MacBook Air 2018 reviewed

apol

 

This week’s been quiet and yet not so quiet. I finished reading Less Than Zero by Bret Ellis, which confronts heavy themes for a relatively thin book. I was sick of all the hedonism and taboo and needed a sea change by the time I was done. Having read American Psycho ten years ago, I subsume that Ellis’s run-on style and detestable characters are pretty similar across his fiction; it’s only the settings and circumstances that change. During that time, I also saw Instant Family with a chum. Instant was a likeable movie with lots of laughs and I heard was based on a true story.

 

Highlight

The highlight of the week was getting my new gold MacBook Air (MBA). I’ve been using a mid-2013 Air for the last few years. I loved the battery life, the lightweight size, and the connections. My old Air had a charging port, two USB 3.0 slots, a Thunderbolt port, a headphone jack, and an SD card slot. They were really useful, as you can plug in various cables and having little worries. You could sync all your photos from your camera directly to your comp. The only external that I spent considerable money on was the SuperDrive, given that the Air didn’t have an optical disk drive. To sum, it offers a lot and doesn’t weigh that much.

 

 

Stagnant

However, as the years galloped on, the Air was left behind. New keyboards were being included on other MacBooks, retina display was the brand standard, and Touch ID the new norm. USB-C was fast becoming the status quo across the board, and Apple in particular was turning stingy on ports. All this time, the MBA retained its minimalist, silver appearance and tech specs that hardly evolved. Five years since my old trusty notebook was released, Apple finally decided to make some changes. Being released late last year, the newest model had retina display, Touch ID, a new trackpad, the latest Apple keyboard, and just two USB-C slots. The astonishing weight of 1.35 kilos was even lowered to one and a quarter kgs.

 

At first, I did not consider upgrading. My laptop was still serviceable, and my first impression was that it was overrated. The more I read about it though, the more good things I heard, the more convinced I was that now was the time. I played around with the new Air, and I’ll admit that the keyboard was foreign. Unlike the old scissor-like keyboard that somewhat resembled retro desktops, this one was flatter, and seemed more condensed. The keys were closer, and there was less effort required when typing.

 

 

Shopping list

I knew I wanted the gold colour. My other Apple devices were either silver or off white, so gold was a breath of fresh air. The next big decision was whether to get 128 or 256 GB. My previous one was the former, and I know it wouldn’t suffice. All in all, the tech specs were pretty good: 8GB RAM, 256 GB internal storage, Retina Display, Touch ID, Force Touch trackpad, the latest keyboard, in gold colour, all while retaining the same lightweight design. The screen is also slightly different, with slimmer bezels at the side. The same is true of the keyboard, having slimmer sides than before and thus a wider keyboard). Most people wouldn’t splurge on an Apple laptop, but I dare say it’s worth it. If you’ll be spending some time in front of a computer, then why not get the best?

 

Included

I still find having two ports rather thrifty on Apple’s part, but the other features as mentioned above, make up for this. You either have two and a thinner design or go for the MacBook Pro, which has four. Be prepared to carry around some added weight though, and the same colour schemes. Meanwhile my MacBook comes bundled with various pre-installed programs. From Safari to Mail, Notes to Apple News, iTunes to Keynote, Photos, and Pages, there’s a lot of options for the artist in me. Earlier in the week, I migrated some of my previous content onto this new computer. The process was kind of fast; I guess having double the RAM makes a lot of difference. Meanwhile, the dual-core 1.6Ghz i5 processor is pedestrian. My old one also had an i5 processor but was at 1.3Ghz. To be fair, the former had a fourth-generation i5, while this one has an eight-generation type. Many potential buyers have complained of this sophomoric engine. With most top of the line ultrabooks being quad-core and over 2 Ghz, this is something that needs to be addressed. In this case, you trade a slightly less powerful Mac for portability and reliability. In particular, the battery is almost as good as its predecessor.  Touch ID has been quite handy. With the Retina Display, images are crisper and much brighter. Apple fans have waited a long time for full HD (high definition) on an MBA. It’s about time.

