Saturday, April 18, 2015

Dez's 1st Round NBA Playoff Predictions


Golden State Warriors (1) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (8)
I know that Playoff basketball is a different animal from the regular season, and the Warriors are built more for the regular season. But the talent is so strong, and although only in his first year I think Steve Kerr will prove a fantastic NBA coach. They have to be a favorite to win it all.
Dez Says: Warriors in 5.

Houston Rockets (2) vs. Dallas Mavericks (7)
As a Houstonian always at heart and longtime supporter of The Rockets, I just have not warmed to this latest incarnation. The Beard is certainly one of the great talents of the league, but I find him selfish, and I don't like selfish players. And I DESPISE Dwight Howard. I love the Rockets, but I cannot root for Howard as a player (or a person). I stand by what I said when The Rockets got him: Dwight Howard will never win a championship. And now the Rockets are without their point guard. Still, it's just the Mavericks.
Dez Says: Rockets in 6.

Los Angeles Clippers (3) vs. San Antonio Spurs (6)
By far the most intriguing series of the first round. It is a real shame that one of these teams will be knocked out in the first round, because both could really contend for the title. Poor Clippers. You work hard all season and secure the three seed and you get...The Spurs in the first round. If the Spurs had won the final game of the season instead of losing it, they would have had the second seed. That is how crazy the West was this season all the way until the end. This will be a tougher series for whoever wins than the next round will be (winner will get Rockets or Mavs and defeat whichever one it is). The Spurs have made a pact with Lucifer at the crossroads, because year after year they are ready to go. This regular season they played even more half-assed and rope-a-dope than usual, but turned it on at the end when it counted. Tim Duncan is having his best season in years, and Kawhi Leonard has emerged as the superstar Spurs fans knew he would be.
Dez Says: Spurs in 7.

Portland Trailblazers (4) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (5)
Who cares? Both of these teams looked more formidable earlier in the season than they do now. Portland is only here because their division is so weak.
Memphis in 6.

Remember what I said about the Portland and Memphis series? It applies to most of the Eastern Conference. There are only about three real playoff teams in this whole damn Conference.

Atlanta Hawks (1) vs. Brooklyn Nets (8)
Sorry, I still don't believe in The Hawks. I like their Spurs-like team mentality and their streak was amazing. But they are not playoff tested. I've got to see them win a couple of rounds before I even consider them a threat for a championship. They should get through this round, though.
Hawks in 6.

Cleveland Cavaliers (2) vs. Boston Celtics (7)
Cavs in 5.

Chicago Bulls (3) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (6)
I'm glad I'm not a Bulls fan. The Derrick Rose saga would drive me nuts if I cared about the team. Fans keep hoping he will return to MVP form, but it ain't happening. He is out so much that the team gets really good without him, and then the Emperor With No Clothes returns and they've got to shake up their mojo. Then he gets hurt again. But the Bulls do have the ingredients to challenge.
Bulls in 5.

Toronto Raptors (4) vs. Washington Wizards (5)
SEE Portland/Memphis discussion above.
Washington in 6.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Because It's Not Too Early...

First of all, I know things have slowed down considerably here at GNABB. No excuse really.

But here are some thoughts on how the next presidential election is shaping up. So far we have four officially announced candidates: Hillary on the Democrat side and Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio on the Republican. I don’t see any serious Democratic challenger coming in to give Hillary much of a fight, but there will be a few sacrificial lambs so they can at least pretend to go through the primary process vs. the coronation that it actually is. On the Republican side, though, you’ve still got some major candidates likely to enter who just have not officially announced yet. Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Chris Christie are the three most important, I think.

My main observation thus far is that each of these candidates’ (other than Walker so far, which is why I think he is the most dangerous to Hillary) main challenge is themselves. And that goes for Hillary, too. Especially for Hillary.

Ted Cruz I just don’t get. Because he knows better. Opponents of Cruz dismiss him as a Tea Party idiot. But he’s not an idiot. Far from it, he is an accomplished politician who won a Texas race against the Republican establishment that nobody gave him a chance of winning. He has a compelling life story, and he is a shrewd lawyer who has appeared and won cases in front of the Supreme Court. You do not do that unless you are smarter than the vast majority of your fellow man. Yet, he allies himself with people who show up to rallies dressed as Paul Revere. These people cannot be taken seriously. He led a destructive government shutdown with zero chance of actually accomplishing what he claimed he wanted to do (defund Obamacare), and did nothing other than play into the media narrative of extreme Republican obstructionism. Cruz is a smart man with a wonderful pedigree who has no chance in hell of winning. And I’m glad. He is dangerous based on who he caters to.

