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12 Days Until Camp, My 12 Most Important Patriots Heading in to 2017

2016's 12 Most Important list can be found here
2016 11 Most Important Defenders here
When constructing any list like this, it is obviously going to be an objective list of my personal opinion. That being said, last season I found myself grappling with "best" vs "most important". This is what I wrote last season:
"Before starting this list, I think it important to explain what I am thinking when I say "Most Important". Comparing importance/value versus "Best" was the first stumbling block to compiling this list. The terms are often very similar, but there are also some important differences. I feel the biggest difference is the term "Best" sort of looks at the player in a vacuum. "Best" pass rusher. "Best" coverage guy. These terms apply across all teams, and are good when comparing and discussing players on different teams. "Importance" and "Value" differ to me in that they consider context. In this case, a specific team. No longer are we just looking at who is simply the best at something, or even overall, but who holds the most importance, and for what reasons, to a SPECIFIC team. Value is something Belichick often refers to, and I think it's the same line of thinking here."
Finally, why a list of 12 as opposed to a traditional Top 10? Because Tom Brady, that's why. When it comes to football, I now think in terms of 12. In fact...I think the NFL should chance the rules to require 12 yards for a first down. Anyway...
12 days (nobody is seeing this until Saturday, shutup) away from the start of camp seemed an appropriate time to share my list of The 12 Most IMPORTANT Patriots players heading into 2017:

12: Stephen Gostkowski

I grappled with this one a surprising amount. It is difficult me to say that ANY kicker is that "important" to his team. Then I remembered the Super Bowl...and a particular missed extra point that nearly spelled disaster for the team. With that piece of information, it became all too clear to me how much a kicker really is important. We don't think about them when they do well (except for Vinatieri, and all that took was 3 Super Bowl winning kicks, and the 2 Snow Bowl kicks...), but they are a quick and easy target when things go wrong. They are expected to succeed when called upon, and are not easily forgiven when they fail. Gostkowski has proven, over time to be a very reliable kicker. The Super Bowl reminded me just how important that truly is.
In addition to the points he puts on the board, Ghost is very good at kicking off. Early in the season, Gostkowski showed a very good ability to kick high and inside the 5, limiting the opponent's field position. This seemd to coincide with difficulty making kicks, and the team seemed to revert to booming it into the endzone...and Gostkowski's FG/extra point troubles seemed to disappear. This also coincided with a mid-season field turf change. So who really knows if any had to do with each other...but I saw what a difference strategic kickoffs can be.
It wasn't an easy decision to make, but after kicking everything around, I found myself settling on our placekicker as the 12th most important player heading into the season. Yes, kickers are players too.

11: Brandin Cooks

I can't express the euphoria I felt when the Patriots traded their first round pick for Brandin Cooks. At the time, the impression was that Butler would be moved later to "complete" this deal...that never happened, and the Patriots added a legitimate, elite outside WR threat to an offense that was nearly as potent as any in the league last season, and when looking at Brady's 12 games during the regular season, they were arguably the most dangerous offense in the league.
Cooks is an outside threat like the Patriots haven't had since Randy Moss. Hogan and Mitchell were both fantastic on the outside, but neither offers the elite, high end potential of Cooks, never mind what Cooks has already produced:
Over the past 2 season, cooks has played in 32 regular season games. He is averaging 81 catches for roughly 1155 yards and 8.5 TDs. If he can match what his average production has been for a comparable offense (New Orleans), he will add a dynamic the Patriots simply didn't have last season.
This being his first season in new England, and the fact that he is joining a passing attack that only lost one player (Bennett), it's hard for me to say he's going to be too important heading into the season since, you know...they managed to win a Super Bowl without him...but I can't ignore the production he has achieved at the NFL level, and it is impressive. They can certainly move along and win without him, but I think he will provide something special and unique, and that lands him as my 11th most important player.

