MLK Day – Overlooked, Under-appreciated

Exhibit A of MLK’s legacy

Martin Luther King Day is a holiday that is taken for granted in this country. Firstly, it is taken for granted because a large portion of the population does not acknowledge it.  By not acknowledging, I mean that they are not given the opportunity to sit back and even accept that it is a day different from any other.  A large portion of the population still have to report to work/or school, and are therefore not put into a position to even acknowledge the importance of this day.  Granted Martin Luther King Junior was not a perfect man, he had his flaws; but that is besides the point.  The point of this holiday is to celebrate the life changing impact that he has had on our lives.  If you feel you can’t relate, let me put that into perspective for you.  If you’ve ever had the privilege or burden of going to school with a person of a different race, MLK has had an impact on your life.  If you’ve had the privilege or burden of working with a person of a different race, MLK has had an impact on your life.  If you’ve ever played on a sports team with someone of a different race, MLK has had an impact on your life.  If you’ve ever dated someone of a different race, MLK has had an impact on your life.  If you’ve ever had a friend of a different race, MLK has had an impact on your life.  If you’ve ever met someone of a different race, MLK has had an impact on your life.

I could go on and on about this subject; but efficiency in my delivery is my intended goal here.  I am not here to say that Martin Luther King Junior is single handedly responsible for desegregation; I am simply here to make a case for the importance of this day meant to honor him, due to his astronomical efforts.  I will not sit here and make a comprehensive list of all that he did, as that may bore you; but I strongly advice you to do some research if you don’t already know.  What I WILL do is emphasize that Martin Luther King junior has indirectly impacted the lives of every human being residing in the United States (whether this impact is considered positive or negative, privileged or burdened, wanted or despised).  Considering the United States prides itself on being one of the most diverse countries in the world, a man who made large contributions to this effort is essentially favored by the majority of the population.  With that being said, all residents of the United States should be given an opportunity to have this day to celebrate and acknowledge the work of this man.  The government has set the tone by making this a federally acknowledged holiday; private entities must follow in that regard.  For those who get to spend this day outside of work/school, let us take a moment to reflect on how our lives would be different without the efforts of MLK.  I don’t know about you all, but mine would certainly be a lot different, and I cannot take that for granted. Thank you Martin Luther King Junior.

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Patching Things Up: Cleveland Cavaliers

Ailing Cavs

LeBron James has been out for about 2 weeks, rehabbing his body and ultimately preparing himself for a do-over of his return to Cleveland.  Coincidentally, the Cavalier roster is also undergoing rehab (great job General Manager LeBron).  The joke has been made that LeBron took the time off the court to fix up the roster; whether or not this holds true, we will never know.  Nevertheless, the Cavaliers have made a couple “under the radar” moves that have the potential to help the resurgence of the team of “the land.”  From the Cavs point of view in the trades, one involving a three-team switcheroo, the Cavaliers essentially only gave up Dion Waiters and a couple of future first round draft picks (no offense to Alex Kirk and Lou Amundson) for JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov.  That, to me, is a definitely a win for the Cavaliers (on paper at least).  Granted we don’t know who those future draft picks will end up being, but as a Cavs fan you shouldn’t be worried about that because you are worried about NOW, not the future.  In that sense, giving up a Dion Waiters for another Dion Waiters type of play AND two players to address the other needs of the team is definitely a win.  Iman Shumpert is a physical wing defender with the ability to knock down the long ball.  He brings to the Cavs someone who can lock up prolific wing scorers, taking that load off of LeBron (who has decided not to play defense thus far this season anyway).  In Timofey Mozgov, you have a legitimate 7 footer with LENGTH, something the Cavs desperately need.  Despite his athleticism, Tristan Thompson is only 6 foot 9 inches tall.  Kevin Love, who stands about 6 foot 10 inches is also not big (or athletic enough) to provide a shot blocking presence down low.  Now, Timofey Mozgov isn’t exactly Dikember Mutombo; however at 7’1, he has the length to alter shots down low simply by standing tall with both arms up (unless of course he’s going against Blake Griffin).  Offensively, he is athletic enough to catch and finish lobs.  His post-game isn’t exactly Hakeem-like, however he’s no  Kwame Brown either.  Lastly, he will help the Cavs clean up the glass, as he averaged 7 rebounds in just over 20 minutes a game in Denver.  The last and arguably the most discussed piece to the acquisitions, JR Smith, brings to the Cavaliers a bigger Dion Waiters with a little bit more athleticism.  Unlike Dion Waiters, who seemingly did not want to embrace the 6th man role, JR has had success in that role, being a 6th Man of the Year winner in the past.  Like Dion, JR has the ability to heat up quickly off the bench.  Much like Dion also, JR has the ability to be a bit trigger happy sometimes.  This however isn’t a bad thing, as you’d much rather have a player who isn’t scared to take shots than a player who is hesitant to shoot the ball (a la Mr. Dellavedova).  Lastly, JR has good size for a shooting guard.  He won’t get bullied in the post by players like James Harden, and he’ll be able to hold his own defensively.  For all these reasons, the acquisitions by the Cavaliers do not hurt them in anyway, and provides them with pieces to help turn this disaster around.


