first settlement in Estonia was set up on the banks of the Parnu River thousands of years ago. Johann Voldemar Jannsen, the founder of Estonian journalism, was also a key figure in Estonian nationalism in the 19th century. Independence- the first one- was declared in Parnu in 1918.

We ate a great pizza place for lunch. I added chicken and shrimp to mine. It threatened rain most of the day. We took a stroll near the abandoned beach. I couldn't believe how cold it was for June 1. We walked around beautiful Beach Park with its trees the color of fairy tale green. It felt as if my eyes had changed to some setting that mad  everything look like it was in some nonexistent golden age of yore.

We took a stroll down the breakwaters. It was romantic, but they don't tell you about the swarms of gnats that persistently followed us.

We ate dinner at an Asian fusion restaurant. It was what you'd expect from an Asian fusion place in small town Estonia. We then bought our weight in chocolate. We got Estonia's chocolate Kalev, Latvia's Laima, and Lithuania's Pergale. We took a romantic walk back to where we're staying and got lost. A block later, we weren't lost anymore because Parnu is tiny.