The Recap: WNBA Week 1

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Week one of the WNBA 2016 is in the books and it’s been pretty amazing already. The slow start from opening day has turned into some pretty intense match-ups by week’s end. There s no denying that these women love this game and lay it out on the floor.  I’m having an awesome time taking my WNBA engagement to a slightly deeper level.  My familiarity with certain players and team dynamics is expanding rapidly. Here are the broad strokes from opening week.

Minnesota Lynx Are Rolling!
The 2015 WNBA champions don’t appear to have lost a step with three wins in the books against fairly strong teams. Then again, when a team has four Olympic players on the roster, there’s a forgone expectation of greatness. Of all the teams I’ve seen, the Lynx are the most cohesive unit with the best chemistry. There’s some great ball movement on the floor, so no one is particularly greedy. Moore is a great slasher and spot up shooter who drop daggers effortlessly. But watching Whalen run point is captivating. Fowles and Augustus work well off each other in the post. Even their bench has solid contributors. They’re easily the best team in the league at the moment. They’re starting 4 put up double digits in scoring….EACH! Part of me just wants to see how far they can take this run without the distraction of the Rio games.

Mercury Retrograde
And then we come to the Phoenix Mercury sitting at a surprising 0-3. This is a team that won the 2014 title and run to the conference finals (without Diana Taurasi) last year. But with Taurasi’s return, the team dynamic seems off kilter kicking off this season. The build up miscues in transition play is costing them, in particular, late in games. Tossing out the game against the Lynx; they should’ve won at least one, if not both, of their other games. This is especially true considering the Mercury held the lead for most of those games. Yet, through a series of mistakes, they lose in the end. The Seattle game was essentially their’s until the Storm rallied back leading up to Jewell Loyd’s buzzer-beater. This is a good a team but they have some bad juju working against them.

A Strom’s Brewin’…….At Some Point……Maybe
The Storm have had a pretty rough start to the season. As I expected, Breanna Stewart has been carrying this team on her back. Even with the loses, she’s been truly exceptional in how she’s fitting her way with the Storm. Looking at her splits, she’s clocking a solid 30 minutes a game, averaging close to a double-double (17 PPG / 8 RB’s) and shooting over 50% outside the paint. All this is great, but still amounts to her putting up nearly half of all the Storm’s positive stats. Not to be undone by Stewart’s dominance is the criminally under-rated Jewell Loyd. This 2014 rookie really seems to be off everyone’s radar given how well she stretches the floor. And Sue Bird continue to defy time continuing to put up 90% of career numbers, just flawless.

But after Sue Bird, there’s a significant talent drop. And I don’t mean that as a slight, but the proof is in the numbers. Seattle just doesn’t have the horses to be competitive right now. I’m pretty sure the expectation that the seasoned talents of Monica Wright and Alysha Clark would be a help. Unfortunately, they’ve been pretty non-existent for the most part (not counting Clark’s roaring outing against the Lynx). And the younger guns, Tokashiki, Lewis, Gatling and so on are not solid contributors and struggle in their respective roles. Case in point, the Storm gets killed on defensive rebounds which account for many of the points against them. Just fixing that aspect of their game would be huge. Bottom line, no one is stepping up to fill the void and it’s costing them.

Game of the Week: LA Sparks (93) vs. Chicago Sky (80)
Given the amount of star power on both these teams, it was definitely a one-sided affair with the Sparks running the floor the whole game up until the fourth quarter.  The Candace Parker warpath blazes on dropping an impressive 26 points and 9 rebounds. On the flip side, the Sky’s Elena Delle Donne was strangely ineffective most of the game with Faulkner and Beland doing most of the heavy lifting. While this wasn’t the most exciting game on record, it was the game that demonstrated how well tuned the Sparks are. Their ball movement in transition is a work of perfection. The Sparks are on par with Minnesota for that one seed.

Player of the week: Maya Moore
My words can’t do justice to demonstrate how dominating she’s been this season, just an overall threat anywhere. She’s been a scoring leader (averaging 15 PPG), made short work of all her matchups, and a lockdown defender. I’m already eyeing the matchup between the Lynx and Sparks, Moore vs. Parker. Yes please!