 

Rating: 4.5/5

 

apoltres 

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Australian Open Twenty Nineteen

barty

Let me tell you something: this week, I was short on ideas for a blog post. I did not go to the cinemas, the weather was stifling hot, and I just finished a long overdue read (City of Bones). I was in the middle of the Barty-Sharapova tennis match on TV when inspiration struck me. I was looking at the week’s post all along. I could’ve written this an hour ago, but I wanted to finish the tie. Ash Barty was the lone remaining Aussie (male or female) in the singles draw. It was a tough out going up against five-time slam winner Sharapova, but Ash is looking really sharp and is as fit as ever. Allow me to provide some highlights of the 2019 Australian Open, the grand slam of the Asia-Pacific.

 

 

  • Channel 9. Ever since I can remember, Channel 7 beamed the tennis action live on free-to-air. I’ve come to know their commentators and analysts, from Jim Courier to Bruce McAvaney, Todd Woodbridge to Renae Stubbs. Throw in Roger Rasheed and even little Lleyton, Sam Smith and Tracy Austin, and you’ve got a star-studded line-up of great tennis minds. Nine won the broadcasting rights some time ago, and the experience so far this tournament has been impressive. You’ve got the evolved list of announcers, the 360-angle replay, and the expert commentators. The additions of former star Jelena Dokic and firebrand John McEnroe caps off the all-star cast.
  • Andy calls time. The three-time major winner has been battling serious injuries these past few years. His ranking has slipped, and his on-court performances have waned. He still remains a tough competitor, but his body couldn’t keep up. In a teary press con, the great ball retriever announced that this would be his last appearance at Melbourne park. After his first-round loss, contemporaries across the board showed their solidarity for the Scotsman through a tear-jerking tribute video. It’s one thing for fans to idolize you, but to have the same support from your adversaries is downright special.
  • The Demon. Most of Australia must have heard now of Alex De Minaur. The Aussie number one just won his first title at Sydney and is one of a few teenagers ranked inside the top 100. McEnroe was singing his praises, the commnentators loved his never-say-die attitude, and he even awed the legendary Rod Laver. People have said how great the demon handled expectation, but I saw this as a recipe for disaster. The more that people piled up the praises, the harder for the lad to meet those demands. When even his third-round opponent, Rafael NADAL, was speaking glowingly of De Minaur, I knew the guy was in trouble. I wasn’t mistaken. With a 6-1,6-2,6-4 trashing, Nadal proved that Alex had a lot of work left to be done. It was the exact same score of their 2018 Wimbledon encounter, and even McEnroe was stunned as he searched for words. This matchup reminded me of Bernard Tomic against Roger Federer at the Open a few years ago. Too much hype, too little substance.
  • Roger marches on. Despite being thirty-seven years old, Federer has defied his age. He may not be world number one but continues to amaze and win. He hasn’t dropped a set all tournament and has a laser focus. You can even say that he almost has as much fun in the post-match interview as he does beat his opponents. With four kids already, he is the ultimate super dad. Indeed, most kids (and even adult fans) would mention Federer as their favourite player in Melbourne.
  • Back to Barty. When Maria won the opening set, 6-4, I was thinking game over. I busied myself preparing lunch when suddenly, I saw the score was 3-1 in favour of Ash in the second. I was as surprised as everyone when Barty levelled the match 1-set all. She even had a double break in that stanza. Barty led 4-0 and I thought she would make quick work of the tall Russian. However, Sharapova showed she’s the champ by ralling to take four of the next five games, trailing 4-5. When all seemed lost, Ash hung in there. She was only up a break when some strong serving ended any doubt. While Maria saved three or four match points, Barty put her to the sword. She becomes the first Aussie woman at the quarters in Melbourne since Dokic ten years ago. She faces Czech Petra Kvitovic in the next round, who squeaked by her in the Sydney International last weekend.
  • The Aussies performed quite well this year. A few male and female players progressed to the third round, including a couple of wildcards. They certainly had the crowd behind them. They were there waving flags, chanting their support, clapping, encouraging the local heroes, and cheering after favourable points. Barty was gracious, thanking the Aussie crowd for all their support, and that she loved playing in front of her home crowd. Apart from Barty, Kim Birrell had a strong showing and reached the third round. Alexi Popyrin was another unknown making his mark. Alex Bolt likewise knocked on the door. As she said, ‘we’re very lucky to have a home grand slam’. Only four cities in the world have that honour, and Melbourne is one of them.

