Monthly Archives: May 2015

How did the Warriors Get So Good?

A quick look back at how Golden State amassed the talent and depth that have fueled them to the NBA Finals. . .

Stephen Curry: Drafted by the Warriors 7th overall in 2009. . . while two of the 6 players drafted ahead of him were Blake Griffin (1st) and James Harden (3rd), Curry was passed for Hasheem Thabeet, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, and Johnny Flynn. Flynn hasn’t played in the NBA since 2012. Thabeet is playing in the D-League this year.  Evans and Rubio are capable starters, but as the MVP Curry has far outplayed his draft position and is the asset around which the Warrior’s team is built.

Klay Thompson: Drafted by the Warriors 11th overall in 2011. The 2011 draft was bad. Really, really bad. Only 3 All Stars in the whole draft class—Kyrie Irving (1st), Klay Thompson (11th), and Jimmy Butler (30th). While getting Thompson at 11 is a value, his contributions are pretty in line with what you would expect from a lottery pick. (Not the ridiculous feat of finding an All Star at 30 that the Bulls pulled off, but a good selection.) Needless to say the teams who drafted Derrick Williams, Jimmer Fredette, Bismack Biyombo, and Jan Vesely are regretting their selections for sure.

Harrison Barnes: Drafted but the Warriors 7th overall in 2012. Another top 10 pick. Barnes has been largely considered a bust due to his draft spot. He came out one of the starts of Game 5 against the Rockets due to his high level of talent and his commitment to staying ready. While Barnes hasn’t lived up to the hype which had some projecting him even higher in the draft had he not gone back to UNC for a sophomore season, this is the kind of depth that other top teams lack.

Draymond Green: Drafted by the Warriors 35th overall in 2012. Green’s freshman year at Michigan State he averaged 3 points. By his senior year he averaged 16. His rookie year he managed just 3 points and 13 minutes, which he’s increased steadily—earning more time and points ever season so far. More importantly, his defense has improved to the level of all NBA caliber. Nailing second round picks to provide cheap players with high upside. Of course, Green’s 3 year 2.6 million dollar contract is up after this year and the Warriors will have to decide if and how much to pay him, but for this season he’s only counting on the cap for less than a million dollars.

Andrew Bogut: In March of 2012 (just before the draft that landed the Warriors both Barnes and Green) the Warriors shipped out Monta Ellis, the previous star of the team for Andrew Bogut (a few more pieces on each side, but this was the core of the trade). This freed up more playing time for Curry and Thompson (Ellis is a combo guard and the three could not have coexisted and both Curry and Thompson develop into All Stars with him there.) Bogut, a former #1 overall pick was available mostly due to his injury issues which derailed almost all of his time in Milwaukee. Bogut was signed to a huge extension, and has missed time since coming to Golden State. But suddenly, this year he is healthy in the playoffs and providing an anchor against bigger teams. The lesson here is that NBA teams need good luck with injuries, and to succeed on calculated risks and have those risks payoff at the right time.

Shaun Livingston: Signed last year for 3 years 16 million. A former top 4 pick, Livinsgton (from my own stomping grounds of Central, IL) tragically blew out his knee his rookie year with the Clippers. Livingston bounced around the league, eventually coming to prominence with the Nets during their playoff run last year. That Jason Kidd coached Nets team shows the blueprint for using this type of player—Livingston is tall for a point guard, able to switch the one-four or one-three pick and rolls with Green and Barnes and remain a capable defender. He doesn’t need the ball, but can score and assist when needed as in his 18 point outing in Game 1 against Houston. While he’s not asked to play a lot of minutes in the playoffs, he can capably backup both Curry and Thompson. I’d say the take-away here is hitting on veteran signings. Livingston probably could have gotten more than 5 million a year, but chose the Warriors for a chance to compete in the playoffs.

Leandro Barbosa: Another veteran signing. Barbosa’s contract is only for less than a million on the cap hit. While he’s not the player he was during his Phoenix heyday playing in the 7 Seconds or Less offense, Barbosa is still shooting 38% from 3. Minimum salary players who are able to contribute, even with a single skill like defense (or in this case the 3 ball) make good teams into great teams (think James Posey on the 2008 Celtics, or Boris Diaw on last year’s Spurs).

