Sunday, March 31, 2013

My Team - Nationals versus Marlins (3 games)

Monday - Strasburg versus Nolasco
Wednesday - Gonzalez versus TBD
Thursday - Zimmermann versus TBD.

We have baseball! As you probably already know, it's been my favorite sport for 40+ years. And, after years of waiting, my favorite team finally broke through in 2012. The Nationals are one of the few pre-season favorites to get to and possibly win the World Series. The journey starts. Let's ride.

Monday, Stephen Strasburg starts his season unfettered by front office worry about potential injury. I expect him to go 6 or 7 innings, giving up 5 or so hits, with a couple of walks and 7 or so strikeouts. Against yet another new-look Marlins' lineup, he should cruise to his first win of '13.

Ricky Nolasco has been a quietly dependable starter for Miami over the last few years. He's not dominant, but he'll battle and keep the ball in the park. To beat him, the Nationals will have to string together rallies. Guys have to hit strikes, not over-swing, and settle for walks, singles and doubles.

For the next two games, Miami starters Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi are each out with right shoulder inflammation. Twenty-year-old phenom Jose Fernandez might start game two or game three. Wade LeBlanc might start one of the games. I might start one of the games (at this stage in life, I'm a junk-baller - think Livan Hernandez [I'm kidding]).

Fernandez is the wild card. With not much of a "book" on him available, he may benefit from being unfamiliar. He may surprise the Nationals with shutout pitching the first couple of times through the lineup.

Washington's lineup, with Denard Span hitting leadoff, should give the fans plenty to cheer about this week. Bryce Harper should begin establishing himself as a legit #3 hitter, combining power, speed and hustle around the base-paths.

The Nationals should take at least two of the three games.  I expect Washington to win Monday, and also at least Wednesday or Thursday. For Washington, getting off to a good, healthy start helps guys get into their year-long routines. Miami should help with that.

Question: "What does Easter really mean?"

Hint: It ain't about the eggs. It certainly ain't about the sales.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

My Team - Grizzlies at Minnesota

I was surprised at Friday night's home win against Houston. After watching the Grizzlies struggle just to get back in the game at Madison Square Garden, I expected the team to continue unraveling. Watching Memphis play a more cohesive game against the Rockets reminded me just how good the team can be. They  played to their strengths, but ran enough fast-breaks to get some easy baskets. As more guys got touches either in the primary or secondary break, the whole team seemed more upbeat.

A Memphis team with more energy and togetherness can beat any opponent. They really need to be "five basketeers" on the floor. "First option/supporting cast" nonsense doesn't work for Memphis, because they don't have a LeBron James/Kevin Durant-type player who's always the best player in the building whenever he suits up.

Given that, it's the back half of yet another back-to-back. It's the fourth straight Friday-Saturday back-to-back this month. When you add the 12-13 March back-to-back (Tuesday-Wednesday), it's the fifth such schedule arrangement this month. In the previous four "back end of back-to-backs", Memphis is 3-1. The loss was that 16 March 6-point loss at Utah, where Memphis looked spent.

The Grizz take on a Minnesota Saturday that's even more depleted. Dante Cunningham suffered at right wrist injury. But, the Timberwolves got a home win over Oklahoma City Friday night, 101-93. Kevin Durant got 36, but Russell Westbrook only scored 18. Minnesota had five guys in double figures - four starters and Chase Budinger off the bench. Nikola Pekovic had 22 points and 15 rebs (including 7 offensive). That mountain of a man keeps doing work. Ricky Rubio had 17 points, 7 assists, but shot 4/11 FG/A.

This game is part of Minnesota's sixth back-to-back in March. The Timberwolves are 1-4 in second-game-of-back-to-backs this month, with the only win a 31-point victory at Phoenix on 22 March.

Last five games, Minnesota has gone win-loss-win-loss-win. Over that stretch, they've averaged 107.4 PPG, and have given up 97 PPG. Yep, with Rubio they want to run. With guys like Budinger, Luke Ridnour and Andrie Kirilenko, than can run effectively.

My guess: Memphis 104, Minnesota 102. Memphis has shown they can run, if they play cohesive. Gasol and Pekovic will again tussle in the post, with Gasol's ability to hit that 15-foot set shot and the running hook causing Pekovic to come away from the deep post area. Rubio will throw a couple of passes that make the home fans go "wow!" Conley will harass Rubio enough defensively (and hit enough shots) to make Rubio's night not very enjoyable.

My concern is whether or not Memphis looks past Minnesota towards the Monday night home game against  the Spurs. If this were college, you'd call the Minnesota game a "trap game".

As always, my guesswork isn't for gaming purposes. It's just guesswork, no more, no less.

After the Game: Memphis 99, Minnesota 86. In the first half, Ricky Rubio had his way with the Memphis defense, including a coast-to-coast slalom for a layup to beat the halftime buzzer. That gave the Timberwolves 50 at the half, leading Memphis by five.

Second half, Minnesota scored only 36 in the twenty-four minutes. As old-time announcers might have said, "there's a lid on the Timberwolves' basket". Minnesota got shots up, but many just didn't fall. Memphis' defense was pretty good, but not invincible.

Memphis had 37 baskets, 25 assists and 9 turnovers. Gasol had 21 points, 8 rebs, 6 assists (but 4 turnovers). Conley had 19 and 4 assists. Randolph scored 14, with 7 rebs. Arthur came off the bench to add 15 crucial points. He gave the team a real lift in the second half. The second unit as a group went after Minnesota with energy and verve.

Minnesota had 29 field goals, 19 assists and 16 turnovers. They got a career-high 23 from Rubio, who added 10 rebs and 9 assists. He did have 5 turnovers, though. Derrick Williams added 19, and Greg Stiemsma added 12 and 7 rebs. Pekovic did not play (ankle injury), but Cunningham (wrist) played 16 minutes, going 2/8 FG/A.

A 21-6 Memphis run in the second half was key to this victory. Coupled with a Clippers' loss Saturday night at Houston, Memphis ends the night in fourth place in conference, a half-game ahead of those same Clippers.

Also for Memphis, it was a team season-record 20th road victory. Happy Easter, and Memphis goes home to get ready for the Spurs. Monday's game will be on NBA TV.

Friday, March 29, 2013

My Team - Grizzlies versus Houston

The "Drive to 54" is sputtering. Fifty-four was my guess at the number of wins the Grizzlies needed to secure at least the fourth seed in the Western Conference, guaranteeing home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. At this point, it looks unlikely. They're a game and a half behind the Clippers for third place in conference, and a game behind Denver for fourth place.

Memphis has clinched a playoff spot, to be sure. However, the team looks lethargic lately (losing 3 of its last 5 games). The offense has become one-dimensional (guards dominating shot attempts) and the defense has become porous (opponents are getting to the rim at will, especially against good-passing teams).

Memphis has 11 games left, and needs to show a greater level of energy or sense of urgency on both ends. Is the team just running out of steam? Is there a disconnect in the locker room? That all-for-oneness from February seems to have faded away.

Friday night, the team hosts Houston. one of the more enjoyable teams to watch in the Association. Led by James Harden, this team likes to run as much as any team in the league. Their offensive pace puts pressure on most defenses. Wednesday night, though, they had a three-game winning streak broken in a home loss to Indiana.

The Pacers had four starters score in double figures Wednesday night. Houston gives up around 102 points per game, so Memphis will have opportunities. Will the Grizzlies take the ball to the basket, or will they settle for guards shooting long-range jump shots?

Offensively, Houston revolves around Harden. He's got the long-range jumper, the mid-range game and he can get to the basket. Tony Allen will have his hands full chasing Harden. With Allen's recent fouling troubles,  if Bayless has to cover Harden it will be rough for Bayless. Harden did go 6/24 FG/A Wednesday night, so he's not deterred if he misses shots - he will keep firing.

Jeremy Lin is the point guard, and is a challenge for Conley. Lin is quick enough to stay with Conley, and will look for his offense early and often. He can be harassed into careless passes, though. He had a 4/4 assist/turnover ratio Wednesday night.

Chandler Parsons at small forward is another of Houston's assets. He's a good shooter/scorer and a willing defender. Covering him closely is a must.

On Houston's bench are guys like former lottery pick Thomas Robinson, Greg Smith and Carlos Delfino.  These guys don't get a lot of pub, but they can play.

Houston is a team that "rides the wave" when things go well. If they get off to a good start, they continue pressing that advantage. If they start confidently, 120 points in a game isn't out of the question.

My guess: Going with the PPG-average offenses, Houston 106, Memphis 94. The Grizzlies's struggles continue. Harden goes off for 30+ points, Allen gets in foul trouble early, Bayless comes in and tries to make the game a personal duel between himself and Harden, and Memphis' post players get so few touches that they're visibly frustrated in team huddles.

As usual, my guesses aren't for gaming purposes, but for self-entertainment until baseball season starts.

After the Game: Memphis 103, Houston 94. At the half, Memphis was shooting 62% from the floor and had 18 assists. Guys were moving without the ball on offense, and helping each other on defense. Although it was at Houston's pace (Memphis 61, Houston 53). Memphis led from beginning to end. James Harden didn't play in the 4th quarter (wonder why?).

Memphis had 40 field goals, 24 assists and 14 turnovers. The Grizzlies had all five starters and Bayless in double figures. Randolph had 21 and 12 rebs. Gasol had another 21, 5 rebs and 4 assists. Three players (Randolph, Gasol, Allen) had 12 FGA each. Two others (Conley and Bayless) had 11 FGA each, and Prince had 9 FGA. When they share the ball, they are a good team.

Conley had 15 points, 10 assists and 4 steals. Bayless, however, did have 4 turnovers in 25 minutes and numerous careless passes. He's not yet a point guard - he can only dribble right, and makes dicey decisions with the ball. He's a veteran, but still struggles to understand his role on this team, this year.

Houston had 34 field goals, 19 assists and 14 turnovers. Motiejunas and Parsons had 16 each, and Delfino came off the bench to score 15. Houston's second unit cut a 17-point Memphis lead down to 8 in the 4th quarter, but couldn't sustain the run. Harden and Lin combined for 6/18 FG/A, for 15 points between the two. Allen chased Harden around the court quite a bit and made the night uncomfortable for "the Beard".