  • Quick Takes
    Emma Meesseman:
    The Mystics are a mess of a team. In spite of this, I like what I’m seeing out of Meesseman. Her numbers are improving year over year leading to her becoming not only a starter but also a 2015 All-Star. Keep her on your radar.
  • Whistle Happy Refs:
    One aspect of the game that’s caught my attention is the insane amount violations called by refs. They’ll blow a whistle for almost anything short of a sneeze. I’ve probably seen more traveling calls in one week of the WNBA than over 5 years of the NBA! Come on people, rein back on the ticky-tacky nonsense and let these players play ball.
  • DraftKings Marketing:
    The juggernaut that id daily fantasy sports (DFS) has spread its tentacles to the WNBA. Over the summer, Draft Kings has entered a marketing partnership with the New York Liberty as their marque partner with the DraftKings logo on Liberty uniforms and shirts. In many other sports, this relationship naturally goes hand-in-hand with one another. In this case however, this seems to be a one-sided affair that’ll benefit DraftKings more the the WNBA. In DraftKings’s favor, it gives them even more brand exposure and market reach. For the WNBA, it’s a generous influx of cash in the short term. But in terms of growing the league and reaching new audiences? Not so much. Adding further insult to this deal, DraftKings doesn’t even offer a WNBA platform for DFS or any game promotions. If there was one caveat to this partnership that could have made some inroads, it would have been the introduction of a trial run of 1-day game contests. This is a squandered opportunity that’s potentially leaving lots of money of the table for both sides.

From the eyeball test, the Sparks and Lynx look like they’re in mid-season form while the rest are trying to figure it out. I got my eye on a few dark-horses, so let’s not over-react about league dominance just yet. Even giants can stumble and fall, the 73 win’s Golden State Warriors can attest to that.

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A First Dive into the WNBA

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Let’s start with a very prominent disclaimer: I am not a professional sports critic or analyst in any sense. I’m just a guy who loves sports and giving my impressions every now and then. The same can be said for a millions of others who have a passion for sports. So why bother reading this when you can get the same content from better established and renowned places? Well, that question is similar to the one the WNBA has been trying to figure out for the past 20 years.

I’ve been a passive supporter of the WNBA (and other women’s sports). I’ve tried to defend their ‘legitimacy’ and call-out any of the ignorant criticisms (poorly, mind you). I even attend games occasionally. Some would say, that alone, would align me somewhat as a “supporter” or “fan”. But that’s not really moving the needle in terms of growing the league. And that presents a contradiction that doesn’t sit  right with me. In an effort to get on a deeper level with the WNBA, I signed up for WNBA league pass and secured tickets to a few more games this season. And I’m blogging and podcasting about this endeavor. And on that note, let’s dive into the opening weekend of games.

League Pass

Before signing up, I was skeptical of League Pass would work given how inexpensive cost ($16 for the entire season). But that skepticism quickly turned to frustration when NONE of the opening day games were available on League Pass, only ESPN3. You’d think that with opening day, 20th anniversary fanfare, new league president, new rule changes, and so; the league would want to make these games as widely available as possible. Nope, many other league pass subscribers found themselves in the same predicament: no live game footage due to blackout restrictions. And yet, there was absolutely zero response from the WNBA support regarding the matter. But that wasn’t the most egregious part of the affair, the Twitter-verse detective discovered the games were available, but only on the Watch ESPN app which is FREE! Now, I’ve worked in social media before; you can’t respond to everyone obviously. But if you’re in a space where you’re struggling to generate interest and keep people engaged; you have to come back with some response to something that was clearly more than an isolated incident. Instead of being profusely apologetic or a generic canned response (an explanation to clear up the confusion or redirect people to the Watch ESPN app), there was nothing but silence. Message to WNBA: This is NOT the way to engage people when you’re coming from behind. Setting that issue aside, I was able to catch up on the other games thanks to the feature allowing subscribers to watch any past game that season.

This is not what I want to see opening day.

Lots of rust, but also a few Sparks

The season will kick off a change in the regular season / playoff format. Time will tell how that plays out. My main focus going into the weekend was to enjoy these games at face value. But for the most part, these games weren’t any different than many other season openers: disjointed and uncoordinated, some flailing limbs, and just plain sloppy. Players are coming off half-hearted, pre-season scrimmages. It’s just the start down the road to figuring out their key lineups and rotations. But there were definitely a few stand-out moments worth mentioning:

  • Minnesota Lynx vs. Phoenix Mercury
    The marque game of the day. The 2015 defending champs didn’t seem to lose a step during the off-season. This was the most sound performance of the weekend. Maya Moore ended the night with a solid double-double. The other stars of this game, Brittney Griner & Diana Taurasi, didn’t fair as well. Taurasi sat out last year to rest up and play overseas (which resulted in leading her team to its third championship), so I was taken back a bit that she was less than 0.500 shooting on some open shots. But the Mercury as a whole fell in with the rest of the league median for the weekend.#Watchmework!
  • Candace Parker #WATCHMEWORK
    One of the most questionable moves leading into this season was Candace Parker being cut from the US team for the Olympic games in Rio. 2 time WNBA champion, 2 time Olympic gold medalist, 3 time WNBA all star , and the list goes on. The decision still makes no sense to this day. But that slight is clearly sitting with her. Watching her play was the highlight of the weekend (dropping the most points of the weekend, 34). The way she stretched the floor and even got physical with Bird and Stewart (both Olympic selectees) was incredible. This was definitely an “F** You” game leaving many wondering how or why she was ever cut. I’m calling it now, Parker will be out for blood this season. And I’m going to witness and savor ever second of it.
  • The Stewart Storm
    As a transplant who’s been living in Seattle, I’ve come to following their sports teams as well. Again, I’m not the most well-versed with this Storm team but looking over this roster and what I gathered from Wikipedia and other sources. This Storm team appears to be a roster of fresh faces, many of whom haven’t been on the team for more than two years. From the looks of it, this is a rebuild will take some time to get going, or if it’ll even work in the first. And after the waxing Parker and Sparks out on them, they’ll need it fast. Enter fout time UConn champion, 2016 WNBA number one draft pick, Breanna Stewart.The amount of pressure and expectations the Storm and the WNBA as a whole have riding on this young rookie is beyond extraordinary. But Stewart is no stranger to rising to the challenging occasions and the spoils of winning. It’s practically all she’s known since her freshman year of high school. And ins many ways, she’s nothing  the NBA or WNBA have ever seen before. So far, she’s handled the whirlwind of fame and media scrutiny with a surprising amount of humility and focus. But for all of Stewart’s success, she’s had a strong cast of players working with her. Her Sunday debut, while impressive, was met with a sizable lose. Losing is not something Stewart is familiar with. And from the looks of it, the Storm could likely eat more “L’s” during this rebuilding period. So it’ll be interesting to see how this will affect her development in the league and with the Storm. Fellow UConn alum Sue Bird should prove to be a solid mentor in dealing with these kind of hardships. I can’t imagine how jarring it is to transition from a long, established culture of winning to an organization that’s in flux in a city that doesn’t turn out to support their team. All the endorsements and cash in the world usually can’t repair that kind of psychic trauma for atheletes wired like Stewart. Regardless, watching it all unfold will be great

Looking Forward

As stated the earlier, these games were mostly just warm-ups. But the things will get in gear soon given the short season. Also worth considering is how things will pan out with key players taking off for the the Rio games, not to mention the playoff format adjustments, etc. For now, I’ll close with some minor predictions, questions, and quick takes:

  • If the Storm keep shouldering her the majority of work, Breanna Stewart will be the unanimous Rookie of the Year without question. But will it actually help elevate the Storm to being a formidable threat again is the question.
  • The LA Sparks will be a force to be reckoned with under Brian Agler. The fury of Candace Parker will at least take them to another conference final if not the finals.
  • Shoni  Schimmel: The general consensus is that Schimmel was traded after coming to training camp out of shape for the second year in a row.  This isn’t uncommon for most athletes for any sports real.  These type of players generally play themselves into shape over the course of the season. And that’s exactly what she did, becoming one of the league’s All-Stars for two seasons. Cutting bait with a key role player like her seems very suspect. Speaking of which…
  • With so many key players leaving for Rio, how will teams make adjustments to competitive?
  • And lastly, how will my hometown Chicago Sky fair? Looking at the past few seasons, the Sky have been a top tier team during the Pokey Chatman era and thanks to Elena Delle Donne (who was inactive this weekend due to ‘illness’). Hopefully they’ll overcome their demons escaping the playoff berth puling into either of the finals again.

The NBA is in full swing with now with some great match-ups with this historic Golden State team against the reinvigorated OKC Thunder with Cleveland just waiting in the wings for the final showdown. But do yourself a favor and  squeeze in some time for these WNBA games. You may be surprised at how entertained and involved it is. If you don’t believe me; listen to the man himself, Draymond Green.