10: Trey Flowers

Here is a man we all watched blossom as the season went along, culminating in a Super Bowl he will never forget, racking up 2.5 sacks while being a serious contributor to the team's Championship.
Ninkovich is old. Collins was jettisoned midway last season. Long has moved on after his one season in New England. Sheard has also moved on. As far as where the pass rush is expected to come from...look no further than Trey Flowers. The pass rush will likely live or die on the back of his production. Malcom Brown is impressing me more and more as a DT, but he's not a regular pass rusher. Ealy has been added, but he has a LOT to prove and while he also had a brilliant Super Bowl, much like Flowers, he didn't have the second half leading in to it like Flowers did. If Flowers doesn't build on his second half and Super Bowl, I have no idea where the pass rush will come from. Rivers and Wise are draft picks worth keeping an eye on, but if we're being totally honest, when was the last time a defensive rookie (not drafted in Round 1) had a significant, regular season impact? Jamie Collins? They are rare in New England. Belichick demands a lot of his players, and this doesn't usually translate to rookies getting a lot of playing time, never mind being significant contributors.
There it is: Trey Flowers will lead this pass rush, or the secondary will have to pick up the slack. Spoiler: I bet they can. Coming in to 2017, I have Flowers as my 10th most important player, and I could see that number going either way based on his performance. I feel he is on the cusp of being elite.

9: Jamesey White

Yes, 'Jamesey'. Oh, you didn't get that memo? Well, consider yourselves informed. Here at AfterReview, we have been very high on White for a while. When drafted, the hope was he could fill in for Vereen...and he has not disappointed, and has probably surpassed Shane, a feat few of us really thought possible...except Tim. Credit where it's due, the other half of this site was pumping White while we were all waiting on Dion.
He of a record setting 14 catch Super Bowl performance also chipped in a whopping 60 catches during the regular season. That number may not seem like a lot, but then I remembered: Edelman, Gronk, Hogan, Mitchell, Blount, Bennett and Lewis. There were a LOT of weapons on this offense, but White was still able to emerge, and establish himself as a consistent, reliable, effective weapon. Then, in the Super Bowl not only did he produce the volume that was needed he also took a toss sweep (a nearly extinct play in today's NFL) inside the 5, stopped, cut up-field, and plowed his way to a Championship. That play was an impressive display of speed, strength, intelligence, and sheer force of will.
I see White as a valuable cog coming into this season. Losing Blount will be something the team needs to figure out, but the additions of Gillislee and Burkhead should absolutely mitigate that loss, and compliment White beautifully. But as far as heading in to the season...I see a lot of value and importance in who Jamesey is, and what he can provide. Burkhead and Gillislee need to integrate into this team. I love Lewis, but fear the injuries with him. I fear nothing right now with White. I would love to see him get more carries (just 70 last season, but the final play of the year was a run by White), but we will see. Given the production all last season, combined with his Super Bowl explosion, mixed with a little comfort of being 1 of 2 guys returning in the backfield...Jamesey White is my 9th most important player heading in to the season.

8: Malcolm Butler

One half of what will likely be the best CB duo in the NFL in 2017, and probably the best secondary in the league. I am well aware of what I am saying. ButleGilmore/McCourty represent 3 players who, in their own right, are arguably elite players. Together, I feel we are about to see something special.
Butler is a fiercely competitive, very physical, talented, instinctual and has a compete level that rivals anyone in the league. He never shies from any receiver, though he may give up an occasional play he never gets "down", and usually comes right back with a good play. When you go look at what a receiver does against Butler, and then look at that players averages, they almost always have a "down" game against Butler.
Since his epic, historic, game sealing interception against Seattle, Butler has put 2 elite seasons in the books. He has proven it wasn't a fluke, he has proven to be a consistent player in the NFL over 2 seasons. He is winding his way to a massive payday, and I don't see him slowing down in 2017, which puts him at 8 on my list. I won't mind if he proves me wrong by season's end.

7: Stephon Gilmore

The Patriots shocked us all again, striking early, and expensively, in free agency, landing the former AFC East rival from Buffalo. Gilmore comes with a reputation of an elite corner, and he is joining a team that already sports 1 elite corner (Butler) and an elite safety (McCourty). He will have more help than he's had in the past, he will be playing with leads he isn't used to, and he goes from a Coach in Rex Ryan who couldn't handle himself more differently than Belichick if he tried.
On paper...Gilmore is an excellent player joining a undeniably better team, with better coaches and better teammates. Reason suggests that Gilmore will perform even better in New England than he did in Buffalo, and if that does wind up being the case...good luck opponents.
In a departure from my normal thinking, I have Gilmore, a new player on the team, slotted higher than Butler, the returning player. I have no reason to say Gilmore is the better player in a vacuum, and I think it would be foolish to assume he'll be better in New England than the guy starting his 3rd season as a starter. No, what this comes down to, for me, is money. The Patriots extended significant money to Gilmore as a free agent, and as such, he needs to perform more than Butler strictly for financial reasons. Look at it like this: If Butler falls of the map and is useless as a player...Pats cut ties and move on. If the same happens to Gilmore, there will be considerable money the team will have to eat to move on. That, to me, makes Gilmore the more "important" player (refer to my definition above) this season. There is simply a lot more to lose if he doesn't perform. Moving on from him would likely cost the Patriots the ability to sign other players as well. Lose/lose...lose. The expectations, the money and his position have me sliding Gilmore in as #7.