 

 

Melbourne, 2019. What an event! The tennis demigods from the far seas have descended onto Melbourne Park and watching them compete is an absolute pleasure. We relish as they chase after balls, serve aces, overcome rallies, challenge umpires, break rackets, win games, win sets, and win matches. Bon Appetit.

 

Special mention: who could forget that Frances Tiafoe celebration? He channelled some LeBron after winning his second-round match-up. Reminded me of Marc Gasol doing a McGregor after hitting a key three pointer.

 

tiafoe

 

 

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Last five

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I saw Spider-verse with a friend since my last post. I was tempted to relate about it here, but given how my prior two were movie reviews, I thought another reading list was a safer bet. The last one was in October; since then, I have read a further five books to finish the year. I am about a third through a new one. This list is an eclectic catalogue: there are big names like Grisham and Reilly and a newbie like Sam Felsen. I have remained a Connelly specialist, as someone had observed. Indeed, I crossed the new year while contending with Connelly’s latest. The following are my five books to end 2018:

 

  1. The Black Echo. Connelly’s debut novel won the Best First Novel award in 1992. Having perused the book, I could say that, structurally, the book is very different compared to the author’s other work. At the time, Connelly was still working as a police reporter for the LA Times. There are far fewer sections, and they are notably divided by date. Longer though the sections are, they are evenly spaced, which gives some pauses for the reader. Early on, Connelly’s talent is on full display. From a well thought out plot, gripping action, pulsating dialogue, and all the bells and whistles, Connelly looked as though he had been writing for years. A Vietnam War veteran, Harry Bosch, barges into the scene, trying to solve a murder that involves a former colleague in the tunnels of Vietnam. Along the way, he crosses paths with the FBI, is under investigation by his own department, and has to stave off the Deputy Police Commissioner all in an effort to solve the case. As he goes deeper and deeper, he inches closer to the identity of the killer, a perp whose true face would shock him. Rating: 5/5
  2. The Reckoning (Grisham). I’ll admit that I haven’t been reading as much Grisham lately. There was a time where all I borrowed was Grisham. Altogether I’ve read in excess of twenty Grisham novels, and this one certainly lived up to the hype. The murder of the reverend Bell astonishes a small town in rural Mississippi. What’s even more unsettling is how the local war hero, Pete Banning, refuses to say anything to his family, friends, and even his lawyer. The book is not only a stage of small town politics, but also tackles family dynamics, 1940s America, and of course, World War II in colour. A whole section, all hundred pages of it, is dedicated to the war effort in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation. This was the best part, a history lesson on the shortcomings and casualties of WWII, highlighted by the infamous Bataan death march. While I do not dig the gruesome detail and war portraits, I loved the guerrilla warfare, the kindness of strangers, and the Pinoys and Americans fighting alongside each other. While I thoroughly enjoyed this bit, others weren’t so enamoured. In fact, many people admitted to skipping this section as it was ‘boring’ and they didn’t get it. Personally, I could NEVER do this, to skip an entire part of a book and then read on like nothing happened. I find that very convenient and rather privileged. It’s like getting a chopper lift from base camp to Everest; what’s the fun in that? As readers, we have the right to devour the best books, but we shouldn’t pick and choose the best sections. Otherwise, we would be making a mistake. For instance, twenty pages into Marcus Zusak’s latest release, I got fed up with the flowery prose and painstaking description, so I hit the abort button. I wouldn’t skip the middle chapters though just to have a smooth read. Rating: 5/5
  3. The Three Secret Cities (Reilly). I’ve finished the last three books in the Jack West series, including The Four Legendary Kingdoms (2017). Already a fascinating set, the Scarecrow (Shane Schofield) crossover adds even more spice. I was lucky to be the first person to borrow said book from my library. The series is reminiscent of the Indiana Jones film franchise and there is no shortage of adventure and artefacts. In this instalment, a blend of mercenaries and villains hunt down West and his circle. Loyalties are tested, myths reimagined, and secrets revealed in this race against time to save the world. Along the way, West will gain help from places he’s never imagined, and readers would scratch their heads as the fabled Atlantis and Knights come to life. In true Reilly style, every page has a purpose and thus nothing is wasted. You certainly couldn’t skip a hundred pages without feeling lost!

