Anonymous Letter

From: Anonymous,

To: “NBA Expert LOL” <DamanRangoola@gmail.com>,

Hi “Daman” (if that’s even your real name),

Please don’t take this the wrong way, I’ve been following your tweets and your “writing” all year. You tweet a lot, I don’t understand how you tweet as much as you do honestly, do you have a life? Anyways, I digress.

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Power Rankings for the Week of November 7th

Since Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Warriors was announced, the commentary regarding it has ranged from wildly inaccurate to utterly nauseating. It’s not a shock that complex decisions get distilled down to narratives, but the two prevailing narratives that came out of this are worthy of a breakdown; namely – Kevin Durant’s cowardice and Russell Westbrook’s loyalty.

Kevin Durant

“Why didn’t he play like this in the playoffs” is reportedly what Enes Kanter said to Kevin Durant during Durant’s first game against his previous team on Thursday. It’s also a sentiment that was echoed on Twitter and other platforms during the Warriors blowout where Durant looked like the best player on the planet.

But that’s missing the point. We tend to romanticize eras after they’re finished and forget what drove us crazy during the era itself. This is often how we look back at presidencies for the same reason – we tend to have an extremely negative and cynical view of the present, but the past represents a time where things were better.

The fact is that until the Conference Finals in 2016 Oklahoma City never maximized the talents of both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Thunder’s best solution to find a 3 and D wing was overpaying for Dion Waiters. Russell Westbrook’s ball dominance and lack of efficiency from 3 point range is mitigated by his overall brilliance and elite athleticism but is not even close to being an ideal teammate next to Durant. The Thunder never had a truly modern offensive scheme and coach Scotty Brooks was kept on too long after it was clear nothing was going to change – Billy Donovan was definitely a good hire but a little late.

OKC ownership was notoriously cheap, it became a running joke that the Thunder hadn’t amnestied Kendrick Perkins – a roster spot and salary cap space that could’ve been used to acquire or sign a capable 3 and D player. Trading James Harden was unnecessary at the time when the deal happened and was a panicked decision that was mostly made due to financial constraints.

So let’s stop with this notion that the Thunder are victims here. Kevin Durant gave 9 years of his service to the franchise, many of which were in the prime of his career. He propelled the sport forward in the region, putting Oklahoma City on the map.

Now as to where Kevin Durant chose to go. There’s a basketball angle, and a life angle. Durant is not naive enough to have thought that he wouldn’t be seen as “taking the easy way” by joining a juggernaut like the 73-win Warriors team that had just defeated him in the playoffs. To take that into account in your decision, however, is silly. How many people are turning down Google offers because they’d rather work at DuckDuckGo? Kevin Durant saw in the Warriors what we’ve been seeing for years – they are a group of professionals with a great coaching staff, great management, and a good ownership (#LightYears). They play an elite style of offense suited to the way Durant wants to play, they get along very well and oh yeah – San Francisco is an awesome place to live!

Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook upon signing an extension with the Thunder was heralded as a loyal guy, the anti-Kevin Durant, the true competitor. “Russell Westbrook would never desert this city and franchise like Durant did” was the message. Weirdly enough, none of this happened.

The facts:

-Russell Westbrook got a raise for this upcoming season that he was not expecting, this became possible as Kevin Durant went off the books

-Russell Westbrook has only given the OKC Thunder an extra season. Why is that season so significant? After Westbrook reaches his 10th season of service, he is eligible for a higher % of the cap, this is partially the same reason why Durant signed a 1+1 deal this summer with the Warriors. Now, the new CBA may change all that, but this is the reality at he time the extension signed.

Russell Westbrook made the wisest decision for him financially, nothing beyond that. Even if he hated everything about the team, as a cold blooded capitalist that I am, I would’ve advised him to take it.

This next summer is when Russell Westbrook’s true test of loyalty will come. If he extends long term at that point, that’s when we can commend him for his loyalty. And if that extension doesn’t happen? Sam Presti will trade him. OKC will be as cold blooded managing their assets as they should be, Russell Westbrook will manage his career and finances as he should – let’s just spare the narrative, shall we?