JR in his new uniform

Are these moves sufficient to turn the Cavalier season around? They could be.  As we all know, talent isn’t the missing component in Cleveland.  What is missing is an identity, a defensive mentality, and leadership.  The move helps to address the lack of a defensive mentality by bringing over a player who prides himself on that end in Iman Shumpert, and another player who will make an impact on that end in Timofey Mosgov.  The lack of an identity can be somewhat address by the addition of players who like to get up and down the court.  The current roster is equipped with players of that sort, and this will certainly enhance that.  The one aspect that wasn’t addressed was that of leadership.  As it stands, LeBron is the only vocal leader in Cleveland as none of these players have enough winning experience AND accolades to take on such a role.   To really solidify this roster, the Cavs should look to add a savvy veteran with an edge.  Preferably one with a defensive mindset.  Preferably Jermaine O’Neal.  The Cavs are for a lack of a better word…SOFT.  They lack toughness, an edge, a fear imposing mindset.  LeBron has never been one to provide these qualities, which is why he needed Dwyane Wade as his sidekick.  A veteran leader like JO can bring this mentality to the young bigs, who really need the toughness.  A guy like Tristan Thompson can certainly benefit from such an acquisition.  I’m also going to go out on a limb and say that the Cavaliers need to make a push for a savy point guard like Jameer Nelson to back up Kyrie.  Jameer is a proven vet who isn’t afraid of the big stage.  He can run the offense for the second unit, and even play alongside the big dogs if needed.  Let’s face it, Jameer is simply wasting his time in Boston at this point.  Boston is still in rebuilding mode, so he might as well go somewhere that he can contribute meaningfully.   If a trade isn’t feasible, he should look into getting waived and picked up by the Cavs (seriously, it’s that good of a fit!).  Matthew Dellavedova is a little “shaky” as a backup in my opinion.  An upgrade certainly wouldn’t hurt.   To sum it up, the Cavs are headed in the right direction with their recent acquisitions.  More work can be done to the roster, but more than anything, more work must be done on the practice courts.  The talent is there, the mindset just has to be developed.  I still have faith that this team has the potential to contend for a title this year.  Stay tuned to see what happens.

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Looking Ahead: MVP Candidates

  1. James Harden – The bearded assassin has been on a mission thus far this year.  Leading the league in scoring at about 27 points an outing, Harden is the focal point of the Rockets offense.  His offensive impact goes far beyond points alone. Harden is also averaging about 7 assists on a nightly basis.  Statistically speaking, he is directly responsible for at least 41 of the points scored by the Rockets on a nightly basis; however considering the amount of wide open 3’s he creates, that number is far beyond 41.  His constant attack puts him at the line about 10 times per game, and keeps the rockets in the penalty for a good portion of the game, leading to easy points.  Lastly, he has vastly improved his defensive efforts, no longer nullifying his offensive contributions.   No one man has had a bigger impact on his team’s success as much as James Harden has this year; therefore his is most deserving of this year’s MVP award.
  2. Stephen Curry – It is only fitting that the best player on the best team in the NBA gets some recognition for this award.  After all, it was the same criterion that earned Derrick Rose the MVP award a couple of years ago.  This doesn’t mean that Steph isn’t deserving of the award for any other reason besides his team’s success, it simply means that his team’s success is the biggest contributor to his case for MVP.  Nevertheless, Steph is putting up great numbers.  He is currently averaging 23 points, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists per game.  His high shooting percentages and borage of threes are totally expected; however he has stepped up his defensive efforts, carrying over the intensity from the team USA squad.  His presence on the floor dictates how teams defend the pick-and-roll; contributing greatly to the success of the other Warriors.  Last but not the least, he’s arguably the most exciting player to watch in the NBA today.  It is about time to give him the respect he TRULY deserves.
  3. Marc GasolMarc Gasol – Marc is coming off a year where he missed a lot of playing time due to injuries.  His return to the 2ndhalf of the season however transformed the Grizzlies to one of the most feared teams in the NBA.  Two years ago he was awarded for his monumental defensive impact on his team.  Today, he is making a case for recognition not only as the most valuable player on his team, but in the league PERIOD.  Marc is averaging 20 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and about 2 blocks a night.  His numbers don’t necessarily jump out at you; but he has certainly established himself as the engine that keeps the Grind House running (sorry Mike Conley).  His ability to dominate the game offensively either with his low post scoring or high post orchestrating, and defensively with his alterations makes him a very worthy candidate of this award.  This impact is showcased in the success of the Memphis Grizzlies this year.
  4. John WallJohn Wall – Yes, this isn’t a typo.  The young man out of Kentucky who for a long time was too fast for his own comprehension has come a long way.  So long a way that he should be in the MVP conversation.  Wall is averaging a little over 17 points and 10 assists per game, spearheading the Washington Wizards offense.  Directly, he has a hand in at least 37 points a night for the Wiz kids through his scoring and dishing; he indirectly however he is responsible for at least 60% of the offensive output of the Wizards a night.  His penetration leads to ball movement around the perimeter, often leading to wide open threes (ask Rasual Butler).  He pushes the ball with pace constantly leading to easy fast breaking points.  Defensively, he sets the tone, disrupting passing lanes, and giving point guards a tough job on a nightly basis.  Lastly, his leadership and morale boosting personality has the Washington Wizards excited to play ball each and every night.  For all these reasons, John deserves some MVP love.
  5. lamarcus_aldridgeLaMarcus Aldridge – Flying under the radar this year, the Portland Trailblazers currently sit at number 2 in the loaded west.  Damian Lillard has been hot over the past couple of weeks; however, the Blazers are nothing without the consistent play of LaMarcus Aldridge.  23 and 11 with a block or 2 is what you can expect on a nightly basis from Mr. Aldridge.  Whether in the post, or facing up mid-range, LaMarcus is a reliable contributor to the Blazer offense.  The double teams he attracts frees up room for the various shooters assembled in Portland to fulfill their nightly duties.  LaMarcus himself has extended his range to  the three point line, shooting 48% (only 1 attempt a game, but still), allowing others to feast up in the post as well.  His consistency throughout the years has caused many to overlook this accomplishments.  This year however, he was the extra wins to strengthen his case.

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