2015 NFL Fantasy Football

2015 NFL Fantasy Football
M.D. Wright 

Do you hear those rumbles of thunder? Do you see the clouds forming? Yes, in certain areas, actual thunderstorms are looming (like northern New Jersey), but elsewhere, those are signs of a cold front. A cold front that portends the start of NFL Training Camps, and, subsequently, fantasy football league drafts in the coming weeks.

As per usual, I will be starting my league in the middle of August, with the draft sometime after the third or fourth preseason game. Same rules, same format, same number of teams, although extra emphasis will be placed upon selecting defensive players just as there is for offensive players. I will notify once I have opened the league for the 2015 season.

As a teaser for the pending draft, here are some players you may be tempted to draft, but might want to take a pass on with your first round picks, as they are entering what is widely believed to be the twilight of their respective careers, or in tenuous (at best) situations where their teams are in transition:

Declining Stars In The NFL
If you are playing in fantasy football money leagues this year, chances are you want to do anything possible to avoid picking up a declining superstar. Even though they are a well-known name from the past, they might not be able to live up to expectations. Here are three guys to avoid in 2015 simply because they’re slowing down a little bit too quickly.

Drew Brees.
In his prime, Brees was a stand out in fantasy football money leagues. The entire offense for the New Orleans Saints was pretty much built for him. However, things took a pretty big turn for the worst in 2014. He was under 5000 yards passing for the first time since 2010, and his touchdown total was down as well.

With no Jimmy Graham in New Orleans this year, things will be even tougher. Avoid drafting him if possible, as other quarterbacks will be available who can put up similar numbers.

Antonio Gates.
Even before he was handed a four game suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, Gates was on the decline. Now, San Diego is going to be trying to find a replacement for him to open up 2015. He still has a chance to be solid, but San Diego is ready to move on without him being a focal point of the offense.

Brandon Marshall.
Getting out of the terrible situation in Chicago should be a good thing, but now Marshall is going to be facing some new challenges. For starters, the New York Jets have no real solution at quarterback right now. If they don’t have somebody who can throw in the ball, how can he put up numbers in fantasy football money leagues? Expect him to be a disappointment in 2015 simply due to that pretty major concern.

Keep these names in mind, despite gaudy statistics in the past few years, as each of their teams are facing major question marks on offense heading into 2015.

OMW’s I-95 Adventures, Vol. LXXI

OMW’s I-95 Adventures, Vol. LXXI
M.D. Wright

I guess these types of things happen when you are spontaneous.

I had been planning two separate ventures: one out to Seattle, and one to Tallahassee between now and the end of the summer. However, my uncle said he was having a BBQ on the 4th, and since smokes in North Carolina are half the price of those in New Jersey, I decided to go ahead and make the trip to NC instead. Besides, I’d rather fly to Florida and Seattle anyway.

I fully expected traffic everywhere I went from the time that I left on Thursday morning, until I arrived back home on Sunday night (actually Monday morning), but got a lot more than I bargained for.

Writing this isn’t so much complaining (I got that out of my system over the weekend while actually doing the sitting in traffic) as much as it is about documenting the trip and taking my readers on a virtual ride along with me. For most of the past 7 years, I have taken the majority of these trips exclusively alone. Prior to that, at least one of my cousins or other relatives was with me at least for half of the trip. I have come to enjoy being able to stop and do whatever I want, whenever I want, however I want to do it, and with whomever, when I make these trips.

I was supposed to get to Newark Airport around 9 pm, and since I struggled to even get out of bed by 8:30, that was already out of the window on Thursday. While I still arrived at the airport by 9:45, I got dumped off in traffic in Newark after leaving the airport, due to lane closures and idiots darting across three lanes to make an exit. I figured I would just take my time to go and get something to eat before I went back home. I went down to Elizabeth and grabbed one of the breakfast combos, and then came back up Route 1, thinking I would hit 78 to the Parkway and come back up Grove Street back home. However, when I was attempting to get 78, yet again, some moron from Pennsylvania who was obviously lost, darts across and I had to make a split second decision: Do I slam on brakes and wait for this fool to pass, so I can go onto the exit with him (and avoid damage to the vehicle before I even left the premises good enough), or do I just bypass it and and go down to Delancey and take the back way through downtown Newark?

I did the latter.

It took me until about 10:45 to get back home, and once I did, I headed west, out of East Orange into Orange, and then caught Scotland Road so that I could go by the bank and grab some Starbucks in South Orange. I went past Seton Hall, which was dead as ever (and, as such, no would-be thieves standing around on the streets surrounding The Hall), and came back up South Orange Avenue to get the Parkway so I could get going.

There was more southbound traffic on the Turnpike than you would expect midday on a Thursday, but nevertheless, I was able to do my “customary” speed for most of the way down the Turnpike, making decent time. I had hoped to be out of North Jersey by 11 am, which turned into 12:15 pm, so we were already off on the wrong foot, but not devastating to my plans in the least.

The only noteworthy thing on this part of the trip was this older lady. I don’t know if she was falling asleep behind the wheel, or she was cockeyed, or simply incapable of keeping her car between the lines, but as I came down the middle lane (which has become the “fast lane” nowadays, with people acting like ignoramuses driving the speed limit or lower on the LEFT LANE), she began veering over slowly into my lane. I thought at first that she was avoiding some stray object on the road or something. No. She was just veering. Mind you, she’s doing about 75 MPH herself. I sat on the horn until she had her delayed reaction and then overcommitted by whipping her wheel to the right sharply. She is lucky she did not cascade off into the retaining wall to the right of us. I did not mean to startle her, but if my horn did that, then she was probably falling asleep. You would have thought she was a stunt double doing car tricks if you saw how viciously her car jerked right and then back to the left as she yanked the wheel in response to my horn.

Whatever, I avoided any contact and kept going.

Delaware Memorial Bridge, the sliver of area in northern Delaware and most of Maryland was alright traffic-wise. I thought for sure that I would get to Raleigh by about 7 or 8 PM, but just as I got happy about making good time, I got caught up in some southbound traffic on 495 (just south of Baltimore). My phone gives me live views of traffic volume ahead of me, so I can see where there is bumper to bumper action and delays due to wrecks. There was one in Jessup, and one about 5 or 6 miles south of there, which is when I said, “Screw it” and got off of 495. I took a couple of back roads (and a pit stop to use the latrine), and then came across, skipping 495 and getting the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. By this point, it was about 2:45 PM, and I was in Greenbelt, Maryland. Still not too bad.

I cut through Anacostia, passing old RFK Stadium, and Southeast DC, before picking up 495 after bypassing the traffic jam.

I figured if I got through DC and the first 8-10 exits in Northern Virginia, I am good at this hour.


Once I hit Woodbridge, traffic went to a dead standstill. 11138642_10101814940486761_1450548913122606308_n
s you can see here (after I had gotten frustrated and lost patience, I began trying to figure out what the volume was about), there was nothing but bumper to bumper volume until arriving in Fredericksburg — which is always the break-off point for this ridiculous traffic in both northbound and southbound directions. There were three wrecks ahead of me, but they had been cleared off, according to the overhead roadway signs and my traffic app. This was just sheer volume, and it wasn’t even 4 PM.

I did not get through Virginia until nearly 9 PM. It normally takes me 2 1/2 to 3 hours (including normal northern Virginia volume in both directions) to get through the total expanse of Virginia from north to south. It took nearly FIVE hours this time. I had to make a decision at Petersburg whether I would take 85 and stop in Henderson to see what my uncle Wayne was up to, or take 95 all the way through, and catch 64 to Raleigh to go directly to my cousin’s house to get my hair taken care of. Judging by what I saw on 85 South (just north of Henderson, and for about 20 miles), I made the right decision. More on that later.

By the time I got near Raleigh, it had been raining on and off for miles. A torrential downpour, then the sun and dry spots, alternating every 10-15 miles, it seemed. I had hoped to get to my cousin’s house either way, no later than 8 or 8:30 when I left home (even if I went to Henderson or to Durham to visit with my sister first). I rolled up there at 10 PM instead, and she had stepped out just as I pulled up, which meant another 45 minutes (as it turned out) that I would be out.

Once she finally finished with my hair, it was going on 2 am, and I hadn’t eaten since sometime that morning. I went to get my usual from New Bern Subs, and couldn’t even finish it. It was going on 2:30 by then, and I did not get to Greensboro until about 3:30 am. However, I had gotten one of the things that I meant to handle out of the way. I don’t trust but maybe one other person with my hair other than my cousin Rhoda, even if it means driving 450 miles one way to get it done (the only other person is in New York, and charges 4 times as much for what quality, while good, isn’t even on par with my cousin’s work.

