Paris

Bryan Deeken (BD)

By Bryan Deeken

The funny thing about terrorism is that it has nothing to do with religion, culture, or ethnicity. An act of terrorism is simply the act of using violence to pursuit political goals. The Irish Republican Army, or IRA, is a terror group that operates in Ireland. The group was formed to fight for Irish independence. The IRA terror group led to a lot of discrimination against plenty of innocent Irish Catholics in the United Kingdom.

There was a group in an English colony in the late 1760s, early 1770s that tarred and feathered British Soldiers in retaliation to laws they believed to be unjust. Yes, our Founding Fathers are terrorists in every sense of the word. Heck, we had groups like Weather Underground in the late 1960s and early 1970s bombing government buildings in retaliation to the war in Vietnam. Terror groups do generally include specific people with a similar mindset. Other groups with specific people and similar mindsets include, but are not limited to, knitting club, chess club, crochet club, and yoga class. My point is simple, we cannot allow the similarities of a group we don’t like to be extrapolated to a whole societies religion, culture, or ethnicity.

Last Friday’s attack was not Islam attacking the Western Culture. No ISIS attack, no IRA attack, no Sons of Liberty attack, and no Weather Underground attack has ever been about Muslims, Catholics, Americans, or Leftist-Hippies attacking Western Culture. It is about a select group of people within those broader groups deciding that the amazing, and beautiful cultures and societies we have built are threatening their own outdated belief systems. Last Friday’s attack was about disallowing Malala Yousafzai’s wonderful message of empowering young women to persist. The attack was about continuing the culture of fear that drove a brilliant young man, Ahmed Mohamed, away from my beloved country, where he should be welcomed with more than opened arms. And, yes, last Friday’s attack was an attack on basketball.

Sport brings everyone from all creeds, races, and cultures together. Sport is a way our societies congeal and mingle into a loving family that should be the human race in 2015. I studied philosophy in college. I cannot go into work in downtown Cleveland and ask my fellow elevator riders how they felt about Plato’s analogy of the cave. What I can do is say “How about them Cavs.” After a quick recap of a LeBron dunk, or a Tristan Thompson rebound, I can confidently say that there is now a unity with that fellow elevator rider that there wouldn’t have been had our culture not had sports. Let us not succumb to Islamophobic tendencies. The person sitting across from you on the RTA is a Cavs fan. I know that for sure. Ask them what they thought about Mo Williams performance in the game the other night. Don’t keep to yourself. Creating unity amongst ourselves as the human race is what we can do to commemorate those who passed away in Friday’s attacks, the attacks in Beirut a few days earlier, the many attacks in Nairobi, and the list of many other terror attacks. Ask someone about the basketball game.

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Steve Nash: A Brief Memoriam

Bryan Deeken (BD)

Steve Nash was a transcendent NBA talent. His playing career has been defined by a hellacious offensive pace, and a court vision that allowed him to anticipate scoring opportunities. The worse things that can be said about Steve Nash’s career is that he never did win a championship, and he’s an unlikely two-time NBA MVP. How many MVPs have you won? Thats what I thought.

I love Steve Nash. I remember buying NBA Live 2005. It was my first basketball video game, I had it for Gamecube. I always played with the Phoenix Suns. I loved their uniforms; I loved the pass first, easy shooting Nash. In fact, I was enamored with Nash’s passing ability. It was awe inspiring; poetry in motion. Those passes were lyrical. Art can be an ambiguous term. I’d argue until I’m blue in the face that what Nash did on court was performance art. I’m not speaking in hyperbole. You know how the old critique of some art goes: “I could have done that” “Then why didn’t you do it first?” “I didn’t think of it first.” That’s the best I can do as far as describing what transcribed during Steve’s career.

Steve’s NBA career began when he was drafted 15th overall by the Phoenix Suns in 1996. Steve was immediately under appreciated. He was behind fading star Kevin Johnson, and rising stars Sam Cassell and Jason Kidd. It was only after a move to Dallas in 1998 that Steve began to receive notoriety for his offensive creativity. He saw success on the Mavs roster, averaging 15.6 points a game during his 5th NBA season, and 3rd with the Mavs. Nash eventually signed in free agency with the Phoenix Suns for the 2004-2005 season, and the league hasn’t been the same since. Nash, Coach Mike D’Antoni, teammates Amar’e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, and Shawn Marion fundamentally changed the way the game of basketball is played. Seven Seconds or less became a phrase to use to describe something other than the act of losing your virginity.

I love basketball, so by the transitive property, I love Steve Nash. But the things that make a player memorable are how they televise themselves to fans. We remember that Charles Barkley was a great basketball player, but you won’t remember too many specifics about his career. What you do remember, and what you’re reminded of, is how outspoken he is. That’s what’s memorable about Barkley. Jordan emanates ruthlessness. I love to tell the story about how Jordan used to make his teammates cry. A grown man, playing a game, can make other grown men cry. That’s unreal. Nash is unique in the fact that his on the court persona is center to his off court persona. I know it’s corny, but Nash is all about assisting. He’s 3rd in career assists in the NBA, and he’s one of the most charitable athletes in professional sports. The Steve Nash foundation’s goal is to promote healthy lifestyles in children.

I love Steve Nash. I know he’s not going anywhere. I know he’s going to be more involved with his charities. I’m sure he’ll be very involved in basketball for years to come. But I’m going to miss his artwork. Some players give something to the game with their career, those same players take something away from the game when they retire. Steve Nash is leaving a vacancy that will be hard pressed to fill. I know some people like to take some time for themselves once they retire, but we all know that just won’t be the case for Steve.

