Monday, July 28, 2014

Card Show Finds - 1976-1977 Topps Basketball Cards

1976-1977 Topps #127 Dr. J
 Found these some time back at a card show but wanted to give you a good look at these unique cards.  They are from the 1976-1977 Topps Basketball set.  No review on these but I do like them, especially the collegiate stats you'll find as well as the pro stats.  Couldn't pass up the Dr. J card and I've always liked Clifford Ray and Billy King so those were no brainers.  These cards are part of the tallboys phase Topps went through and measure  1/8 inches by 5 ¼ inches.  Enjoy.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

2013-2014 Paninin Basketball Trading Cards

Great Motor City jersey on Andre Drummond
Panini has what I would call a base set from their brand which has no branding like the Prestige or Hoops offerings from Panini.  I picked up a rack pack containing 40 cards.  Not a bad looking set but I wouldn't call it spectacular.  The front is dominated by the photo which is good.  I pulled four rookie cards, one red knight parallel card, two preparation cards and two knight school cards.  The base cards are dominated on the front by the player's photo which is just how I like it.  The photos are good.  They are all on court action shots with a few of the above the rim variety.  I like the photos with the one of Jordan Hill being my favorite (his hair in the photo is great). The bottom of the card has a blue background area that contains the numbers 13 and 14 on either side and the player's name, Panini, and the team name all in silver embossing.  Not a big fan of this look.  I can't put my finger on it but I just don't care for it.  I would have preferred to see a smaller Panini imprint somewhere, the team logo instead of team name and player position.  Seems like a lot but we've seen it on other cards and it worked.  They just need to get a little more creative. 
Poor Anthony Bennett looks so lost...
  The backs contain a smaller copy of the front photo on the top portion of the card with the card number and NBA logo in the upper left and right respectively.  I know this is random but I like the NBA logo placement for some reason.  Under the photo you see the player's name then his height, weight, and birthdate.  Below that are some pretty decent short takes on the player.  The team logo is to the left with the Panini logo under that.  College and draft position are next.  Stats include the last season and career totals - g, FG%, FT%, 3PM, RPG, APT, STL, BLK, PTS, PPG.  All good but with the points per game listed is total points really required?  Could use that space to add 3P% and/or change the blocks and steals to per game averages instead of totals.  While I prefer more stats the backs actually look pretty good.  The write-ups add value and it is just a nice looking, colorful back. 
For the price ($4.98) you can't go wrong.  Seemed a little light on stars but I can't complain too much.  I do like the knight school card inserts but the preparation cards didn't do anything for me.  The only rookie I knew was Anthony Bennett and, well he is Anthony Bennett...  The Jordan Hill Red Knight parallel is ok and I also received his base card.  There are plenty of other inserts with this set.  Look here to see some of the other inserts you can pull.  Always seems you like have to purchase boxes to really get good inserts.  I get it but it would be nice to grab some of these sometimes in retail packs.  Maybe I'm just not lucky?   For the value this is worthy picking up just for the fun of it.  If I was to choose one set from this year this wouldn't be it but I won't doubt I'll pick more of these up at some point.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Atlanta Braves Still Struggle with Offense

Some things just never seem to change.  Again I have to talk about the offensive woes?  The Atlanta Braves are having a good year at 54 and 45 but they are 1 game out of first behind Washington and have plenty of company vying for the wild card.  One thing that still gets me is that the Braves signed B.J. Upton two years ago when they could have resigned Michael Bourn for virtually the same price (Bourn is actually cheaper).  Yes they did it to help entice Justin Upton but the Braves have paid for that move.  All he seems good for is 150 strikeouts a year and the .197 average, .271 on base, and .311 slugging in 219 games.  And it isn't like he was all that great when played for Tampa Bay.  Enough whining about that.

Atlanta does have some players who are having very good years to include Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman, Evan Gattis and new second baseman Tommy LaStella.  Center field would be my priority to upgade the offense if they can make a move before the trading deadline.  I'd love to see a speedy guy who you can put at the top of the order that gets on base all the time.  Not a lot of those guys out there and as good as he's been in the leadoff spot I'd like to see Jason Heyward farther down in the order.  A third baseman with some power would also be a plus but other than Adrian Beltre I don't know if anyone fits that requirement.  I was glad to see Atlanta finally drop Dan Uggla.  Great guy who gave us one very good year but it was time for him to go.  I have to hope the offense can come around the second part of the season.  Maybe LaStella and the return of Gattis from injury can spark this offense.  It is just frustrating when you have such good hitters and some having very good years and the offense still doesn't produce.  Here are some of Braves' major league rankings so far this year: 
Runs - 27th
Homeruns - 17th
Average - 24th
OPS - 25th

Braves' pitching is sixth in the majors in ERA and is doing well.  Considering the injuries the pitching staff has endured and mist be considered a huge win for Atlanta.  I wouldn't complain if the Braves grabbed one more arm for the bullpen but that just seems like I'm being greedy. 