Somehow I was able to get up with four hours of sleep and ran around all day on Friday. I had a couple of errands to run, including picking up a wholesale order of smokes and some things for my crib. I went by my sister’s house and then made off to Raleigh to take care of a couple of things. I had intended to go to Henderson, because I don’t stop there that often when I go down south. I went to visit with my aunt Phyllis, which I had intended to be about an hour or so; knowing that I wanted to visit my uncle Wayne and my cousin Patrina, who lives in Durham near my sister, thereafter. One hour turned into three, and, well, that was that. I did get to spend a couple of hours with Patrina, but by the time I left there, it was well after 1 am, and again, I had not eaten, so I grabbed something quick and went back to Greensboro. I had not been able to spend much time with my parents at all, because I figured they were going to my uncle’s BBQ on Saturday.

When I got up Saturday morning (again, about four hours of sleep), I went for coffee and came back to see when they would be ready to go. This is why I always drive when I go down south, and refuse to ride with anyone anywhere: they had forgotten about the BBQ, so I ended up having to drive alone out to Bunn, NC at Lake Royale.

All good, though. I made a stop along the way to get some cold ones and sped off. The rain cloud followed me for the last 15 miles and it rained for about 30 minutes after I got there. We had a good, chill time overall. But that heat and humidity, along with the rain, brought out some vicious chiggers and mosquitoes. I have scratched a couple of bites as I have typed this, it is still itching two days later.

I figured I would leave there around 9:30 or so, such that I would catch my sister before she went to bed, as she turns in like most old folks. Sure enough, she was asleep by the time I got to Durham (and it wasn’t even 11 pm yet). I left there and got back to Greensboro at around 1 am, knowing I needed to get to bed earlier as I was leaving to come home the next morning.

This is where everything went haywire.

My cousin Amanqwah called me Saturday as I was heading to Bunn for the BBQ, and I was surprised as to where he was located (to say the least), and then when he said he would be in Raleigh (which I usually take to cut through to Route 64 to I-95), I said that I would try and catch him on Sunday morning as I left out. I made good time over to Raleigh, had gotten a bite to eat at Bojangles’ just outside Burlington, and was going to get coffee somewheres in Raleigh. I texted him around 11 am, and he said that he was already 250 miles north (which is where he was heading to after calling me the day before), so that was out. I could have taken 85 North via 40 East from Greensboro had I known that he was already gone from Raleigh, but no big deal. I had stops to make regardless of which way I went. I didn’t even get my coffee until I got to Roanoke Rapids, NC.

Traffic had come to a dead standstill in Rocky Mount, right where US 64 and I-95 intersect. I, for the life for me, cannot understand how so many people get into wrecks on a straightaway road with no turns. That section of 95 is as straight as can be for miles at a time. No other explanation but texting and driving or other means of being distracted. Either way, we sat there for a good 20 minutes to go one mile.

After that cleared up, I got to Roanoke Rapids and got the coffee and made the Walmart run that I needed so that I could do my wash while I was out. I don’t know RR that well, thinking there was a laundromat along US 158, I made the wrong turn, and figured that since I was already heading westbound, I may as well take 158 to 85 into Henderson and stop where I know there is a laundromat: on E. Andrews Avenue just past the water tower.

I got in and out of there in about an hour, which was great, but before I got there, the weirdest road construction was out on 85 South (from about Wise, NC, Exit 231, through to Exit 212 in Henderson at Ruin Creek Road). I would like to know and understand the wisdom of setting up for construction (because no one was out there, much less any work actually being doing) on a holiday weekend on such an important stretch of highway. It was one-lane traffic for 19 miles, and I had to take about 15 of those miles from Exit 228 (where US 158 intersects) through until Exit 214, for NC 39, which becomes Andrews Avenue.

That cost me about 20 extra minutes. I was fine time-wise, however, because I didn’t need to return the car to Newark Airport until 9 am Monday if absolutely need be, but obviously I wanted to get home in a reasonable timeframe so that I could get to sleep before, well, you know, the SUN AROSE.

Traffic wasn’t bad at all once I left Henderson, though. Northbound on I-85 was clean until about Petersburg, VA, around Exit 63 or so. Couple that with the chromosome-lacking nature of most Virginia drivers (including the maddening tendency to drive ultra slowly on the left lane, and slamming on brakes whenever they see State Troopers parked or with lights flashing, even if they have someone pulled on the complete opposite direction on the interstate), and you have a nightmare on your hands.

There were 9 separate car crashes between Petersburg and Arlington. That is approximately 110 miles, and usually a clean two hours between those two. That stretch took nearly FIVE hours, this time. I had gotten to Petersburg around 4:30 pm (after leaving Henderson at 3:15 pm; and yes, that is accurate, for those scoring at home). Then I began to see warnings on the overhead signs that traffic would be snarled at Exit 84 in Richmond, and to “expect delays.” I saw an EMT come flying past me on the left shoulder to the scene, and Richmond is full of “This Lane Ends in 1000 feet, Merge Right” signs. And you know Virginia drivers can’t even drive in a straight line without making it difficult, so you know merging only causes more trouble on the interstate.

As soon as we cleared the Exit 84 area, Kings Dominion traffic picked up (Exit 98), AND it began to rain, which, once again, coupled with the bona fide retardation possessed by most Virginia drivers, is what led to such a delay in getting through the state.

We finally cleared the bottleneck leaving Kings Dominion at about Exit 106, but from that point all the way to Woodbridge (Exit 161), we were bumper to bumper exclusively — save for two stretches where some EZ Pass traffic dumped off for 2-3 miles at a time. I expected traffic between Fredericksburg, where it always picks up sharply, and the 95/495/395 split in Alexandria, but this was absurd. And while some people  were indeed coming from the Virginia Beach area (with one girl getting out and “twerking” in dead standstill traffic at one point), the traffic never really died down until crossing into Maryland, where it magically died down.


You can see in the above photo that red line, which signifies bumper to bumper traffic, and how long of a stretch that was. There was a wreck just to the north of Baltimore (where I believe someone may have indeed died, as there were about a dozen cop cars and a half dozen EMTs rushing to the scene, with a teenage girl weeping her eyes out), but other than that, Maryland was alright.

Then again, it was about 9:30 pm by this point.

I figured my time plans were shot, and since my cousin Craig lives in the area, I went by to see him. We chopped it up for about an hour, and I grabbed some food (but not in mad niggerish fashion, though) and got back on the road. Aside from the aforementioned potentially-deadly crash at White Marsh just north of Baltimore, I had to stop about three times to relieve myself. You would have thought I was 67 years old with my bladder’s actions on that part of the trip. The thing is, I can usually make the entire trip down south (or the return trip, whichever direction) without having to stop even once for that reason, sometimes. At most, I would go once, even if I drank a lot of coffee and other beverages. Thankfully, the car got excellent gas mileage. I went all the way from Newark Airport, up, down, and doubling back through Newark, Elizabeth and all four of the Oranges before I left, and two detours off the road on my way down south, AND stop-and-go bumper traffic in Virginia… all on one tank of gas. I did not have to get gas until after my cousin finished with my hair, and I was near North Carolina State University (after getting food at New Bern Subs) by then. I could have made it all the way to Burlington before absolutely getting gas, but I was not going to chance it at 2 am and potentially running out of gas on a dark highway.

I had to stop at Maryland House, then again at the first rest area off the Turnpike when I got to Jersey, while also needing to go yet again once I got home an hour and some change later. Alls I had was a Coke. Maybe it was the stress of the traffic that got to me.

Nevertheless, the Turnpike was cool; despite not being able to do my “customary” since it was pitch black dark until  Exit 8, when everything breaks up and you know you are at least in the ballpark for getting home. But once I hit Exit 14, it was 1:30 am, and I already knew I had to unload the car, get gas, return the car, take the air tran from Terminal C area over to Terminal A and get a cab home.

I had hoped when I got up on Sunday morning that I would be home by 11 pm.

I walked in at exactly 3:02 am, texting my mom and my cousin Craig back to back in the PRO-cess. Naturally, I was more tired than sleepy, and even had a cold one at 3:30 am just to relax. The result? I have been a zombie all day long, despite doing everything in my power beforehand to avoid this very situation. I’ve taken care of most of what I wanted to get done today, which I knew would be busy before I left, but I have been exhausted all day, as I woke up several times over the course of the early morning hours from my sleep (alcohol is a stimulant, for those who still do not know), and that had something to do with it; while only mustering about 14 hours of sleep total from Thursday-Saturday nights, and only about five hours of sleep overnight Sunday into today.

Regardless, I was able to see some relatives, have good food and fellowship, and returned home safely, so rather than have this construed as a complaint article, it is more of a recounting tale that allows my readers to come along with me on the trip, start to finish, and making it back home safely, despite making the entire trip alone for the 26th time in the last 27 trips (my cousin AJ was with me on New Year’s Eve as we came back home from NC that day).