Rating: 4.75/5

 

  1. Green: a novel (Sam Graham-Felsen). Recommended by a former colleague, Green is a relatively short read. At 300 pages, the young adult novel is the thinnest book I’ve read all year. Focusing on middle school blues, race relations, and 90s pop culture, Boston is the setting for this impressive debut. As you skim the book, you would easily relate to Dave, Mar, and the rest of the kids at the King. The latter could stand for any high school, with warring kids, gym class, subpar cafeteria food, and big dreams. You don’t have to be black, white, Latino, or Asian; you need only have been a teenager once. Admittedly, it’s a time warp, with Sega’s, Larry Bird, Charlotte Hornets, VCR’s, and NBA cards. It is also very well written, making for easy reading. The peer pressure, basketball, and 90s Boston all gets to young Dave, who aspires to enter Latin like the rest of his school. By getting into Latin, you’re a shoo-in for Harvard. He befriends Mar, a black boy from a nearby neighbourhood who has his own struggles. Together this odd couple attempt to defy the odds, whether from within or beyond. Highly recommended. Rating: 4.5/5
  2. Dark Sacred Night (Connelly). My last book of 2018, bringing my total to 19. Like Scarecrow’s crossover in Reilly’s series, this time it’s ‘late show’ detective Renee Ballard as she intersects with Bosch. There are a few cases covered here, but the main one involves troublesome Mexican gangsters in San Fernando. They are well connected too, since San Fernando’s not LA, so everybody knows everybody. People who’re supposed to help do not cooperate. Therein lies the problem: there are walls everywhere, and roadblocks disrupt Bosch’s progress. He likewise seeks the killer of Elizabeth Clayton, the erstwhile junkie who he helped rehabbed. Will they get to said murderer in time? Or will it be too late? Not as good as Connelly’s earlier work, but not bad either. Rating: 4/5

 

 

At the moment, I’m fighting with City of Bones (Connelly). I’ll make sure to include it on my next inventory. Five books in two months, including two Connelly’s. The list includes some of my favourites such as Grisham, Reilly and of course, Bosch. Sometimes, it pays to stick with the tried and tested, but I wouldn’t growl when trying new books either. Every now and then, it’s nice to get out of your comfort zone, but for the moment I remain (mostly) a Connelly specialist. Count me in.

 

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Aquaman reviewed

aqua 9

 

Dubbed ‘the biggest movie this summer’, Aquaman blasted onto Aussie cinemas on Christmas Day this year. It made a killing in overseas markets before debuting at number one at the U.S. box office. Since one of my friends was unavailable, I invited another (Dave) for a viewing this past week. I had a pair of gold class vouchers which expires in two months. I couldn’t think of another film as worthy for a first-class screening during that span. While walking around in the mall prior to the session, my friend admitted that he hadn’t really heard of Aquaman.

 

Epic

Aquaman is an epic production. From a 140-minute running time to sumptuous CGI, to gargantuan characters and set pieces, to mythical quests and adventures, the movie is larger than life. A Warner Bros. picture, Aquaman is from the DC Universe, together with the likes of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Arrow, and others. Some people tend to see the live-wire action and the otherworldly visuals. However, what struck me was the consequence of family, the bond between mother and son, and the nexuses between heroes (and heroines). My buddy told me that ‘the opening scene was really something’. I agree. The scene where soldiers storm the Bastille to fetch the princess (Nicole Kidman) reminded me of the Stormtroopers snatching Princess Leia.