The State of the Kingdom

Bryan Deeken (BD)

I’m comparing myself and my articles to Baklava… flaky, but decadent, and worth the indulgence. Only half of that sentence is true. The Semih-Pro staff asked itself over the summer: What are bold predictions that could be made about the 2014-2015 NBA season? I went on record in saying that the Sacramento Kings will earn an 8th seed playoff spot. (mistakes were made) In my defense, it was a bold prediction column, and my prediction fit the description of bold. However, my prediction has earned me the nickname “Kings Guy”, and has prompted Semih-Pro staff to refer to DeMarcus Cousins as my bae. (We skype sometimes, I guess. It’s nothing really.) I realized that it’s well past the halfway point of the NBA season, and I haven’t written anything on bae, I mean DeMarcus, and the Kings. It’s time to evaluate the state of the Kingdom. (Hint: Monarchy is dead…)

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Sacramento is currently 20-36, which puts them haplessly out of Western Playoff contention and right in the thick of the playoff race for the Eastern conference. It’s likely safe to say that this year’s Kings won’t be ending a playoff drought that began after the 2005-2006 season. What’s even more bleak than Sacramento’s playoff situation is their current roster. There is no one on this team ready to play winning basketball, aside from DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, and Ben McLemore. Rudy’s contract is currently atrocious, but his contract extension will lower his yearly salary to a far less laughable $13 million. The contract is still pricey, but Rudy is a solid two-way wing player in a league that saw Chandler Parsons and Gordon Heyward receive near max contracts. Cousins signed a $64 million dollar 4 year extension which is currently looking like a steal for a two-way big man that is averaging 23.5 points, and 12 rebounds a game. In comparison, Dwight Howard makes $10 million dollars more a year than Cousins, and is currently averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds a game. McLemore is only in his second year in the league, and has rebounded from a somewhat disappointing rookie season. Other players on the Kings roster include Jason Thompson and Carl Landry, who are getting a combined $13 million dollars a season for the two seasons (yikes). The Kings most recent first round draft pick, Nik Stauskus, has a chance to develop into a decent offensive guard, but the Kings haven’t really been known for developing talent of late. (i.e. Tyreke Evans, Thomas Robinson, Jason Thompson) The Kings made the decision to let Isaiah Thomas walk in free agency, and to replace Thomas by signing Darren Collison. Thomas signed a 4yr/ $27 million dollar contract with the Suns (since been traded), while Collison is on a 3yr/ $15 million dollar contract. Collison has similar numbers to Thomas, but Thomas is a couple years younger, and still seems like he has room to improve. I feel as if they over paid to get a back-up guard in Collison, rather than committing to developing Thomas into a starting guard. The Kings also have Derrick Williams in the last year of his rookie contract. Williams, who was picked 2nd overall in the Kyrie Irving draft, seems like he was never put into a basketball situation that allowed him to develop into a viable NBA starter. I feel like Williams could have been a super athletic, undersized power forward. Where Williams would have lacked in size, he would have made up in athleticism and mobility. However, neither Minnesota, nor Sacramento was able to tap into William’s potential. Ray McCallum is a young guard taken in last year’s draft, and has potential to be decent rotational guard, if the Kings can develop their talent.

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The Kings roster doesn’t have that great of salary flexibility, even considering that their star player is on a great value contract. The Kings have 10 players under contract for a total of $54 million dollars committed in salary. This year’s salary cap is $63 million. The cap will make a sizeable leap sometime in the next 5 years, but next season might not be “the leap season.” The Kings are looking at $11-$13 million dollars in cap space for next season. What’s even worse is that the Kings have 1 second round pick in summer’s upcoming draft. McLemore may make a leap into a notable NBA player next season, but that still leaves your roster needing to rely on Jason Thompson, and Carl Landry to actually know how to play basketball for the team to have any success. Hopefully, the Kings are smart with their offseason transactions and avoid locking up any players to a long term deal.

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The state of the Kingdom is not good, and it doesn’t seem like the trend of losing seasons will be reversing itself anytime soon. George Karl is a good hiring to finally develop players. Vivek Ranadive seems eager to spend money; hopefully he hires smart basketball minds to spend his money. The Sacramento Kings have three players contracted until the 2017-2018 season; Gay at $14 million, Cousins at $16.5 million, and Stauskas at $4 million. That’s a whopping $34.5 million. Who knows what the cap situation will be in 2017-2018? I know that I wouldn’t want half my allotted salary committed to those three. To compound the issue, the Kings don’t have a first round draft pick in the 2015 NBA draft, and their 2016 first round pick is protected. There is no way that the Sacramento Kings will be competing in the 2017-2018 season. They will not have the draft picks to rebuild during the draft, they won’t have the cap flexibility to fill out the roster with quality players, and Sacramento is not drawing free agents anytime soon. Stars go to play in big cities with big amenities, and Cleveland because a basketball God was born 40 minutes outside of city limits. My new prediction for Sac town? DeMarcus Cousins will be traded in 2017-2018 for a butt load of assets. In 2017-2018 he’ll be a 4-5 time All Star, and will have not even sniffed the playoffs. He won’t be happy in his contract season, and there is no way Sac Town will be able to resign him. Currently, I see no situation in which DeMarcus will want to continue putting up monster numbers (including technicals…) in blowout losses. BOOGIE!!!!!