I am getting too old to be doing this alone for much longer though. It takes too long to recover from it all. Used to be I could get up and go to work without a thought, even as recently as four years ago, but not now. Then again, hopefully in the not too distant future, I WON’T be making these road trips alone. We’ll see.

OMW’s I-95 Adventures, Vol. LXXI is in the books.

2015 NBA Team-By-Team Salary Cap Snapshots & Future Possibilities

2015 NBA Team-By-Team Salary Cap Snapshots & Future Possibilities
M.D. Wright

As is the case every offseason, it is seemingly more fun (in some peoples’ minds) to talk about free agency movement, the Draft and the future in general, instead of the playoffs, but it is prudent to look forward at all times if you are a general manager or personnel director. We will not know what the salary cap ceiling will be (projected to be around $67.1 million), the luxury tax (approximately $81 million, and apron (which is a projected to be a few million more than the luxury tax threshold). Once these figures are pinned down — following the league office moratorium on trades, and the financial budget settings on July 10 — we will know for sure what the limits for each  the salary cap, luxury tax threshold and apron amounts. For now, I will give you snapshots of each team’s cap situation heading into the summer of 2015 and going forward for the next four years. All current contracts that expire (excluding buyouts and other extenuating circumstances) in a given year are up June 30 annually. Keep this in mind when it comes to opt-out clauses and movement of certain targeted players.

* – The 2015 NBA Draft is Thursday, June 25, 2015.

Atlanta Hawks (60-22, Lost in Eastern Conference Finals).
The Hawks are in a very good position, as opposed to this time last year, when they were perceived to still be in NBA purgatory. They catapulted to the top of the NBA standings in the Eastern Conference, and held on late, as they lost Thabo Sefolosha and Pero Antic to injury due to a bizarre fight in New York City as the regular season concluded. The Hawks are projected to be about $24 million under the cap once existing contracts expire on June 30, however one of those expiring contracts is that of Paul Millsap, who is pivotal to their success. Atlanta has Al Horford locked in for one more season, Jeff Teague, Thabo Sefolosha, Kyle Korver and Mike Scott locked in for two more. Budding talent Dennis Schroder came into his own as the season wore on, and is still on his rookie deal. The three major questions are what will the Hawks do with Millsap and DeMarre Carroll (also expiring), do they target a move up in the 2015 Draft to select a big man who can score, and how much is Paul Millsap worth going forward. They have the cap space to retain their expiring guys, but the Hawks obviously need a go-to scorer at the ends of games, as none of the aforementioned are adept in that role, as was proven in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Boston Celtics (40-42, Lost in First Round).
Developing talent is Brad Stevens’ strong point, and he indeed took a rag-tag bunch of players, amid several in-season trades, to the 8th seed in the 2015 NBA Playoffs. However, Boston is not done wheeling and dealing. They are rumored to be in on acquiring Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, and are always active on Draft Night under Danny Ainge’s purview. Boston, like Atlanta, is slated to be approximately $24-$25 million under the cap heading into the new league year. However, six of their 11 players under contract on July 1 are still on their rookie contracts. Most of the rest of their cap is tied to Gerald Wallace (one year remaining at $10.1 million), Avery Bradley ($7.7 million) and Isaiah Thomas ($6.9 million). Brandon Bass, who has seemingly been in Boston since Reggie Lewis was playing, finally gets to test full free agency, as his contract expires next week. Does Boston keep Jae Crowder? And if so, at what price? There is cap space (and assets available) to trade for Cousins, but what direction does Boston go in order to fill out their roster? Expect Boston to be very active during the Draft.

Brooklyn Nets (38-44, Lost in First Round).
The Nets are in cap hell, simply put. Expect Brook Lopez to exercise his player option (who would turn down $16.7 million?), but also expect the Nets to be proactive in dealing him, even as early as Draft Night. In shedding Lopez’ contract, the Nets still do not gain much cap flexibility. Joe Johnson is (finally) entering the last of the ridiculous contract that Atlanta signed him to, then traded to Brooklyn, at a whopping $24.9 million for 2015-2016. Deron Williams, another woefully overpaid player, is due $21 million next season, with an early termination option on the $22.3 million he is owed the following season.

Yes, the Nets used their amnesty in 2011, so he is not eligible; only a deal similar to what the Knicks did with Amare Stoudemire is possible for the Nets and Williams.

Jarrett Jack was a steal at the mid-level price, but the Nets really do not have much in the way of a team and do not have much money to acquire anyone of value. Given their middling season (they are not in the lottery), they will have to be creative in the 2015 Draft.

Oh, by the way, the Nets got the double whammy in the Joe Johnson trade. They swapped picks with Atlanta in that trade, and the Nets currently do not have a pick before #29 in the 1st Round. Whoops.

Charlotte Hornets (33-49, Did Not Qualify).
Charlotte has been active leading up to the draft, trading Noah Vonleh and relegated-to-coming-off-the-bench Gerald Henderson to Portland, in exchange for sharpshooter/defensive stalwart, Nic Batum. Additionally, Charlotte traded for Jeremy Lamb, sending Luke Ridnour off to Oklahoma City, and reuniting Lamb with Kemba Walker, who was his teammate on the University of Connecticut’s 2011 National Championship team.

That is not enough to build a winning team, however. Charlotte was expected to make “the leap” upon acquiring Lance Stephenson for a relatively cap-friendly deal from Indiana. Stephenson’s entire season was a colossal disaster, and he was traded to Los Angeles to acquire the rights to Matt Barnes’ contract, in order to facilitate their most recent moves. With Stephenson and Henderson’s contracts off the books, the Hornets now possess a bit of cap flexibility (approximately $8 million). Al Jefferson is entering his walk year, and so is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (whose game has not really expanded much at all since his rookie season). Where does Charlotte go from here? They have Kemba Walker locked up through June 2019, but they have several holes on their roster. Lamb figures to be a starter alongside Walker, while Batum will fill the starting small forward role. They will have to make a decision on Bismack Biyombo, who will be an unrestricted free agent next week, since they traded Vonleh. Additionally, Charlotte possesses the #9 pick in this year’s draft and need that power forward role to be filled in the worst way. Michael Jordan has not been shy about trading up on draft night, so if he feels he can get into the Top 5 and select one of the big men, be on lookout. Charlotte does not have the cap space available to acquire such a player in anything other than a sign-and-trade, otherwise.

Chicago Bulls (50-32, Lost in Eastern Conference Semifinals).
The Bulls’ day of reckoning has arrived. Much like the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL (during the 2014 season) and New York Rangers in the NHL (2014-2015), the Bulls were in win-now-or-else mode. With their early exit from the playoffs, they fired their coach, Tom Thibodeau, and now have to figure out how to re-tool their roster, while paying (potentially) Jimmy Butler, who gets his first taste of free agency this summer. Regardless of Derrick Rose’s health, he is due $41 million over the next two seasons. The fact of the matter is the Bulls have to figure out whether they want to pay Butler — who is sure to command $11-$13 million annually on the open market (or may sign a one year deal in lieu of the cap balloon set to occur for the 2016-2017 season, when TV deals are renewed and the cap figures to go up by 33%) — and thereby limit their ability (or desire?) to pay Joakim Noah, who is now entering his walk year, as well. The Bulls only have 10 players under contract (including Kirk Hinrich, player option) entering the summer, and are precariously close to the cap. They can exercise Bird Rights on Noah, but everything the Bulls do going forward (including the Draft) is based upon what Jimmy Butler decides. The Bulls will look drastically different next season, regardless.

They own the 22nd pick in this year’s draft.

Cleveland Cavaliers (53-29, Lost in NBA Finals).
Cleveland was in ultra win-now mode, with all of the trades and signings that were made before and during this past season. As such, they were well over the salary cap and luxury tax. Because the Cavs did not win the NBA title that they were “all in” for — and their cap structure backs up the assertion that the team was truly all in for a title — there are major decisions to be made. Does Cleveland retain head coach David Blatt? Do LeBron James, Kevin Love (already has), JR Smith (already has), Mike Miller (tied to the hip with James at this point in his career) decide to decline their player options and explore free agency? Only Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao, Timofey Mozgov and the hologram of Brendan Haywood are under contract, otherwise. James may opt out and do another one year deal, so that he can gain the absolute maximum deal after the next collective bargaining agreement is pounded out — which, if he remains in Cleveland, would likely be his last major deal — but what will Kevin Love do? Smith is surely going to look to go back to the east coast and seek the most money he can find. Iman Shumpert has not shown that he is worth signing for much more than the rookie deal (which expires next week) for which he was originally signed. The Cavs operated with great aplomb in cultivating a team that they believed would win the title, but it is going to take a Herculean effort to replicate those same types of moves this offseason; regardless of what Love does. James would have to take less money in order for the team to acquire a player like Dwyane Wade (rumored to be pushing to go to Cleveland), and most of the rest of the free agents are looking anywhere but Cleveland.

