Sunday, April 17, 2016

Star Wars The Force Awakens Series 2 Trading Cards

I purchased a few packs of the Topps Star Wars The Force Awakens Series 2 Trading Cards.  They are similar to Series 1 which I reviewed here.  I liked Series 1 and also like these cards.  Minor details like the color of the bottom behind the writing has changed.  It is now blue and the picture on the bottom right of the base cards is no longer Kylo Ren but it is of a stormtrooper. 

Heroes of the Resistance, Power of the First Order, Sticker Card
The great thing about this series is that now that the movie is out we can enjoy all the movie stills that might have spoiled parts of the movie.  I'll let the pictures I've posted do most of the talking but will say I pulled base cards, concept art, sticker cards, Power of the First Order, Heroes of the Resistance, Lightsaber Green (1 per pack), Lightsaber Blue (1:2 packs), and a Lightsaber Purple (1:4 packs).  Lots of great cards which help to relive the movie which I watched just last weekend.  I hope you are able to grab some of these. They are fun cards from a great movie.  

Blue, Green and Purple Parallels
Concept Art

2016 Gypsy Queen Baseball Cards

Picked up a rack pack of the 2016 Gypsy Queen baseball cards which contained three individual packs.  I always look forward to the Gypsy Queen cards.  These are very nice and hold true to the designs of the past.  "Gypsy Queen" is in large letters at the bottom of the framed photo with the player's name and team below that.  Just describing it doesn't do them justice.  The photos have that "art" look you see on different cards nowadays and nice fonts in the lettering.  These are the retro themed cards I like as opposed to Topps' other offerings.  These are more pricey but I'll take them over the others any day. 
The backs have a nice look with the player's position, name, team and a short write-up.  There is some older looking deco framing the back of the card.  Plain but nice.  I'm not a fan of either of the two parallels I received in these packs.  The blue framed cards are OK but nothing worth writing home about.  The design is alright but there is just something that seems off about them to me.  The mini cards are just that, small.  Nothing else except a pain to store and display.  I know people like the minis so maybe it is just me.  But I can do without them.    
I do like this set but maybe not quite as much as the designs of year's past. It may have something to do with the lighter coloring on the front border.  Still they are great looking cards and I will definitely grab more if given the chance.  There are plenty of relics and other inserts I didn't get which would definitely be a big plus.  I really like the look and stars of the Power Alley cards.  Might have to chase those down on Ebay.  Definitely take a look at these cards.  Topps has once again done a nice job with this set. 

15 base cards (1 retro player)
5 framed parallels
4 minis (1 retro player)

Friday, April 15, 2016

2015-2016 NBA Playoffs

The first round matchups probably won't provide any earth shattering series this year but 16 teams still have hope.  It does seem like a lot of haves and have nots in the first round.  The second round is where I expect things to really get cooking.  I'll look at each series starting with my teams.

Boston @ Atlanta - Boston looks good this year and are led by all-star point guard Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Jae Crowder.  Atlanta is the higher seed and have home court advantage though the teams have identical records.  I, along with others, see the Celtics as the favorite.  Atlanta was good this year but not great.  They weren't able to build on the success they had last year and get better. They've taken a step back.  While Paul Milsap, Jeff Teague, and Al Horford are good none can carry this team.  In the playoffs the rotation will be shortened which is good for Atlanta as they don't have much depth outside of PG Dennis Schroder.  Teams have caught on to staying out on Kyle Korver limiting his effectiveness and scoring (9 ppg) while taking away an important part of their offense.  It just seems Atlanta is ripe for the upset.  They don't beat the better teams and I put Boston in that group.  Boston 4-2.

Portland @ LA Clippers - Portland has Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum but not much after that.  Unless the Clippers can't guard either of these two guys LA should be able to win this series pretty handily.  The Trail Blazers are a great story this year but they really are a two man team. LA has three legit stars along with good supporting players.  I'd be surprised if Portland can steal more than one game from the Clippers.  The Clippers have all the pressure on them and  can't get caught looking ahead to the second round and a possible matchup with Golden State.  LA Clippers 4-1

Detroit @ Cleveland - Cleveland is healthy and should be able to roll through this series.  Don't get me wrong.  The Pistons have some good players in Reggie Jackson, Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Marcus Morris.  They are balanced and will hopefully make the games close.  Still Cleveland's big three will be too much.  Cleveland 3-1

Indiana @ Toronto - Toronto is my hope for giving Cleveland a run in the playoffs.  Not sure they can actually do it but they have two young studs in Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan.  That will be enough against an Indiana team that has been inconsistent at best.  Toronto 4-1