6: Julian Edelman

Brady's #1, indisputably favorite target. If you don't believe me, look at his target stats: 3 out of the first 9 games, he had 10+ targets 3 times. Over the final 7 games of the regular season, he had 10+ targets 6 times. In 3 playoff games, he never had fewer than 10 targets. As the season went along, and the games became important...more and more footballs were directed towards Julian Edelman. 98 catches for 1106 yards is nothing to sneeze at, and his 21 receptions for 342 yards in the playoffs really highlight his effectiveness when it matters most. And we all will forever remember "Edelman's catch".
Edelman has had to overcome doubts his entire career. New England even once let him walk into free agency, only to have him come back because he only got brought in for 1 visit (NYG), and they only offered a minimum deal. Bad move, NFL.
When times get tough, Brady looks to Edelman. "The catch" exemplifies this perfectly: it wasn't a good read or a good was Brady in a bad spot, looking for the guy he trusts most. That trust is incredibly valuable, and is the main factor in Edelman finding him as the sixth most important player on this team for 2017, even though he's not one of the top 12 "best" players on the team. Heck, Cooks is a "better" WR, but doesn't currently offer more importance to the team.

5: Rob Gronkowski

Gronk is an interesting one to me. On the one hand: the Patriots have a proven ability to win without him. They have won countless regular season games and they won their most recent Super Bowl without the big guy on the field. Facts are facts.
On the other hand: we are witnessing who I believe to be the greatest TE in NFL history, and one of the most prolific targets the league has even seen. His combination of size, speed, strength, catching ability and athleticism are remarkable. Guys his size, with his skills often play different positions. Usually, more "lucrative" positions like DE, OLB or LT. If Gronk put on 40 lbs, I don't see why he couldn't be all All-Pro left tackle.
Last season the Patriots had Bennett who was PHENOMENAL on this team. He did everything asked, he did it well, and he never once complained. He made it easier to play without Gronk. Nobody replaces #87, but Bennett came very close to it. Dwayne Allen just isn't that player, so I put a little more importance on Gronk than if Bennett was still here.
Even though the Patriots have proven to be able to win without him, I asked myself a simple question, "If I can choose one person to have, do I want Gronk or Edelman?" It took no hesitation, the answer was unequivocally Gronk. Then I realized...if Gronk had a more healthy past, he'd probably be #2 on this list. As it is, given who he is, the fact he will likely miss some games, but the absolute freak he is has me sticking Gronk in at 5.

4: Dont'a Hightower

He's back! When he ventured out in to free agency, many fans assumed he was gone. I stayed hopeful, and objective about his injury history, and the market simply never developed like I believe many, including Hightower himself, thought it would. I am THRILLED to have one of our Generals back.
Hightower is instrumental in setting the D pre-snap, and he helps set the tone with his physical play style. He's not shy to mix it up with offensive lineman, but he is athletic enough to cover some space as well, and though I don't think he's great in pass coverage, he is ok, and he excels in his other responsibilities.
After Hightower, there is a mishmash of somewhat unproven players and a veteran who I love in David Harris, who they signed from the Jets. McClellin, Van Noy, and Roberts all have something to prove. McClellin needs some consistency, Roberts needs to do more than crash down into the line, and Van Noy...I like Van Noy. I can't put my finger on what is lacking with him, he'll look good, then awful on consecutive plays. My point being: after Hightower, the Patriots have a lot of unproven, or older players behind him. There is also Freeny. I'm not a fan of Freeny.
Last season really saw Hightower establish himself as a team leader. In the locker room, on the field, and to reporters. He moved into Mayo's old locker, and has assumed pretty much all of his responsibilities. People seem to like to forget how great mayo was, but the fact Hightower has assumed everything Mayo used to do is remarkable to me. He has the complete trust of the entire coaching staff, and the respect of all his teammates. I wish he could stay a little more healthy, as he averages about 12-13 games per season...but "it is what it is", and the games he is on the field he is the glue that binds this entire D together.