Next up for Memphis is Saturday night at Minnesota, then back home Monday night against San Antonio. Memphis needs to focus against the Timberwolves, get a win, then get home to rest up for the Spurs. It's easy for Memphis to get "up" for San Antonio. It's the teams like the Timberwolves against whom Memphis struggles.

Our state government in action

Read this article on legalized marijuana.

To make a long story short, last November Colorado was a state that voted in favor of an amendment that legalizes small amounts of marijuana for personal consumption. There was already a medical marijuana industry in the state, an industry whose business model is threatened somewhat by this new amendment. Although the amendment was voted in, it wasn't a unanimous decision. Many voted against it.

(Disclosure: I voted against the amendment. There are already enough folk driving impaired with different substances. To me, it increases the chance of me getting hit while driving near someone legally high.)

The state had some initial ideas in place for the actual regulation of weed, but hadn't thought it through totally.

An agency modeled after the presently-established Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division was set up to lead the transition to regulated weed. The new division started work soon after the election, but there were concerns about their progress. So, the state commissioned an audit. It didn't go well. From the link at the top of the page:

"The audit, released during a two-day meeting Tuesday and Wednesday, found the division rife with wasteful spending, shoddy enforcement and unfulfilled expectations. Systems that were supposed to track marijuana plants from seed to sale were incomplete. Measures that were supposed to prevent criminals from getting involved in the industry had failed."

So, let me get this straight. We have a proposal to legalize something, but no one sat down to say "if it passes, here is a skeleton framework on how to run this program."

Instead, what we got was "we'll cobble something together if/when it passes". That doesn't make sense to me.

Oh, by the way - weed is still illegal on a federal level. The state powers-that-be haven't reconciled that part yet...

I don't normally comment on political issues here, but this situation seemed too funny and pathetic to ignore.

In Dreams - A Dream Within a Dream

This one's too goofy for words.

I was in one of those silly "real world" reality TV casts. I was in a group home with my former aircraft commander from my Air Force days, my ex-wife, and assorted men and women whom I'd never met. The house was a fixer-upper, and one of our tasks was to fix it up. I'd been assigned the kitchen.

I was to install appliances, cabinets, lighting, etc. Given that I'd never been trained in any of that, I of course goobered it up badly. So, there's your contrived conflict - how the others were impatiently waiting to cook meals while I stumbled around trying to assemble an oven and a microwave.

This went on for a few hours, then we collectively called it a day. As I went to sleep, I had a dream (yeah, I had a dream about having a dream). The dream-within-a-dream was my former aircraft commander, myself and some other flight crew flying on a training sortie, but the goofy part was we never got more than 30 miles from home station. I had home station on the aircraft radar the whole while, so there was no need for plotting/fixing/altering heading in the classic sense. We would fly from east to west, in a straight line just north of home station, then we would make a 180-degree turn, then fly from west to east parallel to the line we'd just flown. We did that for maybe an hour or so, in a modified race-track pattern. All the while, some of the navigation equipment was broken, so I was trying to affect repairs while airborne. None of my attempts worked. Just like in the kitchen, my AC was peeking over my shoulder, asking how long it would be before I was done. After that hour-long duration, we landed.

Next, I was back at the group home, trying to assemble appliances when my former AC told me to stop working on the microwave. I looked around the room, looked back at the spot on the counter where the microwave was, and noticed the appliance was gone. There was only an outline of dust and scattered screws where it had been. My former AC advised me to step aside, because a new microwave had been ordered and was being delivered. I could hear a truck pull up in the driveway outside, and I could hear two guys talking as they walked towards the kitchen.

As I stepped aside, I noticed activity in the living room. My ex-wife was there, on the floor assembling a flat-screen television stand. She completed the task, we put the television in place, and turned it on.

The first thing we saw on-screen was a concert. The act playing was the heavy metal band Dokken, with special guest Alicia Keys. I have no idea why the two acts were together on stage, and woke up before I could actually hear them play.

I had to get up to write it all down, or else I wouldn't have believed it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Old Dude, Old Movies - "Citizen Kane"

From 1941 comes a film that many consider the best picture ever made. Orson Welles was a visionary. He directed, helped write the screenplay and starred in it (can anyone today do that, and it not become a rank vanity project?).

I'll gladly admit many scholars have de-constructed this film, reviewers with better credentials than mine. I resisted watching it for years because I tend to do that when mass amounts of people say "this is the best ever" or "you gotta see this, 'cause everybody else has". I finally started it, and it is impressive.

Welles is so versatile and confident on-screen (can you believe he was what, 25 or 26 years old when the movie was released?). You can almost see the glee on his face as he dove into this role. He's not quite "chewing the scenery", but he's larger than life in his every scene.

When the cast includes Joseph Cotton, Agnes Moorehead, Ruth Warrick, Everett Sloane and Ray Collins, they made the script come to life. Speaking of script, Welles and Herman Mankiewicz shared the Academy Award for Best Writing for their efforts in this movie.

There is some sadness in the movie. There is some arch humor. There are unique camera angles that must have been mind-blowing in '41. The dialogue is crisp and smart. You even see Welles dance. I enjoyed this film, and will watch it again and again.

"Casablanca" is still my all-time favorite film, but "Citizen Kane" is a triumph of movie-making.

Finally picked up my bass guitar

I've been whining lately about being bored (how dare I?). I'm fortunate to have some flexibility in my golden years, so I should take more advantage of that time.

Wednesday night, after the Grizzlies-Knicks game ended, I found myself sitting around in my bedroom. My old 4-string Squier P-bass was on a stand near the bed. I picked it up, and it felt good. I hadn't played since maybe '08 or '09. I turned to the blues station my satellite provider puts out, listened to some Lightning Hopkins, and tried to play along. I listened to tunes by Shirley Brown, Robert Cray and John Lee Hooker, to name a few. At first glance, the bass lines sound basic, but there was more complexity than I could handle. Gives me something to shoot for, at least.

I am probably the worst bassist in town, but that's alright for now. I can feel the kindling of a possible fire, that desire to play again. This time, I have time to really dig in, let the lessons take root. I think it's gonna be loads of fun.

I don't have to be bored.

Found a Bible app for my smartphone

I'll admit. I'm usually the next-to-last person in line when it comes to catching up on consumer tech. (There's probably a "little old lady from Pasadena" who's after me, but I'm not sure.). However, this one was neat.

A friend at church shared some info on a Bible app at One day, we were talking before service, and noted that we had the same model phone. Since the app is "horsey-ducky" (really simple to understand), it was right up my alley. It worked well for him, so I thought I'd try it.

I need to read my Bible more. God has a way of taking away all my excuses.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Team - Washington Nationals this year

Jonah Keri is one of my favorite sports writers. Mostly, it's because he's working the definitive history of the Montreal Expos, my all-time favorite baseball team. 

On Tuesday, Keri posted a preview of the National League East, including my current fave the Washington Nationals. The Nats are the descendants of my beloved Expos, and it was fun to watch them do well last season. Granted, Philadelphia and Atlanta have had more recent experience winning the division, but Washington should be in contention all season as well. The starting pitching is solid, the offense is capable, the defense is dependable and the bench is an asset. The bullpen could use a lefty pitcher, but the roster otherwise looks ready for competition.

For baseball posts, I may try this format: at the start of every series, I'll begin with probably starting pitcher matchups. Each night, I may send up a post-game observation or two. Maybe the post-game post will be an impressive personal performance. It might be an individual play that proved to be a turning point in a game. It may be one of those "I've never seen that on a baseball field before" moments. 

Baseball has been my favorite sport since I was a pre-teen. I look forward to writing about it.

My Team - Grizzlies at New York

After Monday night's loss at Washington, the Grizzlies get another chance against the Eastern Conference. The Knicks won Tuesday night in Boston, and host the Grizzlies on the back end of this back-to-back. Their last back to back was a sweep of Toronto (away, then home) on 22-23 March.

New York is 24-10 at home, and has won its last five games overall. They lead the Atlantic Division by 2.5 games over Brooklyn, and are tied with Indiana for second place overall in the Eastern Conference.

Tuesday night, J.R. Smith (32 points) and Carmelo Anthony (29) led the way in a 15-point win in Boston. Anthony took 30 shots to do it, missing 20. Smith comes off the bench firing, hoisting 24 FGA of his own. Two guys, 54 of the team's 90 FGAs. Those two should have iced their forearms and elbows post-game, similar to baseball pitchers.

The rest of the roster scores on run-outs, offensive rebounds and Steve Novak 3-point FGAs. Other than the two gunners, no one else scored in double figures Tuesday night. The Knicks had 39 FGs, 11 assists and 8 turnovers. Smells like a lot of iso or one-pass/quick shot in the New York offensive arsenal.

New York has key players still out with injury (Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire, Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace). Recent signee Kenyon Martin has brought high energy and a physical presence off the bench. New York has an experienced (read "older") roster, so coach Mike Woodson rested some guys late in the Tuesday night game when the result was in hand.

Memphis is in fifth place in the Western Conference, half a game behind the Clippers (who lost in overtime at Dallas Tuesday night). Memphis will have a difficult night in Gotham, because 1) Anthony will probably shoot better than 10-30, 2) New York likes to run, and 3) Bayless will probably think he has an advantage against Ray Felton, Iman Shumpert, Jason Kidd, etc.

With Gasol out and Randolph showing the effects of a long season, it's even more imperative that Conley and Bayless get teammates involved offensively. If Conley and Bayless take most of the shots, that means (yet again) the offense has ground to a halt. Guys like Ed Davis, Darrell Arthur and Quincy Pondexter need touches when they are on the floor.

When they play as a team on both ends, Memphis can win anywhere. When they don't, they look bad in losses. Guards forcing bad shots late in the shot clock, without teammates in position to compete for offensive rebounds, is ugly offensive basketball. Memphis had been doing that lately. Stop it!

My guess: New York 102, Memphis 91. New York isn't a great offensive rebounding team, but they are gonna make a point of doing it tonight. In its recent slump, Memphis has shown a propensity to allow opponents to get offensive rebounds/second chance points. In addition, Anthony's gonna get his points. Smith will jack up a bunch of shots as well. Bayless will come into the game firing, but missing.

