The NBA Has Plenty of Drama Right Now. But Don’t Forget About the Finals

Now to the basketball game.

Remember basketball? The sport with the dribbling and the passing and defense, in which Stephen Curry buries shots from all impossible angles, and Kawhi Leonard earns comparisons to Michael Jordan with minimal scoffing from a certain generation of fans who hold His Airness in the same regard as any deity? The NBA Finals, between the back-to-back defending champion Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors, who are representing Canada in the championship series for the first time, begin on Thursday.

You might have forgotten about this opening tip, given that all anyone wants to talk about these days, it seems, is the off-court drama involving a bad team that’s decidedly not in the Finals.

You can almost imagine Draymond Green, Golden State’s extremely extroverted forward, waving his hand from Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, as if stranded at sea. “Hello! Hello! Look over here. We’re playing.” He might add an expletive.

But on ESPN Tuesday night, during a program supposedly meant to preview the championship series, former Los Angeles Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson, man of the hour, was responding to an ESPN story in which current and former Lakers employees accused Johnson of bullying behavior during his two-year front office tenure, which ended with his resignation hours before the team’s final game of the regular season. Johnson denied the accusations. But once again, the bureaucratic shenanigans of the Lakers — a franchise that’s won 16 NBA championships, currently employs LeBron James, and is one of the most storied teams in American sports — were stealing all the headlines.

This wasn’t the first time the NBA’s off-court machinations, much of it involving the Lakers, have overshadowed the actual basketball. A little more than a week ago, during the conference finals, Johnson caused a conniption when he declared, during another ESPN interview, that current Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka backstabbed him. (Pelinka, in an attempt to motivate LA’s players, also reportedly fabricated a story about his client Kobe Bryant meeting Heath Ledger for dinner, after Bryant saw The Dark Knight. Bryant, according to Pelinka, wanted to pick Ledger’s brain about his intense preparation to play The Joker. Ledger, however, died six months before the movie’s release. So yeah, the Lakers have some issues.)

Earlier this year, news that New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis had requested a trade, with the Lakers as a possible deal partner, trumped the Super Bowl — the Super Bowl — as a sports TV talking point.

Jerry Seinfeld once joked about one of the oddities of sports fandom: we love athletes when they wear our favorite uniform, then loathe them when they switch jerseys, due to a trade or desertion in free agency. At the end of the day, we’re getting all worked up about laundry.

In the NBA, the laundry beat is red hot.

Which has its benefits. Leagues strive to reach young people in the sped-up digital news cycle. The trades and firings and backstabbing accusations keep basketball in the social media conversation, in effect acting as a marketing tool for the NBA. But the on-court product needs its hype too. NBA Finals ratings have slid a bit the last few seasons, which is largely due to Golden State winning in relatively easy fashion: the Warriors beat Cleveland Cavaliers in five games in 2017, and they swept Cleveland last year. And for the first time since 2010, James isn’t playing in the Finals. With the NBA’s biggest celebrity sitting this one out, will as many fans tune in?

They’ll miss some great basketball if they don’t. The Warriors are the Warriors, always an aesthetically pleasing team that moves without the ball, makes all the right passes, and sinks all the timely shots. The team hasn’t lost a playoff game since Kevin Durant left Game 5 of Golden State’s second round series, against Houston, with a calf injury. Durant’s potential return — he’s out for Game 1 but traveled with the team to Toronto — could mess with Golden State’s winning formula. The offense runs just fine through Curry. But the Warriors have an 8-1 record in NBA Finals games with Durant. He could render them entire unbeatable.

Toronto, however, finished with a better regular season record than Golden State, giving the Raptors home court advantage — something LeBron’s Cavs never enjoyed the past four years. Leonard, who’s averaging 31.2 points per game in these playoffs, might not be as good as Jordan. But he plays like him, with relentless energy on both ends of the floor. His build, his athleticism, his desire to take the big shot all call to mind His Airness.

Leonard’s supporting cast is strong. Kyle Lowry has appeared in five straight All-Star games. Pascal Siakam, a rangy 6’9″ forward, had a breakout year; he’s a finalist for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Big-man Marc Gasol, who arrived in Toronto via a mid-season trade, might not be putting up the type of All-Star numbers we once saw in Memphis. But he’s a still a talented veteran hungry for his first title. Off the bench, Fred VanVleet found his shooting touch in the conference finals against Milwaukee.

Today’s NBA is obsessed with “load management” — the hip term for managing a player’s minutes to prevent fatigue. Toronto coach Nick Nurse, however, has employed a tight playoff rotation featuring only eight players, reminiscent of times when a player’s post-game recovery routine consisted of beer. Three Raptors — Leonard, Lowry, and Siakam — lead the NBA in post-season minutes. Will Toronto wear out?

