Tuesday, December 13, 2016


I am a Catholic, and if there's one thing I embraced as a Catholic, it's being accepting of other religions. I have had differing opinions about attending masses, and out of personal principle a while back, I made a conscious effort not to attend mass for a while. Say what you want with that act, but it did not change my view of my faith. I never had an issue with the Church as a religion, but I sometimes question how others choose to understand its teachings.

The masses I've had in high school were inspiring to attend because of the youthful energy around, the lively band playing the mass songs, and the relatable sermons of brothers and priests we usually hang out with during break times. Other masses I've enjoyed thereafter were those celebrated by priests who had sensible and inspiring things to say, i.e. nothing about politics. For the most part, Catholic masses feel like a collection of individuals with various agendas in attending the mass; some look like they were dragged to it, some seem like they were just there because someone asked them to come, some just want to get done with it, but there are some who go there to genuinely make a connection with God.

I think that's why I sometimes envy Christian celebrations. I went to a Victory celebration once, and found it very peaceful. It doesn't hurt that the Christians I know are generally warm people so I always thought it was nice to join in on their celebrations.

The Feast

A friend has been inviting my wife and I to join their celebration of The Feast in Suntec City, but it never really worked out because we had games scheduled on Sundays, and I had work on Saturdays.

A couple of weeks ago, everything lined up and we were able to commit and attend.

From what I know, The Feast is a Catholic prayer community founded by Bo Sanchez. Initially, I honestly thought it was a Christian group, but that never deterred me or my wife from wanting to attend a celebration.

Attending The Feast was a welcome change. They shared personal experiences and sang songs I didn't know, and while they shared inspiring stories, their words didn't move me as much as it appeared to move others. However, there was a strange energy in the room that filled me. I don't usually subscribe to supernatural experiences, but I kid you not when I say that there was something in that room.

I believe that it was a direct effect of similarly driven individuals collectively making a leap of faith. The songs were just mere expressions, but everyone, at least in those moments, has offered everything to God. This did not happen because they needed something from God, but rather because they wanted to express their gratitude to Him by trusting Him completely.

I was pleasantly surprised; most of the people I know become religious when they need something from a higher being, or if they feel like they need to give back because of what they have done in the past. Others are too religious for me to relate with; they speak too much about their faith as if they have nothing more to do than to pray every second that I'm not talking to them. That Sunday, I was with regular people who got together to give thanks to God through songs.

I can't stress "togetherness" enough. Even if I am with my family in a Church, it sometimes feels like we're motivated by different things. My wife and I attend mass together, but despite so many people around, it never felt like we were praying "together" with other people in the parish. We prayed in unison because there were prompts, but we weren't all "together."

During The Feast, there was a feeling of serenity, warmth, and belongingness I have never experienced in a Catholic mass.

Later in the celebration, the speaker asked everyone to somewhat "share the love" this Christmas season and walk around to hug everyone in the room. I literally knew two people there, and another one by association because my wife worked with him. Still, I went around and hugged the most number of strangers in my entire life. I didn't feel forced, nor did I feel like the others were forced to hug a stranger like me. There were a lot of warm hugs that day.

After The Feast was a Sunday mass celebrated by one of the nicer priests in St. Theresa, Father Romeo. Having had The Feast prior made me more prepared to hear mass than I have ever been in my life.

Last Sunday, we went to attend regular mass again. The feeling of "community" wasn't there. I'm thinking maybe it would be different if I served, but then during the Feast, there was a sense of community even if I wasn't serving.

I'm not comparing because I am unmotivated as a Catholic. I just want to figure out what is missing in Catholic masses that there are less and less men who heed the call of priesthood, and why chapels are only full during holiday masses.

I think the parishes are lacking a sense of community despite their best efforts to build one. The diversity of the people in the community also makes it difficult to create one. I'm thankful to have learned about The Feast, because I think it emulates the energy felt in a Christian celebration and integrates it into a Catholic setting. I appreciate what they do, and I hope to join in on more celebrations with them.

Reflecting on Faith

Faith, I think, requires a certain surrender. It's not supposed to be taught and drilled into the minds of people, young or old. I don't think it's necessarily bad to teach the young about faith, but to impose one's perspective on them even when they reach the age where they can discern for themselves is almost like brainwashing, I feel like.

This experience helped me feel that certain surrender. It came at the most appropriate time. At the time I was with The Feast, I almost felt selfish because I was thinking about my personal struggles. Yes, I thank God for every day that I wake up, but during that time, I felt I didn't thank Him enough.

It's easy to say "Jesus, take the wheel," but it's another thing to let Him. After all, if you know how to drive, you tend to be uneasy whenever someone else drives for you, especially if it's your car. It's not easy to give up control of something you're responsible for; be it your life or your car.

That day with The Feast taught me that taking a leap of faith isn't just an expression, and the surrender that is felt is euphoric.

Surrendering control doesn't solve everything, but it helps give one a clear mind as to how one would deal with what is not yet.

I have my worries and uncertainties about the year to come, but because of the timely coincidence of us attending that particular celebration, I feel like everything's going to be alright.

Monday, November 21, 2016


noun, informal
"fear of missing out"

The fear that if you miss a party or event you will miss out on something great

Growing up, I liked to surround myself with same-aged friends. It is through them that I developed most of the interests I have even to this day. My parents would attest that I spend more time with friends than I do at home.

In my 30 years of existence, I became close friends with a lot of people, but most of them I barely even talk to anymore. Despite how friendly I can be, I only kept a handful of friends around.

When I decided to get married, I knew that it would mean leaving those friends behind. My then-girlfriend had been based in Singapore for a year when I proposed, and it would be difficult for her to move back to the Philippines if we considered the financial implications.

After getting married, I was jobless for a while before settling for a cashier job at a nice Filipino restaurant eight months in. I had no friends of my own, except our housemates who were my wife's college buddies. I built new relationships because that's what  I do, but none can replace the void left by my friends and family back home.

Sometime a couple of weeks back, a sudden sadness gripped me. I saw friends making plans on a whim to meet up, while I felt alone and uninteresting where I was. At first, I felt like it was a case of FOMO.

I talked to my wife about what I was going through, and right then and there, she booked me a flight back home to meet friends and family.

It was a quick trip but I was able to meet the people I wanted to be with; my immediate family, my cousin Jon and his dad, my college family with Kuya Ags, my brothers in Team Flow, and my ates Sof, Inna, Len, and Ernestine. As always, despite whatever I thought I was going through, I ended up just having fun with everyone.

A four-day trip with a lot happening, but this is the only event that was documented; my brothers and sister from other mothers.

