Power Rankings for the Week of January 18th

Power Rankings for the Week of January 18th

DISCLAIMER: This is one day late. I had a much more elaborate, but in hindsight completely impractical idea for this. I have kept the records as of Sunday night to maintain uniformity. I apologize, and will try to do better – this is not my best but I’ve committed to doing this weekly and will honor my commitment. Thank you, as always.

One of my favorite things about sports is pondering the what-if’s or other hypotheticals in sports because often little things can end up having ramifications for years to come involving many teams at the same time.

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Power Rankings for the Week of January 11th

“I’m not sure it’s just the NBA,” Sarver said, when reached by The Republic via phone, regarding personality clashing and dysfunction within locker rooms. “My whole view of the millennial culture is that they have a tough time dealing with some eat backs, and Markieff Morris is the perfect example. He had a setback with his brother in the offseason, and he can’t seem to recover from it.”

No, Robert Sarver, it’s not the millennial culture, it’s the fact that players are holding their management accountable for their words just as management holds players accountable for theirs. Markieff didn’t have a “setback”, he was betrayed by his own organization that he trusted with a below-market deal with the implicit agreement that the Morris brothers would stay together. Here’s Markieff to the USA Today:

I don’t trust them anymore,” he said following Wednesday’s practice session. “It happens too many times. Two, three times.
“They give promises, OK. It’s hard. But at the same time, I wish them all the best. They were great to me the past five years. I’m always going to have a good memory about Phoenix fans and the city. I just hit that point of my career that it’s better for me and my family to move on.”

That was a lie, that was Goran Dragic.

Nobody is questioning the Suns approach to try to get LaMarcus Aldridge, if somebody like him becomes available you do what you can to try to get him to join your organization. To the Suns credit, LaMarcus Aldridge was impressed enough to seriously consider them – considering the Suns weren’t even a distant rumor for him, that’s an achievement. But, to discredit the human element entirely is a mistake that some GM’s are just to slow to react to. The right time to trade Markieff was right after it was clear that LaMarcus wasn’t coming, and if the Suns had considered Markieff as a person, they would’ve known that. How cool was Goran Dragic going to be with losing playmaking to Eric Bledsoe? Then after that, you bring in Isaiah Thomas, jeopardizing not only Goran Dragic but Eric Bledsoe. All of these moves that were made were good moves in a vacuum, but the post-move ramifications don’t occur in that same vacuum and should be dealt with accordingly.

Moving forward, the Suns shouldn’t panic – I don’t think Hornacek is the problem. What they need to do is trade Markieff, and do it now. I don’t blame Markieff for being upset, but at this point he is a complete distraction and should be away from the team. Secondly, don’t say dumb things about Millennials and have a “all hands on deck” type meeting to clear the air in the locker room and other layers of the organization and move forward. This team still has talent, they have drafted decently well, and have a good coach. While it will take time to regain the trust they had with free agents (like LMA), all they can do now is stabilize the organization and try to regain the trust of their players.

Here are this week’s rankings, where I decided to be a sarcastic dick to every team.

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Power Rankings for the Week of January 4th, 2016

I love podcasts, they are what occupy me during my commutes, on my elliptical, while I’m playing video games (I put 2k on mute), and generally I am listening to podcasts during any “dead” period in my day. I am subscribed to 77(!!!) of them, and I specifically wanted to thank those that help me understand the NBA and entertain me along the way – in no particular order, with the exception of the first:

[Apologies if I mistakingly left any podcast that I listen to out]

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Power Rankings for the Week of December 14

(Previous week’s Power Rankings can be found here)

One of my favorite things about being a fan of a team for so long is that with the rare exception of organizations like the San Antonio Spurs that cheat and bribe their way to being good forever is living through the valleys and enjoying the peaks.  I became a bigger Lakers fan after living through the immediate seasons after Shaquille O’Neal.  It makes you appreciate “the process” [now a phrase ruined by Sam Hinkie] of team-building.  It also can be painfully frustrating if you’re losing AND not really building towards something as the Lakers had been early on this season, most notably with the benching of D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle.  Remarkably, that turned around in the Lakers loss to Minnesota on December 9th with Kobe sitting in the 4th of a close game to let the kids do their thing.  Now, even though they lost every game this week, it has been SO much more enjoyable to watch.  Wins and losses aren’t the only thing that matter, it’s why I hate the “championship or failure” (#RINGZ) mentality of the way we evaluate some careers, it’s also about enjoying the journey to get there.