3: Nate Solder

I guess a partial nod goes to the entire line here, but none are more important than Nate Solder, LT. There's another "most important" list being released in dribs and drabs that saw Cannon several spots more important than Solder. I simply can't understand that thinking. I love what Cannon has turned in to, but there isn't a single team that I can think of in the NFL where RT is more important that LT, or even C. LT is ALWAYS the most important and valuable offensive line position, and this is most obviously reflected in the salaries these men are paid compared to other members of the offensive line.
As Brady continues to defy Father Time, and gets set to embark on an NFL season at age 40, the biggest thing I hear about derailing him is "injuries". Well, there is no single better way to keeping your QB healthy than having a good, reliable LT. Solder provides exactly this. No, he's not as good as Matt Light was. No, he's not one of the Top 3 or 5 in the league...but what he is is definitely above average, if not downright good. As the man who protects Brady's "blind side", his importance to the team can not be understated.
If Solder puts together a solid season, it will go a long way towards making Brady, and this team, look ageless. If he has a bad season, there may be little Brady can do to keep people from stating this is the end.
A lot can go right, or very, very wrong on the back of what this one man does. He is my second most important offensive player, and my 3rd overall.

2: Devin McCourty

McCourty is like a NASCAR pit crew to me: he is expected to be nearly perfect every time...and he is.
He's never out of place. He rarely misses tackles. He has amazing ball skills. His instincts rarely fail him. He's not the best at what he does, but he may very well be the most consistently good safety in the league.
I do believe Hightower is starting to establish himself as the ture defensive captain, and the baton started to be passed last season where we saw Hightower as the guy who was answering for the D post game, the guy the reporters went to, and the guy often with the green dot on his helmet.
I still see McCourty as the most indispensable part of this D. When Rowe got beat, McCourty was there to clean it up. His ability and style allow Chung to get closer to the line and play to his strengths rather than play in too much space. Butler can be super aggressive as he knows he has a very intelligent and aware safety net.
The Patriots were the last team in the NFL to give up a 40+ yard play, and I feel McCourty is a HUGE reason for that. He, again, he just doesn't make mistakes. When a safety makes a mistake, it usually ends up as a touchdown. McCourty eliminating those mistakes, I just can't overstate how important that is, and I guess having him as the second most important player on the team does a good job of exemplifying how I feel. The guy does everything, and does everything well.

1: Tom Fucking Brady

I'm going to start with a part of what I wrote about him last year:
"As long as he pulls on a jersey for this team, he will always be the most important player on the field. He would be the most important player on the field, for any team in the history of the NFL. Think about it. It's true. We all know it's true. And this year, he's going to remind everyone else across the league, and he's going to do it in a 12 game, regular season. He's coming back...and there's not a damn thing anyone, not even Goodell, can do to stop that inevitability."
I don't care that he's 40. I don't care that his wife is a super rich former super model. I don't care that he has "done it all" with his 5 rings, and numerous personal achievements and records.
Tom Brady is on a quest to leave a legacy that will stand the test of time. His release time hasn't dropped. His accuracy is still pinpoint. His velocity is still impressive. Physically, he's not slowing down based on last season. He has never wavered in his desire to keep playing.
He is the greatest QB in the history of the league, and at 40, he;s going to make a serious run at being the best QB of 2017. The is no more important player in the league than Brady. He nearly won an MVP in 12 games, and realistically probably should have if so many people weren't blinded by jealousy and hate. That matters not, because he got the prize that really matters at the end. He is #1 on every list of most important football players, and that obviously includes the list of most important Patriots heading in to 2017.
Honorable Mentions:
Jimmy Garappolo - He's a backup. Without an injury to Brady, he doesn't see the field. That being said, I can't call him one of the most important players when, if everything goes well, he'll never play.
Marcus Cannon - He may be the "best" offensive lineman on the team after his play last season. But as I said above, RT is fundamentally the 3rd most important OLine position and I can't see putting him in the Top 12.
David Andrews - A very good Center. As a player, not as good as Cannon or Solder to me, and a position not as important as LT.
David Thomas - I'm THRILLED to have him on the team, I think he's immediately the 2nd or 3rd best LB and provides a likely capable backup to Hightower, which was definitely lacking last season.
Pat Chung - I think he plays his position beautifully for the Patriots, but I just don't think he provides enough to bump anyone off the list above.
Malcom Brown - He is starting to turn into a stud DT. Fantastic against the run, and does a good job absorbing blockers to free up the linebackers. If he can revert to his college production, and start to become a regular pass rusher, he will absolutely crack the Top 12 of 2018.
Dwayne Allen - One of 3 TEs on the roster, and one with somewhat significant expectations on him because he's Gronk's backup, and following in Bennett's footsteps. If Gronk gets hurt, he immediately becomes more important, but like Jimmy G, I'm not elevating someone because I expect an injury to someone else.
Burkhead/Gillislee - I don't know how the team is going to deploy these 2, but Blount had 18 tds last season and these are the 2 guys who are poised to fill that role. It will be fascinating to watch develop with White and Lewis.
Well there it list of 12 most important players heading in to 2017, and 9 additional honorable mentions because there's just too many people on this team and I can't decide sometimes.
Would be interested what people think of the list above, and what their order might be!
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NBA City Free Agency Power Rankings