Upon my return, my boss talked to me about what happened, and he offered some pieces of advice. Among those, he told me that I wasn't ready to be a dad yet because I had episodes like this. He said that when one gets married, one should be ready to give up everything. I begged to differ, but with alcohol and a live band playing, I decided against getting into a more reasonable debate.

Let me share the points I would have raised:

Passion Leads You to Where You Should Be

I have friends who ended up in professions I never imagined they would be, while there are some who ended up exactly where they should be. My wife was very fond of Coke as a product that even her persistent stomach ulcer can't keep her away from it. How she ended up with a job at Coke is beyond us, but we're thankful for it. Our wedding planner, Pam, has what we think is a successful events company that she runs. While we're already amazed that she was able to do that, I'm even more amazed that she opened up a second restaurant because she's passionate about cooking. My friend, Christian, is someone you could consider as a slacker in college. He didn't graduate with us, but begged his mom to let him study law. Four years and one bar exam later, he was a lawyer.

After reflecting, I realized I wasn't like them who were passionate about something in particular. However, if there's one thing that I liked that hasn't changed since when I was young, it's being a father. Even as a kid I didn't know what I wanted to do as a profession, but I was damn sure that I wanted to be a dad. I didn't set my heart on a single career path, and it's probably why I can't find the right job just yet.

I wasn't built to sulk, and no matter how you see this blog or my intentions for opening up to my wife, I was really just trying to find solutions. One of the solutions I came up with, with the help of my ates, was to try focusing on learning new things that could help me build a freelance career. That way, I could stay home for our kids but still be able to help my wife provide for our family. Hopefully, things begin to get better on this front by next year.

Life Goes On

My biggest fear in life is death. I fear not knowing what happens after death - to me or to the people around me. To a lesser extent, this same fear was what kept me hesitant from leaving the country altogether; what happens to my parents who would have none of their kids at home? What happens to my last boss when we were the only people doing sales for the company? What happens to my friends who only needed a single text message to see me when they need or want to?

And then I jumped and ended up where I am.

The short trip back home gave me a sense of euphoria with everyone I got together with. While I am still uncertain about what happens after death, I realized that while I am alive, I'll always have these people around me no matter how far away I am from them. See, despite months of not seeing each other, it's like we saw each other just the week before. I missed them all, and talking to all of them made me feel at ease. When we parted ways, I didn't feel like I was going to miss them; whether they know it or not, they made me feel like they will always be there when I need them, and they will be the same people I have come to appreciate no matter how much time I don't get to see them.

Life does go on, with or without us together. However, I'm happy that the friends I kept are the same ones who do want to keep me as well.

Complete Surrender

I concur with my boss when he told me that one has to be prepared to give up everything when one decides to get married. However,  I don't subscribe to his idea that one should actually give up everything.

I think that your significant other married you for the person that you are, not the person that you will be when you get married.

I've been married for about a year, but I've been in a relationship with my wife for the past 11 years, so I believe that I'm not much of a newbie in this relationship thing. I've also had my fair share of relationship experiences from people around me. I've seen what happens when you jump with your eyes closed because of complete trust only to find out when you open it that the one you trusted for decades is catching someone or something else.

It's romantic to hear that you would give your complete trust to your partner, but if something goes wrong (i.e. someone cheats, someone gets too busy with work, someone chooses friends over their partner, a partner dies, etc.), it would be difficult for one or both partners to pick up the pieces of themselves. Sure, life goes on, but why make it difficult for the other to move on by keeping him/her away from who he/she really is?

I believe that while couples can trust each other completely, they should never lose their individuality. Two may become one in marriage, but the reality is, there are two people. One can't be just the shadow of the other.

As I said, I made the leap of faith when I chose to leave home. However, I'm thankful to have a wife who constantly pushed me to keep my individuality despite my surrender.

No Regrets

Despite the loneliness I felt that led to my sudden trip back home,  I came back knowing that this is where I should be.

Truth be told, I wouldn't have imagined I'd be married in a different country five years ago. I hoped I would be married by this age, but I didn't know how it would work. My wife wanted to do a lot of things back then, while all I wanted was to have family. I hated that I couldn't get married to her sooner, but I needed her to figure things out before asking her to build a future together.

And she did.

I don't know if we'd be married now if she didn't have the courage to move away from home back in 2013. We would probably still be happy with friends and family around us back home. We would probably still be living with our parents. We would probably still be working with our beloved bosses back home (no sarcasm here, we honestly loved our bosses). But we wouldn't be married, with the way our finances were and how my mind worked because of how I was raised.

Heck, we probably wouldn't even be together because she'd be too tired to wait for me to ask her hand in marriage.

Where we are now, no matter how lonely it could get for me at times because of who I am, is where I think we should be. We live with friends, but we manage our own expenses. We don't inconvenience anybody if we go home late. We spend most of our time in our own room together because our friends can't call us for a sudden get together like they could back home. We get to plan our lives without asking for anyone else's blessing.

We've grown up together, and we're only growing more as adults because our decisions carry that much more weight now.

I miss home. I miss everyone. But this is where we need to be.

And when we get our own little one, I think everything will be well worth it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

...Houseband No More: Officially an OFW...

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a blog about being jobless in Singapore and how I'm dealing with it. The day after the said blog was posted, we looked for a place to hang out after a busy week for the working housemates. I looked for barbecue places (meat!) that wasn't too expensive and found Iskina Cebu, a restaurant that offers Cebu Lechon and other roasted meat. It's in Timbre+, a food park concept that isn't too far from our house.

We met the guys and learned that they were having a hard time looking for people with a Dependant's Pass who were willing to work as their cashier. I asked if I could be their guy, and a few discussions with the owner later during the night, I was kind of hired. Chris (the owner) asked me to come by the week after to start training, and I've been working ever since.

My new workplace :)

Pay's not so bad; something from zero is definitely a step up, isn't it?

If I knew writing a blog would lead me to a job, I should have done it earlier.

Life As a Cashier

Chris was asking for a long term commitment to his team, as he plans to expand to other places in Singapore. He said he's working on the structure of the company, and he'd need people to help out in sales eventually. Personally, I thought being a cashier would be a part time thing, but knowing that he has a vision for the company, I said I'd love to join his team especially with the opportunity for growth. Besides, it's a brand I can get behind, as it promotes the Filipino culture here in Singapore.

