Monthly Archives: October 2015

NBA Non-Preview

I didn’t do my NBA preview columns this year like I did last year. They weren’t super popular, and though I enjoyed stretching my sports analysis muscles, other sources just do them better.

That said, I need to get my official predictions down. I know a few games are in the books, but those aren’t really factored in here, and day two of the season is an acceptable time to make season end predictions!

East Playoff Teams

(In from 1st seed to 8th)

1.  Atlanta Hawks– #spureast will repeat as the 1 seed.

2.  Chicago Bulls– they have the talent and hopefully the health.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers– Lebron does not care about the regular season.

4. Washington Wizards– Wall puts it all together and moving mad-man Nene to the bench can’t hurt.

5. Miami Heat– the Heat fulfill their destiny; D. Wade has always been just good enough to lose in the first round in a 4-5 matchup.

6. Milwaukee Bucks– Bucks manage to repeat last year.

7. Toronto Raptors– last year’s success was more a lack of competition than true sucess.

8. Boston Celtics– they really shouldn’t bother, but probably will.

The Lottery: (In no particular order)

Indiana Pacers– no big man; Paul George is back, but that guy needs to play the 3.

Charlotte Hornets– I like some of their pieces, but I cannot see a team with Cody Zeller, Frank the Tank, Spencer Hawes, and Psycho T  making the playoffs. MKG being out is the nail in the Hornet’s coffin, but damn MJ can’t draft! Frank the Tank? Really? When you already have Cody Zeller and Spencer Hawes, and AL Jefferson?

New York Knicks– they added good pieces. Like real, actual, professional NBA players. But unless Porzingas is way ahead of schedule they are out this year. Give him 2-3 years and we will talk.

Brooklyn Nets– how do you say “dumpster fire” in Russian?

Detroit Pistons– might eek out that meaningless 8 seed, but this team is missing pieces. Andre Drummond is not as good as 09 Dwight Howard. (And 09 Dwight Howard wasn’t even that good. . . to think for a minute we were comparing him toe Shaq?)

Orlando Magic– way ahead of schedule. Check back in 2017 when these rookies grow up.

East Playoffs

Round 1:

Hawks bounce Celtics in 7; Bulls over Raptors in 6; Cavs sweep Bucks; Wizards beat Heat in 6.

Round 2: 

Hawks over Wizards in 6; Cavs over Bulls in 7

Eastern Conference Finals

Cavs over Hawks in 6

West Playoff Teams

1.  San Antonio Spurs– really good team that added the best free agent and a top 20 player? Yes please.

2. Golden State Warriors– still really good; just not historically so.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder- if they are smart, they won’t overplay their returning stars.

4. Memphis Grizzlies– Z-Bo has a few years left in him and Baby Bro Gasal is better than 09 Dwight Howard.

5.  LA Clippers– Doc’s squad has a bench this year; but this is still the west.

6. New Orleans Pelicans– Anthony Davis for MVP campaign pending.

7. Houston Rockets– last year’s three seed involved a lot of luck, and I don’t trust Dwight to be healthy for two straight years.

8. Minnesota Timberwolves– its too early for Wiggans and the Big KAT and too late for KG, but the “do it for Flip” potential is strong, and I don’t believe in any of the other possible 8 seeds.

The Lottery

LA Lakers– did I say dumpster fire yet?  Because this is another one if I did. . .

Phoenix Suns– no play, and now no players. Suns go back to the rebuild machine.

Sacramento Kings– #freeboogie

Dallas Mavericks– Dirk can’t drag the team along by himself.

Utah Jazz– they still lack a single convincing perimeter player.

Portland Trailblazers– You don’t lose four all stars including an MVP candidate and still make the playoffs.  Good thing the Blazers own all their picks, because Dame Lillard needs some backup.

Denver Nuggets– how many times do I need to say “dumpster fire”?

West Playoffs

Round 1:

Spurs over Wolves in 5; Warriors beat Rockets in 6; OKC sweeps the Pelicans; Clippers over Grizzlies in 7

Round 2: 

Spurs over Clippers in 6; Warriors over OKC in 6

Round 3:

Spurs over Warriors in 7.

NBA Finals:

Spurs beat the Cavs in 6.