 

 

Arthur

Aquaman/Arthur (played superbly by Jason Mamoa) is variously labelled a ‘half-breed’, a ‘mongrel’, and ‘a traitor’. He is the son of the banal lighthouse keeper and the princess. Aquaman is badgered to take his rightful place on the throne, as doing otherwise would be catastrophic. Arthur has to constantly battle his own insecurities, his fears of not being good enough to be king. Princess Mera (Amber Heard) guides him along the way and becomes his greatest ally in the fight against his evil half-brother Orm, who lusts for the throne. Soon both become outcasts in their own kingdom, a kingdom Aquaman has only just visited.

 

Arthur will learn that he, like other Atlanteans, could talk underwater. His mentor would tell him that apart from that, Atlanteans could also see in the dark and could adjust accordingly to the cold temperature. The ultimate goal is to defeat King Orm, for which the legendary Trident is necessary. Arthur has shown his affinity for the deep even as a boy, where he could stop shark attacks and communicate with sea life forms. As an adult, he policed the oceans like Robin Hood and thwarted the bad guys. Will the outsider capture the golden trident?

 

 

Action overload

There is no shortage of no holds barred action sequences. In fact, there is way too much fight scenes in my opinion. This is rather distracting, even in the picturesque underwater setting. I did not see Wonder Woman at the movies precisely for this reason. In a sense, this bloated product reminds me more of The Lego Movie and Batman v Superman rather than Star Wars. Aqua is also reminiscent of Black Panther, with the soul-searching and the road to being king. While the latter has Wakanda, the former has Atlantis. Speaking of which, I’ve encountered Atlantis in Reilly’s latest novel. Different media provide different secret locations. Some scenes in Arthur’s journey were likewise reminiscent of another sci-fi epic – Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, the background music eerily familiar.

 

Disappointing

The movie has received mixed reviews from critics. However, my friend and I both agree that it was an okay movie. Spectacular CGI, yes, but predictable story. In a tide of bad options, I believe that Aquaman was the least wasteful. I know Mary Poppins has arrived, but it’s not my kind of movie. Same with Dragon 3, as I’ve just seen another family flick. At the end of the day, my verdict is that Aquaman was disappointing, a subpar Gold Class experience. Nick said he saw Bumblebee and it was a must-see. ‘I wished I saw that one instead,’ I told him.

 

Rating: 3.25/5

 

aqua 3

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Ralph Breaks the Internet reviewed

RALPH BREAK THE INTERNET

 

December is almost over and Sydneysiders have been caught amidst a heatwave. With temperatures soaring above 40 degrees in parts of the metropolis, people have been finding refuge in beaches, pools, rivers, shopping malls, and at the cinemas. They have been eating ice cream to keep cool and have turned on the air con. If you think Boxing Day was a scorcher at 32 degrees, think again. Since Thursday, the forecast has only been one thing: hot or hotter.

 

Disneyfying the heat wave

 

Personally, I’ve been doing some of those things to cool down. Yesterday I met up with Nick to see Ralph 2. He admitted that he hasn’t seen the first one, unlike David, who saw it at the multiplex. However, he was certain that the omission would not hinder his enjoyment of this part. While I didn’t see Wreck It Ralph in the cinemas, I did thoroughly enjoyed the Disney production. I dare say that this one was on equal footing with the first, if not better.

 

 

The first thing I noticed about Ralph 2 was the production budget. $175 million is a lot of cash, and it shows. The animation was nimbly done, and the visuals were stunning. Ralph felt more like The Avengers because of the plethora of Disney cameos and references. There were Disney princesses overload, Stormtroopers, Ironman, Buzz Lightyear, and even had an old Stan Lee sighting (Rest in peace). Suffice it to say, Ralph is a blockbuster for the whole family.

 

Heavy themes

 

My buddy noted that though it’s a kiddie picture, it deals with some heavy themes. These include online safety, trust, pop-up blockers, and self-belief (to name a few). When asked of his favourite character, he pointed out Knowsmore with his over-the-top Autofill that made the whole theatre riotous. Joining Ralph and Vanellope in their epic adventure through the online galaxy was such fun. Meeting new friends, expanding their universe, and exploring the World Wide Web was def viewing. Seeing them join forces while putting their differences aside was sweet. Their mission to save the day yet again, tugs at the strings of our own quest for fulfillment.

