Wednesday, September 30, 2015

2015-2016 NBA Offseason winners: San Antonio Spurs

2014-2015 record: 55-27

You have to hand it to the Spurs -- they're by far the smartest and most consistently competitive franchise in the NBA. The team built around Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker has won 50+ games for 16 years straight, and it appears that they'll smoothly transition from one Big Three to another and remain on top for years to come. Sure, Gregg Popovich's troops washed out against the LA Clippers in the first round last season, but they won the NBA title the year before that and should be right in the mix in 2015-2016. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

2015-2016 NBA Offseason winners: Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns & Andrew Wiggins
Things are looking up
2014-2015 record: 16-66

The Minnesota Timberwolves finished dead last in the league last year, grabbing a mere 16 wins as they failed for the third time in six season to crack the 20-win mark. In all fairness, the Wolves looked as though they might win 30 games, but then injures decimated their roster and the wheels went off the buzz. There was a silver lining to all the losing, however, with the team earning the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, selecting 6-foot-11 Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns. He joins Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, last year's No. 1 overall pick, as team president Flip Saunders is piecing together a perennial powerhouse.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
Hope is a dangerous thing
What a time to be alive! Just one year + one day after 20th Century Fox released The Maze Runner, the franchise's second installment, The Scorch Trials, after James Dashner's book of the same title, already hit the silver screen. After a brutal week at work I was more than happy to join my Maze-crazed sister Margot, Disney-bound brother Marlon and food pornographer/girlfriend Sarah for an evening of cinema. It's the weekend - guess that's all that bloody matters anymore.

2015-2016 Offseason winners: Los Angeles Lakers

Randle & Russell
2014-2015 record: 21-61

With Kobe Bryant nearing the end of his career, you want him to finish strong. The 37-year-old future Hall of Famer, who has been limited to just 41 games over the last two seasons, is reportedly medically cleared for all basketball activities, just as his possibly final NBA season rears its head. Kobe returns to a makeshift roster with a lot of potential, but no  one of the caliber of Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard or Steve Nash. Still, with a fierce competitor like Kobe, some veterans and two young studs in tow, the Lakers should be able to churn out more than 21 wins.

Monday, September 21, 2015

2015-2016 Offseason winners: New York Knicks

Baby steps, bro
2014-2015 record: 17-65

The New York Knicks need to turn things around. In five years since acquiring superstar Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets, the team has won just one playoff series (against an ancient Celtics squad, nonetheless), failing to even qualify for the postseason in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015. Sure, they dealt themselves a bad hand with the Ama're Stoudemire signing in 2010, but with his 5-year, $100 million contract and bad knees finally out of the picture, the time for schmuck ups is over. They have four more years tied up in Melo, who has 102 million reasons to prove that he is an elite player. At 31 years old, the time is now for the Brooklyn native.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

2015 Offseason winners: Miami Heat

2014-2015 record: 37-45

Just two years ago the Miami Heat had LeBron James on their roster, finishing with a 54-28 record and attempting a 3-peat against the San Antonio Spurs. What a difference a year makes. Last year LeBron decided to return to Cleveland which, compounded by injuries to Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts, resulted in the Heat missing the playoffs altogether. To add insult to injury, Dwyane Wade elected to become a free agent at the end of the year, seeking a handsome deal or threatening to take his services elsewhere, and in-season acquisition Goran Dragic also was a free agent. Things could have gotten ugly in South Beach, but Pat Riley came out on top.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

2015 Offseason winners: Milwaukee Bucks

Greg Monroe Milwaukee Bucks

2014-2015 record: 41-41

Just two years ago, the Milwaukee Bucks finished 15-67. They added No. 2 pick Jabari Parker, head coach Jason Kidd and a bunch of other pieces that summer, breaking even (41-41) in 2014-2015 and grabbing a #6 seed in the Eastern Conference. In a way, the team again adds a No. 2 pick to their roster. Since Parker suffered a season-ending injury early in the season, the Bucks had to make do without him for much of the campaign, and getting him back will surely provide a boost. There was no return timetable as of July, but he should be back before long.

Friday, September 18, 2015

2015 Offseason winners: Los Angeles Clippers

It has been more than three months since Stephen Curry and his Golden State Warriors clinched the NBA title. Sure, after that there was the NBA Draft and later free agency to keep us entertained but, alas, no NBA basketball. The circus starts all over again on September 26, when Training Camps open for all teams participating in preseason NBA Global Games, with all other teams following September 29. With a slew of new faces in new places, the NBA landscape is nothing like it was 12 months ago. Just like last year and the year before, I will select seven teams that I believe will take steps forward from last season.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

"Nothing endures, not a tree, not love, not even a death by violence"

John Knowles - A Separate Peace

I just finished reading A Separate Peace (1959) by American novelist John Knowles. Ranked No. 67 on Modern Library's 100 Best Novels list, Knowles' coming-of-age story became a New York Times bestseller nod and reeled in the William Faulkner Foundation Award.

"What you wand and what you get don't always make a set"

William Gay - The Long Home

This week I read The Long Home (1999) by American author William Gay. I stumbled upon the book via Tumblr and I immediately bought it for the cover alone. And I'm glad that I did. Not only because #TLH was a captivating read, which it most certainly was, but also for the film adaptation my spirit animal/perpetual squinter/all-around nice guy James Franco will be starring in in 2017. Since I'm kind of a hipster about reading the book before the movie comes out, I am of course very excited that for once I arrived to the party early. 

"In the act of tearing something apart, you lose its meaning"

Malcolm Gladwell - Blink

Last year I read Outliers (2008) by Malcolm Gladwell. I absolutely loved how he tackled the topic of "success" and debunked the many myths around it. When I stumbled upon Blink (2005), Gladwell's second book, in Barcelona, I didn't hesitate to scoop it up. In the book he pits snap judgments against carefully planned and considered decisions. 

"Every product, every service, every feature and every benefit is open for improvements"

Seth Godin - Free Prize Inside

This week in Seillans I read Seth Godin's Free Prize Inside (2004). Godin offers tons of free insights about business and marketing on his blog, but the marketer extraordinaire doesn't stop there: his ebooks, seminars and books are true gems. With Purple Cow (2003), Small is the New Big (2006) and The Dip (2007) under my belt I have read just a fraction of his bibliography, but they were all very much worth my while, and I plan on reading his other work, too. When I stumbled upon Free Prize Inside in Barcelona this July, I picked it up without hesitation.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Dinosaur 13

Dinosaur 13 by Todd Douglas Miller

Of late I've been on a serious dinosaur rampage. Thank you very much, Jurassic World! Strolling through Netflix one night, I stumbled upon Dinosaur 13 (2014), a documentary by Todd Douglas Miller about the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found. Seeing how I know very little about the paleontology side of things, I decided to channel my inner Alan Grant and dig into Miller's dino doc. What better way to chip away at my lack of knowledge?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Jurassic Park: Second cycle

Jurassic Park arrival on Isla Nublar

Jurassic Park's First Cycle leaves no doubt about it: something fishy lizardly is going on in Costa Rica. Now that the plot of the book is set in motion, Crichton introduces some characters.