Andre Iguodala: Signed to 4 years 48 million in 2013. The Iguodala signing was seen at the time as a means of going “All In” as well as a giving up on Harrison Barnes. At 31, Iguodala is reduced from the crazy athletic defensive monster he was in Philly. He’s still an above average defender, and having his role readjusted to the bench this year under Steve Kerr. Iggy will be even more important going into the Finals where he will share duties guarding Lebron James. Having the fire power to throw multiple, capable defenders against your opponent’s best player is important so that foul trouble doesn’t spell instant doom for your squad. (The Warriors will likely use a combination of Barnes, Iguodala, Thompson, and Green on Lebron.)

Marreese Speights: Signed 3 years 10 million dollars in 2013. Another low dollar contributor, Speights has been out since midway through the Grizzlies series. With a cap hit in the 3 million dollar range, Speights has a high PER and provides good in limited minutes. He should be back with a long break before the Finals start, and like Barbosa he falls into the category of veteran who a single good game from can swing the Championship.

David Lee: Sign and trade with Knick; 6 years, 79 million dollars. The Lee sign and trade wouldn’t even be legal in today’s NBA.  Lee’s playing only 8 minutes a game in the playoffs, and has scored 15 or more points only 4 times all season (all in the regular season). This is not what you want from your highest paid player, and next year when David Lee becomes “David Lee’s expiring contract” he will most likely be traded—after all the Warriors are going to have to pay Green to keep him and his production and defense outweigh the potential offense Lee provides. But this is still a former All-Star. And he’s still capable of scoring more than 15 points in a game if called on. If the right combination of foul trouble or injuries come up, Lee might be an X Factor going forward for the 4-7 games he has left as a Warrior.

It’s only by nailing the other players on this list in low cost signings and draft choices that the Warriors are able to be this deep with what is one of the worst contracts in the league still on their books.

Festus Ezili: Drafted 30th overall by the Warriors in 2012. 2012 is the draft that keeps on giving for the Warriors.  Golden State actually had 3 second round picks that year (Atlanta, Brooklyn, and San Antonio) and not their own (which was traded as part of the David Lee sign and trade.) Ezili’s spent time on assignment to the D League for the Warriors, but he proved in Game Five tonight that he can come up big when needed. At 6’11” he has been competent in backing up Bogut this year, including against the punishing run of bigs the Warriors have faced (Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol, and Dwight Howard in consecutive rounds). He will likely backup Bogut for any minutes that Mozgov is on the floor in the finals (that Bogut isn’t in for.)  Of course, much of that series may be decided with Tristan Thompson at the five and Lebron at the four for the Cavs, so Ezili may not see much run. Still, this is yet another contributor on a low cost contract (rookie scale).

It seems the answer is clear—get one really good player with a lucky lottery pick/bad teams picking before you (Curry), draft really well in the second round (Green, Ezili), and get at least something out of your first round picks (Thompson, Barnes), while filling in with quality low cost veterans (Livingston, Speights, Barbosa), and splurge on expensive missing pieces when your cap will allow (Bogut, Iguodala)—should be a simple formula to replicate for other GMs out there, right? We’ll leave out the “swing and miss on gigantic contracts for one way players who get hurt a lot (Lee)” since I think most GMs would rather succeed because of their most expensive players, not in spite of them.

Centaur Codex Part 1

In this first part of the Centaur Codex I cover the basic racial traits for a Centaur, alternate racial traits, favored class bonuses, and give an example Centaur Archer (CR 6). Noticed Pathfinder Compatible games had very little support for Centaurs, and they were left out of some recent products supporting humanoids, so I am going to add some more support, example Centaurs, and flesh them out for any adventurous GMs or players who want to get in touch with their four legged Sylvan roots!

Centaur

Racial Traits

Ability Scores: +4 Str, +2 Dex, +2 Con, +2 Wis

Type: Monstrous Humanoid

Size: Large

Undersized Weapons (Ex): Although a centaur is Large, its upper torso is the same size as that of a Medium humanoid. As a result, they wield weapons as if they were one size category smaller than their actual size (Medium for most centaurs).

Base Speed: 50 ft.

Languages: Common, Elven, Sylvan

Natural Armor: Centaurs have tough skin, granting them a +2 natural armor bonus.

Darkvision: Centaurs have darkvision and so can see perfectly in the dark up to 60 feet.

Quadruped: Centaurs have four legs.

Alternate Racial Traits

The following racial traits may be selected instead of the existing Centaur Racial traits.

Pony Legged: Some centaurs have the legs and hindquarters of smaller stocked equines. These centaurs are medium sized instead of large and also lose the undersized weapons trait.