Finals MVP: LaMarcus Aldridge

Regular Season Awards:

MVP: Kevin Durant

Coach of the Year: Greg Popovich

Executive of the Year: Doc Rivers (Since they can’t give it to Blake Griffin’s chair).

Most Improved Player: Terrence Jones

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The Arrow-verse Show’s Its Racist Streak

The DC TV Universe (the Arrow-verse if you will) features two, and soon to be three shows has been on a hot streak. Arrow is going strong in season four, the Flash is a hit, and later this year Heroes of Tomorrow will come on.  Additionally, up till now, they have done a great job of introducing minority characters.

Arrow has John Diggle as a primary character, and featured Katana last year. Arrow smartly race shifted Iris West (and her Dad) to add diversity to the cast, and also has Cisco Ramon aka Vibe to bring a Hispanic character into the main cast as well.

I just spent two paragraphs praising these two shows and the characters which they’ve brought in already, and last night’s episode of the Flash actually does expand the diversity of the cast by adding an African American half to Firestorm (I refuse to write F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. ever again after this.)

There is a catch though.

The character we get here is Jefferson “Jax” Jackson, a former high school football player who had his knee destroyed by the particle accelerator. This is where the racist streak comes in.

A little back story on Firestorm. Originally Firestorm was a merging of physicist Martin Stein and high school quarterback Ronnie Raymond (both white). In more recent years Firestorm has been a merging of former high school quarterback Ronnie Raymond, and super smart science student Jason Rusch (an African American).

So the folks at Warner Brothers have done two things here– first, they swapped Ronnie Raymond who in both the 80’s original Firestorm and the modern Firestorm is an athlete and made him a physicist instead.

Then they have taken the super smart Rusch and replaced him with an athlete– a character they invented out of whole cloth who has never appeared in the comics (and basically co-opted Cyborg’s origin story of bad thing happening at football game he is star athlete of.)

The implication is obvious– white people get to be superheroes because they are smart; black people get to be superheroes because they are athletic.

Yes, they went out of the way to say that Jax was smart, good grades, ect. They blundered through here as well– oh he’s smart, but not smart enough to go to college without a football scholarship. Never mind that the straight A’s and the commensurate ACT or SAT score that comes with that level of intelligence results in academic scholarships which, when combined with federal student aid, can finance college. Jax is black; no football no college.

But you might say, there was also the smart scientist black guy in this episode! So the racist implications can’t be intended, right?  No, quit wrong. The smart, scientist black character immediately turns out to be a villain. If he can’t be Firestorm, he’s going to use his own abilities which he doesn’t have to combine with another person to use strictly for revenge/murder/evil. Hewitt is a caricature at best here, and doesn’t win them any points for seeing beyond stereotype.

We will be seeing a lot of Jax in Heroes of Tomorrow coming up later this year. There is still time for the character to grow out of stereotype mode and to be a fully developed character. I can’t help wondering, however, why the writers felt the need to create a new African American host for Firestorm and leave Jason Rusch, a character with 10 years history in the comics, on the shelf.

September Stack: DCU

I’m desperately late with my September stack article. I’ve been dealing with a serious bout of writer’s block recently, and it struck even deep enough to keep me from reviewing my September DCU books like I usually do. I figure, better late than never though so just a few short weeks before my October stack ships I will bring you September!

Cyborg #3, JLA #4, Justice League #44, and Aquaman #44 were all bumped to next month’s shipment; Catwoman and Deathstroke weren’t added to my pulls on time since I had picked up last month’s issues in shops.

SPOILER ALERT— I am going to assume you’ve read your stack for the month and discuss spoilers.

Again, as always, in order from best to worst:

We Are Robin #4: This issue we ride along with “R-Iko”/ Riko Sheridan. The art mimics the old school 70’s dot coloring which works really well for this issue. R-Iko gets an assist from her idol, Batgirl, and the two have a moment. It was a great issue and it let us in on the world of one of our protagonists. We also get a two page spread in the back that gives us the details on our five (nee 6 including the deceased Troy) Robins, who we will assume are going to be the main characters going forward (Duke Thomas, R-Iko, Dax, Robina, and Dre-B-Robbin).