So far, it has been tiring, with work hours starting from 12 noon to 10 or 11 PM at night. However, it's been fun, especially since I get to meet a lot of people. Filipinos frequent our shop, but we don't fall short on having regular patrons of different races. For someone who enjoys meeting new people, this job has been rewarding in a sense. There are times when I need to spend time introducing our menu to new customers who have never heard of lechon before, and after they're done eating, they would take time to come back just to express how they enjoyed our food. It's the same rewarding experience I got with our food truck before. Even if I'm not cooking, I'm happy that the brand I represent is something I can proudly promote.

It's been a pleasant surprise to reconnect with old acquaintances through my job. Over the past two weeks, I've met a schoolmate from grade school and a junior in college from one of my favorite classes to visit when I was campaigning for the Student Council. I'm looking forward to meeting more friends randomly while I'm doing this.

Family and friends have all said the same thing to me when I told them about my new job; "mag-ingat ka sa cholesterol mo!"

Their concern is understandable, and I would like them all to know that I don't eat our food everyday. The guys told me to just feel free to grab my lunch from the kitchen, but I do try not to eat there everyday. Don't get me wrong, the food tastes great, but I don't want to get tired of eating roast pork. To do that, I need to practice self-control.

I also learned the struggles of the business that they have. I realized even more how business isn't just about having money. Chris, the businessman that he is, has kept his brand consistently good because he works in it himself. You probably wouldn't feel like he's the owner when you meet him, because you can easily relate to him and you'd see him either cooking, chopping, manning the cashier, or serving food from time to time. He has survived dealing with partners who would remit questionable sales returns, part-timers who would repeat receipts so that they can pocket some cash for their own, and a shortage of personnel. I think anyone who isn't as resilient as him could have just cashed out and sold his brand out. Instead, here he is, still working on his dream to grow his brand.

Trust is such an important factor in choosing the people who will work for you. I'm thankful that he has placed that trust in me, but I am sometimes left to wonder why do people have to cheat the hand that feeds them?

Surprise Documentary

Last Saturday, a film student came by to talk to Chris about shooting some clips for his documentary. Yesterday, they came by again, asking to interview the guys for the said project. I didn't want to get interviewed because I thought it was about the restaurant, but he said he thought focusing on the people would be more interesting. They asked some personal questions which I had no issues with, considering I wrote about it in my last blog. Let me share some of our discussions;

On Filipinos Being Happy

He cautiously gave his observation about Filipinos in Lucky Plaza on Sundays. He said that when he sees them happy and even dancing on their picnics, he can't help but wonder if it's all a facade; that six days in a week, they suffer the reality that they are away from their families.

Growing up with both my parents working, I was lucky enough to have had the privilege of living with house helpers to take care of us. Our house help usually came from provinces. While their provinces are a bus or a boat ride away, they were still away from their families. Back then, there were no social networks or cellphones to keep themselves updated with their families. They lived with us for years, and while I do think they miss their families, they weren't crying everyday because of it.

When my sister first had her baby, she looked for someone who would be able to help her take care of Khail. We met Ate Lorena, who was a distant relative of one of Ate's housemates. She was a nice lady who had kids of her own. She would often cry while sharing how she misses home, but she also smiles while doing so.

When natural tragedies like floods or whatnot hit the Philippines, it's not uncommon to see people full of smiles waving to cameras despite the carnage behind them.

I told him that I thought we are a generally happy people. I think the happiness that he sees in Lucky Plaza is not an act. I have no doubt that they miss their families, but technology has helped bridge distances between families and their providers who work overseas.

I think that despite the distance, they stay happy and motivated because they are able to contribute to their goal of providing for their families back home. While they are away from their own families taking care of another in a foreign country, they are giving their children a chance to build their own dreams. They do their jobs well, as I do mine, so that we can contribute to our respective goals. Focusing on the sadness of being away from home (or in my case, where I am professionally) will only affect our performance, and might hurt our capacity to help reach our goals.

On Career

He shared that his motivation in making this documentary about people is his realization that he will soon graduate and he doesn't know what will happen. He's pursuing his passion of making film, but he also understands the challenges of his industry. He also knows that he may need to find jobs that may not pay as much as soon as he graduates, but he doesn't know how he would be able to do it.

They asked me if I thought that being a cashier here is a step down from being an account manager back in the Philippines. I said I think career-wise, it is undoubtedly a step down. However, financially, I thought it wasn't as bad. At least I didn't have to spend my salary on airfare to visit my wife.

It's not lost to me that being a cashier isn't exactly a dream job for a "provider". It certainly wasn't in my mind when I was getting my degree or creating a network personally or professionally. I may be settling, but I'm not sulking. I focus on the positives of my job rather that dwell on what looks like an unpromising professional career.

I told the guy that it's important to work on a goal to keep oneself motivated to be happy or to go on. When I decided to get married, I knew the sacrifices I had to make, and I knew that my career was going to be one of them. While some may look down on the job I landed, I write about it with pride because I know that I am working towards a goal of starting a family, and what I earn will help me contribute in reaching that goal.

On Missing Home

As a student who's lived most his life in Singapore, he couldn't understand how we could leave home in favor of living in a foreign country. He asked if I missed home.

I definitely miss home. I miss family, friends, getting to drive, the familiarity, and much more. It's never easy to leave home, but growing up means making difficult decisions. By deciding to get married, I was ready to live my life with the person I wanted to grow old with. She didn't need to make me choose between home and her; I had as much power to make her choose the same. I made this decision by myself and for us.

He may be too young to understand, but I'm not saying I'm old enough to be an expert on this matter. From my perspective, though, I think that the idea of having to choose just one scares the shit out of people. Our culture has implanted in us a deep connection with our family. As we grow older, we extend that connection to our friends. When we meet the person we think we want to be with for the rest of our lives, it's important for us that he/she is accepted by the people around us. We don't need to totally let go of our family and friends, but once you make a decision to get married, the hierarchy of importance should change. The "family" in "family comes first" becomes your own family; your husband/wife and kids, instead of your parents and siblings.

I think those who are on the fence about getting married is scared of this inevitable decision. Personally, I didn't know I was ready to make such a decision. When I decided to do it, I just jumped to the unknown, with the only thing I'm certain of was that I trusted that the hand I held was the only hand I wanted to hold, no matter where we fell.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

...Housebanding in Singapore: Eight Months In...

If you asked me when I was in high school where I saw myself by age 30, I probably wouldn't have a concrete answer. However, I definitely wouldn't have said "married, and unemployed in a different country."

"Retired" would probably be a better goal by the time you reach 30, but that could only happen when you have enough savings to make you not work anymore. If you lived most of your life in a third world country with a corrupt government, chances are you never got the opportunity to earn enough to do that by age 30 unless you're either a tech whiz who invented some revolutionary new app or something, a lottery winner, or a kid of a corrupt politician. Since I am neither of those, and I lived most of my 30 years in the Philippines, I can definitely say that I am unemployed, and not retired.