Cleveland owns the 24th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Dallas Mavericks (50-32, Lost in First Round).
Dallas has been in purgatory since they won the NBA Title in 2011, and if they want to become serious contenders again, while Dirk Nowitzki is still relatively productive, they have to make the right moves this summer. They have been good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to be legitimate title contenders. They’ve been middling enough to just make the playoffs, but not bad enough to land a prime draft pick.

Monta Ellis helped them out tremendously by declining his player option, so that he could explore free agency. As such, Dallas maintains about $30 million in cap space, but only have Nowitzki, Chander Parsons, Devin Harris, and alleged NBA player, Raymond Felton, under contract. They could convince Tyson Chandler to take less to return, but Rajon Rondo is almost certainly gone, thereby leaving the Mavs with tons of cap space, the 21st pick in this year’s draft, and hoping that a “hometown sales pitch” will be enough to lure LaMarcus Aldridge back to his hometown. If anyone can do it, Mark Cuban is that guy.

Denver Nuggets (30-52, Did Not Qualify).
No one can truly know what Denver is thinking, so there is not much to write here. There have been rumors about moving Ty Lawson, and they have Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Randy Foye, and several others, whose contracts expire June 30, 2016. As it is, the Nuggets have a little cap space, but Denver is not a free agent destination; particularly when one of the two best players on the team is constantly involved in trade rumors. Denver has done a horrific job in surrounding Lawson and Kennetth Faried with talent. Denver owns the #7 pick in the draft with which to get started on actually putting together a cogent roster.

Detroit Pistons (32-50, Did Not Qualify).
It appeared at one point that Detroit was going to make a playoff push, then they decided to trade Josh Smith (which helped his eventual team, Houston), while alleviating Detroit of some of its cap woes. Additionally, Detroit has been rumored to want Tim Hardaway, Jr. and moving Brandon Jennings, as Stan Van Gundy wants to remake the team in his own vision. Assuming the team is able to move Jennings, while Reggie Jackson is an unrestricted free agent (hereafter labeled “UFA”), along with Greg Monroe, the team will be stripped down completely; with Andre Drummond being the key piece to build around. The Pistons have the #8 pick to get started. Detroit will not be a major free agency destination until they even appear to be playoff contenders again, however.

Golden State Warriors (67-15, NBA Champions).
Golden State was wire to wire the best team in the NBA last season, and have done a remarkable job in setting themselves up for continued success. Stephen Curry (wisely) signed a four year deal that would take him into the season of the expanded salary cap, while they locked in Klay Thompson through 2019. Draymond Green has expressed interest in eschewing signing elsewhere in order to remain part of the core (we’ll see once free agency begins, however). They have Finals MVP Andre Iguodala locked in for two more seasons, and are going to aggressively look to move David Lee and his $15.5 million, soon-to-be-expiring contract. As previously written about Detroit, the Pistons could be a good landing spot for Lee, but Detroit will not likely give up their #8 pick without other compensation from Golden State. The Warriors have the #30 pick in a deep draft, so their main objective is continuity, while they hope that Andrew Bogut can actually play a full season and groom Festus Ezeli.

Houston Rockets (56-26, Lost in Western Conference Finals).
The Rockets are always wheeling and dealing, and while their teams look good on paper, and produce 48-56 wins per season of late, they have not been legitimate Finals contenders. Neither James Harden or Dwight Howard plays great when the other is playing great during the playoffs (at least for more than one game at a time), and their bench is weak — although it outperformed expectations this past season, which is why they advanced to the conference finals. Josh Smith immediately paid dividends for Houston, but with the team being locked in with Smith, Harden and Howard, and only a few other players under contract (and all are entering their walk years), Houston will surely be active on draft night and via free agency and trades, as they were able to finagle the #18 pick in this year’s draft through one of the series of moves they made last season.

Indiana Pacers (38-44, Did Not Qualify).
The Pacers caught a case of the yips down the stretch and folded in the last two games of the regular season, when they had a chance to make the playoffs. On top of it all, David West opted out of the final year of his contract in order to pursue free agency. Roy Hibbert has the option to do the same, and it will be interesting to see what happens with Hibbert going forward with his topsy-turvy nature on the court. Paul George should be ready to go for the start of next season, while George Hill and Ian Mahinmi are also locked in, but the Pacers will have to replace West with about $16 million of cap space (double that, if Hibbert opts out, which he is not expected to do), while they have the 11th pick in the draft.

Los Angeles Clippers (56-26, Lost in Western Conference Semifinals).
Doc Rivers has not done his best work at the helm as general manager of the Clippers. Not only do the Clippers (currently) not own a pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, but they are in a precarious cap situation. DeAndre Jordan can walk via free agency (although if he chose to return, the Clippers could exercise their Bird Rights to exceed the cap in order to retain him), while Chris Paul — who has yet to even come close to sniffing an NBA Finals — and Blake Griffin comprise 2/3 of the Clippers’ cap. It is going to be quite difficult for the Clippers to go beyond what has now become their perceived ceiling: a 55-win team that isn’t deep enough to win a title, with little to no cap flexibility to sign the depth necessary to get them over the top. Their best bet would be a sign and trade of Jordan and attempt to get back a player and a pick in this year’s draft.

Los Angeles Lakers (21-61, Did Not Qualify).
Lakerland was miserable during the 2014-2015 season, with rookie Julius Randle suffering a season-ending injury in his first game, and Kobe Bryant not far behind him with a torn labrum. Bryant earns $25 million next season, in what is said to be his last (who believes him, though?), and LA must decide what they can get for Jordan Hill, who makes $9 million in what will be an expiring contract next summer. Presuming Randle is okay to start the season (and all indications are that he will be), the sudden rumors of a trade for DeMarcus Cousins and making a play for LaMarcus Aldridge are not that far fetched. For now, they’re just rumors, as the Lakers own the #2 pick, which could be a negotiation piece as the draft nears. Expect GM Mitch Kupchak to put forth every effort to stock this team with the requisite players necessary to at least make a solid playoff run in what is at least Kobe Bryant’s last season on his two-year deal.

Memphis Grizzlies (55-27, Lost in Western Conference Semifinals).
Memphis was beset by injuries for most of the season and still won 55 games. They have acquired Matt Barnes in a flurry of moves made in recent days, which further solidifies their defense, but still leaves them in a quandary offensively. The Grizzlies play to wear down teams defensively more than they do to outscore them on a nightly basis with run and gun basketball (although they can do so in spurts).

Memphis will look to retain Marc Gasol, who is a UFA, and unless he takes less money, they will not have much cap space remaining thereafter. This means the #25 pick and a couple of exceptions can be used to sign whatever players they can lure to add depth. Do not expect there to be any falloff from this 55-win team next season.

Miami Heat (37-45, Did Not Qualify).
No one can truly know what is going on in Miami, but if rumors are true, Dwyane Wade’s time on Biscayne Bay may be over. It could just be posturing, however, so draft night will be telling. If the Heat move their #10 pick (where they can still draft a player who will be ready to play on opening night in this deep draft), then you can expect Wade to sign elsewhere, as he is expected to opt out of his contract (as well as Goran Dragic), although this does not necessarily mean that either or both is leaving Miami. As it stands, Luol Deng can also opt out, leaving nothing more than Chris Bosh and an amalgamation of slag remaining on the roster.

Milwaukee Bucks (41-41, Lost in First Round).
The Bucks appeared to have been poised for a 50-win season, before their strange trade of Brandon Knight to Phoenix. They went into a free-fall, but still made the playoffs, which may have thwarted the alleged plans of tanking out of the playoffs. The Bucks always have cap space, as not many players voluntarily opt to sign there, and with the #17 pick in the draft (based upon their finish among playoff teams), they can add a player since Larry Sanders has decided to go AWOL on his NBA career. Jason Kidd was doing a fine job in Milwaukee, and Jabari Parker should be ready to go when the season begins, coming off a major knee injury.

Minnesota Timberwolves (16-66, #1 Pick in 2015 NBA Draft).
All eyes will be on the Wolves in the 2015 NBA Draft, as they own the #1 pick. They have the option to draft Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns or whoever they please, or they could trade out of the spot. It is expected that they will take one of the big men, but beyond that, the Wolves have a nice, young roster to grow together, with Andrew Wiggins getting his feet wet last season, along with Slam Dunk Champion Zach LaVine and others. The Wolves were clearly tanking by midseason, and it worked, as they have better players than their record indicates. Because nearly the entire roster is on their rookie deals (other than Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio), the Wolves maintain cap flexibility, and can even trade one or both players if they can net picks and expiring deals in the process. In other words, expect the Wolves to be very busy over the next 21 days, into and through the initial major wave of free agency, when contracts can be signed on July 10.