Charlotte @ Miami - Charlotte is a nice team that has flown under the radar this year while winning 48 games.  They can spread the court and have Al Jefferson back to work the boards.  Still Miami is playing very well even with Chris Bosh out.  I'd like to think the Hornets can take this to seven games but that is probably a bit much to ask for this young team.  I'll go with the more veteran Miami Heat.  Miami 4-2

Houston @ Golden State - Why would I think this will be anything other than a sweep?  Houston has looked lack luster all year after firing Kevin McHale early in the season.  I thought that was a big mistake.  Dwight Howard has struggled to find his way consistently in the offense and James Harden is the only reason they are in the playoffs.  The Warriors are just great.  Unless they are suffering from a 73 win season hangover this series is already over.  Golden State 4-0

Memphis @ San Antonio - Assuming LaMarcus Aldridge is healthy there is no reason to believe the Spurs won't dominate.  That said, Memphis is a sneaky good defensive team and seem to play San Antonio tough.  If Aldridge is hurt this is an entirely different scenario.  But for now I'll take San Antonio in a series with fairly close games.  San Antonio 4-1

Dallas @ Oklahoma City - Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook should give anyone a tough series.  While Dallas has done a good job with their roster I think OKC is just too good.  Oklahoma City 4-0

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Kobe Bryant Goes Out Swinging

Kobe Bryant went out last night on a high night scoring 60 points against the Utah Jazz.  A horrible season for Bryant (17 ppg/35% shooting) can now be forgotten.  While he did stay two years too long, Kobe is no doubt one of the greatest of all-time.  Third all-time in points scored, 1 NBA MVP, 5 NBA championships, and 2 NBA Finals MVP trophies.  There is no arguing how great he was.  The numbers don't lie nor did the eye test.  Watching him you knew he was one of the great scorers of all-time.  There were greater players but he will deserve his spot among those greats of the game.  Maybe a top 15 guy?  Let the discussions begin... 

By announcing before the season that he was retiring, Kobe was able to get a farewell tour out of the deal as well.  That cumulated in a farewell by the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans that would only happen in L.A.  It was over the top but it was Kobe.  He was always a guy front and center.  There is nothing wrong with that.  He was a great polarizing personality for the league for 20 seasons.  No matter why he was in the news it was good for the NBA.  Seemingly the bad guy but he didn't care.  What was refreshing this year was being able to see Kobe as we haven't before.  Knowing this was his last he was much more relaxed at times which is a side you rarely saw in past seasons.  I'm glad I've been able to watch him over the years.  His was a great run.     

The Golden State Warrios Win 73 and Would They Beat the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls?

Golden State won their 73rd game last night in a historic season.  This is the second time I've experienced the wins record being broken but being older, and somewhat wiser, I've appreciated what Golden State did this year much more than when Chicago broke the record.  And to be honest I really didn't like the Bulls back then.  It is a huge accomplishment and one that the Warriors should relish.  The hard part will be following it up.  If they don't win the championship the 73 wins won't be tainted but their season will definitely be looked at differently .  Their task won't be easy as the Clippers, Thunder, Spurs and Cavaliers are all possible obstacles in the next three rounds of the playoffs.  No matter how it plays out it won't be easy.  A minimum of twenty-eight more games after what had to be a grueling season won't be fun unless another championship banner awaits them at the end.  I'm rooting for them, assuming they don't play my teams on the way to another championship.  I'd hate to see such a great season end on a low note.  But even if it did this team is a great one and it has been fun to watch.

Now who would win in a series pitting the 1995-1996 Bulls against these Golden State Warriors?  First off I don't believe, and do not know anyone that believes that those Bulls would sweep the series.  Sorry Scottie.  The Warriors are way too talented to be swept.  The crux of many arguments as to who would win comes down to the era in which the series would be played.  The 90's when players could be more physical or today when players can't get away with as much on defense?  To be honest I don't think it is that easy though it is a good point.  Don't forget those Bulls could shoot the three. They shot about as half as many three's as these Warriors but in today's NBA they would definitely take more three pointers with defenders having to play off them more.  If Golden State played back then I think the quick hands on defense would be a big plus.  Little nats running around the floor harassing other teams.

Bottom line is I think the Bulls win this series but I think Golden State makes it very close.  While Chicago didn't have to deal with shooters of this caliber I think Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan would do a good job harassing Thompson and Curry enough to make life miserable.  Dennis Rodman and Draymond Green would probably be ejected for fighting at some point but otherwise I think Rodman gets the best of that deal by keeping Green off the boards and playing stifling defense.  Toni Kukoc and Steve Kerr coming off the bench would add to the Bull's firepower and ability to stretch the defense allowing Jordan to attack the basket.  Though he might have to do it with Andre Iguodola draped on him.  I just don't think the Warriors defense, as good as it is, could make up for what they'll lose against the Bulls' defense.  But like everyone else I'd love to see this series.  It would be too much fun.  Bulls 4-2 in a great series.