[Very long, but I know you have nothing better to do] [EDIT: Tried to fix formatting. And for those who live in terrible places - take a joke!]
When NBA players reach the rare points of their careers when they actually have the unfettered discretion to choose where they want to live and play basketball, they choose different places for different reasons. Where would he have the best opportunity to contend for a championship? Who can pay him the most money? Where can he be the number one option and play the way he wants to play? Who has the best coach and front office? Which city has the best weather? Which city has the best clubs? The best strip clubs? Proximity to models? Proximity to Kardashians? Where did he grow up?
Recently, every slight compliment that Kevin Durant bestows on a team or a town leads to wild speculation of where he will play next season. As the biggest free agent since Lebron took his talents to South Beach in 2010 and since he took his somewhat fading talents back to Lake Erie in 2014, there is good reason to speculate about KD’s future. In all likelihood, his carefully crafted decision will lead to five years of playing for the Larry O’Brien trophy no matter which jersey he dons.
The complexities of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the increasing intelligence of most front offices in the league (sorry Sacramento), and the ability to be marketable from anywhere in a globalized economy have changed the way that players make decisions. It is no longer about forcing yourself to the biggest market, which historically, have been the places where a player was most likely to win. A monstrous television deal that will only increase in the next couple of years has leveled the playing field. As has a CBA where a team actually has to plan and make smart decisions to manage their salary cap situation.
But let’s pretend that it’s just about the city and the history of the franchise (but not the active basketball operations, coach and players. So – for example – we can say Michael Jordan played there! But, we cannot factor in Fred Hoiberg, the general current management of the team or the fact that you can play with Jimmy Butler). All else being equal – which NBA locations/teams are the most attractive to NBA players? Remember, we are looking at this from the perspective of young millionaires.
Los Angeles Lakers
It used to be like the rap wars of the mid-1990s. East Coast or West Coast? Biggie or Pac? New York or L.A.? Los Angeles had Hollywood opportunities (What if I told you that you get play a 7 foot genie, star alongside Francis Capra and Da Brat and be directed by the genius behind The Cutting Edge and three episodes of Miami Vice?) Jack Nicholson watching courtside, young actresses (and aspiring ones) flooding the Forum Club and then Hyde at the Staples Center. You could have a mansion in Beverly Hills or on the Strand in Manhattan Beach. A player could enjoy the finest well-done steaks at Mastro’s.
Or you could live in a Park Avenue penthouse. Give high-fives to Jay-Z. Get your boy a guest spot on Law & Order SVU. 4:00 a.m. nights with models in Tribeca and SOHO. And most importantly, being in the center of the media universe could make you as marketable as…Patrick Ewing?
But times have changed. In the age of Twitter and Vine, League Pass, and nationally televised games, no matter where you are, players don’t needNew York. They don’t need L.A. But they still want L.A. The perfect weather and the pull of Hollywood, which remains the epicenter of the entertainment industry. A place where you can blend in and be afforded a little more privacy because residents are more excited by encounters with Jax fromVanderpump Rules.
Los Angeles remains the place where you can play for one of the two most storied teams in the league, while being able to roll along Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible maroon Bentley on a 78 degree January afternoon.
It is the Lakers history that puts L.A. at the top. Veterans grew up watching the late Magic years. Younger players grew up watching the Kobe-Shaq dynasty or the Kobe-Pau years. The games under the Showtime lighting, framed yellow jerseys and 16 championship banners just feel different. It is one thing to be an NBA player. It is a whole other to be a Laker.
Miami Heat
It’s pretty much Los Angeles, but with the occasional hurricane, worse humidity, and Cuban telenovelas instead of big-budget motion pictures. Miami still has the beach and the clear and beautiful warm waters of South Florida. NBA players love neon lights and other bright shit, making South Beach a favorite. There are the palm trees and the waterfront mansions. A player can still date models. Prime 112 has tempura lobster (A Jalen Rose favorite).