 

Power Rankings

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers (6-0) [LW: 1]
  2. LA Clippers (5-1) [LW:4]
  3. San Antonio Spurs (5-2) [LW: 3]
  4. Golden State Warriors (4-2) [LW: 2]
  5. Toronto Raptors (4-2) [LW:5]
  6. Portland Trail Blazers (4-3) [LW:6]
  7. OKC Thunder (5-1) [LW: 12]
  8. Utah Jazz (4-3) [LW: 9]
  9. Atlanta Hawks (4-2) [LW: 15]
  10. Indiana Pacers (3-3) [LW: 8]
  11. Detroit Pistons (4-2) [LW: 13]
  12. Charlotte Hornets (4-1) [LW: 14]
  13. Boston Celtics (3-3) [LW: 7]
  14. Chicago Bulls (3-3) [LW: 16]
  15. Houston Rockets (3-3) [LW: 10]
  16. Denver Nuggets (3-3) [LW: 19]
  17. Memphis Grizzlies (3-4) [LW: 11]
  18. Sacramento Kings (3-5) [LW: 22]
  19. Miami Heat (2-3) [LW: 20]
  20. Milwaukee Bucks (4-3) [LW: 25]
  21. Los Angeles Lakers (4-3) [LW: 26]
  22. Minnesota Timberwolves (1-4) [LW: 17]
  23. Orlando Magic (3-3) [LW: 29]
  24. New York Knicks (2-4) [LW: 21]
  25. Washington Wizards (1-4) [LW: 18]
  26. Phoenix Suns (2-5) [LW: 28]
  27. Dallas Mavericks (1-5) [LW: 23]
  28. Brooklyn Nets (2-4) [LW: 30]
  29. New Orleans Pelicans (0-6) [LW: 24]
  30. Philadelphia 76ers (0-5) [LW: 27]

Brief Thoughts on the New MacBook Pro from a Casual Mac User

As a tech enthusiast, but not a professional in the industry, I tend to have a very different perspective than the various podcasters, YouTubers, journalists that have made the tech community such a vibrant community.  The latest update to the MacBook Pro has received intense scrutiny from truly Pro users that is a combination of entirely valid and slightly over-dramatic that has become a custom with any kind of change Apple has made (see: removal of the headphone jack in the iPhone). 

My experience is different from people that professionally work on these machines, but I find myself questioning whether the Mac is for me for different reasons.  Note, I did not say anything like “Why I think Apple is wrong” because this is a very personal perspective.  

My MacBook Pro is from 2012, upgraded from the original spinning hard drive to SSD, and without a Retina display.  I was due for a change, and like many I was excited about the October event in which the laptop of my choice received a much needed refresh.  Here’s how I currently use my laptop: I use Chrome, Microsoft Office, use it to record the occasional podcast, iMessage, Slack, Notes and that’s about it.  It’s my work computer and my personal computer.  At work, I have it docked into a monitor, it’s propped up on a stand and I plug in my Apple Wired keyboard (need my number pad!) and use it with a Logitech mouse.  Occasionally at work, I am unplugging it and walking around with it to different desks and meetings around the area.  I’m charging my phone usually once around midday with it and I’m putting an SD card or a USB stick in it once every few weeks. At home, it’s primarily a writing tool and once a week I plug in a USB microphone and record a podcast about basketball. I use programs such as uBar and BetterSnapTool because I came from Windows and I miss those features of Windows, and I love that the Mac is customizable in that way.  Over the course of these 4 years with a Mac, I have a simple feeling towards my entire workflow and everything this machine accomplishes: “It just works”.  It always has, and I love it.

Now, 2016. The MacBook refresh.  Here’s what I would have to do to make my computer “just work”. I would need a USB C hub at my desk to plug everything in that I currently do – plugging in my monitor, which I already use an adapter for; my mouse, my Apple keyboard.  I would need a USB C adapter to plug in my iPhone on the go, I would need an SD card reader in my bag, I would need a USB C converter to use my mouse at home for the Logitech dongle or plugging in my USB microphone.  These are just things that I’ve thought of off the top of my head.

The truth is, I love my Mac but I’m not a Mac loyalist, this was my first MacBook and I enjoy it greatly – but I’m perfectly OK with using Windows as well.  I will miss the syncing of my Notes and Contacts, I will miss using iMessage, but I will be OK. Everything I need to make the new MacBook work for me requires both extra money and more importantly, extra brain cells. “Did I pack the adapter? Do I need to keep a hub at home and at my office? Should I buy two of these, one for my bag and one for my office? Do I need a new laptop bag? What would I need for my travel? Should I just buy a new mouse?”  

The Dell XPS 13/15 series carries the Apple aesthetic and would require little to no change in my current workflow to adopt, and at a cheaper price.I never imagined that I’d be moving on from Mac, especially as my love for iOS grows – the iPad Pro with Pencil has been one of the more enjoyable tech purchases I’ve ever made, and the iPhone is the most important device to me and it’s not even close.

The Mac may not be for me any more, and I think I’ll be OK, and I’m sure Apple will as well.