 

 

We could learn a lot from Vanellope. Simple things like saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ (as she did to Knowsmore) could go a long way to endearing you to others. Being the rare polite user makes you stand out from the crowd. Vanellope also teaches us to maximise our strengths. Sure, she is a killer race car driver, but she likewise uses this to get out of a tough spot, turning foes to friends. Her erstwhile combatants are in awe of her prowess. On this note, Gal Gadot is riveting as Shank, Vanellope’s newest chum. Meanwhile, Ralph may be stereotyped as the big strong dude who annihilates every brick along the way. But, as shown in these films, he has a soft spot for Penellope and regards her as his best friend. He moves heaven and earth just to help his BFF, even posting silly videos on BuzzTube and Instagram in their race against time to save their arcade game. He may have gone to extremes and opened the Pandora’s Box, but surely you can count on Ralph to be everyone’s hero, right?

 

Verdict

 

The film has rated quite highly on review sites, even scoring over 90% in some cases. It has likewise become a big holiday hit at the box office. I’ve seen many Disney films over this year, including 4 Marvel films and The Incredibles 2. My pal commented that the production was such a massive one that our ticket sales would probably only cover the marketing costs. My verdict is that this is one of the top Disney pictures of the year, if not one of the best films altogether. Mind you, I’ve seen my fair share at the movies this year.

 

Rating:

4.75/5

 

P.S. I would like to wish all my readers an eventful and fun-filled New Year ahead. Let’s turn the page on 2018, try new things, and welcome 2019 with open arms.

 

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The Hailstorm before Christmas

santa slay

© Christopher Ong 2018. All Rights Reserved.

 

T’was the week before Christmas, when all through the town

Not a raindrop was letting, not even past sundown;

The houses were pelted and the cars on the ground

My! Were they bloody glad to have insurance on hand.

The surfers were swimming at Bondi, unable to touch base,

This was a bigger headache than they could ever erase;

From north shore to east hills, the damage was done,

Such unreal hailstones no wonder everyone wanted to run;

They were like apple guavas raining down from the heavens,

So unexpected since it had just been as humid as ovens.

 

The bad weather had been rumbling for days on end,

When Mother Nature erupts, you’re left to mend;

It’s been like this for all of the week,

Streets were drenched and suburbs flooded, no rest for the meek;

I was sitting in the lounge unable to move

I turned off the TV as the thunder was in a groove;

I feared for my laptop so didn’t charge

The last hailstorm was so long ago seeming like a mirage;

My cousin was concerned she called me while it was pouring

Told her not to worry. It’s not ‘The Conjuring’.

 

This must be what it feels like to have the world to stop,

When you shouldn’t brave the tide and make everything drop;

A hundred million’s worth of damage that’s what I heard,

Those insurance companies could not help every bird!

 

 

In the spirit of Christmas, let’s not get stuck,

There’s more to Christmastime than nature running amuck;

You should hear about the 36-hour Yuletide shopping frenzy,

Or the Boxing day sales, where there’s bargains for all and sundry;

The traditions of celebrating Christmas are alive here as anywhere else,

From hanging stockings to Secret Santa, Christmas trees to miniature elves.

There is more sunshine here during December,

Longer days and shorter nights, we all want a piece of the Yuletide fever;

Christmas in summer, isn’t that what it’s all about?

 

Feasting, roasting, watching, clinking without doubt;

Turkey, ham, and lamb roast: take your pick,

Tis the season to indulge, so we can’t feel thick;

From pavlovas to pies, ice cream to eggnog,

The table is filled, ready to rock so no-one needs to leapfrog;

We gather as one and forget our troubles

The phones and tablets overstepped by nibbles;

The houses are filled with Christmas carols, the lights bringing neighbourhoods alive,

Windows are open, doors are welcoming, such is the holiday vibe.

 

In our joy, we remember the Holy Family,

They shaped us, and help us, we are grateful for their unending generosity;

Doesn’t matter if you’re Christian or not, neither your skin colour

Now that it’s Christmas it’s time to savour;

The season is one for all we are all equals

Whether it’s raining specks or rocks, we face our trials;

Santa may come or might be late,

But in the spirit of Christmas let us all stop and ruminate!