Alonzo Mourning and the late 1990s teams brought legitimacy to a new organization. Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley turned them into a premiere franchise and Lebron and the big-three era catapulted the Heat to arguably becoming the most marquee NBA franchise, other than the Lakers and Spurs, in the post-Jordan era.
Also, in case you forgot every Cribs episode, never underestimate an NBA player’s adoration for Scarface.
Los Angeles Clippers
Basically the Lakers, but with selfies hanging inside Staples instead of championship banners and nostalgia for Eric Piatkowski instead of Magic Johnson.
The trash organization gained legitimacy when the NBA evicted their slumlord owner and brought in a tech billionaire whose products are not used by a single person in Los Angeles, most of whom are working on Broad City spec scripts at their local coffee shop.
The marketability factor is still present with opportunities for players to be the king of insurance or mid-tier Korean family sedans.
It’s still Los Angeles and a player can always go out on Sunset and pretend he is on the Lakers.
New York Knicks
We pretend the Knicks are the unheralded kings of free agency. That everyone dreams of playing at the Garden and living in New York. But unless you grew up in the five boroughs - no one liked Ewing, Starks, Oak and Anthony Mason (RIP). Most NBA players would not know if Bernard King played on the Knicks between 1983-1987 or 1963-1967. The oldest active player in the NBA (the professor, Andre Miller) was born approximately three years AFTER the Knicks last won an NBA championship. Sorry, the Knicks aren’t a premiere NBA organization. And this is without even mentioning James Dolan.
And - contrary to popular opinion - New York City is not the premiere place to live if you are an NBA superstar. A player would rather live in a sprawling 8,000 square foot mansion with a regulation sized basketball court, shark tank, nine-hole golf course, and a Ritz Carlton quality pool than pay $10 million for a 2,000 square foot apartment or brownstone.
Your average NBA player would rather eat at The Cheesecake Factory than the awesome hole-in-the-wall Pho spot or David Chang’s latest Michelin rated restaurant.
NBA players aren’t known to spend Saturday afternoons strolling the Museum of Modern Art or checking out trendy and provocative performance art projects in Bushwick warehouses.
It isn’t 1981, so nearly every NBA city has some semblance of nightlife where a player can enjoy a bottle of Dom P, VIP area, and have a flock of jersey-chasers clamoring for attention.
NBA players don’t fuck with the Subway.
New York is really cold during approximately 80% of the NBA regular season.
But even though I spent approximately 300 words shitting on New York, it’s still New York. Just ask JR Smith.
Brooklyn Nets
The team’s history is buried in a swamp in New Jersey. The legacy of the team since it has moved to Brooklyn centers around former stars who were collective decades removed from their primes.
NBA players are not Lena Dunham.
It’s still New York, but not quite.
Basically the New York Clippers.
Having a Russian Oligarch multi-billionaire for an owner is pretty cool.
Houston Rockets
It’s hot. There is good food and lots of chain restaurants. Huge houses for cheap and no state taxes. Paul Wall, Mike Jones (who?) and Chamillionaire were at the height of their popularity when most of these guys were in junior high and high school.
Hakeem might help you with your footwork.
Allegedly, great strip clubs.
Dallas Mavericks
It’s hot. There are quality steakhouses and lots of chain restaurants. Huge houses for cheap and no state taxes. Unfortunately, no strong rap history.
No one to help you with your footwork, but Cuban provides the best perks (remember when he put a Playstation 2 in every player’s locker back in 2002?)
A lot of players are Dallas Cowboys fans because they are front-running assholes who grew up with the Irvin, Emmett and Aikman teams.
Allegedly, great strip clubs.
And if Chandler Parsons chose to play there you know it is a good time.
Phoenix Suns
It’s really hot. There are lots of chain restaurants. Huge houses for cheap, but there are state taxes. Unfortunately, no strong rap history.
NBA players treat Phoenix as if it is a distant suburb of Los Angeles.
Few models, but plenty of surgically enhanced cleavage and Arizona State Coeds.
More NBA players than you think golf.
Pool parties where players can wear socks, rubber Nike sandals, and two pairs of oversized basketball shorts.
The Steve Nash teams revolutionized basketball and rescued the NBA from the 84-79 point games era. Barkley took them to the Finals against Jordan and maybe a player can get invited to his poker game (hope he makes a max-level salary!)
Orlando Magic
