Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Explaining the Liberian Civil War to My 4-Month Old

While changing her diaper, I explained that we have to take cultural relativism into account. We cannot fairly criticize the brutality of the soldiers in the war from a place of stability and peace that we enjoy. We can be shocked by man's inhumanity to man, but we must withhold condemnation.

Then she farted on me and smiled.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Black Achievement and Black Despair

White culture, which is often dressed up as "American" culture, has become more accepting of black achievement, especially when that black achievement is narrowed to breaking color barriers. Black pain continues to go unacknowledged.

The celebration of Jackie Robinson and other figures who were "the black person to do such and such" are used by white people to pat themselves on the back. "Our ancestors were racist, but by embracing the courage of these historical black figures, we are absolving ourselves of the crimes of our fathers." Yet these embraces miss the current reality of black pain.

Public space is filled with danger for black men and women who can be murdered by the police or sexually assaulted with impunity. In reading recent books by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Mychal Denzel Smith, and Michael Eric Dyson, I sense less black anger than black despair. That's why Black Lives Matter is such a pertinent slogan and yet the despair compounds itself when it is eschewed for the callously colorblind sentiment: "All Lives Matter."

White culture must being willing to to accept the reality of black pain and act accordingly. Only then would  police officers be held accountable for their actions.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

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 July 26, 2016.

# David (PR) Mike (Previous Rank)
1 LeBron (1) LeBron (1)
2 Westbrook (4) Durant (3)
3 K. Leonard (5) Westbrook (4)
4 Durant (3) Harden (7)
5 Curry (2) Curry (1)
6 Harden (NR) K. Leonard (5)
7 A. Davis (7) Paul (6)
8 Paul (6) A. Davis (NR)
9 I. Thomas (NR) Wall (NR)
10 Antetokounmpo (NR) Dr. Green (8)

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 2016-17 season. These are our choices, taking the players' entire careers into account. Previous ranks posted on July 26, 2016.

# David (PR) Mike (Previous Rank)
1 LeBron (3) LeBron (1)
2 Dirk (5) Wade (6)
3 Durant (7) Dirk (5)
4 Wade (6) Durant (10)
5 Curry (10) Curry (NR)
6 Paul (9) Paul (7)
7 Westbrook (NR) Pierce (8)
8 Parker (8) Parker (NR)
9 D. Howard (NR) Bosh (9)
10Carmelo (NR) D. Howard (NR)

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 July 26, 2016.

# David (PR) Mike (Previous Rank)
1 LeBron (2) Durant (2)
2 Antetokoumpo (10) Westbrook (4)
3 K. Leonard (4) Harden (6) 
4 A. Davis (1) LeBron (3)
5 Towns (8) Antetokounmpo (NR)
6 Durant (3) K. Leonard (5)
7 Westbrook (6) Curry (1)
8 Curry (5)A. Davis (9)
9 Jokic (NR) Towns (8)
10 Harden (NR) Jokic (NR)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Game 5 - Two Out of Three

Cleveland got off to a good start for the second straight game, but Golden State raced by them int he second quarter. At one point, the Warriors held a 17 point lead after trailing by 8 early. While Cleveland came back and inched ever closer int he fourth quarter, there was really little doubt as to the inevitable outcome.

LeBron James became the first player to average a triple double in the Finals. He holds the record for most NBA Finals triple doubles. He finished with 41 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists. Though his teams have now lost five of his eight Finals appearances, he must be considered one of the best players in NBA history. I say that as someone who has names such as Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, and Bob Cousy on his top ten list.

Kyrie Irving added another 26 points, but he didn't shoot well again, amassed 6 assists and 4 turnovers, and played some pretty atrocious defense. The Cavs actually got help from both Tristan Thompson- 15 points, 8 rebounds- and J.R. Smith- 25 points on 7 for 8 shooting from downtown- but five other players combined for 13 points, including Kevin Love. Cleveland couldn't get consistent performances from more than LeBron and Kyrie, who didn't shoot well for much of the series.

Kevin Durant added 39 points and earned Finals MVP. He scored over 30 points in each of the five games and truly was the catalyst for the Warriors. Stephen Curry added 34, 10 assists, and 6 rebounds. Andre Iguodala added 20 points as the Warriors bench obliterated the Cavs'. Besides Iguodala, Patrick McCaw, David West, and Shaun Livingston combined for 15 points.

Surprise surprise, Draymond Green had another good all-around game. Klay Thomspon's offense was so great, but his defense was good again.

Golden State won 129-120 to win the series 4-1 and take two of the last three NBA Finals from the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors had too many offensive weapons. Cleveland's James and Irving had to spend the majority of their energy on offense and that exposed Cleveland's defense.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Game 4 - Horrific Defense Leads to a Game 5

Cleveland gave up another gigantic first quarter. This time, Golden State erupted for 33 points. The only difference was thew Cavs set a Finals record for most points in any quarter with 49. It felt more akin to an All Star Game than an NBA Finals. Cleveland set a Finals record for most points in a half with 86. At one point, LeBron James, who had a 31-point triple double, actually threw the ball off the backboard, caught it, and dunked it.