After the Game: New York 108, Memphis 101. Memphis was down 28 at the half (yeah, 69-41). Late in the 4th, the Grizzlies cut the lead to 103-99, but couldn't get over the hump. Lack of interior defense & an offense with too much standing around meant another loss for Memphis.

For the Grizz, 33 field goals, 14 assists, 16 turnovers. This isn't the team that had 14 wins in a 15-game stretch in February. Dare I say, the team looks mentally fatigued and possibly physically fatigued as well.

Again, the backcourt took most of the shots. Conley had 26, with 6 assists and only 2 turnovers. Bayless had 24, but no assists and 4 turnovers. These two took 33 of the 70 FGA (Bayless with 17 shots, Conley with 16). Conley went 2/8 in 3-point FG/FGA. Gasol got 7 shots in 36 minutes, Randolph got 3 shots in 25 minutes. Not the recipe for Memphis offensive success. The offense is most effective when Gasol is the hub, dishing the ball to teammates cutting to the basket or hitting that 15-foot set shot. Coach Hollins has to know that, right?

For the Knicks, it was 38 field goals, 18 assists and 11 turnovers. J.R. Smith came off the bench to score 35 and added 7 rebs. Anthony added 22 (with another 7 rebs), and Shumpert had 16. Felton had 13, 4 assists and only two turnovers. Jason Kidd hit a key 3-pointer plus the foul on the shot that turned out to be the dagger (when Memphis was down 4 at the end of the 4th).

Losses in both games of this two-game trip mean Friday night's home game against Houston is a must-win. But, I don't think Memphis has the juice now to run with Houston. After the home game, Memphis goes to Minneapolis Saturday to take on the Timberwolves. Uh-oh.

In Dreams - "Shredding"

No, not guitar stuff.

That was it. I was in my kitchen, in front of the shredder. A stack of papers by my side, I doggedly went from page to page, feeding the shredder. I could hear the whine of the blades as they turned.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Your USPS In Action

(Disclaimer #1 - the United States Postal Service hasn't gotten nearly the level of support from the government that they need to continue as a going concern.)

(Disclaimer #2 - modes of communication are changing, the old USPS model ain't working, and they have to re-tool even more to thrive in the future.)

(Disclaimer #3 - I procrastinated on a task, which fueled the following interaction.)

Today (Monday), I go into the neighborhood post office to get some customs forms and medium-sized Priority Mail boxes. My church has a ministry that sends care packages to church members who are deployed military. We send out packages the first week of every month. I know I can order the boxes from the USPS website, but I waited too long to do it.

So, I get to the post office, hoping to get 5-10 boxes. One worker is at a counter. Nobody else is up front (I can't tell how many folk are in the back, nor do I know when others come on shift). There are probably eight or nine of us in line, with another guy off to the side waiting for some help with his passport.

After about 30 minutes or so, a second counter worker comes up, a middle-aged guy. He helps customers in front of me, then he calls me up. I ask my question about the boxes, but I mis-state my request (I asked for Express Mail boxes, but meant to ask for Priority Mail boxes).

His first response - "we don't send Express Mail to 'deployed military (insert country name)'".  Ok, I admit, I mis-spoke. I re-address it, stating I needed Priority Mail boxes.

"You gotta go to the website to order them. We don't keep any here anymore", he stated in a gruff, snarky voice. I'd just stood near a counter where I saw several, but I assume those are only to be used on-site. I mentioned how I'd procrastinated & was concerned the ordered boxes wouldn't get here in time.

He repeated his statement about the website, in an increasingly snarky grumble of a voice. I thanked him for his time and walked away.

Granted, I am a sensitive guy. Maybe too sensitive to survive in a world such as this (LOL). But the mood in that post office seemed different than it had been in other years. I'd gone in that particular facility off and on since summer of '97, and I've never felt the vibe I felt today.

With the mood, and the facility's appearance looking a little more threadbare than the previous time I was in, their dire future seems to be manifested in the local facility. Floors were dirty, displays hadn't gotten the arranging & policing needed to make them look attractive, and there were dusty terminal stands where computer cash registers used to be posted.

If anybody reading this is a USPS employee, please respond. In the broader sense, what's the mood of the organization? Is that sort of frustration across all of USPS?

My Team - Grizzlies at Washington

The Wizards got off to a rough start this season, but have improved since the return of John Wall.

They won consecutive games on their West Coast trip (Wednesday at Phoenix, Friday at Los Angeles Lakers) before a Saturday night loss at Golden State. This team is 18-17 at home, and has guys who can give Memphis problems.

Wall, when healthy, is one of the fastest guards in the league. He's as quick at Conley, and three inches taller.  He can get his shot whenever he wants, but as the PG he has to get others involved. With Nene and Emeka Okafor, the Wizards have two active big men who do work on both ends of the floor. Neither is polished offensively, but they pound the boards and love to get physical in the post.  They score on offensive boards and when set plays break down.

Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster are wings who also can score and make honest effort on the defensive end. This season's first round pick Bradley Beal is out with injury. Tough break for Washington, since he'd been showing gradual improvement before he got hurt.

For Memphis, Gasol is out with that abdominal tear. Arthur or Davis would start in his place (I guess Arthur). Arthur scored 18 against Boston Saturday night. Arthur and Randolph against Nene and Okafor will be like one of those pro wrestling tag team matches, where guys take turns beating on each other.

Prince will probably match up against Ariza, and they are similar in skill. The Conley-Wall matchup will be one where Conley will have to use his experience to make up for the physical disadvantage.

I'm rooting for Memphis, as always. My guess: Memphis 99, Washington 96. Washington will want to force a higher pace, Memphis will want to make a half-court match. I have an uneasy feeling about this game, though. Like Memphis' loss at New Orleans on Friday, if the Grizzlies don't come out with energy (especially on the boards), the Wizards can get enough run-outs to win this game.

After the Game: Washington 107, Memphis 94. John Wall scored a career-high 47. He added 7 rebs, 8 assists and only 2 turnovers. He went 19/24 FT/A (more attempts than the Memphis team - more on that later). This, like the recent loss at New Orleans, shows a disturbing trend around Memphis. If you consider yourself a playoff contender and lose to teams like the Wizards and Hornets (who clearly are playing for next season), you can't reasonably expect a deep run in the playoffs. The true contenders get up for every team, not just the Oklahoma Citys of the world.

For Memphis, 34 field goals, 17 assists and 16 turnovers. Conley scored 23, with 7 assists and 6 turnovers. Bayless and Pondexter added 14 each (Bayless had 7 assists and only 1 turnover). Conley (14 FGA) and Bayless (17 FGA) took 31 of the 77 shots from the floor. To me, that shows a lot of stagnant offense, with other guys standing around while the two guards jacked up a lot of shots. Bayless' 5/17 FG/A helped sink the team on Monday.

Washington had 36 field goals (50% shooting), 17 assists and 12 turnovers. The Wizards were 30/44 FT/A, while Memphis was 20/22 FT/A. The Grizzlies had a great percentage, but Washington got to the rim so much more against a porous Memphis defense.

Okafor scored 21 with 9 rebs.  Ariza (flu), Nene (sore right knee) and Webster (ab strain) all DNP'd. That makes the loss that much tougher to take as a Memphis fan. A depleted Wizards team, and you didn't stop them? Yikes.

At its' best, Memphis does two things well: 1) defend in the half-court, and 2) share the basketball on offense. They don't have a transcendent player that helps them overcome off-nights by the rest of the roster. When they don't share the basketball, in particular, things get ugly quickly.

Enough of this. Turn the page. The next two games are Wednesday night at the "Mecca of basketball" against the Knicks and a home Friday match against the runnin' Rockets. The Memphis team that stumbled at Washington will lose these next two games. Hopefully, they straighten up these issues.

Old Dude, (not so) Old Movies - "Nikita"

This is the French-Italian version from 1990, with Anne Parillaud in the lead. It was known as "La Femme Nikita" in American theaters. I didn't see it when it was shown in theaters, and just happened to record it late last week. I was blown away.

I am a sucker for "shadowy government organization" movies. There always seems to be an abandoned warehouse, filled with people who are focused on their jobs. Everyone has a different responsibility, but each is at the top of his or her career field. There is a unified goal (no matter how nefarious), and you never see that one office wacko who distracts everyone or the whiner who's either too hot/cold/hungry/needy. Those movies make working for such organizations almost attractive (once you disregard the evil they do).

Parillaud stars as a drug-addled waif who'd fallen in with a bunch of knucklehead teens. The movie opens with this pack of teens robbing a drug store late at night. The police show up, guns are fired, and our heroine ends up in the clutches of that afore-mentioned shadowy government organization. They make her "an offer she can't refuse". Eventually, after some resistance, she capitulates.

She takes to the training and shows great aptitude in her line of work. Along the way, she finds love. Jean-Hugues Anglade does great work as her beau: supportive, loving and a lot more shrewd than she originally thought.

In the midst of romance, work calls. Her handler, Bob (Tcheky Karyo) gives her a complicated job with the responsibility of picking her team. The job goes sideways, and a "cleaner" (Jean Reno) comes in and makes things even more complicated.

This is such a stylish movie. Paris is beautiful. Venice is vibrant, all bright colors and brilliant sunshine. The dialogue is sparse, but the pictures tell the story quite well. For the handful of folk who a) love foreign film and b) haven't seen this, check it out. Strangely enough, it works in parts as a date movie in addition to the action sequences.

Yeah, I liked this movie, a lot.

In Dreams - "That's a Sweet Corvette"

I'm on a military installation, walking in front of the base/post exchange (couldn't tell if it was an Air Force base or Army post). There were a few reserved spots for senior officers and handicapped drivers. In one of the parking spots was a silver Corvette convertible. It was a recent vintage (maybe 2 or 3 years old). I was in fair condition, with one glaring issue. On the right side panel, just forward of the rear wheel well, was a large circular dent. It was as if someone had taken a pile-driver to the car.

Anyway, as I walked past the car, I could look inside the cockpit (since the ragtop was down). It was beautiful. The keys were in the console, so I helped myself. I didn't feel any stress, as one would presumably feel if one was actually stealing a car.