New Orleans Pelicans (45-37, Lost in First Round).
Remember all those moves the Pelicans, Heat and Sixers made last year? The result is, the Pelicans have no first round pick in the draft. Their main focus SHOULD BE attempting to trade Eric Gordon (somehow) in the near future (if not on draft night) in order to move into the 1st Round of this year’s draft. Almost all of their cap space is tied to Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans and Anthony Davis. They have enough money to sign a couple of players, as well as exceptions available for use, but do they attempt to re-sign Omer Asik (UFA) and move Gordon? These are things to keep an eye on. The team will pick up Anthony Davis’ option for next season, but if they don’t get it right this offseason, he could bolt as a UFA — and everyone knows one or two places that he will be immediately tied to signing with, should that happen.

The firing of Monty Williams may also expedite his departure, in what was a silly and unnecessary move.

New York Knicks (17-65, Did Not Qualify).
The Knicks record is not shocking, with them trotting out 9 D-League players most nights (out of 15 players available), as Team President Phil Jackson successfully moved all of the players who he believed would not fit the system that he seeks to cultivate with the Knicks. As a result, the Knicks are not embarrassingly over the cap for the first time since the cap was installed in the NBA, with over $30 million in available cash to spend. Knicks fans hope that Jackson spends it wisely. Only Carmelo Anthony remains on the roster with any real money on his deal, accounting for 66% of the contract dollars at the moment. The Knicks have an opportunity to be major players in free agency in 2015 and 2016, with the new TV deal/revenue spike that will inflate the salary cap. The team foolishly gave away its 2016 1st Round pick in the Andrea Bargnani trade with Toronto, but they do currently own the #4 pick in this year’s draft. They will have a plethora of options, although the team fully expected to not be lower than #2 in the draft before the lottery results were revealed. Jose Calderon has two years left on his deal, and could be moved in the coming weeks. Shane Larkin has a team option, and it was leaning heavily toward the team declining it for most of the season. Tim Hardaway is on his rookie-scaled deal, and is making mere peanuts (while being involved in trade rumors with Detroit and other teams), and only last year’s 2nd round pick, Cleanthony Early ($845K) and fan-favorite Langston Galloway (same) are under contract at all. Jackson’s first work of gutting undesirable players from the roster is done. Now the draft and two summers of free agency will be the tell-tale sign of whether The Zen Master’s second go-round with the Knicks will result the same way his first ended.

Oklahoma City Thunder (45-37, Did Not Qualify).
The Thunder were hampered by injuries to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka all season, and still won 45 games in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. Alas, they missed out on the playoffs on the final night of the season, and probably (for their sakes) it was a good thing. They remained in the lottery and will have the #14 pick. They will need it, as they traded away Jeremy Lamb to Charlotte, and have no cap relief in sight for the foreseeable future. Additionally, they will be dealing with Kevin Durant free agency talk all season. Expect the Thunder to make one more run at it with newly signed head coach Billy Donovan, but the team is surely going to look different after the 2015-2016 season, whether Durant stays or leaves (the latter is expected).

Orlando Magic (25-57, Did Not Qualify).
It is easy to scapegoat Jacque Vaughn for the Magic’s failures — which were many — down to his lineup changes and game management, but Orlando has not had a solid, cohesive lineup since they made it to the 2009 NBA Finals. It has been a merry-go-round at shooting guard and small forward every year since, and with that much movement, there cannot be continuity. They have tons of cap space, but with Tobias Harris potentially looking to return home to the New York area, who wants to go there, except someone looking for a payday? They have the #5 pick, Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo to build around, but Orlando is years away from being a serious contender unless there is an unforeseen signing by a big-name free agent.

Philadelphia 76ers (18-64, #3 Pick in 2015 NBA Draft).
This organization is running more like a money laundering operation (like the Tampa Bay Lightning were in their early years) than an NBA franchise. It seems as though the team was stockpiling picks in every trade while dumping every contract it had, in order to strip the team to the absolute core. The problem is, they, in effect, wasted a lottery pick on Michael Carter-Williams and once again hit the reset button. With no logical plan in place, the Sixers’ main plan may be to attempt to block the New York Knicks from drafting the player(s) the Knicks covet in the 2015 NBA Draft. Charles Barkley is spinning in his grave watching this franchise revert to doing what it did when he begged for a trade in 1992.

Phoenix Suns (39-43, Did Not Qualify).
The Suns have played a fun and gun style under Jeff Hornacek, but no one takes them seriously. They made a decent run the previous season, then fell back to 39 wins last season. Phoenix is not a free agency destination right now, and even less so, if they move Eric Bledsoe, as is rumored. They have the 13th pick in the draft this June.

Sacramento Kings (29-53, Did Not Qualify).
The Kings started out well last season, then mysteriously fired Michael Malone, who had garnered the respect of the team’s best player, DeMarcus Cousins. Only later in the season did the Kings (Ty Corbin once again gets the shaft, left to do the dirty work with no talent, as has been the case in every year he has had a head coaching job) sign George Karl, who immediately alienated Cousins and is now looking to pull off a coup to have Cousins traded, against the wishes of the team’s owner, and team VP Vlade Divac (Lawrence Tanter Voice whenever Divac scored as visiting team at the Forum). Despite it all, the Kings own the #6 pick and some cap flexibility, while they are set to move into a new building soon (the main reason the owner does not want to trade Cousins).

San Antonio Spurs (55-27, Lost in First Round).
Despite the early playoff exit, the Spurs will continue to do what they’ve always done on draft night, free agency and other moves, as long as Gregg Popovich is coach and RC Buford is GM. Let’s not waste time here.

Toronto Raptors (49-33, Lost in First Round).
The Raptors are an interesting case. They attempted to trade Kyle Lowry at the trade deadline during the season, and given the way he played down the stretch and in the playoffs, they probably wish they had succeeded, but they have about $20 million cap space to seek to retain Lou Williams, and lure another free agent (DeAndre Jordan? A Jordan Hill trade from Lakers?), along with the 20th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. This team looked to be stout before fading down the stretch, but they can beat anyone if they add the two or three pieces they need. They have the cap space and a decent pick to pull it off.

Utah Jazz (38-44, Did Not Qualify).
Figures as soon as they fire Ty Corbin, Utah decides to spend money for the first time.  Granted, it was not a ton of money, nor big name players, but they did little to nothing to arm Corbin with a viable team, and yet he still got the team to the playoffs and nearly into the playoffs, as well, during his tenure. Utah has never been a major free agent locale, so the Jazz have to draft well and come out on the good end of the trades they make. Gordon Hayward’s contract is a bit excessive, but he does produce. They have taken the bait on Derrick Favors’ “potential” (akin to that of Anthony Randolph’s, although Favors has at least produced moderately), but short of the 12th pick in the ’15 Draft, it is going to be tough for the Jazz to improve their roster without creative trades. Long gone are the Frank Layden days where they struck gold in the draft every year from ’83-’88 and got cornerstone/Hall of Fame players.

Washington Wizards (46-36, Lost in Eastern Conference Semifinals).
The Wizards met expectations with what their roster appears on paper (save for a maddening stretch of ineptitude as the season wore down), but with their cap situation $71 million — assuming Paul Pierce picks up his player option — they are pretty much locked in for next season. Armed with the 19th pick in the draft, they can acquire Nene’s successor (Nene has said that once his contract expires he is retiring to go do charity work), but outside of that, the Wizards can only improve via trade. It is more likely that they stand pat with a roster that is very solid, if it remains healthy and does not slide over a 20-game span, which it did during the 2014-2015 season.

REMINDER: The NBA Draft is Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 7 PM.

On FOX News Pontificating About “Black Culture”

On FOX News Pontificating About “Black Culture”
M.D. Wright

Oh the irony.

I haven’t written an op-ed social commentary piece in a while due to about 150 pages worth of theses, final reports and proposals due at two universities in the past six weeks, but this is one of the more irksome phenomenae in recent history: castigating an entire diaspora of people (particularly those in the United States) on the part of the very ones who are the descendants (and often still the perpetrators, although not knowingly, in many cases) of those who created the intricate labyrinth of a system that is designed to marginalize — and keep them there — Black people.

Experience is the best teacher.

Some things can be learned only through experience.

Right, no?