The Finals schedule, however, does Nurse some favors. There are two off-days between all the games, except between Games 3 and 4 in Oakland, which has one off-day. Plus, Nurse held Leonard out of 14 games during the regular season, for “load management.” He’s certainly played fresh these playoffs.

These Finals feature an additional wrinkle: an entire country rallying behind one team. Cities around Ontario have planned to replicate “Jurassic Park,” the raucous outdoor viewing area outside Toronto’s home arena, in their own town squares. Even fans in Vancouver, which lost an NBA team to Memphis back in 2002, are filling sports bars on game nights to cheer the Raptors. A title would be a long-time coming for Canada. After all, Dr. James Naismith, creator of the game, was born in Almonte, Ontario.

Whether Golden State pulls off the rare three-peat or Toronto waves the Canadian flag after clinching its first title, these Finals will give hoops fans something to remember. And then forget, once free agency picks up this summer. Will Durant stay or go? Will anyone sign with those Lakers?

Stay tuned. There’s more laundry to unload.

Sports – TIME

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The More You Know: Anyone Can Have PTSD. In Fact, You May Have It Right Now.

Woman sitting home alone

Source: Vladimir Vladimirov / Getty

From May 12-18 it’s National Women’s Health Week, an annual effort put on by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office to encourage women to be as healthy as possible. To help observe the week, we’re speaking with experts about everything from mental health, diet, pregnancy, fertility issues and more. 

The first time I thought that I may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, I was on the phone weeping to my mother about my period.

Just a few months prior, I’d experienced a miscarriage. It was my first pregnancy, one that I was overjoyed about. I was elated to the point where I was walking around the baby section in Target, beaming at my thoughts for the near future.

When things didn’t work out as I’d hoped, I was heartbroken, but life had to go on. I opted to miscarry naturally, a process I read online could last a few weeks. Unfortunately for me, the process lasted three months. I bled every day, had contractions that I feared, and sobbed on the toilet while looking down at my reality. For three months, I was held captive to my pain, not fully able to let go of the sadness because my body wouldn’t hurry up and let go of the fetus. When it finally did, I tried my best to be strong, but I realized that so many things ended up being a trigger, a reminder of the grief I’d experienced. I found myself speed walking past that same baby aisle in Target to keep myself from acknowledging the shame I was feeling. When I finally stopped bleeding, and then my menstrual cycle began a few weeks later, I started bawling. I was mentally exhausted and tired of seeing red. I couldn’t do it, even for just a few more days. Sitting on the toilet for too long reminded me of late nights I spent bent over, trying to find any sort of relief. Seeing babies reminded me of what I felt I was missing out on. Before I knew it, I was breaking down in tears on the phone with my mother, telling her that I felt like I had PTSD. At the same time though, I assumed I was being overdramatic. “People who have PTSD have been to wars, seen murders and survived attacks,” I would think to myself. I had experienced something that was sad, but common. I couldn’t be suffering from symptoms of something so serious, right?

According to New York metro area-based mental health professional Cindy Bowers, MA, LMHC, I very well could.

“Symptoms of PTSD can be prompted by any experience, direct or indirect, that is perceived to be traumatic,” she said. “Some examples of experiences that can contribute to symptoms of PTSD consist of witnessing or experiencing accidents and assaults, witnessing death or experiencing near-death events, military combat, significant loss of family members, home, employment and natural disasters.”

Those symptoms, according to Bowers, run the gamut. They can include thinking of your trauma to the point where you struggle to sleep, dealing with a strong sense of fear, avoiding things that can remind you of what you’ve been through, and having bodily reactions to memories of your disturbing experience. Such symptoms, whether one or a few, usually occur for at least a month.

“Following exposure to a traumatic event, one may experience symptoms such as intrusive, involuntary or distressing memories of the event, flashbacks, dreams and night terrors, sleep disturbance, memory loss, persistent negative thoughts and emotions associated with anger, shame and horror,” she said. “They may feel detached from their surroundings, exhibit self-destructive behaviors, avoidance of anything that is reminiscent of the event, and having other psychological or physiological reactions to the event.”

After finding myself an emotional wreck once again, I called my mom. She implored me to seek out a counselor to share my feelings with. While she could hear me out during my breakdowns, she was worried that she wasn’t saying the right things that could truly provide me with the support I needed. I was hesitant about the idea at first, but I couldn’t deny that I just needed someone to truly talk to. Bowers says that those who struggle with dark memories of trauma need to seek professional help. There are many options, including social workers, mental health clinicians, psychologists, psychiatrists and nurse practitioners who are experienced in treating PTSD.

