The 2016-2017 NBA Preseason is over, and the final standings are in. What do we know? What are we excited about? Basketball! That’s what.
The rich get richer
Of all the storylines to follow during the off- and preseason, let’s address one thing right off the bat: Cleveland and GSW seem destined – now more than ever – to meet each other again in the NBA Finals, making them the first teams to meet in three consecutive finals. It’s a long time until June, but this seems the only logical outcome if you look at the field.
Kevin Durant signing with Golden State turned both him and the team into villains, and they will embrace this role, score a ton of threes and win 65+ games again this season. People were afraid of how they would integrate KD into their offense, but after a 6-1 preseason, we should be confident they’ll figure it out. Their bench took quite a hit, but they kept the crucial Andre Iguodala and coach Steve Kerr will work his magic on rotations.
Cleveland also kept the band together, with the big three all returning (which might not have happened had they lost in the finals), as well as Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and adding some nice pieces like Mike Dunleavy. But even if they just had one player, they would probably still come out of the east. LeBron James seems destined to remain the Final Boss of the East, and might even be motivated enough to go for a fifth regular-season MVP trophy.
The result is the continuation of a great rivalry, with some new flavor added to it.
They grow up so fast
Apart from the top dogs, one of the main reasons to look forward to this season is the teams whose young cores are looking to take a huge leap forward. Of these, Utah is almost guaranteed to do so under Quin Snyder. Their players are healthy and have improved year after year, they play solid defense and they also added a solid veteran in Joe Johnson.
The Milwaukee Bucks will prove to be very entertaining to watch with the growth of point guard/forward Gianni Antetekounpo and Jabari Parker. Adding Matthew Dellavedova (maybe not the best, but certainly one of my favourite point guards in the league) is a nice bonus.
But even more appealing are the two teams I detailed below.
Teams To Watch Every season I pick one team in the east and one team in the west to watch. These teams follow a certain magic formula which make them especially appealing for the fans:
They are unselfish and share the basketball.
They have a great coach
They are developing young talent
They will improve (sometimes significantly) throughout the season
They will win more games than last season
They are exciting to watch
This season I’m picking the Boston Celtics in the east. They had a great offseason in which they added Al Horford to a young but talented core who continue to improve. Their coach is Brad Stevens who has managed to impress from his first days in the league. The Starters even tip him to win coach of the year, and I tend to agree. The Celtics are exciting to watch with Isaiah Thomas being one of my favourite point guards not just in the league right now, but all-time. Gerald Greene is very entertaining with both highlight dunks and his ability to get scorching hot on outside shooting. Jaylen Brown could be a dark horse for Rookie of the Year. What was really inspiring to see is how good the team atmosphere was during preseason. Every dunk was met by even better reactions from the bench. The fact that they had the best record in the east during preseason doesn’t mean anything, but it’s a nice bonus.
In the west there can be no doubt of who I pick. It’s only a matter of time before the Timberpups grow into the Timberwolves and end the longest streak of playoff-drought in the league. I believe Tom Thibodeau has the potential to be a great coach. People sometimes still paint him as a defensive specialist and knock him for his overuse of his starters and the top of his bench. While those things are true, I believe he will improve Minnesota almost immediately and as long as he watches out for overusing players he might get them back into the playoffs. If not this year, then certainly next year. The Timberwolves dismantled the Memphis Grizzlies during preseason, who – while maybe not a top-tier team – are definitely solid with some big stars like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. They also utterly trashed the Charlotte Hornets. Let’s see if they can produce results during the actual season, versus tougher competition.
A list of things to look forward to this year (in no particular order)
– Both GSW rivalries: the villain rivalry with the LA Clippers and the Finals rivalry with the Cavs.
– Seeing KD play for the Dubs
– Jeremy Lin playing in New York again (albeit for the Brook-Lin Nets this time)
– The Lakers being fun to watch again with Russel, Ingram, Clarkson, Randle and Black
– Trust The Process; Joel Embiid is going to be great. He’s technically still a rookie, so it’s great to see his preseason tussle with Detroit’s Andre Drummond. He responded through his play, and showed he doesn’t back down from anyone. It will be exciting to watch someone with his combination of size, skillset and spirit.