Atlanta can still win their division and/or compete for a wild card.  I truly believe this offense is better than what we've seen.  Hopefully something will get it going.  If it does there is no ceiling for this team in the National League.  I don't think a World Series birth is out of reach.  First they must reach the playoffs and find that inner consistent offense. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

2012-2013 Panini Prestige Basketball Cards

2012-2013 Panini Threads is another of the $11.98 retail boxes Wal-Mart now has on their shelves.  This box contained 8 packs with 10 cards in each for a total of 80 cards.  The biggest pull from this box was the Jose Calderon threads card.  I've never gotten a threads card ever so this was a fun surprise.  The front on the base cards has the Prestige logo and set date in the upper left or lower left depending on whether the card is portrait or landscape style.  The team logo is in the upper right or left depending on the orientation of the card.  The players name is either on a team color line near the bottom of the card or the far right again depending on the orientation.  The rest of the front is all picture which is a good thing.  The backgrounds are faded out.  Again in a color of the player's team.  The photos are pretty sharp but not as dynamic as the offerings from some other sets.  Still they are good photos that take up the majority of the card front and I can't complain about that.  I like the fronts and the only thing I'd add is the player's position.  I'm sure it could have been added somewhere. 
The top part of the card back is colored in the team appropriate color in something of a cloudy smoky design.  The card number is in the upper left, Panini and NBA logos are in the upper left and the team logo dominates the center of the "cloud".  The player's name appears in large script just below the team logo.  Next down is a section with the players information - Ht, Wt, Birthdate, Round Drafted,  and where from.  Would have liked to see the pick number with the round but that is ok.  The player's college should also be standard on cards.  Next are the stats - season, team, games, percentages (fg, ft, 3p), rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and points and points per game.  Stats include the last season as well as career totals.  I prefer to have more than just one year but I do like that they include per game stats as opposed to totals.  The lines of stats are highlighted in two alternating team colors.  At the bottom you'll find a write up on the player with the normal generic material.  Not a negative but unless a company gets creative with these I much prefer the stats from additional years.
Rookie cards have a banner down the right side of the card stating "ROOKIE".  They also have a shadow photo behind the player photo on the front.  Besides the thread insert the only other inserts was a connections card featuring Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash who were teammates in Dallas at one point and a hardcourt heroes Dwayne Wade.  This is a nice set but I'd probably buy something a little different before adding more of these to my collection.  Still the thread card was pretty awesome.  Not a "money" card but I'm still pretty excited to get one.  If you like basketball cards you should pick these up at the right price.  

2012-2013 Panini Threads NBA Trading Cards Part 2

Looked at this set in February.  Wal-Mart has since stocked retail boxes containing a total of 80 cards (10 cards per 8 packs).  These sell for $11.98 and are a good deal to me so I like picking them up.  I had a pretty good draw grabbing LeBron, Nowitzki, Durant, Duncan, Curry, Howard, Parker, and Bryant among many other starts.  Great pull and I just want to share a few of the cards I pulled.  On a side note one thing I noticed when trying to collate the cards by team is that one, there are a ton of players who don't have photos in their new uniforms.  Two, with there being no team logo and the team name in small letters collating was not an easy job.  Minor detail but I've always liked logos on the front and collating was more of a chore than normal because of the two facts. 


2013-2014 Hoops Basketball Cards Part 2

I wrote about these cards in a post in March that you can see here.  Since then I purchased a retail box containing 11 packs (110 total cards).  I love opening boxes and just wanted to show off a few more of these good looking cards.
Great shot on the Paul George card. 

More great shots from around the rim which is a definite theme. 

Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I'm a big Planet of the Apes guy.  Growing up as a kid in the 70's reruns of the movies and TV series made me a fan and kept me hooked.  I've enjoyed all the Planet of the Ape movies to include the Mark Wahlberg's Planet of the Apes from 2001 and the start of the latest take in 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  That brings us to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which is out in theaters now.  I watched it yesterday with my 20 something daughter. 