I got in the driver's seat, and the leather felt smooth and soft. I started the engine, and I heard a powerful growl. I could feel my heartbeat accelerate a bit. I shifted into reverse, backed out of the parking spot, and took off. The 5-speed shifter was well-engineered - shifting was a breeze.

I cruised around base for a bit, never getting over the speed limit. It was a sunny spring day, and I felt so content during this cruise around base. What I didn't feel was the dread one would expect after stealing an expensive car. I didn't feel the fear that some base policeman would pull up behind me and arrest me.

I went to another building on the other side of base and parked the Corvette. It must have been lunch time, because a large group of people poured out of the building's front door. They seemed happy and not rushed. I went inside the building, but large sections of the building seemed uninhabited. It was as if the building was "going out of business", with the lunch bunch being a remnant of the folk who worked there.

I came out of that building, and decided to go back to my point of origin. I stopped off at a base gas station to put some petrol in the tank. The parking spot where I found the Corvette was still open, so I put the sports car back from where I got it. I shut off the engine, left the keys on the console where I found them, and walked away.

My Daughter's Wedding Dress

Saturday night, I hung out with my soon-to-be son-in-law's family and some of my relatives. As part of my daughter's upcoming wedding, we're getting together from time to time to get to know each other a bit more and work through the planning part.

Earlier Saturday, my daughter, her aunt and her fiance's mom went wedding dress shopping. They found a nice dress that just happened to go on sale that day. They saved around 20% off the original price, and there are some other perks for buying at that particular establishment.

My son can go to the same store and get a discount on his tuxedo rental. Also, if my daughter gets 8 friends to also get their wedding dresses from the same store in the next 12 months, the store will reimburse her for the total cost of her dress (lots of luck with that).

One other data point I found fascinating was how she couldn't take pictures of other dresses. Seems that people in the past have used such pictures to make knock-off copies of original designs. Maybe I'm the only one left on earth that didn't know that. Makes sense.

I saw a couple of pictures of her dress, and "stunning" is a fitting description. The upcoming wedding is getting a bit more real with every passing day. I'll be "father of the bride" this summer. Better brush up on my dancing and making toasts.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

My Team - Grizzlies versus Boston

(Hey, I just passed the 100-post milestone. Yee Haw!)

Friday night's loss was disappointing. Memphis needed that game, and just got outworked by a team long out of playoff contention. Twenty-four hours prior, the Grizzlies were in third place. Saturday morning, they're in fifth place. Things are getting tighter and tighter in the Western Conference standings. A Memphis win against Boston would clinch a playoff spot.

Saturday. the Grizzlies host a Boston team which has lost its last three games, including a 10-point loss at Dallas Friday night. So, Boston and Memphis are both on the back half of back-to-backs, and meet Saturday night after travelling.

The Celtics were down by nine at the end of the first quarter at Dallas. Other than that, they were only outscored by one point the next three periods. Looking at the box score, the teams were similar in many areas, but shooting percentages were a bit disparate (42% for Boston, 46% for Dallas), and Boston was out-rebounded by the home team (38 for Boston, 48 for Dallas).

Boston's new "Big Three" are Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and...Jeff Green. Rajon Rondo is sill out, and the team is making do with the guys available. Avery Bradley (Rondo's replacement) isn't as dynamic an offensive threat, but he's a tenacious defender. I don't think Conley is gonna get 20 against Bradley.

Garnett is probably gonna match up against Gasol. My guess: he'll try to intimidate Gasol by picking a fight with Bayless. Brandon Bass will probably take on Randolph, and is active enough to make Randolph work defending the perimeter. Paul Pierce and Prince should compete to a draw, and Courtney Lee will battle with Tony Allen as well. These teams have similar goals in sight, and hard-nosed individuals who love to compete.

Jeff Green and Jason Terry are Boston's main threats off the bench. Green had five turnovers at Dallas.

This game will be ugly, but the winner will earn it.

My guess: Memphis 94, Boston 89.  It will get chippy early, with lots of pushing and shoving.

After the Game: Memphis 110, Boston 106. Whoa, an offensive explosion. Both teams were missing starters. Gasol re-aggravated an abdominal tear, so he was a DNP. Randolph didn't start for disciplinary reasons (supposedly being late for shootaround). For Boston, Garnett and Lee were nursing sprained ankles.

Ed Davis and Darrell Arthur started for Memphis, while Jeff Green and Jason Terry started for the Celtics. So, Memphis shortened its rotation to 8 players. Boston gave time to Shavlik Randolph and D.J. White, guys who normally don't get many minutes. With that many wild cards, it becomes an interesting scenario. Who can you count on?

This game was a mirror image of Memphis' loss to New Orleans Friday night. Boston won the first and fourth quarters, but Memphis built enough advantage in the second and third quarters to hold off the Celtics at the end.

For the Grizzlies, they made 43 field goals, 26 assists and 8 turnovers. Boston made 38 field goals, 19 assists and 14 turnovers.

Bayless came off the bench to score 30 (taking 20 shots).  Seven of the eight Grizzlies who played scored in double figures. Randolph (15 and 11 rebs), Conley (12 and 10 assists) and Allen (10 and 10 rebs) all achieved double-doubles.

For Boston, Pierce had 26, with 6 rebs and 4 assists, but 5 turnovers. Jordan Crawford came off the bench to score 21. Boston shot 51% from the floor, 75% from the line, and had four guys in double figure scoring. They played well enough to win on the road, especially after Friday night's loss. Memphis just outscored the Celtics. By looking at the box score, it looks like Memphis played with a bit more pace, and they had a guy in Bayless who came off the bench to light up the nets.

Next up is a two-game road trip for Memphis - Monday night at Washington, followed by a Wednesday night game at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks. It's the kind of trip where the Grizzlies could win both or lose both.

In Dreams - "...and your starting pitcher is..."

It's snowing again. I know we need moisture, and I thank God for moisture in a drought-stricken area. But, my body is getting older. I don't endure the cold like I did 30 years ago. Where's the beach?

Anyway, this dream took me back to my high school days. I was a starting pitcher on the school's baseball team (which mirrored real life). The difference in the dream was baseball was a much bigger deal locally. "Opening day" amongst the high schools was accompanied with major-league-level fanfare.

There were several games played that afternoon, right after school. Since our team was considered an up-and-coming bunch, we were gonna be featured as the only night game in the city on that date. Our game was going to be broadcast on the radio (which was going to be a big deal for us).

Since we didn't play until later, I goofed around after school. I went for a cheeseburger at a nearby snack bar. I walked to a different school to watch other teams (as if I was some kinda neighborhood big-shot). All the while, I walked around wearing my baseball jacket with official team insignia (go, Bulldogs!). Yeah, it was my day. I felt ready, or maybe "cocky". College and pro scouts were expected to be there. It was to be the start of a triumphant year.

I stopped by my home to rest up a bit before the game. Softly and quietly, I drifted off to sleep. It felt good.

A few hours later, I awakened with a start. I'd overslept and found myself late for the game. By the time I got to my school's ball field, the game was half over. I'd blown my big chance for exposure. I tried to skulk my way into the dugout, but was spotted instantly. To their credit, my coach and teammates didn't berate or insult me. After all, the team was winning. The pitcher who did start for my team was doing well, the team was winning, and everybody carried on as if I was invisible. I could overhear a couple of folks in the stands talk about how the scouts were impressed at the starting pitcher, and how he would have his pick of college scholarship opportunities. He might even get drafted by a big-league organization. He might even get a signing bonus. The chance I wanted, he would get.

I didn't feel anger. I did feel a sense of sadness for missing an opportunity, but I still felt hopeful about the rest of the season.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Old Dude, Old Movies - "Take the High Ground"

From 1953, this film starring Richard Widmark and Karl Malden is a classic.

I love military movies. I especially love the ones that focus on basic training. I get a kick out of seeing guys from different backgrounds undergo the rigor of training, eventually bonding together as a team. I also enjoy seeing the different types of drill instructors portrayed on-screen. The officer-enlisted working relationship is fascinating to watch. Furthermore, seeing how war changes each military member is a fascinating metamorphosis.

Widmark and Malden are two DIs at Fort Bliss, during the Korean War era. Widmark is the hard case, demanding more of the recruits than they can visualize. Malden is the level-headed professional, who sees the bigger picture of how training changes each man for the better. They've both seen combat, but have decidedly different views on how trainees should prepare for the horrors of war.

Elaine Stewart is the female lead/maybe love interest who has seen more than any lady her age should. The hurt shows on her face whenever she's in a scene.

Widmark is one of the most versatile actors ever seen on-screen, and he exercises his skill here. One minute, he is bitingly sarcastic. The next, informative and focused. He even shows a level of tenderness and compassion in his interactions with Stewart's character. His character fights through anger, personal frustration and maybe even self-loathing to deal with his current circumstance while taking a glimpse at his possible future.

Malden's character is in his wheel house. He made a great career playing this type of character - upstanding, wise, forthright and full of integrity. He is the balance in this film, the voice of reason in a sometimes unreasonable profession. Malden's character is the type of DI nearly any soldier would want, but Widmark's character is more like the DI nearly any soldier would need before fighting the enemy.

Look for Steve Forrest ("Flaming Star", "The Longest Day") as a trainee who has doubts about his purpose for being in the Army.

This movie is a keeper, at least to me. I love it.

Family's In Town

I greeted some family from back home yesterday. They are retirees who have time and willingness to see the sights, so I get a chance to help with that. It also gets me out of the apartment for a while.

These are the good times.

My Team - Grizzlies at New Orleans

It's a "good news/bad news" situation surrounding the Grizzlies lately.

Good news: the team is percentage points ahead of Denver and the Clippers as of Friday morning. Bad news: Denver has won 14 in a row, and plays at Sacramento on Saturday.

Good news: Gasol's all-around play has buoyed the team lately, and excited the fans as well. Bad news: Arthur is still day-to-day with a sore back & neck.

Good news: Bayless (when he's making shots) has given the team much-needed scoring from the bench. Bad news: when Bayless plays, Allen sits. Bayless isn't nearly the defender Allen is, and Bayless is a notorious ball-stopper on offense (especially when he isn't making shots).