“It is imperative for our community to be educated regarding the many forms in which post-traumatic stress disorder can impact them regardless of race, age, class, or socioeconomic status. Such knowledge equips us to access the readily available resources, such as community mental health clinics, private therapy and non-profit associations that provide linkage to PTSD resources, to get assistance,” she said. “It can also help people who feel they are impacted by symptoms of PTSD to have normalized conversations about their experience and reduce mental health stigma, particularly within the African-American community.”

However one chooses to go about dealing with the disorder, it’s important to know you’re not alone. Per the National Alliance for Mental Health, PTSD is something impacting 8 million Americans. Sadly, in addition, Black people have a higher chance of being impacted by violent crimes, which can trigger symptoms of PTSD.

Aside from seeking professional help, and contacting crisis hotlines when you need immediate help (such as The National Alliance of Mental Illness Helpline and National Alliance on Mental Illness), there are things you can do on your own to obtain some peace. With social media especially providing a lot of triggers for people, it’s important to also know how to cope through self-care by tuning and logging out.

“People can take a self-care approach to PTSD, particularly in the social media age, by limiting their exposure to trauma on social media, TV, or the radio,” she said. “There may be ways to set parameters to this content. Some people also take social media and other related breaks or cleanses periodically.”

“It’s also recommended to engage in a grounding activity,” Bowers added. “That can include a deep breathing exercise, a counting exercise in which one may count backwards from a particular number to de-escalate heightened feelings of anxiety, fear or anger, meditation, describing one’s surroundings to focus on the present, or having an object handy that symbolizes safety. Examples of those things can be furry objects, stress balls, a picture of someone or something significant, and having domesticated animals. Journaling can also be effective.”

I’ve done a little bit of everything to ground myself when I’m feeling emotionally overwhelmed by my memories. I log off of social media sometimes, or I use it to help me by searching for things that are humorous. I also do deep breathing in moments where people ask me triggering questions about my plans for parenthood. Nothing has helped more though than seeking out a counselor, whom I see biweekly.

All of these measures haven’t completely helped me to move on from what’s happened and not look back, but they’ve given me the strength to no longer be consumed by it all. More than a year after the beginning of that traumatic episode, I’m grateful to be where I am at now, because it’s far from where I used to be.

MadameNoire

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“Here & Now” features Miguel Blanco During his Latest Mission to Indonesia During the Swell of the Decade

“Here & Now” features Miguel Blanco during his latest mission to Indonesia during the swell of the decade, being in the right place at the right time Miguel ended up scoring the now legendary monster session in Nias Pulau. The film portraits all the action during his trip around Indo, culminating with the Nias Swell and the wave that ultimately changed his life and ended up in the Cover of Surfer Magazine.

“Here & Now” was filmed and edited by the brilliant Brazilian filmaker Bruno Zanin who was traveling with Miguel during this dramatic swell, with additional footage by Carlo Coral.

Miguel Blanco added the following statement: “This has been a great year. Such a great rollercoaster! I’ve been putting a lot of energy into surfing and just stoked to be doing what I love the most everyday! I had a big gap in summer so I decided to go to Puerto and Indo. Caught a good swell in Puerto and somehow ended up being in Indo for the biggest swell in this last decade. “Here & Now” shows some of that action. To add to that magic trip, Surfer Magazine came out and I was in the cover! My first cover on an international magazine. Back home, I was doing the national league where the champ has a chance to surf the WCT in Portugal as a wildcard. I had some chance to win it but it wasn’t looking too pretty. Well, I guess everything came together and I won the event, crowned National champ and earned the wildcard for the WCT in Peniche.”

Blanco is one of Portugal’s most respected Surfers right now, with only 22 years old, he is the new Portuguese National Champ after winning this weekend the National League where he also got a wildcard for the WCT in Peniche later this month. He was the only Portuguese shredder in the recent Monumental Swell in Nias, where he probably scored the wave of his life that ended up being the latest cover of Surfer Magazine. He’s a rising star both on a progressive surfing approach and also chasing slabs and Big Surf. Already with 6 Hawaiian Seasons and trips all over the world (Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Caribbean, Indo, Maldives, etc), Miguel is making a name for himself and represents the future of his Portuguese generation.
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Also available this Media Kit, including Cover, and social video teasers: https://we.tl/t-Ax0BjngHf0

Miguel Social links:
FB: https://www.facebook.com/miguelblancosurf/
IG: @_miguelblanco_ https://www.instagram.com/_miguelblanco_/

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