Since graduating in 2007, I had about four jobs, and none of which look appealing enough to build around here in Singapore. I would explore entry level jobs, but there aren't a lot of open doors for 30-year-old rookies. It gets frustrating. My wife and I are not going hungry, as my waistline and neck fats would tell you. However, as a man, I do want to be the provider for our family, not the other way around.

One of our wedding godmothers tried to catch up with me recently, and she said she's happy to see that we're still enjoying Singapore despite my situation. I said I always enjoy what I have and don't stress out on what I don't. I think being happy is always a choice. How else can you explain Filipinos keeping smiles on their faces when the news feature their towns devastated by floods?

So, eight months in to this marriage, unemployed in a foreign country and away from my family and friends, I have to say that I'm no expert in this kind of life. Still, that never stopped me from writing before, it won't stop me from writing now. I'll probably update this in the future, or look back at this whenever things get hard. For now, here are three things that could help a houseband like me keep a happy marriage:

Have Pride as a Houseband

Men are supposed to be the provider, the head of the family. Once a man does not fulfill that, he feels less of a man. And what is a man without his pride?

I think that in this day and age, we should recognize the possibility of the house husband - the houseband. For years, women have fought for equal rights so that they could have jobs and positions that were once thought to be exclusive for men. Now that women are in positions of power, why can't there be men who are in occupations once thought of as exclusive to women?

Instead of bumming out because of not having a job, why not be the keeper of the house? Make sure that the wife, who is working to provide for the family, does not have to worry about keeping the house in order. Women have done it for years, there's no reason for men not to be able to handle it, especially if they think it's easy

Instead of sulking about not having a job, be the best houseband your wife could ever have. It's still a full time job.

Spend According to Your Earnings

When you have zero earnings, don't be a burden. My wife didn't let me manage her expenses early on in our careers because she thought it was her hard earned money, and it was her right to spend it any way that she liked. Looking back, I think I should have held back on my spending when she wasn't, but I live with no regrets. My money was spent on good food, and my belly is now my pride.

Money does not come easy, and I know that mounting expenses can spark a fight between couples. Despite having been together for a good ten years prior to getting married, we never had to pay for utilities. We shared food expenses, nothing more. Now we have rent and utilities to think about. Since I don't have income to share, the best that I could do is make life as comfortable for her as possible, because that's all that I can do to pull my weight.

I'm thankful to have had parents who disciplined me enough to grow up not having expensive hobbies. I love electronic gadgets, but I don't feel compelled to own every interesting one. I love playing basketball, and it's great to be in a country where courts are managed well despite not many locals keen on playing the game. I love food, and having housemates who enjoy trying out restaurants as much as trying to cook on our own helps satisfy my taste buds.

Money can't buy everything, and it's not that difficult to find the free things that could make us happy.

Find Ways to Surprise Her

When friends ask me what they should do to impress a girl, I always tell them to keep it simple. Grand gestures of love are always great for movies, but in real life, it could cause problems down the line. See, movies could end with the couple kissing and the camera panning out. Real life doesn't. And when you get tired of thinking about grand gestures, your partner would grow disappointed and think that you're not putting much effort into your relationship.

I'd be a hypocrite if I said I never did grand gestures to impress my wife before. Of course I did. But it didn't happen often. The best surprises are those that you do when she least expects it. I had friends help me set up a song number for her debut; I had friends help me set up flowers at different spots in UST; and I had help putting together my proposal video. Those were happy moments, but the priceless ones were the ones that I didn't spend much money on; the nerds in a Coke can, the note on a cassette, and the actual proposal.

A surprise doesn't have to be expensive or elaborate. It just needs to be well thought of and something your partner can appreciate. I didn't have money for her birthday, but I scoured all possible outlets of Mizuno in Singapore to find the best volleyball kneepads for her. I didn't find the model I was looking for, but after comparing it with other brands, I thought that the ones I got best fit her game. I know, because I see her play. I also arranged her closet, because I know she doesn't have much time to do such things. For her birthday dinner, I woke up early to buy all the ingredients from the market and had her sleep in.

She didn't cry, she wasn't overwhelmed, but I know she appreciated the effort. A married life doesn't have to be boring. There was never a "The End" after you sealed your marriage with a kiss; you don't get to stop trying to woo her.

Enjoy the Little Things

My wife and I spent a couple of years maintaining a long distance relationship prior to getting married. During this time, all we could do was have video dates and update each other through social messaging apps. We couldn't nurse each other back to health or hold each other's hand.

After getting married, we stayed together in  Singapore and have a better appreciation for the things we missed out on. While "adulting" could lead to worrying about more things than romance, couples shouldn't neglect it.

Old couples probably don't notice, but some romantics get teary-eyed when they see them walking hand in hand even if they could barely walk. We romantics could only dream of having that at that age. And I believe that that doesn't happen if they didn't do it constantly over the years.

Regret Nothing and Blame No One

I had a pretty good job back at home. I had a car, I had family and friends nearby. I was earning enough to maintain a lifestyle that let me enjoy life. And now I'm sitting alone at home, jobless, with no one to talk to during work hours.

It's easy to blame my wife for choosing to move away from home. It's logical to regret not choosing to pursue a course about computers since most openings in the country we moved to are tech-related. It shouldn't be surprising to find me hating life.

But here I am, writing a blog about how to stay happy. Because right now, I am happily married.

I don't blame my wife for the life I am living now. She chose to move away because of a better opportunity. While I had a decent income back at home, she didn't. If I held her back so that we could both stay, we probably wouldn't be in a better situation financially.

While my phone's not ringing because of employers, I don't regret taking up Philosophy in college. I met a lot of great people there, and it shaped me into the man that I am today. I also wouldn't have met my wife.

Albert Camus was quoted as saying that "life is a sum of all your choices" (I googled for proper citation on the quote, I'm not about to pretend I'm a bookworm). I think I'm pretty ok as a person. I'm sarcastic, at times obnoxious, definitely noisy, but most of the time, fun to be with. I think my family and friends enjoy my company in good times and in bad, so I at least know that I ended up as a pretty good person.

This is my life so far; this is the sum of my choices. It is a sum that I will happily live with because of how I turned out to be as a person, be it as a husband, a son, a brother, a cousin, a nephew or a friend.

Living should always be going forward. We can stop to learn from where we stumbled, but we can't regret our choices or blame others for where we ended up. We did what we did because it was what we thought was right at the time that we did it. Regret and blame won't make our lives better when we wake up.