Good news: the Hornets have lost 4 of their last 5 games. Bad news: they always seem to match up well with Memphis.

The Hornets beat Boston Wednesday night on a last-second tip-in (sound familiar?). Anthony Davis made the late play, and is quietly having a decent rookie year.

As usual, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson are the outside threats, while Robin Lopez and Davis do work inside. Greivis Vasquez is the offensive ringmaster for the Hornets, and I'll again watch closely the matchup between him and Conley.

My guess for Friday night: Memphis 93, New Orleans 85. Gasol and Lopez will be fun to watch as they battle in the post. I hope to see Bayless move the ball via the pass more, and not spend so much time aimlessly dribbling around. I also would like to see Allen be a bit more productive on offense, so teams stop sagging off him defensively.

As always, these guesses aren't for gaming purposes. They are in lieu of doing NCAA tournament brackets.

After the Game: New Orleans 90, Memphis 83. Good news: Memphis won the first and fourth quarters. Bad news: they lost the second and third quarters so badly they couldn't make up the deficit. As a Memphis fan, this was a bad game to watch.

For Memphis, 30 field goals, 14 assists, 11 turnovers. Conley got 20 and 4 assists, but went 5/13 FG/A.  Gasol got 16, but only 6 rebounds. Randolph got 14 and 9 rebs, but struggled defensively, especially boxing out. He looks worn on the floor, a half step slow on defense and resorting to fussing at referees when he doesn't get foul calls.

For New Orleans, 36 field goals, 19 assists, 15 turnovers. Lopez scored 23, and added 10 rebs (6 offensive). Davis scored 18, and added 15 rebs (5 offensive). The offensive rebounds/second chance points made all the difference. New Orleans showed more energy and determination to win those battles. Memphis didn't. Overall, New Orleans out-rebounded Memphis 49-33.

Good news is Arthur came back to the lineup. Bad news is he isn't completely back to prime condition.

Good news for Saturday night is the Grizzlies are home to take on Boston, who lost Friday night at Dallas. Bad news might be Memphis not summoning enough energy on the back end of this back-to-back to get a much-needed win.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Old Dude, Old Movies - "Eskimo"

This is a fascinating movie. I will watch it again.

Released in 1933, it was quite the sensation. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer went on location to Alaska in 1932 to film much of this movie, and it shows. The environment was at once enticing and forbidding. In addition, it received the first-ever Academy Award for Best Film Editing (1933). According to Wikipedia, "it was the first motion picture to be filmed in an all native language (Inupiat)". The subtitles, along with the expressive actors, tell the story magnificently. In toto, this was a well-put-together movie, and worth all the accolades it received.

Mala (aka Ray Mala, birth name Ray Wise) is the star. He's the leader of a tribe living on the tundra of Canada's Northwest Territories. Mala is the strongest, bravest and wisest of all the men of his tribe. The other men admire him and the ladies think he's just dreamy. He's such a skilled hunter, his whole tribe benefits (and even eats year-round) from his skill and determination.

One day, one of his fellow tribesmen comes back from a long trip bearing strange items. Seems this tribesman has encountered "white men" from a whaling ship, and the tribesman swapped furs for man-made items like a gun and sewing needles. Others in the tribe are fascinated by the bounty, and urge Mala to make a formal contact with the strangers. Initial meetings go well, with good will flowing between the two groups.

Time goes on, and men from the ship and tribe combine forces to go whaling, with Mala as one of the leaders of the combined work force. As Mala is off working, danger lurks at home base. Events take place that set off distrust and eventually latent racism between the two groups. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police get involved. The ending is elegant, but tinged with sadness.

The cinematography is stunning, for any time. The scenes where the indigenous tribesmen are hunting (walrus, whale, polar bear, caribou) are amazing for their realism and clarity. One scene where Malu takes on an Arctic wolf single-handedly is as raw as the elements surrounding him. The panoramic views of the land, especially in winter, are almost overwhelming in their sheer scope.

Look for the acclaimed director W.S. "Woody" Van Dyke (the "Thin Man" series) in a rare acting role as the RCMP inspector whose by-the-book demeanor pushes the conflict to the inevitable conclusion.

Yeah, it was released 80 years ago. It's still a great movie. Check it out.

Oh, yeah - almost forgot. Check out the use of "Night on Bald Mountain" as well. Very nice.

Old Dude, Old Movies - "That's Right, You're Wrong"

For its' era (1939 release), I'm sure it was quite entertaining. I enjoyed it overall, but there are some familiar themes. An energetic fictional manager runs amok. A ruthless movie producer manipulates circumstances for his own benefit. The idea of Hollywood being the "Holy Grail" for entertainers is laid on thick. But before all that, we have Kay Kyser.

For those who aren't fans of classic radio, Kay Kyser was one of the best-known bandleaders around. His radio show, which featured the "College of Musical Knowledge" was a nationwide hit in the '30s. Part Groucho Marx, part "Name that Tune", Kyser and his band of first-rate musicians and singers would play the hits of the day in front of a studio audience. From time to time, Kyser would invite a contestant to the mic. Some contestants were innocents, while others were pre-arranged for comic effect. Kyser would have the band play a note or three, the contestant would attempt a guess (normally as a set-up for a gag), then Kyser would ad-lib wisecracks. When he wasn't cracking jokes and bad puns, Kyser would break out a little jig or other freestyle shuffle dance routine for even more comic relief.

Obviously, a lot of the visual stuff would only be seen by the on-site radio audience, so somebody thought "this stuff's so funny, we have to get it on film". So, the initial result was this film.

Kyser's team of musicians were equally at home in front of the camera. One standout was the trumpeter"Ish Kabibble", played by Merwyn Bogue. A tall, angular man with a out-of-fashion bowl cut (a la Moe Howard), Kabibble was the deadpan comic relief, a great conterpoint to Kyser's frenetic antics. Bogue's puns, goofy poetry and mannerisms generated a lot of laughs for this ensemble.

The plot was standard: the band was constantly on the road, spreading its' unique brand of entertainment. The fictional manager thought it made sense to get this show to Hollywood, to gain even more exposure. A smarmy producer (who hadn't actually seen Kyser in person) manipulates his way into the equation, though he's ill-suited to the task. Misunderstandings and hi-jinks ensue.

Like a lot of "behind the scenes"-type movies that involved Hollywood at that time, the movie capital was portrayed as an oasis of creativity. Even the underhanded stuff was shown as harmless "white lies".

Other players in the cast are Adolphe Menjou (the producer), Lucille Ball (!) as a starlet on the rise and Edward Everett Horton as a skeptical screenwriter. One doesn't get this type of supporting star power unless the studio thought the production was worth it.

Kyser's movies were pretty much standard (see "Carolina Blues" as another example). His North Carolina drawl and folksy character made him welcome in so many homes. On screen, he seemed very much at ease, as if he was in on the gag.

If/when you watch one of Kyser's movies, you won't get any profound truths about the meaning of life, but you'll laugh. You'll enjoy the music. You'll enjoy the light-hearted mood. Kyser and his band were good at their craft, and it shows on-screen.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

R.I.P. Bobby Smith (of the Spinners)

I scan the death notices on Wikipedia from time to time (a weird habit, to be sure). I came across this notice:

As a kid, the Spinners were one of my favorite groups, and Bobby Smith was a huge reason why. His leads on songs like "I'll Be Around", "I'll Always Love You", "Truly Yours" and "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" made those songs ones I looked forward to hearing. I scraped up change & skipped school lunches from time to time in order to buy albums, 8-tracks, cassettes and CDs with Smith's voice coming through loud & clear.

Hearing his voice takes me back to a more innocent time, where even the most idealistic dreams of romance could come true. That "Penelope" I dreamed of recently? Whenever I saw her at school (nearly every day), Spinners' songs played in my head. It was his voice and his words I wanted to offer her.

It's a sad occasion, but his gift blessed so many music fans. Rest in peace.

My Team - Grizzlies versus Oklahoma City

(Takes a deep breath)

Tuesday night, Denver won at Oklahoma City 114-104. It was the second of back-to-back road games for the Nuggets, who won a hard-fought overtime game at Chicago Monday night. One would have guessed the Thunder would have smoked the Nuggets, but Denver's energy and depth proved too much for OKC.

So, now the Thunder arrive in Memphis. The Grizzlies looked pretty good Monday night in a victory over Minnesota. This, however, ain't Minnesota.

The Thunder have two of the best players in the world, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant reminds me so much of George Gervin. He's taller than most guys at his position (small forward), a smooth ball handler, above-average range on his jumper and the ability to get to the rim pretty much whenever he wants. Memphis will probably start with Prince on Durant, but Allen may get a turn chasing Durant as well.

Westbrook is probably the most dynamic point guard around. His rare combination of end-to-end speed and strength allows him to overwhelm most opposition PGs. The only thing that holds him back is his emotion. He has lost his poise in games, which in turn pushes him to make poor decisions in the midst of games. But when he's on, he's better than nearly everyone against whom he plays.

As of Wednesday morning, Memphis, the Clippers and the Nuggets are .006 percentage points apart, in the 3-4-5 seeded positions in the Western Conference. The Thunder are 4 games ahead of Memphis. Sacramento's victory over the Clippers on Tuesday night tightens up the standings a bit. For an NBA fan overall, the close competition is fun to watch. For a Memphis fan, it can be nerve-wracking. There's not a lot of room for off-nights for teams the rest of the season.

So, here we are. Memphis (as usual) needs a win to keep pace with the competition. Oklahoma City is a better team, but coming off a tough loss. The Thunder will want to come out early and dominate. The Memphis fans should be out in full force, imploring the home team to overcome this challenge.

My guess: Oklahoma City 108, Memphis 100. Memphis does have hope, though. Westbrook is the wild card. If Westbrook tries to force the action offensively (maybe shooting 10-29 or so), they'll waste enough possessions to allow Memphis to stay close & maybe squeak out a win. That's a big if.

To me, it's the best matchup on the NBA schedule for Wednesday night.