So why then, are people who are not Black, will never be Black, and (often) don’t even try to listen to those who ARE Black regarding what it is like to live in this nation as a Black person, always the ones opening their mouths first, and most vociferously about Black people? The proverbial “they” say that racism is taught and learned, and is not innate. “They” are correct. The thing is, the overt racism of yesteryear has been replaced by a covert, more insidious and dangerous latent, covert form of racism: a racism that is veiled in coded language, euphemistic inferences and, most criminal of all, blame-shifting many of the nations ills onto a people who not only had a major hand in building this country into what it became, but are still marginalized to this day by the very system that is designed to ensure that should they ever succeed in life, it is only in certain arenas, and not without possessing the perseverance of five men just to stay afloat until they reach the apogee of their life’s plans.

It will never cease to amaze me how Milton Milquetoast, encaged in their intentionally-secluded, extra-suburban environs for their entire lives can even begin to properly assess the ills (and causes of those ills) in an area where poverty, crime and survival mentality reign due to being choked off from most opportunities to achieve. No, this does not excuse Black people who take the coward way out of life by looking for shortcuts (as this is obviously not a trait endemic to Black people — people by NATURE look for the path of least resistance, until they realize that the road less traveled is that which provides long-term fulfillment and success). They choose to be criminals, sell poison to their neighborhoods, have no ambition in life but to have multitudes of children that they don’t train properly, only to gain a welfare check. Nor is this a put-down of those who even decide to live that way. Life is full of chances for redemption and a change in path, should it be taken. That’s not what any of this is about.

This is about the pent up angst, the misguided arrogance and unfounded  contempt on the part of people whose ancestors are robber barons who lied, cheated, deceived, stole, gained due to governmental policies that were put in place specifically for them to gain, while also ensuring that others (read: Blacks, and recent immigrants) remain on the front — in many cases — are the very people who are most vocal against Black people. And do not mention “White Privilege” to these people. They may as well be doing 90 down the highway and shifting lanes without checking their blind spots. Except the scepter of White Privilege is in that blind spot without them bothering to look. Discussions about race make those who benefit from the structural racism that continues to exist in this country feel guilt, a conflict in conscience, anger, and even the urge (or unmitigated gall?) to rebut the facts regarding the multi-layered issue that is racism in the United States. Any valid mention of racial bias in action is met with “you’re playing the race card” (which one of the stupidest lines in the history of Western Civilization, and probably of all time, but another article for another day). Such people don’t want anything to stand in the way of them enjoying the privilege that they have inherited over decades and centuries of hoodwinking and bamboozling many nations and ethnic groups in this world for their current gain.

“Don’t bother me with facts, I need to hear both sides of the story before I comment!”

An officer of the law, who used to be called to “protect and serve” is now about “controlling the unsavory, protecting the interests of those who crow about paying high taxes, while finding every loophole (created for them, by them) to avoid HAVING TO PAY TAXES” and “maintaining order” (that is, the new Jim Crow establishment), can shoot two unarmed, non-threatening people (Black is only relevant here, because outside of an FBI’s Top 10 Wanted Cartel member from the Caribbean or South America would face anything similar) are shot 50 times apiece, and fired upon at least 137 times, and not be held accountable? This has become a seemingly weekly occurrence. Of course those who don’t want their “peaceful enjoyment of willful blindness to very serious issues that don’t direct affect them” disturbed will want to “hear all sides” despite having more evidence than the prosecution given the murder weapon by the perpetrator himself, to begin with. They don’t want to hear both sides. They want to find any minor thing they can in order to dispel the notion that the officer committed the acts with contempt and not acting within the purview of his position. Then, when they can find the slightest thing to possibly do so, they take it and run with it. Hence the pithy response on the part of the officer’s union who claims the car of those two people killed in Cleveland, Ohio “backfired.” The officer, the police department and the union know they can’t use the old standby “well, I thought they were reaching for a gun” excuse, since there was no weapon and it was an alleged car chase.

I will not go any further on this, because it can spin off in another 50,000-word article in and of itself.

Every time one of these situations occur, the same rhetoric comes from FOX News (and the brainless idiots who parrot what is spoken on those airwaves) about Black people — paraphrasing:

1. “They’re responsible for the ills of this nation.”

2. “They’re all lazy and don’t want to work.”

3. “All they want is entitlements.”

4. “This is where our tax money (many of these same people are tax dodgers, the nerve) goes?”

5. “Lock them all up, they’re nothing but animals.”

6. “That damn rap music is what causes these people to act this way” (while depictions of violence on TV shows and movies that Black people often have no hand in from acting, producing, directing and writing are just as influential, if not more so, than rap — or deathcore metal, if we want to play that game).

7. “Why can’t they just go back to Africa?”

8. “Where are Rev. Al and Jesse?”

9. “Why is there never any airtime for Black on Black violence?”

10. “Have they ever heard of contraceptives and abortion???”

You name it, it has been said, one of the aforementioned forms. Then you have those with this Shangri-La, ostrich mentality who love to try and spin the whole matter on its head by taking a Universalist approach to racism.

Such people need a refresher in racism and understanding how to differentiate between racism and prejudice/preconceived notions/engaging in the use of stereotypes. A group that has been systematically oppressed by design for centuries, comprising 12% of the nation’s population and possessing an even lower percentage of the nation’s economic wealth, resources, political clout, power to assemble and affect change (without COINTELPRO and, its successor, local police actively seeking to destroy whatever Black people create when they DO assemble and organize movements to help pull people out of everlasting poverty  and ruin in the ghettos designed by redlining and intended to keep them there), CANNOT oppress anyone outside of his or her home and immediate family. That is simple math, and not up for discussion. Racism (in the United States) was systematically woven over a period of generations, intricately layered over time to buttress obstacles in any way that can be constructed in order to ensure that Blacks do not succeed without yeoman’s effort. This is not opinion, it is fact. The experiences of tens of millions prove this daily.

There is no need to go recount the number of Black people with A1 credit, collateral, liquid assets and supreme creditworthiness get denied for home loans or small business loans, while Whites with subpar credit and unsubstantiated means are getting mortgages that they would have to earn three times what they actually earn to secure the loans had the lenders abided by the same policies enacted against Blacks (and now, more recent immigrants from Central and South America). Do we even need to address redlining policies when it comes to housing? Levittown, New York (on Long Island) was created with that entire mentality in mind. Then you have this story — JUST PUBLISHED TODAY, MAY 23, 2015: http://7online.com/news/you-dont-belong-here-said-racist-letter-sent-to-long-island-family/736945/

People often bitch and moan about how Black people “didn’t take advantage of the opportunity” to buy buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn that they had inhabited for generations, in some instances. It may be so black and white (pun intended) in your world, but when meetings to make these sales are done in secret, without the involvement of those who are having the land under their feet sold right from underneath them without warning or notice before they can take action, that is what you get. Some took advantage, others knew and ignored, but the great majority had no idea that you could buy a brownstone (now valued at upwards of $2 Million in some instances) for $1, provided that you had the credit and ability to secure a loan from banks to renovate what had become shells of buildings during the crack epidemic (that is another subject for another day as well, but I have written on this in previous articles years ago). Never mind discrimination in hiring practices on jobs, those who attempt to start businesses find far more hurdles in securing small business loans than any other group of people. This is also fact, not fiction. Until people who find obstacles such as these at every turn are able to maneuver through life without these obstacles being placed in their path by those who have the power, clout and numbers advantage to do so (and continue to propagate this activity), then nothing will change. The worst part of this is those who benefit the most from this structure nowadays are the most blind and abhorrent offenders when it comes to speaking with condescension towards Black people. They have exercised and benefited from the unspoken privilege that the structured system of racism has afforded them that they have become willfully myopic to anything that exists outside of the bubble in which they live. And any mention of those things that occur outside of said bubble are grounds for fighting, bickering, arguing, reckless bandying about of “you’re playing the race card” and other idiocy.

I’d rather have the enemy that I know and see, than the enemy that I can’t see and don’t hear.

Political correctness is another lie that just further shrouds racism (along with all other social ills, for that matter) in this country. As racism went from being proudly overt — without any entity in place to challenge, and thereby refute or defeat it — to covert and latent, it became more dangerous than ever. You have people who will smile in your face, boast about the one Black person they are friends with (who just happen to share the debaucherous vices with them, or else they have no other connection, in many cases), want to hold hands and sing Kumbaya — until shit pops off and then the stereotypes, myths, angry slurs fly. If they are really savvy, they will encase those sentiments in newfangled euphemisms such as “thug” (instead of risking being ostracized by liberal society for being heard calling people “niggers”), and “these people” and other sentiments that shed light on the truest feelings about Black people.

I am no apologist for the scourge of society, regardless of what color or shade they happen to come in. But let’s not sit here and act as if Black people are the reason the United States is fucked up and gone to shit. We do not have any power, authority, clout or control to do so. In fact, many of the social ills that exist in layers now (going well beyond racism) are spinoffs of racist practices originally intended to maintain the “class structure” that involves Blacks at the bottom, with only a few making it through the proverbial door — and so few that they cannot affect any change to the establishment, and ultimately acquiesce and do nothing but become another member of the group who does the oppressing: just with more melanin.