Sulking alone or with your partner could lead to a pretty miserable partnership. When you got married, you shared your life with someone. That means your success is their success, and your failures are theirs as well. Don't drag happiness down with problems that wouldn't be solved by talking about it.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

...Finding a New NBA Team to Cheer For...

I love basketball. Anyone who knows me probably knows this well. I would go on endless debates and even gamble money or pride to prove my points. I want to claim that I am a fan of the game, but I also think that I can't be a fan if I didn't have a favorite team. Sure, I had to be objective when I wrote my articles, but I never hid the fact that I rooted for the Miami Heat of the Dwyane Wade era. 

I qualify my fandom in as the "Dwyane Wade Era" because Heat "lifers" could have something to say about it. "Lifers" are the fans most difficult to talk to about the game. They will irrationally claim their team will one day win the championship, and when they do, they feel like everyone else who cheered for their team are "bandwagon" fans. These are people who think that nobody else deserve to be fans. It's nice to learn about a team's history from them, but it's best that you talk to them about other sports or other leagues if you want to enjoy your conversation.

Thank you for the memories, D-Wade.

With news coming out that Dwyane Wade is coming to his hometown of Chicago, I realized that I wasn't that much of a Dwyane Wade lifer to follow him back to Chicago. The NBA fan in me doesn't enjoy Fred Hoiberg leading Chicago. The NBA Fantasy player that I am doesn't think a core of Rajon Rondo, Jimmy Butler, and Dwyane Wade is a good fit. As a gambler, I don't think I could talk trash to people that my team could beat theirs when I can't sell the idea of Wade in Chicago to myself. 

As a free agent fan, I made a shortlist of teams to root for:

The Golden State Warriors

KD Played with an MVP-caliber player in Westbrook, and will now play with a 2-time MVP in Curry

Gambler me is very happy with this choice. Kevin Durant and the Splash Brothers? David West and Zaza Pachulia? Even if they lose Harrison Barnes to make ends meet, this is still a crazy good team. Expectations are already high after their historic 73-9 season, but with KD joining them, they only made their burden that much heavier to carry. 

No. I was a bit scared when LeBron came to Miami, knowing full well that as the villains of the league, it was a championship or nothing. I am not ready to invest my emotions to a team carrying so much pressure to win every single game. 

The Cleveland Cavaliers

A block that defined the Cavs' first championship, and an example of how LeBron is unfair
 They just won a championship, and LeBron James doesn't look like he's going to get slower. Richard Jefferson was instrumental in winning the first ring for "The Land" but has decided to retire. While Wade didn't reunite with LeBron, he did somewhat help James get a teammate to fill in Jefferson's role as the heady veteran in Mike Dunleavy. They had minor losses (Timofey Mozgov to the Lakers, Matthew Dellavedova to the Bucks), but this is pretty much the same core who won that championship. 

No. I think LeBron James is too good, and the basketball fan in me enjoys the game too much to cheer for a team with a distinct advantage. The guy played in the Finals for six straight seasons with the spotlight on him. No matter who was around him, he made things work. He's a living cheat code. 

The San Antonio Spurs

Would Duncan decide to delay retirement to play alongside Pau Gasol?
Even fans of the Spurs were appalled by the KD to GSW decision, but had to stop complaining after Pau Gasol decided to join them. TD may or may not retire, and Tony Parker just torched the Gilas team in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. They are coming off a season when they registered a team-best win total, and are already transitioning to the new era featuring LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard. 

I hate to say no, but no. Who can't love these Spurs? They bored teams and fans to death but won championships anyway. When they lost their step, Pop changed things up and played a more uptempo game to go with the times. They won another championship, and still have arguably the most humble players in the league. However, as an already established team, I feel too bandwagon-y joining them now. 

The Milwaukee Bucks

My Fantasy Basketball MVP, the Greek Freak
The Fantasy Basketball player in me likes this team. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a two-way player on all five basketball positions and could be the freakiest athlete in the game if LeBron James wasn't a real person. Khris Middleton is one of my under the radar guys in Fantasy. I like how the team is looking like a video game created team, with every position filled by what Jason Kidd would be if he was able to customize himself. 

Maybe. I've been watching them since the Greek Freak entered the league, and while I like the promise, I can't understand what went wrong last season considering a relatively intact lineup. I'm not sure if I'm ready to wait on their process.

The Memphis Grizzlies

Is Parsons the guy they've been missing all this time?

Grit and Grind City needed a spot up shooter to complement their offense. They got that now with Chandler Parsons filling the 3 spot. While they did spend a whopping 150-mil on Mike Conley, it just goes to show how the organization is loyal to its players and committed to its style of play. 

No. Parsons is a great addition, but unless the Grizz sign the Phoenix Suns training staff, I'm not too sold on this team staying healthy enough to make a strong playoff push.

The New York Knicks

A real point guard to play with Kristaps and Melo is just one of the additions of the Knicks this offseason

Kristaps Porzingis was legit last season. Now, with the starting 5 spot solely his, and with a point guard rotation of Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings, Porzingod will probably get more open looks and maybe feed off some of the swagger from his guards. 

Nope. It'll be interesting to finally see a rivalry between Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James especially with the cast they both have now. However, basketball fan me doesn't see New York as a good fit for my cheering self. 

The Boston Celtics

Celtics could lose Sullinger, but upgrading to Horford isn't bad.

Brad Stevens is making a believer out of me. This college coach pushed his team to the playoffs a little too early than anyone expected, and followed it up with a strong showing last season. With Al Horford in the mix, I think they are literally one player away from being favored over the Cavs in the East. This team needs no superstars, but they do need another solid SF. 

Can't commit 100%. They are so close to being one of the top teams in the East, and while I think not too many people are riding their bandwagon, I also think that the window to ride their bandwagon was last season. If the Celtics go to the Finals this season, fans of the Brad Stevens era will be all high and mighty as if they've been lifers. I'd still cheer for them in the East.

The Minnesota Timberwolves

Offense is there, imagine adding Thibs defense to that?
Karl Anthony-Towns showed everyone last season that he could be a legitimate franchise cornerstone. They have young pieces to build around, and played their hearts out for a coach who never called a single play this season in Flip Saunders. With Tom Thibodeau in charge, Andrew Wiggins could make people forget about Jimmy Butler's rise in the East. 