After the Game: Memphis 90, Oklahoma City 89 in overtime. It was a big win. The Grizz played better than OKC throughout the first three quarters, but looked like a bunch of "scufflin' hillbillies (for you pro wrestling fans)" in the fourth quarter. Conley scored 24, Bayless contributed 20 (including a 3 late in regulation to tie the score). OKC missed just enough free throws in the 4th and overtime to allow Memphis to squeak out a victory. I normally hate the "foul game" in late-game situations, but for Memphis tonight it worked.

For OKC, Durant (11/28 FG/A, 32 points) and Westbrook (7/25 FG/A, 20 points) took most of the shots, as they normally do. Tonight, they missed more than usual. The Thunder had 30 field goals, 9 assists and 15 turnovers. To quote former Colts coach Jim Mora, "don't know who we think we are, turning the ball over like that...".

Memphis had 32 field goals, 11 assists and 19 turnovers. Yeah, Bayless had 20 points, but 3 turnovers in 28 minutes. Randolph had 15 points and 18 rebs, but also 7 turnovers and shot 6/23 FG/A. Gasol had 14 points, 15 rebs and the game-winning tip-in basket.

So, yeah - the negative assist to turnover ratios for both teams make for ugly basketball. A win's a win, but to do well in the playoffs Memphis must be more polished on offense.

The win has Memphis only 3 games behind OKC in the Western Conference AND Memphis won the season series against the Thunder (2 games to 1). This keeps Memphis percentage points ahead of the Clippers and Nuggets in conference.

Next up for Memphis is a trip down-river to take on the troublesome New Orleans Hornets Friday night, then back up the river to host the Boston Celtics on Saturday night. Back-to-back, again. Fifteen regular season games left for Memphis - it's time to "do the tighten up"...

Monday, March 18, 2013

War Parts - local alternative band

For those so inclined, the videos for the new local band War Parts are posted on YouTube:

Four tracks are available - "Awaiting Words", "Lawyer Up", "Obsessed Much" and "Dieciseis". Check 'em out.

Also, here's that article on the band:

My Team - Grizzlies versus Minnesota

That four-games-in-five-days road trip is done, and Memphis survived. Monday night, they host the Timberwolves (who won at home Sunday night against New Orleans).

In watching the Grizz lately, a few things seem to stand out:
  • One, Randolph and Gasol are showing some wear and tear. For Randolph, it shows on offense, where he's settling for that mid-range fade-away jumper from the right wing. For Gasol, it shows where he's not as quick to shuffle over to close down the lane on defense.
  • Two, backcourt shot selection has been up and down. Conley took 18 shots in the last game against the Jazz. That same night, Bayless led the team in scoring while taking 14 shots. While Conley's shot has been more consistent this year (not counting the game against the Jazz), when the backcourt takes most of the shots the team offense bogs down. Others stop cutting hard to the hoop, and the team ends up forcing bad jump shots late in the shot clock. That adds up to too many unproductive possessions, which in turn makes a huge difference in the type of close game Memphis usually plays.
  • Three, Allen's offense has fallen off lately. In February, he was successful in driving to the hoop (usually from the left wing). He'd then either hit the 12-foot jumper or get to the rim and hit the layup. Lately, he settles for a 17-foot jumper, which isn't his strength. His jump shot from that range is flat, and he has a late wrist snap or flex in his form that hinders accuracy. He's got to get back to being that opportunity scorer, picking up baskets when the game flow gets sloppy for both teams. Also, his turnovers are increasing - he's got to take better care of the ball.
  • Four, post players off the bench are doing alright, but more will be needed of them down the stretch. Davis has played fairly well, but not having Arthur hurts. Arthur is the backup post player who can hold his own when the games get more physical, and is still nimble enough to score inside and out. The team needs him at full strength as soon as possible.
For Minnesota, their starting five is pretty good. Rubio-Ridnour-Pekovic-Williams-Kirilenko is a nice group with all sorts of skill. Williams got 28 against New Orleans, Rubio had 16 with 6 assists and Kirilenko blocked a shot late to help save the victory. Former Memphis player Dante Cunningham gives the team a lift off the bench, along with J.J. Berea.

My guess: Memphis 95, Minnesota 93. It's gonna be yet another difficult challenge for Memphis. Tonight, the home crowd's enthusiasm will make a difference. If those in attendance provide that energy from start to finish, the team will ride that wave of emotion to make key plays late. This will be a good matchup, as most are this time of year.

As always, my guessing isn't for gaming purposes, but for keeping my brain active.

After the Game: Memphis 92, Minnesota 77. Timberwolves had season lows in points, shooting percentage (33.7%) and assists (14). Minnesota had 29 field goals and 11 turnovers.

Memphis had 40 field goals, 19 assists and 13 turnovers. The Grizz also blocked 10 shots, 4 by Gasol.  Scoring was balanced, with Conley leading the way (20 pts, 6 assists). Gasol (16, 8 rebs), Bayless (15), Randolph (14, 10 rebs) and Prince (12, 14 rebs) all played well. The third quarter again was the difference, with Memphis winning it 29-14. The fourth quarter started out with backups on the floor, but Minnesota didn't quit. Memphis had starters on the floor until the 3-minute-remaining point.

The Timberwolves were led by Alexy Shved with 12. J.J. Barea and Mickael Gelabale scored 11 each. No Minnesota starter scored in double figures. Ridnour (2/12 FG/A) and Derrick Williams (3/12) in particular had off nights. Kevin Love and Chase Budinger  (both injured) would have made a huge difference in that rough third quarter for Minnesota.

Time for Memphis to rest up and prep for that home game against Oklahoma City on Wednesday night. Go, Grizz.

Old Dude, Old Movies - "Attack of the 50-Foot Woman"

From 1958 comes a sci-fi classic (and I use the term loosely). But first, a disclaimer: of course they didn't have the special effects and CGI that came in later decades. Based on what we've seen since, the effects are quaint and charming.

One thing I get a kick out of in films of that era is how movie-makers attempted to address the unknown corners of science, especially in areas such as outer space and radiation exposure. In each case, there was so much that wasn't understood. That lack of knowledge fueled a lot of fear. Society was still trying to wrap its collective mind around what was out there in space. Society was still trying to figure out what continual exposure to radiation would do to the earth and its inhabitants.

The movie opens on a desert road (is that a Route 66 sign?). A fancy sedan races along, away from something or towards something. The driver, a well-dressed socialite, notices something in the road and starts to lose control of her vehicle. She stops and lets out a Wilhelm scream. An unearthly "satellite" has landed on the road up ahead. She screams again, abandons the vehicle and starts to run (run, in an evening dress and pumps) back towards a nearby town.

Meanwhile, a man and a lady share a small booth in a bar in that town. He's smooching her up, trying to convince her that soon he'll be free of his domineering, dipsomaniac wife. The lady sounds interested, but knows the man's spouse is also rich. If only he could be free of his wife, but get the cash? Would having the wife institutionalized achieve that goal? After all, she's been in a sanitarium before...

Scene shift: the socialite finishes her sprint in front of the bar, calling for her husband. She's met outside by the town sheriff, and she tells the law man her fantastic story. The sheriff is rightfully skeptical, but since the lady is the richest person in town (and pays lots of local taxes), the sheriff figures he should at least go for a ride. He gathers his deputy and the lady, and they go back to investigate. Of course, they find no evidence, at least initially...

Later on, there's domestic troubles, gun play, radiation exposure, cowardice, loyalty and jealous rage. All this, and those quaint special effects. Note the vest with what appears to be a patch depicting a snorting bull.

Allison Hayes is the lead, as the troubled wife Nancy Archer, whose penchant for bad choices gets her in hot water of the strangest kind. William Hudson portrays the husband Harry Archer, who at one point abandons his wife at the moment of greatest peril.

Yvette Vickers is the gold-digger "chippie" who doesn't really love the man who pursues her, but is looking for a way out of a dead-end existence. Frank Chase is deputy Charlie, the comic relief in this adventure. Ken Terrell stands out as the understated Jess, loyal butler to the rich lady, willing to protect & and defend her much more than her husband could. Jess probably loved Nancy much more than Harry. That point should have been covered a bit more in the plot.

No, this film wasn't destined for artistic greatness. I'm sure it was played at many a drive-in back in its day. In '58, it was probably more creepy than scary. But if you're housebound on a bad weather day, you might get a kick out of what entertained movie watchers back in the day.

In Dreams - "We Will Defend"

I was back in uniform, as an Air Force liaison guy attached to an Army infantry unit. We were in a hilly area (maybe Israel?), planning a base defense. There was active intel stating an attack was imminent, so we were getting guys in place. My role was as a space capability advisor, letting the soldiers know what capes were most suitable for the mission at hand.

I was fit and clear-headed, able to keep up with the soldiers effortlessly. We rehearsed maneuvers that incorporated different parts of the base camp. We moved in sync, using few words.  I wasn't as well-equipped as the soldiers, but I had a 9MM sidearm and an M-16 across my back. I felt confident I could handle whatever the "bad guys" brought our way.

As we prepped, I looked up and noticed parachutes. Couldn't tell if they were friendlies or adversaries, so we took cover to better observe this development. I went into a "Cadillac", one of the portable trailer-style latrines oft-used in Southwest Asia and other places. As I went in, I found myself near a urinal which was stuck in the "water flow" position. Hearing rushing water woke me from what was a sound sleep, ' know...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My Team - Grizzlies at Utah

After Friday night's loss at Denver, the Grizzlies get back to work Saturday night against the Jazz.

(Flashback/digression) As a kid in the early 70s, I was a big fan of the American Basketball Association. I remember fondly listening to the local AM radio station as Memphis teams playing in Salt Lake City. The Utah Stars had great players like Zelmo Beaty, Willie Wise and Ron Boone. More often than not, Memphis would lose at Utah. But for me, just the fact that they were in Salt Lake City was captivating. It was so far away, and dare I say "exotic". For a kid who thought he'd probably never leave Memphis, Salt Lake City may have well been a different planet.

In the present day, the Jazz are scuffling as they try to hold on to a playoff berth. They are presently in 9th place in the Western Conference, a full game behind the surging Los Angeles Lakers. They've lost 8 of their last 10 games. They need a win. Utah haven't played since 13 March, a 23-point loss at Oklahoma City.

Al Jefferson is the focal point of the team, a strong two-way post player. Guys like Paul Milsap, Gordon Hayward, Randy Foye and Derrick Favors are among the players that make this team strong. One would expect this team to have a much better record. The roster is healthy, at least regarding major injuries.