Thick furred (Ex): Some centaurs from Northern climates are covered in thick insulating fur, granting them Cold Resistance 5. This ability replaces Natural armor.

Dressage Trained: Some centaurs spend their youth training in a series of complicated Centaur dance techniques known as the Dressage dance. These Centaurs receive +2 Str, +4 Dex instead of the ordinary +4 Str, +2 Dex.

Favored Class Options

The following favored class options are available to Centaur characters.

Druid: Add 1 HP to the Druid’s animal companion. If the ranger ever replaces their companion, the new animal companion gets this bonus.

Magus: Add +1/6th New Magus Arcana.

Paladin: Add 1 spell from the Ranger spell list of a level you can cast to the Paladin spell list.

Ranger: Add +1 to the Ranger’s Perception and Survival checks while in Plains terrain

Example Centaurs

Centaur Archer

Centaur  Ranger 4                                                                                         CR 6

XP 2,400

N Large monstrous humanoid

Init +5; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +14

Defense

AC 20, touch 114, flat-footed 15 (+4 armor, +5 Dex, +2 natural, –1 size)

hp 68 (8d10+24)

Fort +8, Ref +13, Will +11

Offense

Speed 80 ft.

Melee long sword +10 (1d8+2/19–20), 2 hooves +5 (1d6+1)

Ranged composite long bow (14 strength) +14/+9 (1d8+2), with deadly aim +11/+6 (1d8+8)

Space 10 ft., Reach 5 ft.

Special Attacks: favored enemy (orcs) +2

Spells Prepared Entangle (DC 14)

Statistics

Str 14, Dex 20, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 16, Cha 8

Base Atk +8; CMB +7; CMD 19 (23 vs. trip)

Feats Boon Companion, Deadly Aim, Rapid Shot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot

Skills Handle Animal +6, Knowledge Geography +7, Knowledge Nature +7, Perception +14, Spellcraft +7, Stealth +16, Survival +14

Languages Common, Elven, Sylvan

SQ dressage training, favored terrain (plains), hunter’s bond, track, undersized weapons, wild empathy

Combat gear: Masterwork Composite Longbow (14 Str) (600 gold), +1 Studded leather Armor (1100 gold), horseshoes of speed (3,000 gold), 3 potions of cure moderate wounds (750 x 3), 850 gold remaining

“This post contains Pathfinder Compatible Material”.

Diversity in Comics Movie Roundup

I’m not much of an analyst when it comes to movie. I’m also an unabashed fan of super-hero movies, particularly DC superheroes who I follow in the comics. I’m also a straight white dude. This probably makes me the least useful person to be “writing” (and I use the term loosely) this particular post. But, here goes anyways. . .

Just going to give a break down of the diversity we’ve seen (including projected films) in the MCU and the new DCU line-up. (I’m not going to get into the now defunct Sony Spider-verse or the Fox X-Men/Fantastic Four line-ups– gotta draw the line somewhere I guess).

I’ll be looking at the team films, and will cover solo films in a future post at some point. I’ll be checking the number of heroes by race and gender. We will leave sexual preference out for now because– not surprisingly, not a single character in any film is confirmed to be a non-heterosexual character currently. For solo films I’ll make a distinction between a title character and supporting characters. I’m also going to count Loki as a hero– deal with it. Characters like Jane Foster, however, who are supporting characters and not heroes do not get counted in. Also– characters who are green/red/crocodile skinned count as the actor playing the character.

Anyways, here goes. . .

Marvel’s Avengers (Fist Movie)

Line-up: Ironman, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Loki, Nick Fury, Agent Coulson, Agent Maria Hill

Male white heroes: 7

Female heroes: 2 (being very generous counting Maria Hill here– though that brings in Coulson as well so its somewhat a wash)

African Descent heroes: 1

Asian Descent heroes: 0

Latin Descent heroes: 0

Marvel’s Avengers (Age of Ultron)

Line-up:  Ironman, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, Vision, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, War Machine, Falcon

Male white heroes: 7

Female heroes: 2

African Descent heroes: 2 (both in tertiary roles, but present)

Asian Descent heroes: 0

Latin Descent heroes: 0

Guardian’s of the Galaxy

Line-up: Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Groot, Rocket– wow this one is hard don’t know if we should count half the cast and no one is in their natural look mostly. Let’s go for inclusion and add in– Ronin, Yondu, Korath, Corpsman Dey, and Nova Prime

Male white heroes: 5

Female heroes: 3

African Descent heroes: 2 (Korath and Gamora)

Asian Descent heroes: 1 (Drax)

Latin Descent heroes: 1 (Gamora)

(Note, I don’t have Vin Diesel’s Groot counted in any category– he doesn’t self identify as white/Caucasian but isn’t clearly any other category).