Players have been known to live on lakes and jet-ski to each other’s houses to play Madden, which sounds like exactly the kind of life I would have liked to have led when I was 17.
The weather is really nice and it’s almost tropical.
It’s basically Miami, but rednecks instead of Latin people and New York retirees, lakes instead of the ocean, and strip malls and Disney World instead of any semblance of nightlife. Those D12 teams were underrated (beat Lebron in his prime), but no one has ever said “Dwight Howard did it, so you know it is a good idea.” Some goodwill remains from the Penny-Shaq era. Everyone forgets that T-Mac and Grant Hill played here.
Atlanta Hawks
It is a mystery why Atlanta is not a more popular NBA city. You would think Atlanta would be at the center of the Venn diagram of where rappers and NBA players want to live. But apparently, NBA players don’t care too much about fraternizing with 2 Chainz, Outkast, Ludacris, Jermaine Dupri, Gucci Mane, Lil Jon, and Young Jeezy.
It isn’t San Diego, but the weather is nice. The food is good. You can buy a Southern estate for about the price of a condo in Inglewood. You might be able to get a cameo on The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
Freaknik is in Atlanta, even though its heyday has long since passed.
It’s at the top of the list of where traveling NBA players play like shit. Atlanta has arguably the best clubs of NBA cities that are not Los Angeles, New York, or Miami.
Of course, I have to bring up The Gold Club, where you can feel free to hang around a little bit and talk to them, then leave.
It’s one of the two major African-American metropoles in the country.
Highlights of the Hawks history are basically limited to the 2015 team getting swept in the conference finals, that time Joe Johnson hit a three, and Dominique Wilkins almost (he should have) beating MJ in the 1988 dunk contest. Maybe that’s why guys don’t want to play here.
Washington Wizards
Affectionately nicknamed Chocolate City.
But basketball has really never mattered in DC outside of Georgetown hoops.
San Antonio Spurs
What would San Antonio be without the Spurs? The answer is El Paso. No one wants to live in El Paso.
This is a good reminder that this list does not consider the strength of the present-day organization, but it does factor in the history of the organization.
Therefore, the Spurs get a bump for having five titles, four of which no one cares much about. There’s a better chance of Fox News covering a Bernie Sanders rally than Hardwood Classics ever airing a game from the New Jersey Nets and San Antonio Spurs 2003 Finals.
San Antonio is, in essence, Dallas or Houston, but they tend to fare worse in the most obese cities rankings, more residents speak Spanish, and the chain restaurants are next to a dirty river.
I am not sure any NBA players remember the Alamo.
Golden State Warriors
Two years ago you would probably agree with this placement. Now you probably think I am insane, stupid or both.
But in my completely arbitrary and not very well contemplated rules for this exercise, you don’t get to factor in playing with Steph and company, but you do get to factor in the insane current popularity of the franchise, which has been propelled by Steph and company. So – ummm – make sense?
Until this ongoing Warriors run, Golden State was akin to Milwaukee west.
The years of Run TMC were all too brief and the most prominent superstar (before Steph) claimed by this franchise shot free throws underhand and is widely regarded as the most despised Top-50 player and champion in league history.
And as much as tech-bros are popularizing Northern California, NBA players aren’t exactly swayed by the most European of NBA cities. Other than Boris Diaw and Tony Parker, not many NBA guys would enjoy a nice red at a sidewalk café on a foggy San Francisco afternoon and coordinate team day-trips to Napa.
Chicago Bulls
The greatest of all-time wore number 23. No NBA team’s identity is as much ingrained in the image of a single player. The Lakers are the Lakers even without one of Kareem, West, Wilt, Magic, Shaq, or Kobe. The Celtics are the Celtics even without one of Bill Russell, Bird, KG, or Pierce.
The Bulls are the Timberwolves without Jordan. MJ has rewritten the history of the franchise so extensively that people forget that they were one of the league’s most dogshit franchises when they drafted Jordan out of North Carolina.
To play in Chicago is to follow in Jordan’s footsteps, but unfortunately, the shadow he casts is so large that players are hesitant to fill those Air Jordan’s. Lebron – allegedly – scoffed when Chicago’s pitch to him in 2010 was exactly that. The Bulls sent him a pair of Jordans with an accompanying message: “Do you dare to fill these shoes?” We know how he answered. “Fuck no!” And that seems to be the attitude that modern superstars hold.