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Power Rankings for the week of December 7th

I love this Warriors team.  I know that’s obvious, who wouldn’t love a 22-0 team? But there’s a purity to watching them play and rooting for them that I don’t think I’ve ever really had as a sports fan only because the circumstances have aligned so well.  As a Lakers fan, if my team had any expectations, I would still be excited about the Warriors but I would also kind of dislike the fact that I knew my team wasn’t good enough to beat them (nobody is, this year).  It’s been a joy to watch a transcendent superstar in Steph Curry exceed expectations somehow after winning the MVP.  It’s been amazing to watch the strength of an organization that was able to withstand the absence of Steve Kerr, the architect of the championship squad last season.  As the league gets more competitive, teams get smarter, differentiating yourself as an organization becomes more difficult.  The Warriors are being run like a Fortune 500 company, with a strong culture of accountability and selflessness, they truly stand for something.

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The Daily TSP: September 30th [Tech, Sports, Podcasts]

Tech

Marques Brownlee (MKBHD – YouTube) Gives His First Thoughts on the New Nexus Phones

Marques Brownlee has emerged as one of the best commentators on tech and excels at talking about phones, especially.  In this video, he is discussing the two phones announced by Google today: the Nexus 6P, and the Nexus 5X.  I really love what Google is doing with these phones, and I think that they are improving with this lineup every year.  Small things like putting the fingerprint sensor in the back of the phone where our finger rests most of the time anyway are wacky as hell, but also really cool.  Android as a mobile operating system is fantastic, and the fact that the Nexus devices get updates right away [this is the single biggest issue for me on the Android platform] makes this a compelling product, especially at that price.  I hope to get my hands on these to play with!

Sports

Ben Rosales (Silver Screen and Roll) Breaks Down the Lakers Roster

It’s important throughout this process to remember that this is still a chiefly developmental season for the Lakers. While the team can’t actively tank to keep their pick — even having the worst overall record in the league, something they couldn’t accomplish the previous two years with rosters worse than the one currently assembled, would only give them a 64.3 percent chance of keeping their pick — neither is the team remotely close enough to making the playoffs such that they could justify sacrificing valuable playing time for their now well-defined young core in favor of veterans.

Ben Rosales is my consistent go-to for talent evaluation especially when it comes to the younger players.  I don’t follow college basketball, which makes the work that Ben does especially around draft time incredibly valuable to me.  In this piece, he does a great job of breaking down the roster to determine which players should theoretically make the cut.  Mitch Kupchak and co. have done a really good job adding young depth to the team and I’m excited to see how camp plays out.

Podcast

Doug Loves Movies: Jon Hamm, Kumail Nanjiani and Max Landis Guest [Posted September 23rd; Length: 93 minutes]

Doug Benson hosts a great podcast in which he and his comedian and/or actor friends play movie-based games. Doug is the perfect host to set the table and allow the guests to have fun while also keeping the show chugging along at a great pace comedically. You don’t have to really be a movie buff to enjoy this podcast, Kumail and Jon Hamm [Yes, THAT Jon Hamm] absolutely kill and were hilarious throughout. Recommend this episode, and this podcast as a whole, to anybody with even the slightest of interest in movies.

Daily TSP: September 29th [Tech, Sports, Podcasts]

Good morning! Lakers-centric sports section today, with a great iPhone review and a podcast recommendation. Thank you as always for taking the time to read.