Rand Paul is a smart guy also who has some real pluses, but he is haunted by his own more extreme Libertarian past and he has been a disaster at handling the media thus far. On the positive, he can bring in a much needed youth excitement to the Republican side, he is willing and able to reach out more effectively to minority voters than any other major Republican. He sees more than any other candidate the need for the Republican Party to expand its base if it is to survive in the years to come. But Rand, you had to know that the media would ask you about your past positions and whether they jibe with your current stance. And they don’t sometimes. He has reacted like a petulant child, lecturing on proper interview techniques and whining about media bias against conservatives (which is true, but still sounds shrill when voiced). It’s early, so Rand can definitely become more adept at dealing with journalists, but he needs to improve pretty quickly to remain a serious option.

I like Marco Rubio, but he’s young. (Although, I would have dismissed Obama in the same way early in 2008). From reports, he is the one that Hillaryworld fears the most, though, so there is something. He is and will be a force to be reckoned with for some time. He seems to be a moderate on many things and wants to take the Jeb Bush spot as the party uniter between the more conservative and establishment wings. His leadership in the immigration reform fight soured many conservatives on him, though. If he can survive the more partisan primary season, he will be a formidable candidate in the general election, and I can just see the dread from the Hillary camp. Another young, exciting, minority opponent to dampen the “first woman president” vibe she wants to maintain. But I just have the feeling it is not his time, yet. Vice-presidential candidate maybe?

For the unannounced, Jeb is a favorite of the establishment. I like Jeb a lot, but I need to hear more. A downside is, of course, Bush Fatigue. But that is negated somewhat, of course, by Clinton Fatigue. It would be an advantage for the Republicans to put up a fresh face and then the Democrats would be the party of yesterday. There has been a slight rehab of W., but not that much, so the political sins of the brother still might affect Jeb unfairly. Jeb is more of a thinker. I was and still am a big Christie fan, but his name has fallen way down the list. No momentum, no buzz anymore. And you know he will get into some trouble on the trail at some point with his mouth and temper, so he would need some built-up capital to withstand that, and he just doesn’t have it anymore. As for Walker, he is a contender. Favorite of the primary voter for standing up to the unions in Wisconsin, smart and savvy. A survivor (of two recall attempts). A fighter. Obama thinks enough of him to try and take his phantom on in interviews. A Walker/Rubio ticket would be real strong. I need to look at his actual positions more closely, though, to decide whether I would support him.

As for Hillary. She is just not likeable. At all. That is what it comes down to in many ways. A problem that many people have with her (beyond the partisan Clinton haters on the right) is her lack of sincerity. I know it is a problem for most politicians, but the cynical Clinton Entitlement Machine (as in, we as Clintons are entitled to the presidency) is particularly abrasive. I love that much of the commentary on Hillary’s announcement centered on her branding, how she would brand herself this time around to better connect with the voters. Oh, she’s gonna be a populist concerned about middle class prosperity and use her status as grandmother to connect. This was released material from the Clinton campaign. How ridiculous does that sound? To actually release to the public: here’s our strategy and why you should like her now! If you have solid values and principles, the “branding” occurs automatically when you talk about your issues. But Hillary has no real issues she feels strongly about and has no real core values either. Her main policy idea is this one: she should be president. That is what her campaign was about in 2008, and that is at heart what it will be this time around. She just has to tone down the entitlement vibe, but it is still in her DNA.

Also, her record is easy to attack. Both for a lack of ANY accomplishments as Secretary of State (how is that “reset button with Russia” going?) and screw ups. I have to admit that I thought Benghazi would be a dead issue by now, but it is not going away, and although the Republicans have been their usual inartful selves in keeping the Benghazi fires burning, there are real questions that remain to be answered. Under Obama, our leadership role in the world has been diminished. As Secretary of State, she has to take responsibility for that decline in influence, in part. Richard Nixon once said: "If, when the chips are down, the world's most powerful nation, the United States, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world." (1970). The Obama administration's inconsistent, weak, talk but no action responses (remember Obama's red line in the sand to Assad?) to recent world events make Nixon's warnings very relevant today.

Also this e-mail thing is, in some ways, even more serious for Hillary. She can't hide behind the "well, it was Obama's show" card on this one. It plays perfectly into the narrative that the Clintons view themselves above the rules that everyone else must play by. You want to know how serious it is? It isn’t just the Right Wing talk radio section of the country talking about this. Mainstream journalists are taking her to task. There was a recent Time Magazine cover story very critical of the Clinton Machine (entitled “The Clinton Way”). Even mainstream media pundits see something seriously wrong with a Secretary of State making herself the sole arbiter of what documents need to be preserved and what documents can be tossed. I mean, this is historical record stuff...and the ultimate Clinton fantasy. She has decided that she alone knows which documents will be part of the record and which documents “are not relevant.” Just “trust her.” My God.

Hillary is very vulnerable. But the Republicans can easily hand it to her. I don't know who's it is to win at this point, but it is everyone’s election to lose.