Cleveland held a large lead for nearly the entire game and coasted to a victory to keep the Finals alive. The Cavs had some displays of brilliance on offense. Most game from Kyrie Irving against Klay Thompson, who was actually trying to play defense. Irving's handles are the best in the league. His ability to finish is close to the top. He is also a streaky shooter. He doesn't do much else well, but those first two attributes sure are fun to watch. He finished with 40 points on 15 for 27 shooting, including 7 for 12 from three. The point guard has 16 assists and 12 turnovers through the first four games of the Finals.

Kevin Love had a strong game with 23 points and 3 steals doing most of his work int he first half. J.R. Smith added 15 points by chucking threes. Richard Jefferson has had a nice Finals thus far. Tristan Thompson was finally valuable with 10 rebounds and 5 assists. And Iman Shumpert added something rarely seen in this Finals: hustle.

For the first time in this Finals, Cleveland got solid performances from someone other than their stars. That reality finally exposed Golden State's weak defense. Throughout the Finals, only Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala have played consistently effective defense. In Game 4, Golden State's disinterest in defense and lack of rim protection finally came back to haunt them in record setting fashion

Before the game, head coach Steve Kerr spoke to his Warriors as if this contest was to be a coronation. Instead it was a comeuppance. The Warriors succeed partly because of talent and partly because of attention to detail. The latter was no where to be found Friday night. While Kevin Durant had his fourth straight game of at least 30 points, no one else played particularly well. And Durant's positive play was only on one side of the ball.

Stephen Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green all scored in the teens and shot under 40%. Green had 214 rebound and Curry had 10 assists. Shaun Livingston scored 10 points, but his team was -15 while he was on the floor. Only Iguodala had a positive plus-minus ratio.

Cleveland won 137-116 to force a Game 5 back in California. While the two teams have been increasingly testy, one hopes that feistiness extends to the defensive side of the ball. In the first four games, the winner has scored at least 113 points, which isn't a bad thing if they were earned and not given.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Game 3 -Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

"We're not going to change our game because of who we're playing," Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue said after two humiliating defeats in Oakland. Perhaps Coach Lue should have taken the opponent into account and changed something. After giving up 40 points in the first quarter of Game 2, the Cavs ceded 39 points in the first twelve minutes of Game 3.

Cleveland hung in the game and even ended the third quarter with a lead thanks to two men, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. LeBron scored 39 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists. Those nine assists don't tell the story. James's passing was about as good as the game has seen since Magic Johnson, particularly int he fourth quarter. Irving exhibited his ball handling and finishing difference. At one point, Kyrie (38 points) performed his best Marques Haynes impression and dribbled around four Warrior defenders in transition. He even scuttled for a key offensive rebound in the fourth.

But LeBron and Kyrie were gassed by the end of the game. They had spent most of the game saving up their energy on the defensive end in order to carry the offensive load. By the end they had nothing left. The blame should be squarely put on Coach Lue's shoulders.

LeBron's impressive passing masked his exhaustion. He had to pass- to teammates who were never able to establish a rhythm- because he had virtually nothing left. Up three points late int he game, Draymond Green set a pick for Kevin Durant. James didn't try to fight the screen- instead he meekly fell back with Green leaving Tristan Thompson on the four-time scoring champion. Durant glided to an easy deuce.

LeBron passed to Kyle Korver in the corner, but Korver missed a three. Durant grabbed the board, dribbled down, and fired a three. LeBron was guarding Durant, but hung underneath the three point line, allowing an open shot from a deadly shooter. That gave the Warriors the lead, 114-113.

Irving then had the ball and tried to make a last dribbling Houdini act against Klay Thompson one last time. But instead, he dribbled the ball around and fired a desperation three with 26 seconds left. It took the Cavs 14 precious seconds to foul. They waited for one of the game's best shooters to get the ball before they finally did. After two Durant free throws, LeBron James took a corner three that was blocked by Andre Iguodala. Golden State ultimately won 188-133 finishing on an 11-0 run.

Clevleand was most successful in the third quarter and early fourth when they played halfcourt basketball and moved the ball in order to get a shot in the paint. The Warriors will beat Cleveland in a run and gun game or a three point shooting contest every time. That Lue didn't try something new from the outset is astonishing. He overplayed LeBron and Kyrie. Not only did they fade badly late int he game, but the other players never got into the game to step up. J.R. Smith added 16 points, but the rest of the role players and Kevin Love were awful.

Two years ago, Matthew Dellavadova and Timofey Mozgov both posted 20 point games for Cleveland in the Finals as the Cavs held an improbable 2-1 lead under David Blatt despite injuries to Irving and Love. Under Lue, Cleveland's success is dependent on the individual greatness of its stars. The role players, who are better than those under Blatt, have regressed significantly.The team's only hope are legendary games by LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin Love.