<<<SPOILERS AHEAD>>>  We both really enjoyed the movie.  Set 10 years after Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the apes are living peacefully in the woods across the San Francisco bay from humans who are trying to survive after a flu has decimated the earth's population.  A chance encounter then puts the two at odds.  Ceasar tries to keep the peace while dealing with those within the ape community who remember well how they were treated by humans.  Those apes would have Ceasar lead the apes against humans before they can again become strong enough to challenge the apes.  From there the apes are in conflict with humans.  I won't ruin all the major plot points but I thought they did a great job of making the movie a very realistic scenario.  I believe you can understand the actions by both sides.  The movie is paced very well and I can't wait to see where the next movie goes.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a great sequel which I recommend to everyone.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Movie Review: Rock of Ages

I finally got around to watching the movie Rock of Ages.  This is right up my alley.  My formative music years revolved around hair bands so I was in heaven.  When I heard Rock of Ages was a musical though I was a bit worried.  Musicals are a bit hit and miss for me.  The fact that Rock of Ages didn't get good reviews nor did well at the box office (made approx. $58 million while it was made on a $75 million dollar budget) didn't help my concerns.

Still I new that at the worst I was getting to listen some great music and had actually purchased the DVD from the $5 bin at the local Wal-Mart some time ago.  So it was going to happen and I loved it.  Basic premise is a small town girl and city boy meet on Sunset strip and chase their dreams.  The actors did a great job singing the songs and their are tons of them.  I don't know how many but there were all apropos to the part in the plot.  And I was so taken back to my younger days by them.  Luckily only the dog was around to here my singing.  Lucky for me too as I could really belt them out.  The Rock of Ages soundtrack just moved to the top of must buy music list.

No Oscar nominations to be had here - just fun.  Just watch and enjoy the music.  There is of course the love story from the two main characters but there are also plenty of supporting characters who are all clich├ęs of 80's sterotypes which I loved.  Who can't love the 80's?  While the movie comes in at two hours it went by really quickly.  Bottom line is if you don't like hair bands or musicals stay away.  But if you do watch this movie.  I'm giving this movie 8 out of 10 stars.  Just pure enjoyment.  

Rating:  PG-13
Length:  123 minutes
Cost:  $75 million
U.S. Box Office:  $38 million
International Box Office:  $20 million

The Crisis at the Mexican Border

I don't jump into the political ring often and when I do it is definitely something that is important to me. The issue of illegal immigrants seems to have, not easy, but obtainable solutions.  Yet an answer hasn't been put in place over decades and it has again come to the forefront.  I just don't get it and it frustrates me to no end.  Some towns and farmers on the border must deal with illegals who can sometime be dangerous.  It is also sad to now see local governments and towns burdened with the current influx since the administration has decided to ship the people all over the country while they await hearings or deportation.  Those trying to enter the United States illegally are also at risk whether it be by their shady guides or just the elements themselves.  What doesn't help is the administration now having no firm answer for sending them right back.  By allowing them to stay for any amount of time over a day gives them all hope that they may be able to stay.  And hope keeps them coming.  I know this can't be fixed overnight but it can be fixed. 

I won't say I have the answer but I have liked some of the solutions that have been floated out there.  Using the military to defend the border is one.  The National Guard and Reserve units are activated two weeks out of each year.  Maybe some of those units can augment others that can be put in place.  A force year round would ensure little to no illegal immigrants make it across the border.  Whatever happened to the "giant fence on the border idea"?  I know it was a gazillion dollars but isn't the President asking for four billion dollars now to deal with the problem?   I know neither is an easy answer and maybe not even the right answer but it seems that over time something like these, or something completely different, could have been put in place to stem the tide of illegal immigrants.  Again the lack of all the administrations throughout the years is maddening.   

Some will argue that we are a country built on immigrants and that we should not be concerned.  There is truth in that but those were days when a good part of the country either hadn't been settled or was sparsely populated allowing for more growth.  Today we have too many issues with joblessness and the lack of job growth to absorb the current influx of people.  There is also the issue of caring for them when they arrive.  They don't walk into new jobs nor do they have medical coverage.  This means they are supported by the local and national governments.  Of course they can be productive citizens at some point but until then the taxpayers must pay the bill.  And then once they are established and have a job does that mean they are taking a job from someone already in the United States?  To my simple mind that means yes. 