Their style of play is quite similar to Memphis' - inside-out on offense, and swarming team defense in the half-court. Each team will run a fast break on occasion, but would rather cycle through their offensive sets most possessions. When Utah has the ball, Jefferson gets the most touches and takes the most shots. He and Randolph are nearly mirror images of one another on the floor. Milsap can put the ball on the floor to get to the basket or shoot an effective mid-range jump shot. Both players are hungry, willing rebounders on both ends of the floor. Memphis must box out both players.

Guys like Hayward, Foye and Alec Burks are active on the perimeter. Any one of them could go off for 17-20 points in a particular game.

Utah works hard on defense, but the only real shotblocker they have is Favors. Like Memphis, Utah will have periods where they struggle to close down the lane.

Expect hand-to-hand combat in the post and continual harassment on the perimeter. This won't be the kind of game high-flyers enjoy. My guess - Memphis 94, Utah 91. As always, these guesses aren't for gaming purposes, but for me to keep my brain active.

After the Game: Utah 90, Memphis 84. Overall, a 2-2 road trip under the circumstances isn't that bad. If one watched this game, one could tell the moment when the road trip caught up with Memphis.

24-9 - Utah outscored the Grizzlies by that margin in the 3rd quarter. Sums it up for me. Memphis had 33 field goals, 14 assists and 11 turnovers. Conley went 6-18 FG/A. Bayless came off the bench to score 24, Randolph added 19 and 9 rebs.

Utah had 31 field goals, 18 assists and only 5 turnovers. They out-Memphis'd the Grizzlies. Utah took the "grindhouse" template and used it on Memphis. No one Jazz player dominated the game, but they got contributions from Hayward (17 and 8), Jefferson (14 and 5 rebs), Milsap (13 and 8 rebs),  Favors (10 and 8 rebs), and Mo Williams (13, 4 rebs, 6 assists). Team defense was evident as they harassed Memphis into bad shots, especially in the 3rd quarter.

Even with all that, Memphis was down 3 with 30 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter. Not a bad effort, but a winnable game that slipped out of the grasp of the Memphis team.

Oh, well. The Grizzlies host Minnesota on Monday night. They need to win that game - next opponent is a Wednesday night home match against Oklahoma City.

Friday, March 15, 2013

My Team - Grizzlies at Denver

Been sitting on my butt Friday, goofing off. That's why I waited until now to write this.

A couple of things, from the "what is he thinking?" department:

One, the Grizzlies have three left-handed starters (Randolph, Prince, Conley), with two more on the bench (Davis, Wroten). How many NBA teams have five lefties on their rosters?

Two, lately as I watch defenders close out on long-range jump shooters, the defender seems to fly on by more often than not. I've never been a pro, or even varsity college player, but on the levels where I did play we were taught close on the shooting hand. After the defender lands, he/she reverse-pivots to a) box out the shooter, and b) be in position to get the long rebound (if it happens).

(Rants over.)

Friday night, the Grizzlies take on the run-and-gun Denver Nuggets. The Grizz have won 14 of their last 15 games. Teamwork has improved. The defense has been as gritty as ever. This Memphis team is a coach's dream, especially on offense. The passing has been crisper, the needless dribbling has lessened.

Denver is a road trip nightmare for a visitor. George Karl's team takes advantage of home court better than all but one other team in the league. The Nuggets have won their last 10 games overall, and they're 29-3 at home. Only the champion Heat (30-3) have a better home record.

Denver comes at their opponents in waves. The fast break train seems like it never stops. They substitute guys in who can maintain the pace. It's a team-oriented approach, and it works great. It appears all Nuggets are healthy and available for this game.

Much like Memphis recently, trading a "first option" guy (Carmelo Anthony) for team-oriented players has made the team deeper and more versatile. The casual fan may lament the lack of "superstar" names, but if you're rooting for your team to win games, these two rosters give you exactly that opportunity. They have 9 or 10 guys they can count on, so as an opponent you can't focus on one or two guys whom you think "we gotta stop this guy, and we'll win". You gotta play straight up, five-on-five against these Nuggets.

This is a good matchup. I've already made the jambalaya, so I can settle in and watch this uninterrupted.  My guess - Denver 108, Memphis 101. As usual, for Memphis to win, they've gotta keep this in the 90s. And also as usual, these guesses aren't for gaming purposes. They're just for me to look in mirror and say "I know what I'm talking about."

After the Game: Denver 87, Memphis 80. I hate the phrase "good loss" - it's still a loss, and losing stinks. However, Memphis took the "grindhouse" on the road and had a chance to win. Fourth quarter turnovers and questionable shot selection were too much to overcome. Being outscored 29-14 in the fourth will kill any team. Memphis shot 35% - 30 field goals, with 16 assists, 14 turnovers. Randolph went for 18 and 18 rebs.

Conley, Allen and Bayless combined for 10/34 FG/A. Bayless especially helped bog down the offense. "Dribble dribble, dribble dribble, dribble dribble, jack up a shot late in the shot clock" is the antithesis of the normal crisp ball movement Memphis has shown lately. On the nights Bayless isn't hitting jumpers, he has to find another way to help the team.

Denver shot 46% - 35 field goals, 18 assists, 16 turnovers. Denver's fourth quarter energy made the difference, but for the first three quarters Memphis exposed some glaring Nuggets weaknesses. Denver is prone to rush possessions in the half-court game, taking lots of shots early in the shot clock. They will also give up offensive rebounds/second chance points.(Memphis had 20 offensive rebounds, with Randolph getting 10 of that number.).

Kosta Koufos scored 18 for Denver, with 16 rebs. He is a productive, effective post player. Danilo Gallinari scored 15, including a late field goal that was a heartbreaker.

Friday's game had a playoff atmosphere in the stands, and playoff intensity on the floor. Lots of chippy play on both sides, guys getting knocked down and pushed around. These teams may meet in the first round, and if so it would be an entertaining series.

Next for Memphis, it's a Saturday night date in Salt Lake City against the Jazz. Party time on the Wasatch Front!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My Team - Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers

Fire up the calliope! It's showtime!

The Grizzlies have won five straight since the 1 March loss at Miami. Wednesday night, the back half of this back-to-back takes place against the Association's best entertainment value, the Clippers. After years of mediocrity (and some other years of atrocious basketball), this team is a highlight reel waiting to happen.

Chris Paul is the key, the guy who sets the pace and establishes the attitude when the Clippers take the floor.  When they are in attack mode, they press the pace as much as any team this side of the Denver Nuggets. We've all seen the plays - the dunks, fancy passes, the steals that start the fast breaks.

On paper, this clash of styles seems to favor the Clippers. Their post players, like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, thrive offensively in transition. Most bigs can't match that pace. The Grizzlies' starting post players, Randolph and Gasol, certainly can't.

For Memphis, like Tuesday night at Portland, executing their game plan means controlling pace. Run every so often, but don't try to run every possession. In the half-court offense, convert the makeable shots. That set shot Gasol takes from the "elbow" area/foul line extended? He's got to keep making those. Gasol's dual threat offensive capability from the high post will keep Jordan occupied and open the lane for others. The risk is, if Gasol misses those shots, Jordan is in position to run out in transition. This is a matchup I'll watch.

Another matchup worth watching is Paul against Mike Conley. Conley has had a steady year, and playing with more confidence than ever. Chris Paul, however, is a different level of competition. Last year in the playoff round when the teams met, Paul did whatever he wanted. Wednesday night, Conley has to keep battling. Paul is gonna make some plays, and talk a little smack on top of it. That's OK, though. Conley doesn't have to match the flash or the words. Just distribute the ball for easy baskets and score enough to make Paul work.

My guess: Clippers 109, Memphis 102. Like Tuesday, I hope I'm wrong. For Memphis to win, they need to keep it in the 90s.

After the Game: Memphis 96, Clippers 85.  Color me surprised. Memphis tied a team single season record with its 19th road victory. Gasol scored 20, Prince had 18 (passing 10,000 for his career), and Conley had 17 with 11 assists. Pondexter came off the bench to score 11 (including 3 for 3 in 3PT attempts). The team shot 54%, but only had 31 rebounds. In addition, the team had 37 field goals, 20 assists and 12 turnovers.

Memphis is now in 3rd place in the Western Conference, a half game over the Clippers.

For the Clippers, Paul had 24 and 9 assists, but had 5 turnovers as well. Griffin scored 22, and added 6 rebs and 5 assists. Jordan only played 20 minutes, scoring 4 and grabbing 2 rebs (I wonder why?). Jamal Crawford came off the bench to shoot 1 of 10 from the field. The Clippers had 31 field goals, 22 assists and 12 turnovers.

Memphis got off to a good start in its half-court offense, and did a good enough job getting back on defense to prevent the Clippers from relentlessly running its break. In the half-court, the Clippers do have weapons like Chauncey Billups, Crawford (usually) and Matt Barnes. Tonight, those guys didn't shoot as well as normal. Furthermore, no Eric Bledsoe (injury) took away from their bench production.

Watching this game was like watching a playoff contest. It's a lift for the Grizzlies to know they can go into a difficult arena and impose their will on the game. To see the Staples Center fans leave with a couple of minutes left was a nice scene. Now, after Thursday off, the Grizzlies play in Denver Friday night.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Old Dude, Old Movies - "The Third Man"

Zither music. How many times do you hear a zither in a movie soundtrack? Anton Karas composed a soundtrack that provided great atmosphere for this film. A great match of music and visual aspects.

Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton and Alida Valli were the leads in this moody 1949 release. Part murder mystery, part film noir, this post-war classic is a must-see film.

Cotton portrays "Holly Martins", a down-on-his-luck writer of pulp Western novels. An old friend, "Harry Lime" (played by Welles), finds out about Martins' situation and offers a solution: "join me in Vienna & work for me". The duties aren't clear, but Martins doesn't have any better options. In addition, Lime offers to pay for Martins' transport to Europe.

Soon, Martins is in Vienna, a city recovering from the ravages of Nazi oppression during World War II. The scenes shot in Vienna are striking, amazing architecture juxtaposed against bombed-out buildings. One can almost feel the mist that hangs in the air.