While Cleveland is stuck in a losing strategy, Golden State keeps winning. Kevin Durant had his third straight 30 point game of the 2017 Finals. Klay Thomspon erupted for 30 and Stephen Curry added 26 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 assists. Draymond Green had yet another good all-around game. This time, the veteran reserves were valuable. Iguodala, David West, and Shaun Livingston combined for 20 points. Iguodala added 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals.

Cleveland made history with a 3-1 comeback last Finals thanks to LeBron and Kyrie. They'll have to make history again to win it all. Golden State leads 3-0.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Game 2 - Depth and Defense

Cleveland has enough star power to keep things competitive through much of the first half, but the Cavs lack of depth has hurt their chances in the first two games of the 2017 NBA Finals. LeBron James tied Magic Johnson for the most Finals triple doubles in history with 8. He scored 29 on excellent shooting, grabbed 11 rebounds, and dished 14 assists. Kevin Love added 27 and 7 after getting off to a hot start. Kyrie Irving didn't shoot well for the second straight game, but added 19.

The Cavs' three starts combined for 75 of the team's 113 points.No other Cav has scored in double figures in the series and almost all of the role players' points have come in garbage time. Meanwhile, Golden State's stars are playing fantastic, but so are the role players.

Kevin Durant poured in 33 points on nearly 60% shooting. He added 13 rebounds and 6 assists. Stephen Curry posted a triple double- only the second time in Finals history that opposing players garnered triple doubles in the same game- including 32 points. Klay Thompson woke up offensively with 22 points and again prevented Irving from shooting well. Draymond Green had his customary good all-around game.

While the centers unexpectedly played well in Game 1, the Warriors' reserve guards stepped up in Game 2. Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark both scored 10. Andre Iguodala had a momentum-turning block and added 5 assists.

While Golden State's depth has played a key role in the first two games, Cleveland's abhorrent defense has also been a major story. It starts at the top. Head coach Tyronn Lue thought his Cleveland bunch executed the defensive game plan well in the first quarter, only acknowledging some ill-advised fouls. Golden State scorched the Cavs with 40 in the first, so it would be scary to see how many the Warriors would have tallied if the Cavs hadn't executed Lue's plan. Perhaps Lue's strategy was to allow easy buckets in transition and open threes in the halfcourt. If so, the Cavs executed his game plan well.

Cleveland is simply the most high profile team to forego playing defense. The Cavs don't get back in transition, and when they do, they worry more about the shooters than stopping the ball. They don't rotate well and don't double team, which allows Durant and Curry to do whatever they want with the ball. They don't protect the rim well either. Most damning, the Cavs don't give much effort on a consistent basis when the other team has the ball, even in the Finals. It's embarrassing.

Golden State torched Cleveland and scored 132 points to take a 2-0 series lead.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Game 1 - The One We've Been Waiting For

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors met for the third straight year in the NBA Finals. This clash was inevitable as the Cavs cruised through the East with a 12-1 record and the Warriors wiped out the West winning all twelve games.

Game One featured amazing individual play. Thunderous slams, threes swishing, and crisp passing defined the game. Golden State's Kevin Durant poured in 38 easy points on 26 field goal attempts. He added 9 rebounds, 8 assists, and didn't register a turnover. Stephen Curry added 28 points on 6 for 11 shooting from downtown. He added 10 assists and 6 rebounds.

LeBron James of the Cavs, making his seventh straight Finals, scored 28 , grabbed 15 points, and 8 assists. Both he and Durant had monster dunks, but LeBron turned the ball over 8 more times. Kyrie Irving, one of the best ball handlers and finishers int he game, scored 24 points, but took 22 field goal attempts. Kevin Love yanked down 21 rebounds and scored 15 points.

While the stars were shining bright, this game was defined by the Warriors depth. Draymond Green had his usual strong all-around game with 9 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 steals. Klay Thompson shot poorly, but played goo defense on Irving. Andre Iguodala added 7 key points off the ench. And the centers played well: Zaza Pachulia scored 8 points in 14 minutes and JaVale McGee had one huge block and two jams in just five minutes.

Golden State turned the ball over just 4 times. Meanwhile, the Cavs' role players struggled. Starters Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith combined for 3 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in 50 minutes. Deron Williams and Kyle Korver played a combined 37 scoreless minutes. Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert, and Dahntay Jones did score, but it was too late. The Warriors had pulled 20 points ahead in the second half.

The Cavs did it to themselves.Sure, they committed 20 turnovers, but they lost because of porous defense.Twice, Durant, a former MVP and 4-time scoring champ, was permitted to dribble casually down the court and dunk without a Cav anywhere near him. Inside, the blue jersey scampered out to the three point line to guard the shooters, forgetting the elementary rule of transition defense: Stop the ball!

The number of open Warrior threes and dunks should embarrass Cleveland. In Game One of the NBA Finals, the Cavs defensive intensity and focus was more akin to a the tail end of a 4 games in 5 nights mid-January regular season game.

Golden State won 113-91 to land the first blow in the Finals rubber match.