By far Guardian’s is the most diverse of the Marvel films to date. Avenger’s Infinity War looks to be basically the line-ups for Guardian’s and Age of Ultron combined so I am not going to go over that again. . . though we might add Ant Man (male white), Dr. Strange (presumably male-white), Captain Marvel (female), and Black Panther (African descent) by then– or maybe not.

And on to the projected DC films. . .

Justice League

Line-up (presumed): Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Cyborg, Green Lantern, Shazam

White male heroes: 5 (4 if we get John Stewart Green lantern)

Female heroes: 1

African Descent heroes: 1 (2 with John Stewart)

Asian Descent heroes: 1 (Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman who is Native American and Hawaiian)

Latin Descent heroes: 0

We still don’t have any casting news for the Flash or Green Lantern so those parts could swing into any category.

Suicide Squad– the term “heroes” for this is pretty nebulous since the whole concept of Suicide Squad is “super villains are the heroes”.

Line up: Deadshot, Joker, Harley Quinn, Rick Flagg, Captain Boomerang, Enchantress, Amanda Waller, Killer Croc, Katana

White male heroes: 3

Female heroes: 4

African Descent heroes: 3 (counting Killer Croc)

Asian Descent heroes: 1

Latin Descent heroes: 0

This line up is by far the most female centric, and the shift of making Will Smith Deadshot pretty good inclusion for African Descent heroes here as well. This film also features Katana, the only Asian Descent hero playing a character whose story is typically that of Asian descent.

I’m not going to draw a lot of conclusions beyond the raw numbers– I’ll leave that to more cognizant authors. Just breaking things down and taking a look at where we stand in getting other than while male characters into the MCU and DCU films.

The Judge and the Spy in the Corridors

Mettel heard the sound of drums on the walls of the castle behind him– the Truth Seeker’s stronghold was under assault.  He skittered forward, along the thin, cramped winding corridor. The secret passage would be a tight fit for a larger person, but Mettel was slight even for a Parua, agile and lithe. He glanced behind him at the Truth Seeker who loped along, clutching the Truth Stone. “This passage leads out?  To where exactly?”

The Dokkaebi Judge ran his clawed fingers through his grayed mustache, “A place wherein we can assuredly exit from this place with the safety of our personages intact.”

“Who, or what do you think is following us?” Mettel asked, hopping forward as Asala bin Qalam stayed a half step behind, his tall shoulders hunched to allow his much taller frame through the corridor.

“I dare not hypothesize as to the identities of our assailants.”

“Heh,” Mettel snorted, “Seems to me that it must be the Rezgari, who else would it be?”

“By your own tale, verified by the Stone the Rezgari are assaulting your tribe at the present.”

“Yes.”

“Then we must assume that the Rezgari are not currently available to threaten violence upon my vestibule.” The Dokkaebi stroked his long white mustache a moment, then nudged Mettel with his toe, “Perambulate rodent.”

Mettel hopped forward, apprehensive, scared more now than before of what might be coming for them. Light streamed into the subterranean corridor through barred windows, solid, safe– no man nor even the smallest Parua could slip through those cracks.

They continued forward in silence for a few dozen steps, then the Judge paused, cocking his head, setting a hand on Mettel’s shoulder, “My auditory senses detect an intruder.”

Mettel turned, looking back– a raven standing in the filtering light, shaking its wings. “Caw!”

Asala bin Qalam pressed the Truth Stone into Mettel’s claws, “Continue to the conclusion of the passageway– I shall follow presently, once this flea ridden creature is dispatched.”

Mettel watched in disbelief as the raven shifted forms, twisting, standing up into a human form. An ebony skinned man dressed in a tattered, moss covered robe, a gnarled staff, gourds hanging from the end.

The Judge unlatched the great scimitar which hung at his waist, turning to face their attacker. Mettel ran, hopping in the four legged lope of his people. He heard talking behind him in a tongue unfamiliar, recognized the Truth Bringer’s voice and that of what must have been the unknown dark skinned man.