Power Rankings for the Week of October 24th: NBA BACK Edition

Hi everybody! Did you miss me? I missed you ❤

Programming note for this season: I will be publishing the Power Rankings weekly on Sunday night/Monday morning.  My Power Rankings are usually more about the opening than they are a team-by-team breakdown, there are far smarter people doing this far better than I could ever imagine.  In addition, I am planning on doing a weekly NBA podcast on Tuesday nights (no particular reason, it just fits in my current schedule) that will sort of be an “NBA Week in Review” where I can talk about topics that I find most interesting that I haven’t or am unable to properly explore in written format.  You can subscribe to that podcast here.  In addition, you can find my work at the fantastic Silver Screen and Roll and follow me on Twitter @DamanR.  Thank you as always for your support, never hesitate to reach out to me for either criticism, feedback, requests, etc – the only thing I ever want to accomplish is to be better today than I was yesterday.

Vacation over, let’s go, onto this season!

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Likes and Dislikes from Apple’s iPhone 7 Event

(Note: I had previously stated that the Apple Watch Series 2 was the same thickness, it has actually gained 1mm. Sorry for the error, it has been corrected)

I had mixed feelings heading into Apple’s iPhone 7 event (iMore did a good recap here), usually an event that I very much look forward to. Due to the incredible reporting of people like Mark Gurman a lot of key details about the iPhone, the undoubted crown jewel of Apple’s business, had already been leaked.  In addition, the fact that this year’s iPhone was rumored to be a third iteration of the iPhone 6 design added to the fact that this iPhone could have gone down as the most underwhelming new iPhone ever.

The good news: this event exceeded my expectations.  Even if you’re not an Apple fan, whenever tech leaders like Apple continue to push the envelope, it pushes the entire industry forward.

The bad news: not everything is perfect, and nor was everything Apple did today.

In a similar fashion to how I’ve covered previous Apple events, I’ll break down my likes and dislikes for each major category of the Event: Apple Watch, iPhone, and Misc. Observations.

Apple Watch

Likes

  • Focus on Health features
    • While Apple may tout their standing as the #1 Smart Watch on the market, that is not exactly a bold achievement.  They remain firmly behind Fitbit in terms of Wearables, a market that Apple surely wants to increase it’s share in.  Their emphasis on fitness features such as built-in GPS, ability to use while swimming, and Nike partnership is a smart move that will make the device more accessible to the fitness oriented market.
  • Speed Boost
    • HUGE! The GPU and CPU both are 50% faster, a welcome need to a device that is painfully slow even for the most basic of things.
      • Note: WatchOS 3 also contributes to the speed boosts greatly.  The new chipset combined with new software will hopefully make using the Watch a more seamless experience.
  • Watch Series 1 Speed Bump
    • I put this separately because I was very happy that Apple added the same chipset in the “Series 1” Watch, allowing for the lower end Watch to also be functionally usable enough for anybody looking to buy the Apple Watch but is on a tighter budget.  Note that for anybody looking to purchase this option it will not have the Water Proofing, GPS, and brighter screen found in the Series 2 Watch.
      • I personally would recommend this to anybody who is looking to get the Watch and doesn’t need the GPS and Water Proofing (the Watch Series 1 is water resistant, so normal water exposure does it no harm). I use my Watch for notifications, Apple Pay, and basic Health tracking, and I see no reason why those things couldn’t be accomplished with the upgraded Watch Series 1.

Dislikes

  • No battery life increase
    • While people who wear the 42mm size Watch don’t run into battery issues with their Watch (I personally have never had an issue), the people who have smaller wrists – a higher % of women – wear the 38mm Watch which packs a smaller battery.  This has led to many needing to charge their Watches in the middle of the day which is a terrible experience and Apple missed an opportunity to make the experience that much better.
  • Increased thickness (1 mm)
    • My last point and this point are related: if the physical dimensions have stayed relatively the same, why hasn’t battery life increased? And if the battery life didn’t increase, why didn’t the Watch get a little thinner? Usually the tradeoff is between battery size and thickness (on a very basic level) and in this case we got neither better  battery life nor a thinner profile.  While I wouldn’t classify the Watch as grotesquely big, it still has a notable width.
      • It has been suggested that due to GPS and more energy hungry processor that the battery life could not change. This is fine but remains a minus point especially for the 38mm version.