Yes. With the West only getting stronger, the Wolves are not yet title contenders this season. While they generated buzz with their Dunks After Dark sessions with Wiggins and Zach LaVine, I don't think there are enough fans out there cheering for the Wolves just yet. I am riding this bandwagon now, so that by the time 2020 comes along and they win the championship after signing Klay Thompson in 2019, I could say "I was there since day one bitches!" like any NBA troll would. The gambler in me is fine waiting for this team to blossom. The basketball fan in me is excited for this team, and believes that there isn't a solid fanbase who would disown me for riding their bandwagon. The Fantasy Basketball player in me is all in on either KAT, Ricky Rubio, or Zach LaVine this season. I think this balance wins it for me. Go Wolves!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

...The NBA Playoffs: Western Conference First Round...

The Western Conference seems like it's going to get exciting only once the Conference Finals get going; when the Warriors are expected to face the Spurs for the right to compete in the NBA Finals. However, there are eight teams competing in the playoffs, with most of the teams wanting a shot at the same title. Injuries have hit some of these teams hard, which gives the impression that some of these match ups won't be as competitive as they should be. 

It shouldn't be enough reason to pass on the first round for the west. Here are my thoughts on the first round for the West:

(1) Golden State Warriors vs (8) Houston Rockets - 2015 WCF Revenge Series
Golden State won regular season, 3-0

Both MVP candidates last season, but took huge steps in the opposite directions

After 20 years, the 72-10 regular season of the '96 Bulls seemed like an impossible feat to replicate or even break. Then came the Golden State Warriors, the team that just won the NBA title despite plenty of doubters. They started the season strong, beating teams in blowout fashion game after game. They ended their regular season with their 73rd win - a blowout of the undermanned Memphis Grizzlies. 

The Rockets failed to build on the excellent 2015 campaign with a disappointing run this year. After a 56-win season and almost toppling the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, they needed all 82 games this season just to hang on to the 8th seed. They are parading essentially the same lineup, with some minor tweaks, but they struggled with an out of shape James Harden and an unmotivated Dwight Howard. 

Why Golden State Will Win: 

After breaking the Bulls' 72-10 record, losing in the first round of the playoffs is unfathomable, is it not?   

Why Houston Will Win:

With a practically intact core and some pieces working better than expected (Clint Capela, Donatas Motiejunas, Michael Beasley), the Rockets actually have a look of a contender. They have a talented roster built around their two superstars in Harden and Howard, and all they need is a motivation to win. 

Why Golden State Will Lose:

The Warriors set NBA highs for three pointers that probably won't be broken until they decide to gun for it. Steph Curry set an NBA record of 402 three pointers in a season before anyone else could register 300. With their reliance on the three ball, the only reason they would lose in the first round is if they counted every Warrior three as a two pointer. 

Why Houston Will Lose:

For all their talent, Harden and Howard don't have the same competitive fire there is in the likes of young franchise players as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, and I daresay even Gordon Hayward. The only "winner" in the Rockets' bench is Jason Terry, and that doesn't speak highly of their winning mentality. Maybe that's why Josh Smith and Michael Beasley feel right at home in Houston.

Players to Watch Out For:

With all the attention on the Splash Brothers, Shaun Livingston is sneakily having a great season. If you haven't watched too many Warriors games, Livingston has been an excellent sixth man for them, providing length on defense and an impossible cover for point guards down on the low post. For the Rockets, Patrick Beverly will be given the impossible task of guarding Curry, with Corey Brewer probably having a crack at him too. How effective they are in stopping Curry would dictate how far the Rockets can go against the Warriors. 

Logical Prediction: Warriors in 4

Hopeful Prediction: Warriors in 5

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs (6) Memphis Grizzlies - Asserting Their Own Dominance
San Antonio won regular season, 4-0

The Grizzlies lost Marc Gasol as the Spurs acquired a new problem to present

With the Warriors winning a historic 73 wins this season, most people failed to notice that the Spurs won a franchise-best 67 wins themselves. They only lost once in their homecourt all season, and that was against the aforementioned Warriors team. All their accomplishments were overshadowed by the Warriors, and their best revenge would probably be to take this year's title away from them.

A season riddled with injury derailed the Grizzlies' campaign, but they won enough games to secure the sixth seed in the disappointing West. Marc Gasol suffered a season-ending injury, and Mike Conley will make his return in the Playoffs. The Grizzlies were suffering so much from injury, they once fielded a team this season filled with D-League call ups and 10-day contracts. 

Why San Antonio Will Win: 

While everyone seems to be patterning their teams to the small ball style of the Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs remain to be the team that every NBA franchise aspire to be. Despite their aging stars, they still managed to infuse young talent in their team, and are now in a great position to win it all with their past (Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili) and future (LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green?) meeting in this present time.   

Why Memphis Will Win:

The Grizzlies have historically been a good matchup for the Spurs. Their grit and grind style of play was able to stop the Spurs' half court plays. 

Why San Antonio Will Lose:

They won't.  

Why Memphis Will Lose:

Losing Marc Gasol cripples Memphis on both ends of the floor.

Players to Watch Out For:

The Spurs will match up against the shell of a Memphis team that doesn't have Gasol in the middle. It may be a chance for them to give their bench some playoff minutes - Kevin Martin, Boban Marjanovic, and Kyle Anderson have given the Spurs quality minutes off the bench during the season, and getting playoff minutes could give them a shot of confidence they could use for the latter rounds of the playoffs. The Grizzlies may not be much this year, but imagine what this playoff run could do for the chemistry between Lance Stephenson, Matt Barnes, and "Grindfather" Tony Allen. 

Logical Prediction: Spurs in 4

Hopeful Prediction: Spurs in 4

(3) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (7) Dallas Mavericks - Rekindling Lost Glory
Oklahoma City won regular season, 4-0

The old and the new collide on their way to a common goal

What does one expect from a team that has a triple-double machine and a former league MVP? The Thunder have not made a return trip to the Finals since 2010, even if they were billed to be a piece or two away from being a dynasty. The Thunder have done well surrounding their superstars with talent, even if it meant overpaying some of them. They may not have found their 2010 James Harden just yet, but they do have a formidable duo up front in the Beard Brothers, Enes Kanter and Steven Adams, to clean up the boards. 

Kobe Bryant's farewell tour took all the thunder out of the aging Dirk Nowitzki's brilliant season. The 17-year vet fueled his team's run to the Playoffs despite missing the services of potential future franchise player Chandler Parsons and offseason acquisition Wesley Matthews for most of it. 

Why Oklahoma Will Win: 

Both Westbrook and Durant would be difficult to contain alone, and even if they try, both those guys will still get their shots up by sheer determination.    