Mettel saw light ahead, the end of the tunnel at last, sprinting forward as the sounds behind him changed from speech to the clash of sword and staff. When Mettel burst forth into the light, he stopped, skidding into the ground, pressing his fingers into the sand, tears of relief welling in his eyes, the Truth Stone clutched to his chest.

“Ahem.” Mettel looked up from the dirt to see a smiling human figure looking down at him, olive skinned like the people of the Five Tribes. Beside him a Dokkebi female crouched, snarling, her sharpened teeth glinting in the twilight Sun.

“He has the stone,” the human said, looking back over his shoulder to talk to an unseen figure.

“Excellent,” the voice responded with a sibilant softness, its bearer seeming to glide forward over the sand, “Well, little mouse– you seem to have the most interesting of timing.”

The Ghul Queen smiled down at him, and Mettel gulped.

Album of the Year: 1985-1987

Last time I wrote about my picks for the best (most meaningful to me) albums of the first three years of my life.  Time to continue this strain forward into several more of the years when I was still really damn young, and hence finding this music well after the fact.

Album of the Year: 1985

Big Lizard in My Backyard  The Dead Milkmen– In my early teen years punk rock music was one of the most influential, and one of the bands that my best friend and I spent endless hours listening to was The Dead Milkmen. While Big Lizard doesn’t compare in absolute terms to some other of their work, the bones of what made the Dead Milkmen great are here– simple four chord songs, the singer’s unique (most would call it “bad”) voice, the talking over style, cheeky lyrics, and ridiculous sing along refrains. From the into to “Bitchin Camaro” where they deadpan, “My parent drove it down from the Bahamas/ You’re kidding!/ I must be the Bahamas are islands!” We were hooked.

Runner Up

Frankenchrist Dead Kennedys Jello Biafra’s also unique voice slides across the tracks on the Dead Kennedys’ quintessential effort, hitting the peaks and valleys we all have come to expect from Jello Biafra. Unfortunately most of the album isn’t available on spotify, so my impressions of this album are still mostly filtered through memories from 18 years before. The Dead Kennedys were the darker side to the punk obsession that took hold of me for many years.

Album of the Year: 1986

Please Pet Shop Boys– The Pet Shop Boys are to this day one of my favorite bands. I love many of their albums, and Please is one of their very best. Featuring their biggest hit (“West End Girls”), Please is actually a stand out due to some of the lesser known tracks that it brings. “Suburbia” has barking dogs and police sirens in the refrain as it tears apart suburban culture, “Love Comes Quickly” start with an underpinning of menace that is one of the Pet Shop Boys’ greatest tricks– masking the true emotion of a song beneath a veneer. Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe’s first album perfectly combines innovative song topics, dance rhythms, and 80’s synth into a true masterpiece.

Runner Up

What Do You Know, Deutschland? KMFDM the first album from Germany’s uber long running industrial band gets the nod here because for some reason its the only other album from 1986 that I have listened to all the way through more than once, and lets face it– KMFDM deserves to be on this list somewhere and their best work might have come in years with more competition than 1986. Stripped down compared to come of their later work, What Do You Know still has the key members of the rotating cast in place (Sascha Konietzko and En Esch). That somewhere in my youth my friend group and I were album to have (relatively) intelligent discussions about which members of KMFDM were the best says a lot about the appeal of the group and its kitschy pop-art covers and light industrial sound.

Album of the Year: 1987

The Joshua Tree U2– from the opening swell of “Where the Streets Have No Name” its evident that U2 have put together something transcendent on Joshua Tree. I first listened to this on a vinyl copy I picked up at Goodwill for a quarter. The uplifting power of the ballads here won me over, and I went searching into the by that time expansive U2 catalog looking for more, only to be met with mostly average efforts and nothing that came close to the sublime that Joshua Tree touched, particularly on its first three tracks.

Runner Up

Music For the Masses Depeche Mode– Depeche Mode’s dark, drippy synths and hushed declarations run across this gem from a band that by the mid 90s when I was in High School was considered by my peers to be a joke, lumped in with other 80s bands and a subject of derision. But I was looking for more electronic music, something I was into at the time, and so when I picked up a copy of Music For the Masses for $7 at Capitol Music where my friends and I were perpetually spending our allowance/ paper route money, I found myself entranced, listening to it several times over on a car trip. The album was weirdly sexual in a stark, vivid way I’d never encountered before, and very dark in subject matter and tone.