No sooner than Martins gets his bearings, he finds out his benefactor was recently killed in a hit-and-run accident. Troubling thing is, several people saw the accident but none of the witnesses' stories match. Martins gets suspicious, and wants to find out more. He seeks out Lime's girlfriend "Anna Schmidt" (Valli), a sultry lady with her own mysterious past. She loved Lime, but is attracted to Martins. She too wants to find the truth behind Lime's fate.

Trevor Howard is stellar as "Major Calloway", a British soldier in charge of the quadrant of Vienna where the story takes place. Calloway is "the law" in his jurisdiction, his sardonic sense of humor fitting for a man who had seen death and destruction up close. He is yet another seeking answers about Lime, but for his own reasons.

The camera work is amazing. In fact, Robert Krasker won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Black-and-White), for his work. The angles, perspective and tracking were decidedly different from what was being done in that era. Some of the shots (like Lime's first appearance) were unique but highly effective.

I love this movie, and will watch it again. For those fascinated by the craft of movie-making, this film has so much to observe and critique. You'll not see many movies from any era like this one.

My Team - Grizzlies at Portland

Four games in five days.

You say you wanna play pro basketball? You wanna play in the NBA? You wanna get paid, walk around like a big shot? Can you handle this part of the life?

Over the years, I've heard detractors say "they're only on the court a couple of hours. I could do that." The game itself is difficult. Travel on top of that makes things harder, even if you are in top condition.

The Grizzlies' Twitter feed noted that Randolph practiced at full speed on Monday. Arthur didn't practice, and is presumably still day-to-day.

Tuesday night, the team is at Portland. The Trailblazers finished a three-game road trip with a Sunday 2-point loss at New Orleans. All five Trailblazer starters scored in double figures, and each of the five played at least 36 minutes. The team played well, but had some late defensive breakdowns that cost them a victory.

On 6 March, Memphis put the defensive clamps on Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge and came away with a 91-85 victory. The two teams have split two games this year, but the two games have both been in Memphis. The two teams match up in Portland again in early April.

The Trailblazers are 20-10 at home this season. The Grizzlies are 17-11 on the road. Portland is three games behind Utah for eighth place in the Western Conference playoff picture. The Grizzlies are one game in front of Denver for fourth place in the West. Both teams need this game desperately.

Portland averages 98 PPG, while giving up an average of 99.8. Memphis averages 94 a game, while giving up 89. To win this game, Memphis needs to take some "grit and grind" with them. Keep the game in the high 80s, make it ugly and impatient. They have to do this against a Portland team that scored 136 at San Antonio on 8 March.

Tonight, I guess Portland prevails at home. My guess is Portland 97, Memphis 92. Aldridge will get his 20+ pts and 9 or so rebounds. Lillard will get his 20, 5 or so assists, and make plays that get the home fans out of their seats. After the projected loss, the Grizzlies will head south to take on the Clippers.

As a man said in a movie once, "the hits just keep on coming".

After the Game: Memphis 102, Portland 97. The Grizzlies made it close at the end (Bayless fouling Mayner as he took a 3-pt attempt?), but Memphis making their free throws late sealed a crucial road victory.

Conley scored 12 of his 14 in the 4th quarter, and set a career high with 15 assists. Gasol led the team with 20, and Randolph got 19 and 10 rebs. Memphis had 39 baskets, 31 assists and only 11 turnovers. Memphis shot 51% from the floor.

Portland was led by Lillard's 30 pts and 7 assists. Aldridge added 28 pts, 10 rebs and 4 blocks. Portland had 32 baskets, 17 assists and 16 turnovers. Portland's bench was outscored 28-19. Their lack of bench production put a burden on the starters, especially defensively.

After three quarters of defensive struggle, the teams combined for 73 points in the 4th. Coach Hollins can't be happy about the Grizzlies giving up 39 in a quarter.

I was wrong about this result, and I'm happy I was wrong. The team needed this win, and now they head south to "see the circus". The Clippers are the best high-wire act in the Association, and Wednesday night the Grizzlies see it up close. Can they stop it?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Interesting - Denver Post article on gun use in Colorado

"Source: I-News Network analysis of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data."

Lately, gun issues have caught the attention of many. Registration, access, protection and crime are facets of the discussion that has us all on edge. This article shed some light on how guns are actually used in the state.

I was surprised to read that suicides accounted for more than three-fourths of the 6,258 gun deaths from 2000-2011.

Read the article. It does shed a different light on the argument regarding gun legislation in the state.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Team - Grizzlies versus New Orleans

After Friday night's win over a depleted Cleveland team, the Grizzlies came home to prep for a game against the Hornets today/Pelicans later. New Orleans is struggling, but building for the future.

Randolph is still dealing with that sprained ankle, and Arthur has a sore back. Friday night, though, Ed Davis contributed 12 pts and 9 rebs. His energy and production at the start of the third quarter was key in Memphis regaining control of the Cleveland game.a

New Orleans has shown glimmers of hope throughout the season, but there have been glaring mistakes as well. In their last game, 6 March against the Lakers, they gave up a big lead to lose a heart-breaker. Who can forget that inbounds play late in the game, where none of the Hornets were in position to defend their basket? Who else noticed Kobe Bryant sprinting down court with Hornets in futile pursuit? This New Orleans team can and will make mental mistakes that are more damaging than physical ones.

They do have some talent. Overall #1 draft pick Anthony Davis has the pedigree (Kentucky, NCAA champion) to grow into a great post player. Eric Gordon is a legit scorer. Ryan Anderson is a big shooter who stretches defenses. But, the guy I like most on their roster is ex-Memphis player Greivis Vasquez. In fact, he is one of my absolute favorite players in the Association. Austin Rivers (broken hand) and Jason Smith (torn labrum) will miss this contest.

The Venezuelan is bigger than most PGs (6'6"). He plays with enthusiasm, a bit of a chip on his shoulder and great court vision. He won't make a between-a-defender's-legs bounce pass, but he'll get a bunch of assists (averaging 9.4 assists per game). He will never be a Hall-of-Famer, and would need a series of weird mishaps to even be an all-star. But, he can play. I look forward to seeing his match-up with Conley.

New Orleans can score (averaging 95 in their last five games, with 100+ points in the last three games). However, they are prone to "car wreck" games, like their 74-119 loss at Oklahoma City on 27 February.

Even stranger, the Hornets seem to always play well against Memphis. My guess: Memphis 96, New Orleans 90. As always, these guesses aren't for gaming purposes, but to entertain me in my boredom.

After the Game: Memphis 96, New Orleans 85. Memphis had seven players in double figures, led by Conley's 22. He also had 8 assists, but 4 turnovers. Ed Davis had 12 pts, 9 rebs, 5 blocked shots and a great work rate down low. Like the night before in Cleveland, the Grizzlies won the first quarter, got distracted in the second, then came out after halftime to re-assert control.

Also, it's Coach Hollins' 200th win as Grizzlies' head coach. He is the best coach in team history (albeit relatively brief history). It's the 42nd win of the season, one step closer to clinching "top 4" seeding & first round series home court advantage.

The team had 38 FGs, 21 assists and 10 turnovers. New Orleans had 34 field goals, 17 assists and 12 turnovers.

For the Hornets, Anthony Davis had 20 pts, 19 rebs.Vasquez had 12 pts, 8 assists. Ryan Anderson scored 17 off the bench, but he was 1/5 3PT FG/A.

One troubling trend is how the Grizzlies don't mind settling for jump shots. They only had 20 FTA in this game. With this 4-game road trip coming up, they will have to concentrate on getting close to the basket, converting those shots, and getting the home opponents in foul trouble.

Starting 12 March, Memphis gets a pair of back-to-backs. 12 March, the team's at Portland, followed by a 13 March match at Staples Center against the Clippers. If everything is equal, Memphis will probably lose both. The best opportunity on paper is to beat Portland first.

Memphis then has 14 March off, followed by road games 15 March (at Denver) and 15 March (at Utah), both formidable opponents. Denver, especially at home, will embarrass any team. They are cohesive, and play to their home court advantage of high elevation. Their fast-breaking attack is relentless, and they wear out most teams by sheer speed and effort. For this section of games, the best opportunity for Memphis will be the Utah game, but Memphis may be worn out from the previous night. And, Salt Lake City is a fairly high elevation as well (4,226 feet, according to Wikipedia).

Bottom line: if Memphis can finish this road trip 2-2, I'll be ecstatic. I'll always root for my team, but frankly I wouldn't be surprised if they lose all four.

Old Dude, Old PSA - "Duck and Cover"

This 15-minute public service announcement (PSA), released in 1952, is an precious artifact to anyone who lived during the Cold War era.  Character actor Robert Middleton narrated, in a friendly patriarchal tone. Knowing what we know now, it's a strangely quaint presentation. Even in the 1950s, citizens had to know that the effects of a nuclear detonation were severe. How much hope or protection could one really draw from hiding under a wooden desk?

The opening, with the turtle encountering a monkey carrying a lit firecracker, was disarming. As a kid in the '60s, I don't think I would have appreciated the importance of the message from this scene. From that opening, we get short vignettes of people in everyday life - kids in school, folks walking on the street, a family in the park. "Without warning", folk would get an indication (a flash of light, an announcement over a speaker or a siren's wail) directing them to duck and cover their heads.

I know, it's too easy to direct snark at something produced 60 years ago. That isn't my intent. But, consider the blinding light, the blast of superheated air and the lingering radiation that all result from detonation of a nuclear weapon. Since those aspects were either barely covered or covered not at all, I wonder what the PSA creators hoped to achieve by glossing over that stuff. Were the creators in denial, or were they worried they would cause a panic if they shared more information?

I do remember Civil Defense signs on buildings. I remember "duck and cover" drills in my elementary school. I remember reading about Hiroshima and Nagasaki being devastated. Later, when I spent some time in Strategic Air Command and actually studied the weapons and after-effects, I realized this film was a product of its time, and nothing more. Things were just done that way in the '50s.

If someone were to watch this with the mindset of seeing this issue through the eyes of our forebears, it's not bad. If someone watched it hoping it would save lives, the viewer would be disappointed.