iPhone

Likes

  • New Colors
    • While this is usually mocked, the two new Black colors (Jet Black and Matte Black) are really nice iterations of the Space Gray color that has been the norm for people that wanted darker color phones.  The Jet Black is stunning in pictures but by Apple’s own admission may be more susceptible to fingerprints and scratches, so may not hold up.
  • New Cameras
    • I’m not knowledgable enough about the world of photography, but the camera improvements that Apple makes year over year have always been impressive to me.  The iPhone 7 adds Optical Image Stabilization (previously only found in the 6 Plus/6s Plus) to the “normal” sized iPhone, but the star of the show was the dual camera system on the iPhone 7 Plus.  The Plus was always a superior device to me for many reasons, but the camera improvement made this year makes the gap even wider.
      • What the dual camera system allows for out of the box is double the zoom with the same level of focus.  In a few months, Apple will release a software update (YUCK – should’ve been ready, Apple!) that will allow a “3D” effect called bokeh.  I’m excited for this while knowing next to nothing about it.
    • The front-facing camera received significant improvements as well, which will thrill all of the selfie takers.
  • Water Resistant
    • No more weird rice rituals if your iPhone lands into the sink by accident.
  • Speed, battery life, screen improvements, stereo speakers
    • While all impressive, these are general across the board improvements that are always welcome and make the experience better but there’s not much else to say.
    • For those that listen to music or watch videos on iPhone using the speakers, the stereo sound will be a welcome addition
  • Storage
    • PRAISE STORAGE BUDDHA UPON THE DEATH OF THE 16GB iPHONE!
      • That’s all I have to say. About damn time.
  • Headphone Jack Removal 
    • Don’t worry, this is a dislike as well.  Look, this sucks. But also it’s what makes people a fan of Apple as a company.  This is the same company that we were outraged by their removal of the Floppy Drive, the CD Drive, the 30-Pin Connector etc. but the industry moved forward as a result.  The audio jack is a comparatively ancient technology that was some day going to be replaced.  Apple does what it does and they decided to be the ones to set an expiration date.  Progress doesn’t come without it’s pain points, otherwise everybody would do it.
    • They still haven’t abandoned everybody clinging onto their AUX cables.  Apple is packaging an adapter with every iPhone and are selling the adapter for $9, the cheapest peripheral I’ve ever seen them sell.  For comparison, when Apple changed the 30 Pin to Lightning port, at a time when the market REALLY wasn’t ready for the change, their adapter costed $29!
    • The Air Pods (doesn’t come with the iPhone) have a really impressive pairing technology that works far better than Bluetooth.  Impressive work, Apple.  This technology is also being passed along to the new Beats line of headphones.

Dislikes

  • Home Button Changes
    • I put these in the category of “preparing us for the future today”, similar to the removal of the headphone jack.  I conceptually understand that the next iPhone is supposed to be such a drastic re-design that the iPhone won’t be able to support a button that actually clicks (and possibly removes the Home Button altogether), but I’m old fashioned in the sense that I need a button to click when I press it.  Similarly, the new MacBook’s trackpad technology is impressive in that there’s actually a “click” feeling without pressing down on anything, it still just doesn’t feel right.  For as much as iPhone users press down on the home button, for it to feel a little off is actually a big downside.
    • If you’re going to make a change this large, be prepared to make a good case for why the change needs to happen.  I feel like this is the biggest weakness of “Tim Cook’s Apple”.  The MacBook went to one port, the Force Touch trackpad is on all new MacBook Pro’s, the iPhone’s home button changed, the headphone jack was removed, and the message was never clearly conveyed as to WHY.
  • Headphone Jack Removal 
    • If this move is to make way for the re-design coming next year, why was it made this year? As with my point above, if you don’t have a good answer to this question, you’re not ready to make the change.  Intellectually, we all understand that the audio jack is an older technology, we’re all moving to Bluetooth/wireless, but if it’s not necessary – why make the change now? Change for change’s sake is the worst reason to do something, and I don’t believe Apple did that – so improve the communication around this. This will be an adjustment for many, a rude one at that, with very little real reason given for it other than “it’s 2016”.  That’s not good enough.
  • Lack of True Tone Display
    • The True Tone Display was introduced with the 9.7″ iPad Pro and as a person who uses that iPad daily, I noticed the improvement immediately.  Essentially what True Tone does is adjust to the “temperature” of the light around you when you’re using the iPad which allows for a consistent viewing experience.  This change is most notable at night, and the iPhone really could have benefitted from it.
  • Jet Black Warning
    • You’re better than this.