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Learning to Let Go

I never asked much out of this life. It’s not as though I expect to get everything I want. Despite that, it’s still a tough lesson for me to deal with especially in regards to relationships. And lately, it’s something I’m having to deal with in spades. But the reality of the matter is, I’m more disappointed n myself for not being able to handle the rejection and reality of the matter, even though I know better. Regardless of whatever happens in a relationship, I try to pride myself on not being a selfish person. But i have noticed when things haven’t gone in a direction I want, I can hold some resentment and hurt. This is a natural response but holding onto it is not natural, well it’s not healthy anyhow.  I think the worst thing people can do is remain in relationships in which they aren’t suited for each other. Yet people do it for numerous reasons, many of which don’t make sense or aren’t entirely valid. In the case of children, it’s especially harmful and children can pick up on that toxicity. That said, I really do wish that my former partners are happier, even if it isn’t with me.  My moody, stoic demeanor may say otherwise, but I really do. I suppose what really perplexes me is how easily other seem to move on. Part of me feels a bit resentful of how it appears so easily some people are able to move on, as if the time together is a relief to be over with. I suppose that is what hurts the most in some ways; because when the situation were reversed, they have no visceral reaction or apparent feeling as I do.  But on the plus side, I am able t recognize these things as learning experiences and thankful for time. And more over, there are no hard feelings or resentments.  So yea, maybe it does take me a bit more time to lick my wounds as opposed to others but I still manage to learn and get by. And quite honestly, I can’t complain about that.

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Life in Ephemeral Moments

Continuing on with this theme of social media and moreover, life and technology today. All of these enhancements have made our daily lives that much more easier, that much more entertaining, and that much more…constricted. Bear with me. In the world we live in today, so many people spend so much time micromanaging their time through social media outlets or outlook calendars, they sometimes miss out on being present in the moment.  Or even more shocking, these outlets become a giant timesink where nothing ever gets accomplished due to arguing with random strangers on the internet or getting lost in Wikipedia / Cracked articles.

I find it interesting how our perception of time has changed over the generations and how we handle life moments. It seems we’re moving further and further into a space where everything just shy of  (or in some cases does) intimate moments.  There’s always a mobile phone somewhere ready to record and upload anything. That or someone’s always on the run barely ever taking a moment to take in the air and smell the roses. It’s kind of scary. Being that way appears to be very disconnected, superficial, and not fully aware of how significant certain moments can be.  Or sometimes, you just need to be unplugged from the world.

For example, I’ve taken up more hiking and camping this summer.  When I’m out there, I cut my phone off.  Same for when I go to the gym: no phone, tablet, or any of that stuff.  It’s just one big distraction nor does help me focus personally.  And most importantly, when I’m with my son. I may take a photo or two at the request of his mom. But for the most part, I want my attention to be on him and having fun together.  I want to be in the moment with him. I hope he comes to have this same kind of appreciation within his own life. Life’s too short to be a slave to your precious work / life balance and back to back meetings, or stopping to virtually record everything.  Sometimes you just gotta drop what you’re doing and take in the air from time to time.  Otherwise, you’ll be that much closer to grave and have nothing to show for it other than a collection of photos and videos you hardly ever looked at again.  Seize your lives today people, seize your lives.

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Is Facebook or Twitter Worth Paying for?

Facebook and Twitter are estimated to be worth roughly $30 billion combined. That is a ridiculous amount of value for companies that provide what essentially appears to be a free service.  So just how do these billion dollar behemoths actually make money?  Well  it’s quite simple: advertising.  Companies and governments alike are practically tripping over themselves to secure an established foothold in the landscape. Given their breadth of services and ways to spread information so immediately and connect people together is priceless. But sometimes that kind of power comes at a price. Rumors and breaking news spreads so fast that it’s not uncommon for things to be missed in translation or people to feel duped over trivial market research / science experiments.

Among the biggest complaints that’s continuing to hound Facebook and Twitter is the increased amount of advertisement placements. However, when you think about it, this was bound to happen if these companies are adamant in keeping the service free. It’s basic economics: as the breadth of services and features increase, they’ll need more capital to sustain them and for continued growth. But let’s consider for a moment if they introduced a subscription based service to users. This isn’t an entirely foreign concept. LinkedIn has followed this route. They’ve drastically scaled back many of their extra features are now broken out on a tier based subscription basis.  Free users are left with just enough of the core features to make it worth holding on to your account.

I could see Facebook and Twitter following a similar route. The major difference being paid users would no longer see any ad placements, promoted tweets or spots in their timeline, etc.  Free users, on the other hand, would need to tolerate more ad placements and probably some scaled back messaging / communication reach.  Given how some people utilize Facebook, this may actually be worth their time. More over, advertisers could incentivize people based on the subscription status (further discounts, access to sneak peaks, etc.). It’s definitely an idea that’s at the very least being discussed and put through the paces on smaller scale affiliates before deciding if a mass rollout is viable.  So are these services worth paying? I guess it really depends on the user and their needs. But given the ease of scrutiny to follow one’s digital footpath, it may be better to cut bait sooner rather than later.