Why Dallas Will Win:

The Mavericks have weirdly been a great team playing at home, figuring in a number of comeback victories while playing in front of their home crowd. They don't rely on a single player, as different people step up when they need them the most. That's not to say that they don't have a crunchtime player; they still have Dirk Nowitzki, and he's been playing like it was 2007 in some games. If he can somehow sustain that level of basketball, they may just pull off a surprise against the Thunder. 

Why Oklahoma Will Lose:

They still don't have a third scorer, and Serge Ibaka has not made much of an impact this season to be their third star. 

Why Dallas Will Lose:

Aging and recovering legs are playing for the Mavs, and they lack the scoring and playmaking at the forward spot provided by Chandler Parsons. 

Players to Watch Out For:

Dallas needs Deron Williams to channel his Utah self and be more than just a serviceable point guard. For the Thunder, Cameron Payne could potentially steal Dion Waiters' minutes and be a more effective two-way player at the other guard spot. 

Logical Prediction: Oklahoma in 5

Hopeful Prediction: Dallas in 6

(4) LA Clippers vs (5) Portland Trailblazers - Defying Expectations
Los Angeles won regular season, 3-1

The smallest guys on the court would play the biggest roles for their teams

The Clippers nearly lost DeAndre Jordan during the offseason, until the drama ended with him coming back. Despite their mostly intact core, they struggled to win against contenders this season season. While losing Blake Griffin to injury didn't affect them as bad as people thought, his altercation with a team staff put them in an awkward position. 

Losing four of their five starters in the offseason usually means a team was destined for the lottery, but the starter that remained wouldn't have any of it. Damian Lillard played out of his mind, and the Blazers found a dangerous combination with him in C.J. McCollum and suddenly, they aren't in a position to build through a high draft pick.  

Why Los Angeles Will Win: 

They have the talent, and they have been here before. They built their team aiming for a championship, and any result below that would be a disappointment.    

Why Portland Will Win:

Nobody thought the Blazers would be in the Playoffs, much less a fifth seed in what has been a competitive Western Conference. Yet, here they are, set to play the Clippers. They have no business winning, but they won anyway. I don't know how they did, so I can't explain how they could, but they probably would. 

Why Los Angeles Will Lose:

For a team built so well, they lose always seem to mess up when it matters. 

Why Portland Will Lose:

They lost four of their five starters from last season. This is the same reason they should not have won a playoff spot, so I don't know if that's enough reason for them to lose here.  

Players to Watch Out For:

Maurice Harkless was a talent the Orlando Magic was reluctant to part with, and while he has been on the bench for most of the season with Portland, he carved out minutes for himself during the latter half of the season. Look for him to play a more prominent role with the Blazers. For the Clippers, Blake Griffin's return would be a huge boost for them, but they would need Jeff Green to play a more prominent role off the bench if they want to finally get over the hump.  

Logical Prediction: Los Angeles in 4

Hopeful Prediction: Portland in 6

Friday, April 15, 2016

...The NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference First Round...

The Golden State Warriors have dominated the NBA regular season so much this season that almost everyone believes that they will win their second championship in a row. As such, the first round of the Playoffs doesn't seem to be too appealing to watch, as there aren't too many exciting match ups anyway. However, while I think this crop of playoff teams won't be able to replicate the crazy first round we saw last season, I think that there are still exciting pairings in the playoffs that I'd want to watch. 

Here are my thoughts on the first round of the NBA Playoffs for the East, and some storylines that I think are worth looking at if only to make it more interesting:
Eastern Conference

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs (8) Detroit Pistons - The First Test
Detroit won regular season, 3-1

The men tasked to carry their teams on their backs

The Cavs dominated the East last season, and while the Dubs ultimately won the championship, LeBron James came close to fulfilling the promise he had for the city of Cleveland. There was a belief that their path to the championship was too easy compared to the one the Dubs had to take, which made it difficult for them to overcome the battle-tested newcomers in the Finals.

After dominating the East in the early part of 2000's, the Pistons have since dissected their roster and are pursuing a new identity. With Coach Stan Van Gundy at the helm, they might have just gotten it. Much like his successful stint with the DPOY-caliber Dwight Howard-powered Orlando Magic, the team is now anchored by a defense-oriented Andre Drummond. While he isn't the superstar that Howard was in the Magic, Drummond's steady improvement has made him indispensable for the Pistons. 

Why Cleveland Will Win: 

Roster-wise, the Cavaliers are the superior team. They went all the way to the Finals last season even with Kevin Love sidelined since the first round. This year, they are healthier and hungrier for a title than ever. Since changing their head coach, their top three stars have had more of a free hand in playing the way they want.  

Why Detroit Will Win:

They are a team with everything to gain and nothing to lose, as any eighth seed is. They did aspire to enter the Playoffs, but they probably weren't looking at hanging on for dear life. They're a dangerous team at the bottom of the East, and they have ample talent to match up well with the Cavs - Their regular season match up result can attest to that 

Why Cleveland Will Lose:

Their chemistry has been questionable, and we're not sure who's coaching the team. 

Why Detroit Will Lose:

SVG's Orlando Magic was filled with shooters around Dwight Howard, and while the Pistons have several stretch fours, they don't have knockdown shooters from beyond the arc. 

Players to Watch Out For:

Cleveland will need Minnesota's Kevin Love, and not whoever is playing for them these past couple of seasons. The Pistons acquired Tobias Harris at the trade deadline in order to add depth to their team. While the Pistons' defense rightfully relies on Drummond, the offensive load will need to be carried by the likes of Harris, Marcus Morris, and Reggie Jackson. 

Logical Prediction: Cavs in 7

Hopeful Prediction: Pistons in 6

(2) Toronto Raptors vs (7) Indiana Pacers - Breaking the Wall the Other Couldn't
Toronto won regular season, 3-1

Can DeMar DeRozan take Toronto where Paul George failed to bring Indiana? 

The Raptors are one of the top teams in the East again this year, and they got even stronger by adding DeMarre Carroll in their mix. Their players have been together for multiple years now, and they may have a chance to do what the Indiana Pacers failed to do during their brief run at the top of the East.

Speaking of the Pacers, their years of success was hindered by a freak accident on their superstar Paul George. None of the Pacers stepped up in his absence, and Roy Hibbert was exposed as an average big man in what could have been a career year for him. The Pacers are not as stacked as they once were, but with George back in the fold, they made it back to the Playoffs. 

Why Toronto Will Win: 

Their roster endured key injures during the regular season, but was still able to finish with their best regular season in team history. They looked like a piece or two away from looking like a team that could get over the hump, and they might have gotten their piece in Carroll. Their solid core of Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, and DeMar DeRozan has been bolstered by players stepping up in their absence, with the likes of Bismack Biyombo, Terrence Ross, and Corey Joseph stepping up when their main guys are injured.   

