It’s Lonely At The Top

NBA: Kevin Durant-MVP Press Conference

Most NBA teams have their media day either this weekend or on Monday so the 2014-15 NBA is officially on the cusp of starting.

After a thrilling summer which saw LeBron James bolt South Beach, Kevin Love got his wish and was traded from Minnesota and a handful of young players are poised to enter the NBA after one of the deepest NBA Drafts in recent memory, fans can soon start to watch their favorite players and teams show their worth on the court.

There are plenty of story lines to track and plenty of fun teams and players to track this season. And, if you need some help getting a grasp on how the NBA landscape has changed over the summer, there are sites you can go to for your free NBA picks.

Still, despite the flurry of roster moves this summer, there are only a handful of teams that have legit chances to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy this coming June.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are the sexy pick to win it all after adding LeBron James and Kevin Love while not needing to trade Kyrie Irving.

James is arguably the top player in the NBA while Love posted monster numbers last season and is arguably the top big man in the NBA.

Irving was named MVP of the All-Star game last season and this summer he put on an impressive performance leading America to a gold medal at the World Championships in Spain.

Still, despite having a roster built around three all-stars, the Cleveland Cavaliers will have issues protecting the rim and getting key defensive stops with the roster as currently constructed. Teams aren’t able to win championships by playing games like video games where they just need to outscore opponents.

The Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards are all one (or two) injuries away from having their seasons decimated.

It’s lonely at the top, and it appears once again the Eastern Conference likely won’t have any teams that can truly threaten the big boys in the Western Conference.

And from the Western Conference, it looks as though the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers are the only teams who can truly compete for a championship this season.

The Spurs are reigning champs, but it’s only a matter of time before Tim Duncan starts showing his age. Another question mark for the Spurs is if Tony Parker can stay healthy for a full season and extended run into the playoffs.

Oklahoma City is lurking as the alpha dogs in a stacked Western Conference. If Russell Westbrook can stay healthy and Serge Ibaka can take another leap forward, the Thunder will probably earn the top seed in the West.

Oh, and they also have Kevin Durant who is the current MVP of the NBA.

But like any NBA season, it’s a battle of attrition and unfortunately injuries will play a huge role in determining what team is the last one standing.

Personally, my money’s on the Thunder.

Ryan Anderson And Kyle Korver Show Their Support For “To Write Love On Her Arms”

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To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) recently launched their “No One Else Can Play Your Part” campaign in conjunction with National Suicide Prevention Week (9.8-9.14) and World Suicide Prevention Day (9.10).

The goal of the campaign, according to founder Jamie Tworkowski, is to tell people “that their life matters, and their story is significant.”

NBA players Kyle Korver and Ryan Anderson have already joined by posting pictures on social media wearing the t-shirt.

Yao Ming The Philanthropist Wants More Freedom To Spend

Jonah M. Kessel / China Daily

Peter S. Goodman
Displayed with permission from International Business Times

TIANJIN, China – Yao Ming thinks China needs more freedom — at least in one regard. The former NBA basketball star complained here on Thursday that his charitable foundation is hampered by Chinese rules limiting to 10 percent the share of contributions that can go toward expenses such as salaries for executives, office space and travel.

He contrasts those strictures to the rules that apply in the United States. “They have more freedom,” he said, during an appearance at the World Economic Forum. “They can set up their own rules and principles for donations.”

In China, “the government regulations are quite tight,” Yao added. “We don’t have enough flexibility.” As a result, he said, his foundation “can’t recruit the most excellent people.” He carefully added, grinning: “It doesn’t mean the people we have aren’t excellent.”

Americans may be surprised to hear their relatively liberal mode of philanthropy held up as a model. Major charitable efforts have come under scrutiny for reportedly spending more than half of their contributions on expenses.

Yao’s comments drew looks of mild surprise from a room full of Chinese and foreign fans, many of whom used smartphones to take pictures in brazen — and delighted — disregard of multiple announcements forbidding photos.

Known globally as China’s breakout basketball sensation, the statuesque Yao — all seven-foot-six of him — has long served as a de facto Chinese cultural ambassador. He also occupies a seat in the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, not traditionally a place for decrying lack of freedom in the Middle Kingdom.

But, as he reflected on his years in the United States, where he anchored the Houston Rockets basketball team for parts of eight seasons, and where he still counts numerous friends, Yao said that Americans enjoy an edge when it comes to philanthropy.

The nonprofit Yao Ming Foundation was launched in 2008 following the catastrophic earthquake in Sichuan province, in southwestern China. Under Yao’s guidance, his foundation has subsequently devoted funds to rebuilding schools in the affected area.

Yao has also led high-profile conservation campaigns, traveling to Africa to decry the killing of elephants for ivory that has flowed in large part to China.

“I was shocked by feelings I could not carry back with the photographs,” he said here, as he recalled a visit to an elephant orphanage where he encountered a 10-day-old baby whose mother had been killed in the ivory harvest.

Yao has also urged Chinese consumers to eschew shark’s fin soup in response to overfishing and has helped raise funds to spread awareness of HIV/AIDS.

Yao’s protestations about the limits on the spending of foundation contributions presented an apparent contrast to the spirit of charity advertised on his website, which notes that he and his wife, Ye Li, “have committed to paying the Foundation’s administrative costs so that 100% of any contribution from the public is directed to the charitable cause.”

“What we lack is flexibility,” he said Thursday. “We all want to hire people with the highest expertise, but we have no ability to recruit the top people.”