Example: Charles Barkley.

He is not worth the keystrokes, however. That is another topic altogether. I could write all summer, but I shan’t.  The issue at hand is most disturbing, because it is just as hilarious as it is sad. People who understand the least (but benefit most) how the social dynamic in this nation has become perverted and warped as a result of racism are the most vociferous in delivering their misinformed (at best) opinions. And worst yet, those who strike back by emoting, “Well, I’m not rich, I live in a trailer park, and all of my family is broke” still don’t understand how pervasive White Privilege is. Material wealth isn’t a measure of privilege, the extent to which one receives the benefit of the doubt in a number of scenarios while lined up against a Black person with the exact same background, experiences and outward appearance, however, IS a more accurate measure. And even then, it does not stop there.

Bottom line, if you are not Black, you don’t get to talk first about this matter. And until Black people have finished talking and sharing their experiences, you still do not get to talk. You have experiences to share, to be sure, and obviously those experiences are paramount to reconciling this issue for everyone. But the core problem is that it is a heart issue. This piece isn’t addressed to any one person, and no one person should go and individualize this article and think that because they are not guilty of the aforementioned actions, that somehow it is invalid — because again, these are facts, not opinion, and therefore not open to discourse; civil as it may be.

We do not live in Utopia. Stop with your “I was raised colorblind” diatribe. You can afford to be colorblind when you are on the “other side” of the Affects of Racism Spectrum. When you’re on the other side, the antithesis is true. No, racism isn’t gone because Barack Obama is President of the United States. No, racism won’t go away by simply avoiding the discussion (to mollify and assuage your guilt and desire to avoid having your milquetoast life from being disrupted). No, racism won’t go away by just talking about it. Racism won’t even begin to subside until people put aside xenophobia, arrogance, misplaced ideas about superiority, and unfounded egos.

And knowing human nature, that would suggest that this will never occur. But these police officers getting away with blatant murder with impunity BETTER stop soon. Black people are not bootlickers as they were early in the Civil Rights era (not all, but some went along to get along). Cats are ready to kill (and die) if it means putting a stop to it.

Conspiracy theorists are having a field day thinking that all of these things are done to incite racial war and have an excuse for further militarization of police and the ushering in of a police state, but whether that is true or not, cops have to be held accountable for killing Black people in cold blood for absolutely no justified reason — except the fact that the fear and hatred in their hearts push them to do so.

Then again, I would be fearful of the always-potential for retaliation from a group of people that I know deep down have been done more foul than any group of people hieroglyphic times; knowing those people have every right to be angry, and knowing those people could explode at any time, as a result, knowing deep down that if roles were reversed, you would have revolted in a fashion that made the departure from Great Britain and the Declaration of Independence/Revolutionary War appear like a friendly game of horseshoes, by comparison. I’d be fearful, too.

But to shoot a man in a dark stairwell (Akai Gurley) because you were petrified of the neighborhood to begin with, and an unarmed man who you couldn’t see — much less to determine whether he was of any real or perceived threat to you (granted that officer was Asian — and that is yet ANOTHER discussion for another article), or to shoot a couple 137 times with no real imminent danger to your person at stake… and countless others… enough is enough. Deal with your heart issues. All this rhetoric and dialog is good for TV ratings, but the bottom line issue is people have misplaced arrogance, bloated perception of self, and ill-placed contempt for people based upon the very nonsense that FOX News and other entities love to spew for the sake of aforementioned ratings.

Don’t be a sucker to the scheme. And last, but not least, no one is better than anyone. Do not get me started on people who have come here from certain areas in Europe where they KNOW they were treated like utter garbage when they first arrived here, until they assimilated and then could halfway get the benefit of the doubt because their hue was somewhat similar to the propagators of the racist structure of this nation. Some of the worst racists are those who have come here from southern Europe and areas along the Equator (those with less  melanin, that is) when they were castigated and pushed to the fringe when they initially arrived because of the differences in their tongue, culture, religion, etc.

I could go in on a multitude of matters at this time, but I do not need my blood pressure elevated. However, I would have been remiss had I not finally expressed my thoughts about this most recent tragedy, as well as addressing this irksome mentality that has pervaded society for decades and has pissed me off for most of my life, once I became aware of how insidious it has become.

I don’t care who is offended, you will get over it. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. I will sleep well tonight, whether you cut me off or go and attempt (keyword) to trash me behind my back for saying what needs to be said. Now govern yourselves accordingly.

OMW’s I-95 Adventures, Vol. LXX

OMW’s I-95 Adventures, Vol. LXX
M.D. Wright

Well, it wouldn’t be worth writing if nothing occurred, right?

This was somewhat whimsical, as I am in the final stages of handing in all my work for the semester. I have completed all of my work at Seton Hall for the semester, so that left me with a good ten days to put the finishing touches on my thesis at Mercy, ahead of commencement on May 20.

I felt as though this was a good of a time as ever to get away, as I will be full speed into my next business venture, while also going head-first back into corporate with the aid of a pretty well-connected contact. Even though Mother’s Day was looming, I was not going to be able to spend the day around my mother. I did give her my regards face to face as I was leaving to head back home on Sunday, however.

The pieces all laid out perfectly for me to make this trip, though. I needed to make a run for Newports, get some fresh hardbottoms, and see some relatives who whined, complained, bitched and moaned about me never coming to see them whenever I came south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Aside: Funny, no one ever comes to New York or Jersey, unless there is a death in the family, and even then, they skedaddle out of town as quickly as they get here, as if they are on the run from the cast of “Manhunters” aka U.S. Marshals.

I had to pick up my cap and gown for commencement on campus up in Dobbs Ferry, which is never a fun drive for me. Traffic is an utter nightmare for a 25 mile radius around Manhattan nowadays (worse than normal), and I will get to that shortly. But after leaving Westchester (had to make a quick pit stop in Yonkers), I was planning to head to Staten Island to see my cousin one more time before he went away to do a 3 lb bid. Seemed simple enough. I have commuted to and from Staten Island to every borough, throughout Jersey, Long Island, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Dutchess and Putnam counties, and have a pretty good handle on how long it takes to reach Staten Island from Yonkers, even in the early afternoon.

It took me about 45 minutes to get everything handled at Mercy, since I also had to get my guest tickets for commencement in another area of the building following the $100 (!!!) purchase of my cap and gown. Maybe the sash that Masters candidates wear pushed it to $100, but whatever. I did not go to commencement when I finished my first Masters; eschewing the ceremony for Happy Hour down in the East Village back in 2012.

Once I left Dobbs Ferry, all hell broke loose with traffic. I made it through Yonkers on the Deegan just fine, but once I hit the Bronx down near University, and met that converging Cross Bronx Expressway traffic, I was bumper to bumper for nearly 30 minutes before I even crossed into Harlem. I had hoped to catch the FDR down to the Brooklyn (or Manhattan) Bridge and take the BQE to the Verrazano, then the Staten Island Expressway down to South Avenue, as we used to back when I lived out there, but the FDR was jam packed and not even moving, so I thought I would take the back way, using the West Side highway to Warren and cut across City Hall to catch the Brooklyn Bridge.

Bad idea.

I sat at the same light for six cycles down at City Hall, and there was construction on Ann (when is there NOT construction at all vital points in this city?) which made even getting to the bridge a hassle. Traffic was bumper to bumper, 20 MPH all the way across, including the entire expanse of the BQE until I got to Bay Ridge, just a couple of exits away from the Verrazano. Mind you, I had passed three major collisions, and one of them was due to someone driving while texting in heavy traffic (saw them fumbling with their phone after having passed them on the Brooklyn Bridge).

I am usually in the clear once I cross the Verrazano, because EVERYONE speeds on the Staten Island Expressway. And it would have been the case yet again, except some fool in a moving truck had also been driving and fumbling around on his phone when he cut off someone in one of those little buggy cars like Fred Flintstone bought Wilma thinking she wouldn’t be able to fit too many items from going shopping into such a small car. They were disabled in the middle lane just past Wagner College, and it backed up traffic all the way back to the toll booth exiting the bridge. By this point, what should have been about an hour or so trip turned into two and a half hours. My cousin said he would be in and out, but most likely home by the time I got there. The thing is, that was with the expectation of my arriving around 4 PM, not 6 PM. I get all the way out there, and no one’s home.

Not only does this prove to be a futile exercise, I hadn’t eaten all day, and had developed a headache from yelling at motorists while running on fumes literally all day. Hindsight is always 20/20, but had I known it would have gone down this way, I would have just hit the road once I left Westchester, and arrived in Raleigh by about 10 PM, instead of the 2 AM Friday that I actually gotten to my destination.