Tech

Jason Snell (for Macworld) Reviews the iPhone 6S & 6S Plus

Yes, the “s” models look more or less like their predecessors, but for quite a while Apple has used these cycles to upgrade a lot of the stuff on the inside. This year is no different: The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus offer some major improvements, with better cameras (front and back), much faster processors, more responsive Touch ID, and the single biggest improvement to the iPhone’s user interface in its history.

iPhone reviews bring the best out of the tech writers online, and this year has been no different.  Jason Snell’s general takes on Apple products are spot on, and I found this one no different.  I myself was fortunate enough to buy the iPhone 6S Plus (64 gb, Space Gray) and have been using it since Friday. Some general thoughts:

  • This thing is fast. It’s really noticeable beginning from the faster Touch ID sensor that is so fast that I don’t even know what my lock screen picture is anymore.
  • The iPhone has always had a great camera, but this year’s “selfie” camera and video recording took HUGE steps up.  I normally don’t take selfies, but I went outside in the dark and was shocked at how nicely the selfie came out, utilizing the screen itself as a substitution for true flash.  In addition, 4K videos are remarkably crisp and the optical image stabilization built into the 6S Plus make for a great experience.  I’ve enjoyed just taking videos, pausing them, and zooming into small portions of the video and being amazed at the level of detail that is present.
  • 3D Touch is a good feature that will simply be great in the 6 months to one year it will take developers to fully integrate it to their apps.  I worried when Apple announced the feature that I will either accidentally trigger it or have a difficult time activating it when I want to use it.  Thankfully, neither of those issues have occurred.  One tiny suggestion: it would be helpful if Apple had some kind of visual way (maybe some small mark on the icon?) to let the user know if a specific application has it enabled or not.  I find myself 3D touching every app on my home screen just to see if it works.

Overall, I’m loving the phone. Please read the review!

Sports

Baxter Holmes (ESPN.com) talks to Kobe Bryant about the Lakers

When asked if he envisions his role changing, Bryant said, “Probably. It’s hard. I don’t know what to expect. My philosophy has always been, whatever you are asked to do, try to be the best at doing it. Whatever the role, you’ve got to figure it out. Whatever it is, try to do it to the best of your ability.”

With so many key young players that the Lakers must develop into the potential future core of the franchise, does Bryant now become more of a teacher and facilitator than their top option?

“I’m not really sure what that stuff means, honestly,” Bryant said. “I think a lot of that stuff is media conversation or debatable content. The reality is, we’re all mentors, we’re all teachers in our own respects. Whether that means scoring a lot more or assisting a lot more — whatever the case may be — depends on the identity that the team takes on. It’s my responsibility to plug in those holes where we’re lacking.”

This is just the fan in me talking, but I am so excited for the Lakers this season.  Look, there will be games where Kobe is upset that the young guys aren’t stepping up and he’ll take matters into his own hands when he should be more patient.  At the same time, I think that the roster is built full of guys who are confident in their ability and will be able to play with him just fine.  The veterans the Lakers have added like Roy Hibbert and Brandon Bass will assist Kobe in setting the tone of professionalism this season, Jordan Clarkson is a young and very confident guard who has already been around Kobe, and D’Angelo Russell has the kind of edge that Kobe can appreciate.  We’ve been hearing the right things from the coaching staff, as skeptical as I remain, and although this team will not be a playoff team, I’m just glad this won’t be another lost season.  Lastly, if this is indeed Kobe’s last year, I hope he goes out on his own 2 feet, healthy, and doing Kobe things on the court.

Podcast

Exponent: Episode 053 – Connect the Dots [Posted September 27th; Length: 68 minutes]

Another great installment of one of my favorite podcasts hosted by Stratechery’s Ben Thompson and Harvard Business Review’s James Allworth.  This one started off talking about Volkswagen’s emissions fraud, but it took a strange and interesting detour into a discussion about life decisions that somehow connected really well with their final topic about the Apple Watch.  Ben and James not only have a really interesting professional perspective, but a really diverse personal background that lend itself to really insightful talks.  Thanks for another great episode!