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My Cynical Dalliance with Social Media

Compared to many of my peers, my digital footprint is relatively large but my engagement has been minimal.  It’s a gift and curse in some ways.  On the one hand, it’s great to be connected to some of the venues as they can be a great source of valuable information immediately. But on the other hand, social media can be relentlessly malicious and ruin entire careers, let alone, someone’s life. It’s as though people lay in wait to public shame someone the first chance they get; however, this can often lead to them being reversed shamed themselves. In any case, we’ve all heard the countless stories of someone losing their job, marriage, or even their life due to some altercation involving Facebook, Twitter, etc.  To be honest, sometimes, it doesn’t shock me. In fact, I find incredibly bewildering that so many people become outraged when they hear companies such as Facebook, Google, etc. are monetizing via their data collection and surveying. It’s these very same people that more often than not, share of their life’s most intimate and personal details that are better left offline in the first place. It’s not so much ironic as it is hypocritical or flat out idiotic.  But I get it. People use social media in many different ways or whatever suits their needs.

For me, getting involved in it was purely a way for me to network with people in the industry I wanted to become part of.  And for the most part, it worked. I did end up meeting a lot of outstanding and like minded people.  But in hindsight, I do believe I spent far too much time than I cared for trying to network in certain circles than I cared to or even needed to.  But it didn’t land me my ultimate goal of landing the coveted dream job I had my eye on.  So again, it was a gift and a curse scenario; I met a ton of cool people but not the job.  Not to say I have any regrets about it. Because I’d much rather choose the friendships I picked up over the career job any day.  But as life progressed, my life’s goal have progressed and altered as well.  Now I really don’t have the time or desire to stay as connected to the world of places like Facebook and Twitter so much.  Time constraint aside, I’d rather be meeting and engaging with people in person or hanging out with my son.  The experience and joy you get from having a good time with friends and feeling will always trump any amount of likes and retweets someone gets, hands down.

I really have no stance on the issue other than what I know works for me. Many of peers work in customer facing roles, so it’s pretty critical for them to stay connected on a somewhat constant basis. And part me is jealous about that. Think how awesome (& grueling) it would be to get paid for spending 25%-50% of your day just doing Facebook / Twitter. It sounds like a great on the surface, but from a practical, everyday perspective; it’s a real grind, especially if you want to stay genuine. Not to mention how someone draws the line between their personal and professional engagements. That’s a headache I’d rather avoid altogether.  In any case, like many things in life, the power of social media more often than not is only as strong as the power you give. Yes, there are those occasional embarrassing moments that go viral, it happens. But do yourself (and your dignity) a favor by taking a moment think about that witty comment or peculiar picture / video you were gonna post.  Sometimes it’s better to let life happen in the moment and not try to capture it for the world to see.

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I’m So Chicago…

As often with Facebook, there’s been this trending post of “I’m so Chicago…” where people who’ve grown up in Chicago recall some of their on personal memories.  Most of these are generally revolved around defunct establishments (such as Funtown, Jew Town, etc.) or monumental periods in our history such as the 85 Bears or the Chicago Bulls Dynasty of the 90’s. After reading through some of the posts, I couldn’t help but feel a bit reminiscent for my hometown.  And that’s a really foreign feeling for me.

I haven’t been home to Chicago in over 12 years.  for reasons not delving into, going back home never appealed to me.  Not that I had a horrible childhood or anything, but I couldn’t e wait to get out of there.  In fact, I never really understood the whole idea of living your entire life in the same area you grew up in. I understand that’s how it works for many people but it never suited me.  Once I left, I never looked back til now. Sure, I miss my family, but they’ve always made it a point to visit me everywhere for the holidays. But the lousy hot and humid weather, the subzero winters, the immense crime, and  all that other nonsense. Yea, I have yet to have any reservations about leaving.

For the first time in a long time, these posts has a guy thinking back on all those moments growing up there. I’ve been talking about going home many times the past few years, but never made the trip for one reason or another. But one thing is for sure, it is long overdue. There’s too many places I need to so and people I’d love to reconnect with that doesn’t require Facebook or any other form of virtual communication. For all intents and purposes, Seattle is my home now. But Seattle and the PNW in general that sense of regional pride or connectivity. There’s a more superficial esthetic here.  It’s missing that sense of unitedness within the city. Regardless, Seattle is a lovely city that fits me and the direction my life is going. But Chicago is always going to be a very strong part of my identity. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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