I did my normal fourscore and change down the Turnpike, and, because it was well past rush hour, cruised through Maryland and Virginia. The rest of that evening was uneventful (thankfully, unlike the return trip home), so I had just hoped to get enough rest to prepare for what would be a day of nonstop running on Friday.

Once I got up, I had a hair appointment at my cousin’s house. That meant about a 35 minute drive from Cary to the far north end of Raleigh. While I was getting my locs touched up, my mom texts me saying that her half-sister was in home care and wanted to know if I wanted to go visit. I have only seen her about three times in my life, and appropriately, she didn’t recognize me when I got there. Nevertheless, it was good to visit. Since we were in Oxford, we went to Henderson to visit my uncle, who is one of the best storytellers in the history of Western Civilization. I had nearly nodded off several times during the day, because I had only gotten about three hours of sleep the night that I arrived in North Carolina, and that was after driving for about 14 hours on Thursday.

Once I left my uncle’s house, I went to get food and reached out to one of my cousins who lives in Raleigh, since I don’t get to see them much at all. While waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more for an address to come across the phone, I had pulled over to the parking lot at McDonald’s so that I could track the 3rd period of the Rangers vs. Capitals Game 5. I saw that a garbage 4th liner had scored for the Capitals, and then took to Twitter to see my Ranger fan followers’ responses. There was tons of “oh well, break out the golf clubs guys, this is over” and other sentiments along those lines. I have learned all season with this team to never count a game over until the clock hits 0:00. Indeed, before I left the lot, the Rangers tied the game, and nearly won it in regulation before sending it to overtime. Once I didn’t hear back from my cousin that night, I drove back to Cary, and tried to catch overtime. Because I was on Capital Boulevard in Raleigh, that was about a 30 minute drive, and literally as soon as I walked into my friend’s place, Ryan McDonagh had JUST put the puck into the net to seal the Rangers win (Rangers would also win Game 6 to push the series to a deciding Game 7 back here in New York on Wednesday night), so I was feeling good, despite being DEAD tired after running around and driving about 400 miles and making numerous stops that day. Within an hour of the game’s conclusion, I was asleep.

On Saturday, I had a plethora of errands to run in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Greensboro. I went to see my sister and sent off some important documents to my tia who lives in Winston-Salem. I pretty much zig-zagged Greensboro three times that day, and, in the midst of it all, got caught up with the traffic outflow from UNCG’s commencement (which I was unawares of) trying to get back to the highway to go to Durham, where I was going to see if my sister was coming with me to visit the cousins who say I never visit them (sarcasm). After about an hour of being there, I drove over so I wouldn’t be out too late, and serendipity: I catch them just as they are heading out. It had been my cousin Siobhan’s birthday a couple days prior, and I literally hadn’t seen her in about three years, so that was a treat. My cousin Danielle, after hearing I was heading to my hangout spot, Triangle Town Center Mall, perked up and finagled her way into coming with me. I have a couple of contacts at Saks Fifth (I be in Bergdorf, Bloomingdale’s and Saks Five also, like Mr. Giles once said) so I went to utilize my discount. She wanted to get a few things from Victoria’s Secret, so, since I was in a benevolent mood, I let her pick what she wanted. It is good to give, although the intent isn’t to ANNOUNCE doing so rather to just explain what took place during the trip, which would have been erstwhile uneventful, as most of my mall trips are. I am always trying to negotiate and get everything for less than sticker price (and am usually successful in doing so).

After leaving the mall, I wanted to visit my cousin Davielle and my cousin Candece. No dice, but the effort was made.

By this point, it was time to eat, so I went to my go-to spot, New Bern Subs, which is fantastic; with their dirty drive-thru menu and rather shoddy appearance. These are the best places to get good-tasting food, by the way.

I had a couple of things to take care of at my parents’ house, and my dad and I watched some of the Golden State tent-folding routine in Memphis before I wiped out and went to bed. Alas, the “adventures” part of the trip was lurking as I hit the road first thing Sunday.

Because the Rangers had won on Friday night, it meant that their season would continue and there would be a Game 6 on Sunday evening. That meant that I would need to leave Greensboro no later than 9 am in order to get back in time (while planning for inevitable traffic tie-ups). I got out of town before 9 am, and stopped by my sister’s house before making a Starbuck’s run in Raleigh on 540 East.

Just as I had gotten back on 540 after getting my coffee this lunatic performs a heavy merge from an off-ramp, clearly not using his/her mirrors, and was doing about 75 mph (speed limit is 70 out there). I have this sixth sense when people are about to do dumb shit, and I had already checked each mirror on both sides for anyone in my blind spot or near me in case I had to move. All of the driving I have done over the years up and down the highways has prepared me for this. I was doing my normal fourscore-plus in the middle lane, while the person who was on the left lane was about three car lengths behind me.

This particular merge, at or around Exit 10 (can’t remember exactly where this was, but it was the exit following the exit for Route 50, Creedmoor Road) is a two-lane dump-off onto the highway, and this fool not only jumps into the lane nearest to the merge, but cuts ACROSS that lane into mine. It is as if I wasn’t even there. He could have lost his life (I doubt this was a woman driving like this unless she had just been the driver for a bank robbery, which I SERIOUSLY doubt), and I could have lost mine also. But quick thinking allowed for me to swerve  into the left lane without losing control. I was incredulous, even to the point where I couldn’t perform my normal road rage antics by tailing them and giving them a piece of my mind. I was just glad I had avoided that fool, because my focus was just getting home in time to catch puck drop around 7:11 PM.

After this, I finished up 540, merged with Route 64 and then went to my normal spot where I get my smokes for about $45 (they are $90 per carton in Jersey, and as high as $120 for the same exact carton in areas of NYC and Long Island). I got an extra carton for a friend of mine, and then it was hauling ass time. I was doing quite well (hit triple digits a few times for a sustained period to make up time), but once I got to Fredericksburg, there was wreck after wreck, which held up traffic on what was already going to be a rough day on I-95, as Sundays tend to be; even more so on a holiday.

I saw no less than 20 people looking down at their phones doing 70+ mph from that point, and nearly got run off the road twice in Virginia because idiots are so busy on social media on their phones while driving — and talking about nothing of any substance, mind you — to realize that they are drifting into another lane. My horn got a workout yesterday, to say the least.

Traffic was pretty normal in Maryland (that is to say, there are pockets of heavy traffic where the morons who designed the roads have constant “This Lane Ends in 1500 Feet” areas, which cause heavy merges, which lead to traffic jams, while there are stretches where you can speed. Maryland drivers may be the best in the contiguous U.S. They drive like New Yorkers. They drive as if they have someplace to go, unlike Virginia’s drivers (arguably the WORST drivers in the nation), who act as if everyone they see is a state trooper driving an unmarked vehicle. Rampant driving below the speed limit on the left lane, leading to having to pass everyone on the right, which, if you paid attention in driver’s ed, can lead to more traffic collisions.

Whatever, I got through Maryland, after stopping in Jessup and Columbia (as I always do), while making a quick stop at Houlihan’s in Elkridge, then the slither of area that is Delaware along I-95, before encountering that nightmare junction where 95 meets 295, 495 and the road toward the Delaware Memorial Bridge and New Jersey Turnpike. The traffic was backed up to a dead standstill all the way back to where the road splits (that is over two miles, if you are scoring at home), and I had already gotten forced to the left by one of those typical half wits who treats driving on the highway as if it is a video game — acting as if they are going to lose a life on the game if they miss an exit, hopping across FOUR LANES in heavy traffic in the process — so I just cruised onto 495 and decided to go Philly-Betsy Ross-130-90-Turnpike. Although I hate all of Philadelphia’s sports teams, driving through there is pretty easy. I did not get my normal nausea while passing Lincoln Financial Field at Broad Street Exit 17, so that boded well.

Traffic on the Turnpike was worse than a normal Sunday evening. In fact, it seemed as though I had brought a lot of those morons from Virginia (except they had NJ plates) who drive below the speed limit on the left lane (where most people are doing 90+ in the Cars Only section of the Turnpike), and it took me a good 45 minutes longer to get through to Exit 14 than normal. I had actually left NC in enough time to get home, unload the car and even take it back to Newark Airport and get home just as the puck dropped. As it were, however, I got home with about seven minutes elapsed in the 1st period, and Chris Kreider had already scored the first goal of the game inside of the first minute of the game for the Rangers. I brought up the rest of my stuff after each intermission and then sped off for the airport and caught my taxi home, famished and exhausted.

Rangers won, Big Mike Pineda wove a classic for the Yankees, so I was tired and slept well. Another adventuresome trip in the books. Until next time (in July) for the next installation of OMW’s I-95 Adventures.


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