– Boston’s Jaylen Brown
– BKN-NYK might actually become a nice in-town rivalry
– Russel Westbrook has been completely unleashed in OKC and Steven Adams continues to improve, which makes for a great combo.
– Defensive highlights from the Orlando Magic
– The old guy show in Chicago
– The Perpetual Drama in Sacramento
– Blake Griffin is a superstar (look at the handles and drop-off at 1:05)
– Miles Turner being the second best player on the Pacers
How the pros prep for the season One of the best parts of the NBA season revving back up to full speed is The Starters Season Preview: 72 Burning Questions. Skeets, Tas, Leigh and Trey cover everything and then some in a 9-part YouTube epic. I embedded Part 1 below and you will find links to the other parts below the video.
Below you can find an assignment I wrote for the course ‘Design and Development of Games for Learning‘. I had to design a curriculum using an existing game. As a huge fan of the puzzle/platformer Limbo, I chose to design a lesson plan teaching the concept of gravity and acceleration in an introductory level physics class
The students are aged between 11 and 13, with the majority being around 12 years old. They are currently in the first year of the first cycle of secondary education of middle school1. They consist of both boys and girls. The students come from a variety of backgrounds, with large differences in socioeconomic status (or SES)2, which includes a.o. parent income and level of parent education3. The students are quite outspoken, both in their expectations about the learning process as well as in giving feedback when something meets or doesn’t meet those expectations.
The student should have a multifaceted understanding of the concept gravity and the acceleration of bodies. Apart from remembering the definition which they will only be told at the very end of the class, they should know what gravity looks like and feels like, as well as what the absence of gravity looks and feels like.
After an introductory round of questions including “What happens if I let go of this pen?” or “Will the pen also fall if I’m in space?”, students are asked to move to computers in pairs and start the Limbo level that incorporates gravity puzzles. They have been given no direct instruction on the term gravity or acceleration. The pairs of students discuss on how to proceed through the level, with one of the students taking the controls. Students have to switch if the avatar dies, so each gets their turn experiencing the pull of gravity. After all students have spent some time on the game and everybody has proceeded at least partly through the level, class is reassembled and one pupil is asked to move the avatar, which is being projected on the blackboard. He doesn’t get to make his own instructions but can only follow the instructions of the other pupils4.
In order to achieve this, the students will use a level in the platform/puzzle game Limbo5 about shifting gravity to solve increasingly difficult puzzles that highlight what happens if gravity were altered in some way (e.g. by inverting it). Usually these alterations are temporary, and objects that were suspended in the air, or stuck against a ceiling fall down again when gravity resumes its normal form. The goal of the game is to manoeuvre a character through the level and reach the end without dying (quite horribly). Because this is a goal-driven, problem space where you are emotionally attached to your avatar but failure isn’t met with severe consequences (if you fail you die, but you instantly respawn close to where you were and you have infinite lives) this is an ideal way for students to come to a deep understanding of the concept gravity and the acceleration of bodies because they get visual feedback and are able to draw on previous experiences to predict what will happen when they proceed to act in a certain way.
This is a lesson plan for a school context, more specifically a classroom that has at least one computer for every two students. While a short part of the game is played in class, the students can continue playing it at home on multiple platforms, and discuss some other concepts which will return later on during the semester (magnetism).
1For more details on the structure of the Belgian school system, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Belgium#Secondary_education
3More specifically, maternal test score appears to be a crucial factor in students’ performance. Crane, Jonathan: Effects of Home Environment, SES, and Maternal Test Scores on Mathematics Achievement in The Journal of Educational Research, vol.89, issue 5, 1996
4If this gets too rowdy, have only pupils who raise their hand give instructions.