Why Indiana Will Win:

The Pacers have enough talent on offense to put the basket in the hoop. Apart from George, they have Monta Ellis, Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles, and they scored on a waiver pickup on Ty Lawson. They have ample frontcourt depth with the likes of Ian Mahinmi and Jordan Hill, and they have a talented rookie in Myles Turner. The competitor in Paul George doesn't seem to be the type who will settle for a first round exit. 

Why Toronto Will Lose:

They have the look of a contender, but they always seem to miss something. While Lowry and DeRozan are capable players and legitimate All-Stars, they don't seem to be players that can be spoken of in the same breath as Kobe, LeBron, and even Paul George.

Why Indiana Will Lose:

Their offensive firepower has a lot of potential, but they have too many players who need the ball in their hands to create for themselves. 

Players to Watch Out For:

Both teams will have interesting rookies who could play major roles in their respective teams. Norman Powell is a rookie that didn't get much playing time until late in the season for the Raptors. He's given the Raptors unexpected depth with his athleticism and scoring prowess, and showed that he can carry a team on his back in the Raptors' last game of the season. The Pacers lost their defensive anchor in Hibbert, but they don't seem short on defense with the emergence of rookie Myles Turner.  

Logical Prediction: Toronto in 5

Hopeful Prediction: Toronto in 6

(3) Miami Heat vs (6) Charlotte Hornets - Who Runs the Floor Better?
Regular season tied, 2-2

Dwyane Wade is playing like it's 2003

Post-LeBron Heat got back on track faster than expected. They looked good last year before Chris Bosh had a life-threatening injury that kept him out of action. Even the arrival of Goran Dragic wasn't enough to push them to the Playoffs. This year, they faced a similar issue with Bosh, but the improved chemistry of the team and the brilliant season from Dwyane Wade helped them stay on the winning track. Adding Joe Johnson off waivers did wonders for the team as well.

Al Jefferson has not panned out as well as expected for the Hornets. However, they did find a gem by drafting Kemba Walker, and were able to bolster their backcourt with offseason signings of Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lin, and later added Courtney Lee. They have been inconsistent throughout the season, but this young team has shown that they match up well against the Heat during the regular season. 

Why Miami Will Win: 

They have the talent, the coach, and the superstar that could lead the team all the way. Joe Johnson was courted by the Cavs, who are favorites to win the East, but decided to join the Heat in his pursuit of a championship. Goran Dragic could have walked away after failing to make the playoffs with the team last season, but may have thought that the Heat were onto something and stuck around. Maybe both players found something with the Heat that people too blinded by LeBron's greatness fail to see. 

Why Charlotte Will Win:

The Hornets have an intriguing roster that has the potential to play small effectively. Despite the absence of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist due to injury, they have incredible talent at the wing to pair with Kemba Walker at the point - Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb, Courtney Lee, Marvin Williams, and a rejuvenated Jeremy Lin could take turns running either the shooting guard or small forward positions. Williams and Batum could also play the stretch four position, if they want to run Miami to the ground. 

Why Miami Will Lose:

Hassan Whiteside can be a blessing or a curse for the Heat. His emotions can sometimes get the best of him, and it's not impossible to exploit that weakness of him. While Amar'e Stoudemire has been great for the Heat offensively, he was never known to be a defensive presence even in his prime. Also, Joe Johnson has a tendency to vanish in games that matter. 

Why Charlotte Will Lose:

They may not have enough talent to match up against the Heat. They have too many young players with no playoff experience, and I don't think their coach has found the right pieces that fit best together on the floor. 

Players to Watch Out For:

Linsanity was a phenomenon in the regular season, but this is the first time we may possibly see it in the playoffs. Could Jeremy Lin find a way to recreate his magic against the Heat? Josh Richardson was the lesser pick for the Heat in this year's draft, but he has leapfrogged Justice Winslow as the prized rookie in terms of playing time near the end of the season, especially in crunch time. Could he carry the success he had late in the regular season?  

Logical Prediction: Heat in 6

Hopeful Prediction: Heat in 4

(4) Atlanta Hawks vs (5) Boston Celtics - A Coaching Chess Match
Atlanta won regular season, 3-1

Evan Turner is proving his worth as a second-overall pick.

A year after surprising the league by registering the best regular season finish in the East, the Hawks find themselves in a strange four-team tie in the middle of the pack. Kyle Korver had a career season last year, but failed to build on his momentum this season. Losing DeMarre Carroll dealt a huge blow to the Hawks' success, but they are coached well enough to maintain their stature among the East's top teams. 

The Celtics are armed with a bunch of draft picks and young talent, and weren't supposed to be in the playoffs last season. It may be a testament to how good Coach Brad Stevens really is. Isaiah Thomas has emerged as the team's go-to guy in his All-Star season, and the team that refuses to lose has proven that last year's playoff run wasn't a fluke by any means. 

Why Atlanta Will Win: 

They have been here before, and they know what it takes to win at this stage. They may have lost Carroll, but they didn't have Thabo Sefolosha in their run last year. They also added a scoring threat in Tim Hardaway Jr., and the continued rise of Dennis Shroder solidifies the team's point guard position throughout the whole game.  

Why Boston Will Win:

Their big man situation may be a mess, but Coach Stevens has been able to make it work. The players have complete confidence in their coach, and are all willing to do what it takes to win. The return of Jae Crowder from injury also gives the Celtics a different look on both ends of the floor. 

Why Atlanta Will Lose:

Their strengths could be their biggest weaknesses. Jeff Teague's name has been floated in trade rumors, with Shroder looking like the point guard the Hawks would want to build around on. The uncertainty of whether or not Al Horford will stick around could also be a motivation or a distraction for the team.  

Why Boston Will Lose:

SVG's Orlando Magic was filled with shooters around Dwight Howard, and while the Pistons have several stretch fours, they don't have knockdown shooters from beyond the arc. 

Players to Watch Out For:

The Hawks' offseason acquisition of Tim Hardaway Jr. looked like a move that will give them a younger player with more defensive potential than Kyle Korver. However, he wasn't used much this season, until a brief stretch towards the end where the second generation player was able to carve out minutes for himself. Kelly Olynyk was playing well for the Celtics before he was sidelined by injury. He hasn't been as effective in his return, as Jared Sullinger and Amir Johnson have both played well in his absence. Look for both players to provide firepower for their respective teams in the playoffs.  

Logical Prediction: Hawks in 7

Hopeful Prediction: Boston in 6