I do understand there are issues in other countries from which people will want to flee.  This still doesn't mean we can accept everyone.  Smart people must figure out that happy medium.  I hope against hope the congress and the President will do just that.  It didn't start during Obama's administration nor did it start during Bush's.  This has been an issue for many many years and all those administrations failed to enact a proper solution.  Watching the stalemate on Capital hill doesn't give me much hope but that is where the answers must come from.  I just hope one comes soon for those having to deal with this issue directly as well as those making the dangerous trek with false hopes of permanent residency. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

LeBron James Goes Home and Other Free Agency Notes

LeBron did it.  He went home after signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers.  It isn't often the best player on the planet in any given sport is a free agent and I can't think of any time a player in his prime has returned to his original team.  This was very exciting.  I really believed he would go back to Miami but for me this is the best scenario for everyone.  No matter the reason he left four years ago, and whatever pain it caused to the fans and owner, he has gone back and all is right again.  Not that going to Miami was wrong.  He went there to win and he did.  Only three teams in history have gone to four straight finals and the Heat brought home two championships in those four years.  That is a win in anyone's book or should be.  Miami fans should be happy for what LeBron did for their team which is pretty unprecedented. 

Cleveland is actually in a pretty good spot to compete.  Even with Chris Bosh returning Miami is no better than the fourth best team in the Eastern Conference leaving Cleveland to compete with Indiana and whatever other team takes a step up for a trip to the Finals.  They have stud point guard Kyrie Irving, possible superstar Andrew Wiggins at the two, power forward Tristan Thompson and center Anderson Varejao as starters to go along with LeBron.  This is a solid starting five and with LeBron everyone of them should be better.  Varejao may be showing some signs of his age but there is no reason to believe he won't be solid in the middle.  The bench can use some help but with their cap situation that isn't a surprise.  As it was in Miami, Cleveland will have to look for veterans who don't mind taking less money to play with LeBron.  The rumor that Cleveland will make a deal for Kevin Love is strong but I don't think they can get him with out giving up Wiggins.  Is that a bad thing?  Probably not.  I think this is a very good team with Love or with Wiggins. 

I am surprised Bosh went back to Miami.  That said he will now be the number one option and will get an extra year at the max which is all good for him.  We'll now see how good he really is.  Has he just been deferring so much to LeBron or is he just not the player that signed with Miami four years ago.  My guess it is somewhere in between.  While he'll be a solid player he just isn't that banger down low anymore.  Miami has picked up a good supporting cast (Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger) and depth so this team will be just fine.  I think if they'd upgraded at point guard this team could have really helped itself but still I think they win 50 games next season.   

Carmelo Anthony returned to New York.  While the money made sense I'm not sure this team truly competes for some time.  I know the idea is to make a big splash in free agency after the upcoming season but I just don't know how big a draw there is to play with Anthony.  He is a great scorer but I don't see players rushing to play with him.  We'll see how it plays out.

I get that Houston wants cap flexibility moving forward but not matching the Dallas Mavericks' offer to Chandler Parsons confuses me.  He is replaced by Trevor Ariza who is capable but not as good an all-around player.  For a team who seems to want to compete for a championship soon I don't see how this helps.  Hopefully there is a plan and we'll what they have in mind. 

I've been saying for a couple of years the Trail Blazers' big issue is depth.  They helped themselves some with the additions of center Chris Kaman and point guard  Steve Blake.  Neither move puts them over the top but maybe it gets them to a seventh game in the second round of the playoffs.  A scoring wing would be a nice addition but I don't see them making any more moves this summer.   

Los Angeles was the big loser in all this.  They got squat, nothing.  No one wanted to go there and they lost Pau Gasol.  Kobe Bryant has to be wondering how it has gone so wrong.....Oklahoma City is another team who seems to have, while not gotten worse, definitely didn't get better which is something that can be just as bad sometimes.....Even though Dallas had to give up Jose Calderon they definitely improved themselves as Tyson Chandler returned via trade and they picked up Chandler Parsons.....Atlanta did little in free agency.  A team who had been rumored to make big runs at free agents was never rumored to be in the market for any of the second tier players much less those at the top.....San Antonio hasn't made any major moves but resigned their own free agents which makes them a contender again next year.