Like so many others before me, this was my introduction to CrossFit. Intrigued, I browsed the web to find some more information. So what is this CrossFit business, you ask? According to wikipedia it is
Promoted as both a physical exercise philosophy and also as a competitive fitness sport, CrossFit workouts incorporate elements from high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, powerlifting, gymnastics, calisthenics, strongman, and other exercises. It is practiced by individuals who complete daily workouts (otherwise known as “WODs” or “workouts of the day”).
I enrolled in a local gym and started training there. A couple of things one notices right off the bat: CrossFit mainly consists of group classes. There is always a certified coach present who teaches you the movements and helps you throughout a workout. The coaches at our box (the name for a CrossFit gym) are all very friendly and they know what they are talking about. Newbies like myself are not allowed to jump into regular training when starting out, but have to complete 6 intro classes to learn all the basics of air squatting, deadlift, front squat, ring rows, wall balls and other movements that are often used in normal classes. Special attention is paid to people with current or previous injuries and more often than not, people got individually altered exercises to alleviate stress on parts of their body that have been injured or are stressed. CrossFit has a pretty bad reputation as far as both form of execution and injuries is concerned, but at least for my box this is simply not true. I feel very safe , especially because all coaches let new people work out with broomsticks instead of barbells to get the movements just right. Only once you have correct posture are you allowed to move on to barbells and actual weightlifting.
After I had completed the six intro classes, I moved on to regular classes, or WODs (workout of the day). These have proven to be immensely fun, while often also quite challenging.
Constantly varied? Yes
Workouts are indeed constantly varied: throughout the course of one year you would normally not do the same workout twice. Some of the components of a workout come back: like squats, pushups, pullups, etc, but they’re always combined in different ways. I’ve noticed I’m always pretty excited to check crossfit.com to see what madness they have in store for me today.
Functional Movements? Yes and no
One thing you notice when walking into a CrossFit gym is that while there are some machines here and there, most people are working with their own body. Most movements are composite movements that require core strength and use many different parts of the body at once. The burpee, pull-up and handstand come to mind as nice examples of this. As real-life activities also require you to move in this way, it’s normal to train in this way. But while I use squats on a daily basis to pick things up and reach the mugs hidden in the bottom of kitchen cupboard, I wonder how often I do some of these other movements in real life. Of course things like deadlifts and snatches help with picking things up, but I feel like they’re mainly practice for doing heavier deadlifts and snatches. But then again, I like doing deadlifts and snatches, so no complaints here.
High intensity? Yes, but…
The high-intensity part is definitely true: workouts feel more like sprinting than going for a 10k run. Which brings me to my own practice: I have kept running on days I didn’t go the box, and I wouldn’t just throw out all other activities you do just yet. As you start out, your body simply isn’t ready to do WODs every single day. You need rest days every other day. In my case, that meant having to go for runs 2-3 times a week for weight control. As you get more experienced you can start going more often, until you reach the goal of working out every day. But even then I feel like CrossFit is mainly weight training in short bursts, and benefits from being complemented with running longer distances every now and then. In all fairness, one of the WODs I have done simply stated “run 10k”. Based on the low attendance that day and the way some of our regulars struggled with running I would say running on your own every now and again is probably a good idea.
Cold hard Cash
When shopping around for a place to train, it seemed like membership for a box is around 4 times the fees one would pay at a traditional gym. I have been quite willing to fork over these high fees, because if it allows me to have a skillful coach correcting my movements so I don’t injure myself, it is money well spent.
I had never thought of myself as someone who would go to a gym on a daily basis, but that’s exactly where I’m headed. I’ve really enjoyed the classes, met interesting people and am amazed at how much fun I’m having. I love being somewhat competitive (understatement of the week), and this sport allows me to challenge myself on a daily basis.
These assignments are my personal answers for writing assignments in the courses I’m currently enrolled in or have already completed. I will not post assignments that contain answers which can be copied for assessment. The assignments listed here were mostly also posted on the course forums.
I recently started recording some of my gameplay and began uploading this to plays.tv. You can find my channel here. Right now most of the content is League of Legends videos from ARAMs, rotating queue or weird/dumb strategies in normals with friends.
To celebrate: a disgusting Karthus ult to the face on Howling Abyss.