Grayson #12: This is a really nice character piece that puts Grayson back in Gotham. There is a page with his interaction with each member of the Bat family that feature’s dialogue from the past history of Dick and each character. He meets up with the de-Batmanned Bruce, with Jason, Tim, Damian, and of course Barbara, and then they pull a heist to disable the Spyral tech that scrambles faces. This sets up the reveal of Grayson versus Agent Zero for next issue.

Batman #44: A nice one of story that flashes back into the earlier days of Batman (Bruce’s) crime fighting days. The Jock art here is really nice, and this was a really good self contained story.

Dr. Fate #4: Same great art, and the continued trials of Khallid. Here we find out he intends to anglicize his name as “Kent”, which has the obvious connection to Kent Nelson, the previous Dr. Fate. We then get some good learning as Kent goes on a spirit quest to learn more about his powers. This issue is hurt a bit because the pacing on this book is starting to feel stilted– four issues in and not a lot of action yet. If I were reading this along with 5 and 6 which, presumably, will have the climax and conclusion of this flood storyline in a trade it wouldn’t feel so slow, but at issue four I usually expect a little more. That said, I am in on this book for a lot of reasons.

New Suicide Squad #12: I’m still a little lost on why the squad is where they are and what is going on. The best part of this issue lies in two series of panels with Harley and a group of presumably orphan children. First she entertains them and seems to win their love. Then she kills some guys in front of them and generally horrifies them. The look on her face of confusion is pretty priceless. That said, I am ready for this particular mission to be done and a big old reset to be hit. I won’t lie, I prefer the Squad to solve, or at least explode any given op in fewer issues than this one has taken– particularly since I am not sure who the sides are or what the stakes are.

Midnighter #4: This month feels like its Batman family infested– lots of Batgirl, and lots of Grayson. Might just be the books I read, but we get Grayson guesting here in Midnighter and they team up to take down a club that sells the chance to kill “Vampires”. The vampires are really homeless people who have been infected or bitten or whatever for the express purpose of selling the chance to kill them. Good fight sequences, and some good banter. Not a lot of character development for our hero, but a solid issue.

Robin Son of Batman #4: Robin and Nowhere are in Alexandria (I believe?) hunting for something in a lot pyramid of some sort. Deathstroke shows up, as we knew he would, thinking that Nowhere was her father. Then, Damian buys him off to go away. Yep, Damian just gives him 5 million dollars to not kill them and leave. Strangest solution to a super-hero/super-villain interaction I have ever seen. There is a really nice two page spread with a fight that features Rabin vs. Deathstroke in a series of 8 images of their fight silouette style in the center across both pages. Its one of the best panels from the entire stack and really works.

Secret Six #6: Conclusion to the initial storyline, the gang in fights and takes down Mockingbird/Riddler. A pretty good issue overall, but this story-line needed to be done, and the stuff with Mr. Big/ Ralph Dibney and Sue leaving him for Riddler just isn’t working for me. I like the crew that’s been assembled and I am looking forward to Simone moving these characters forward and giving them some purpose.

Martian Manhunter #4: We see our three Martian Manhunter fragments exploring their abilities. Mr. Biscuits and our FBI agent Manhunter take on the Martian Maneater (a really big ugly Martian thing) while this Arabic agent Martian Manhunter fights some white martians. Her part features what I am assuming is a mental image of the normal J’onn we know asking her things like, “What if you blew them up?” Then she says, “yah, cool” and it happens. I see where this fragments of J’onn’s personality thing is going, but I am not really sure how interesting it is in the end.

Doomed #4: This issue features our friendly neighborhood monster fighting then talking with Wonder Girl. This series has been announced as being cancelled, so now the book is doomed in more ways that one. It was an interesting if strange concept that if we were being honest, probably was never going to last but I am committed through the end of the run. Maybe our guy Reiser can see some use in a team book of some kind and get another chance after he’s more established as a character. More likely, December’s issue 6 will be the last we ever see of Doomed.

Batman Beyond #4: How this book wasn’t announced to be cancelled I am not sure. More fighting Brother Eye in a hopeless future. I feel like I am hate reading this thing almost now. I probably need to just drop it from my future month’s orders.