Misc. Observations

Likes

  • Nintendo Partnership!
    • I’m so pumped about this. I hope this is the beginning of something big.  My dream scenario is Nintendo puts their entire back catalog onto the Apple TV/iOS platforms, that would get the current generation of kids that have abandoned Nintendo for Minecraft etc hooked on the same Mario games that have aged so well.
  • Ability to Adjust
    • For a company as large as Apple, they do a good job of understanding their market.  The iPhone’s camera improvements and color options are no mistake, they listen to the customer base and know what they want.  More importantly, they abandoned what didn’t work on the original Apple Watch software and adjusted their approach in a relatively short amount of time.  With their partnerships in fitness and hardware changes, they clearly are making the right decisions with where to improve the product.  For somebody who bought the Watch early, I became worried about the long term future of the platform – no longer is this the cases.

Dislikes

  • Lack of Mac
    • The MacRumors Buyers Guide is a fantastic resource for anybody looking to buy any Apple Products.  Currently, they recommend NO MacBooks that Apple currently sells because they are so overdue for changes.  The expectation was that because they missed the Back To School market by not announcing at WWDC, it was logical that the MacBook Pro/Mac Pro/Mac Mini etc was going to receive some love in preparation of the Holiday season.  It may still be the case if Apple can make an announcement in a month or so, it’s another missed opportunity for them to shine light on what many consider a neglected part of their business.
  • Lack of iPad Features
    • At WWDC, iOS 10 was largely an iPhone only update.  While the iPad received some cleaning up, if the iPad Pro really is a laptop replacement, as Apple likes to remind us, the software simply hasn’t caught up.  The rumor is that iPad-centric software features might come mid-season, I would have appreciated a little bit of iPad software love at this event.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

First Round Preview: What Happens If They Lose?

I wrote one of these last year, and it was a lot of fun – so let’s do it again!

Eastern Conference

(1) Cavaliers vs (8) Pistons

PredictionCavs in 5. 

I’ve enjoyed making fun of all the Cavaliers drama all season, but LeBron is playing the best basketball of the season right now and the Cavs are more experienced and so much more talented that although the Pistons will put up a good fight, the Cavs will beat them easily.

What is the Pistons lose? Nothing. Stan Van Gundy continues to shape the organization with his vision, and the Pistons accept that they are simply ahead of schedule and that any playoff experience is good for this team.

What if the Cavs lose? Ooooh, boy.  I don’t see LeBron leaving Cleveland again, not any time soon at least, but other than that I imagine everything else on the table.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love got traded, and even though the Cavs signed Ty Lue to a silly non-interim basis, I could see LeBron trying to bring in somebody like Mark Jackson to take over. In addition, these changes will lead to more reports that LeBron is running the organization and he will be blamed for the team’s early exit – and some of this will be entirely true.  Overall, this would be a huge mess and a sign perhaps that LeBron may have tried to take on too much responsibility and power on himself.

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The 2015-2016 NBA Report Card

So, here we are. Another season in the books.  We said goodbye to Kobe, we read the Hinkie manifesto, we marveled at Steph’s 400 and the Warriors 73, we laughed at Houston, and a whole lot in between.  Looking back, how did each team’s overall season play out?

In reverse win-totals order, pre-season over/under = O/U

Philadelphia 76ers (10-72; 21.5 O/U): F.  Jerry Colangelo might have been watching too many episodes of House of Cards when he decided to take the job to take over the 76ers with his master-plan in mind.  Just a few short months after his arrival, his son is now the leader of the team with Sam Hinkie resigning in a startling public execution of The Process.  In terms of the on-court basketball, this team somehow regressed: finishing as at 30th in Offensive Rating and 6th worst Defensive Rating.  There’s no real discernible “star” to be seen, and it seems unlikely that Noel and Okafor can play together long term – forget Embiid and Saric waiting in the wings.  It’s not all bleak – Bryan Colangelo has a remarkable treasure trove of assets in terms of young players and specifically great draft picks that he can turn this thing around quickly.  But this season? An unfortunate waste.

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My Goodbye to Kobe Bryant

I wrote this at Silver Screen and Roll:

Embracing Kobe the way I did was what solidified my confidence in being comfortable with who I was and allowed me to thrive in social situations that I would never have considered being a part of. I started college in 2005, and I made friends immediately who knew me as “that crazy Lakers fan.” I was obsessed. I knew every fact about Kobe, read and heard any interview he ever did — and in some ways started asking myself — “What would Kobe do?” It’s a dumb thing, but it’s helped me and I’m not ashamed to say that. Kobe’s mentality; his love and his passion for his craft, his “take no prisoners” attitude is not one that I can replicate, but it is one that I can try to learn from. It’s why I defended him so veraciously as he was blamed individually for the dismantling of the Shaq/Kobe Lakers — this wasn’t just about Kobe, it was about the person that I saw myself in, the person who helped me every day and didn’t know it.