 

christmas tree ny

 

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Buzzer beater

boston garden

Boston Garden

 

I was thinking of writing another movie review, but my last two posts concerned a pair of films that we saw at the cinemas. The Shape of Water, in spite of stunning visuals and distinctive storytelling, could wait. This week is all about one of my favourites, the NBA (National Basketball Association). I’ve been watching basketball, on and off, since primary school. Even though I have no access to the PBA or UAAP hoops, I’ve remained a loyal NBA fan. Basketball is big in the Philippines, dare I say the national past time. Indeed, I’ve thought of posting this in Filipino, but decided to go with English to be more inclusive. A third of the NBA season is history; here are a few observations.

 

  1. The offence never rests. Slight rule changes have seen the league (L) become faster and have teams piling up the points. Squads have averaged four more points to 110 per game. Pace is up from 97.3 to 99.8. There is less grabbing and holding, as the refs have had a quick whistle. This has resulted in more fouls called and free throws awarded, resulting in more free-flowing action. The other major rule change is the shot clock reset from 24 to 14 after corralling an offensive board. Teams are forced to think on their feet as they no longer have the luxury of milking the clock.
  2. The Rockets have disappointed. Houston, we have a problem. They have been outplayed, outhustled, and outworked for most of their season. While they bring two of the deadliest dudes, James Harden and Chris Paul, their defence has been a mess and their offence not much better. Last year, they were a Chris Paul injury away from a date in the NBA Finals. In fairness, they’ve beaten some pretty good opponents but have suffered from a lack of consistency. Personally, I’ve always found them hard to watch – even while they were winning. Harden gets all the foul calls: whether it’s shotting threes, driving to the basket…it slows the game down. Even when no one is near him, they get whistled for a foul. Bummer, I guess the MVP is entitled to some calls.
  3. The Clippers are playing out of their mind. Who would’ve thought that the Clippers would be number one? They currently sit at fourth spot out West, but they are better than the LeBron-led Lakers. While they do not have an All-star, they have an ensemble of very capable stars. Lou Williams is clearly their best player, but others have stepped up too. Tobias Harris, Gallo, Patrick Beverley, even Harrell have all contributed. Though they do not have the best starting unit, they have one of the deepest benches in the L. They likewise boast one of the best minds in coach Doc Rivers, if not the best. Rivers has consistently proven how he can get the most of a mediocre side.
  4. Game-winners galore. It’s the NBA so expect a slugfest, but it seems every night matches go down to the wire. Jimmy Butler hit two game winners in a span of 8 days. Bron has hit some clutch buckets down the stretch. Luca Doncic of the Mavs burned the Rockets for 11 points in the final 3 minutes. Damien Lillard has been his usual sniper at crunch time. Durant is always money. The thing about the L is that there are so many good players that you can expect fireworks each game day.
  5. Early season start. It seems like every year the L gets an earlier start. The action always began at the end of October but recently we’ve been seeing matchups as early as mid-October. While the regular season remains at 82 games, this allows for an earlier finish as well. Whereas before, the Finals would end on 20 June, the NBA Draft could be held on that day.bos garden painting
  6. International flavour. There are 108 foreign players from 42 countries. For the fifth successive season, every team has an international player on their opening night line-up. Even though the Raptors are the only non-American team right now, the international touch in the L continues to grow. From old warriors like Dirk to young phenoms like the Greek Freak (Giannis), these players are a reminder to us all that basketball offers an opportunity ‘beyond borders’.

 

The NBA might be a business, a juggernaut worth billions. The NFL (National Football League) might have more fans, and the MLB (Major League Baseball), more exposure. But make no mistake: basketball has arrived. With more Aussie players in the L than ever before, we are now a part of this renaissance. For most, the quick charge of rugby league might be tempting. Compared though to painstaking football and equally robotic tennis, basketball certainly offers at worst an equal option – if you could ignore the timeouts, fouls, dead balls, and extra periods.

 

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