The Daily Teaspoon: September 25th

Tech

Verizon Jumps on the “iPhone Every Year” Bandwagon

NEW YORK – If you purchase either the iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus with Verizon’s Device Payment option beginning Friday, September 25, you’ll be eligible to get a new iPhone every year. Yes, no more waiting for your contract to end. Now you can always have the latest iPhone – on the network that has the largest 4G LTE coverage in America.

The cell phone industry has gone through a fascinating transformation over the past couple of years.  Gone are the 2 year contracts and the subsidized pricing, people want phones quicker than ever before and carriers like T-Mobile got that party started.  I myself am considering getting on a one year upgrade cycle for the first time since I have been buying iPhones.  It’ll be interesting to see now only how carriers keep responding to this demand, but how companies like Apple and Samsung respond to this.

Sports

Lee Jenkins (Sports Illustrated) on Chris Bosh’s Recovery From Blood Clots

For the first 36 hours in the hospital Bosh feared for his life, until doctors were able to assure him that the blood thinners they administered were working. For the next six days he feared for his career. Bosh already knew his season was over, but he still had to wait for test results that would show whether his condition was hereditary, and therefore likely to recur. “If those tests came back positive,” the 31-year-old Bosh says, “I couldn’t play anymore. For almost a week I didn’t know.”

Not sure any player has gone from consistently being clowned to so respected as quickly as Chris Bosh has.  As the league has “gone small”, a player like Chris Bosh is extremely valuable and his willingness to sacrifice his role during Miami’s Big 3 Era was instrumental in their two championship wins.  Miami was poised to make the Eastern Conference playoffs very interesting last year, but as soon as the scary news came out about Chris Bosh’s blood clots, that went out the window.  He seems like a great guy, a really good teammate, and I’m hoping he can regain his form and be healthy this season.  I still think a Dragic-Wade-Deng-Bosh-Whiteside starting 5 can contend for a top spot in the conference, but I’m a crazy person who things that can stay healthy.  Lee Jenkins has emerged as one of the best basketball writers working today, and he continues to shine with this piece.  Fun read.

Adrian Wojnarowski (Y! Sports) Talks to Doc Rivers

The communication. This is where Rivers believes he holds so much of the culpability, and where he’s most grateful that Jordan returns to these Clippers and everyone gets a second chance together. Here comes Paul Pierce and Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson onto the Clippers, a deeper, better bench and a fuller understanding of how precious of an opportunity this franchise has for itself.

What a wacky offseason for the Clippers (and the Mavs, for that matter).  As much blame as Rivers is taking, I think that no team who implodes as badly as the Clippers did against Houston can function without at least some adversity and bad feelings.  Chris Paul seems like a pain in the ass, but at the same time nobody benefits more from playing with a player like CP3 than DeAndre Jordan.  All the drama aside, it makes sense that Jordan chose to come back to the Clippers, they have built a much deeper team and will be right in the conversation as contenders in the West.

Now, for Doc Rivers.  These are the kinds of situations that I think are less likely to happen if a coach is devoted full time to coaching.  As President of Basketball Operations, Doc clearly has a lot more responsibility and although I’m positive he’s not negligent towards his role as a coach, one has to wonder if it’s a good idea for any coach to have the responsibility that he does.  From an organizational perspective, I understand that having one unified voice from coaching and management can have it’s benefits.  Conversely, how can we expect one person to handle two roles with mismatched incentives?  A coach has the incentive to win TODAY, a general manager has the incentive to build sustainable success even if it requires sacrificing wins and losses TODAY.  This balancing act will be interesting to watch this season, especially because I believe where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Podcasts

Fitzdog Radio – Whitney Cummings [Posted Saturday, September 19th; Length: 70 minutes]

Greg Fitzsimmons and Whitney Cummings are two of my favorite comics today and it’s no surprise that they produced a really funny and insightful conversation. I’ve particularly been impressed that somebody like Whitney who has been through quite a bit is so aggressive about confronting her demons and dealing with them head on. Even more difficult than doing that? Openly talking about it. Her work ethic and perseverance throughout college and till today are straight up inspirational. Thank you, Greg and Whitney!