Why would I go to a team where – no matter what I do and how many championships I win – I’ll never be Michael?
Chicago is the pride of the prairie. It’s the grandest American city outside of L.A. or NYC. But it is also the windy city and the most frigid big city in the country, where gusts off of Lake Michigan will literally pain your bones. Unless you are an opera connoisseur, it doesn’t hold much appeal over many of the NBA’s mid-sized cities.
There’s a reason in Kanye West’s Good Life, he raps: “The good life, it feel like Atlanta, it feel like L.A., it feel like Miami. It feel like N.Y., summertime Chi, ahhh, now throw your hands up in the sky.”
Summertime Chi. As in – great place to play for the Cubs! But stay the fuck away during the NBA season.
Boston Celtics
How can the team with the most championships in NBA history be as low as 15? Why are the Celtics ranked below the Bulls when they have 11 more titles?
Because even though Boston has the richest basketball history in the NBA, it also has - well - Boston history. Just ask Bill Russell about that.
Even if Boston is a more friendly city to African-Americans in 2016 than the city was in 1966, it still has never been a free agent destination. The recent Big 3 era was orchestrated via trades rather than free agency, even if KG ultimately agreed to join Pierce and Jesus Shuttlesworth to win his first and only ring. But he was apprehensive, even calling Bill Russell to seek advice.
Boston is a tremendous place to live, to go to college or graduate school, to be Irish, and the optimal place to be if you’re a fan of the Dropkick Murphy’s, where bagpipe-punk ballads are bar staples on far more than just St. Patrick’s Day.
Memories of the Garden and Bird and the other several hall-of-famers certainly serves as a strong recruiting factor.
But when New England poet Robert Frost poses the question about two roads diverged in a yellow wood, the NBA millionaire is not going to choose either road that leads to the frigid Boston winters, no matter how pretty the foliage when the season begins.
Toronto Raptors
It is Canada. Which is not the United States. Which means it is a pain in the ass to deal with currency conversion. And you have to file taxes (which are higher in Canada) in two separate countries.
Toronto is possibly the most metropolitan and lively large North American city outside of New York. Because I have not been to Toronto as an adult, I Googled the best clubs in the city to get a feel for how well those Canada nights complement the life of an NBA star. Number one as of July 2015 was Uniun, which sounds like a failing Vegas club at New York, New York, which not so successfully attempts to emulate some chic Manhattan spot. Here is the description: “Owned by the Ariana Grande of the Toronto club scene, Charles Khabouth…” So yeah, apparently a Lebanese Canadian club owner and hotelier in his fifties is the Ariana Grande of the Toronto club scene. Makes sense.
Some other Union gems:
BEERS ON TAP: None, but bottles of Heineken, Coors, Corona, and Molson Canadian.
BAR SNACKS: None as of yet.
WHO GOES THERE: Dressed-up fans of electronic music, beautiful people in their 20s and 30s.
That place sounds TERRIBLE. I bet Jonas Valanciunas has a standing table reservation.
In Toronto, English is still the primary language. While perhaps too similar to the Bratislava clubs in Eurotrip, there are numerous nightlife options. There is an abundance of diversity. Most importantly for NBA players, there is a Benihana!
But it is cold. Really cold. Like colder than Boston, Chicago or New York cold. And if you’re learning anything from this list, it’s that NBA players do not like being in the cold. Which is a primary reason that the Western Conference has been dominant for two decades.
Even if NBA players have a debaucherous time on the road when traveling up to The North - it’s hard to shake the perceptions that are formed in childhood. And nearly every NBA player grew up thinking of Canada, even places like Toronto, as an uninhabited frozen wasteland with the occasional igloo and Eskimo.
Three years ago Toronto would be ten spots lower on this list, but it’s helpful to have your ambassador and biggest celebrity fan be the most popular rapper on the planet. Drake might be worth more to this franchise than Lebron is worth to Cleveland.
Memphis Grizzlies
It’s a smaller town than the warmer cities listed above and the weather is less desirable. It’s one of the top cities for BBQ in the country, and perhaps, the best of any NBA city. Beale Street is apparently fun.
It is more of a blue-collar city than NBA players typically prefer, but at least it is not in the Rust Belt.
It is rated higher than similarly sized and geographically located cities Charlotte and New Orleans because the grit & grind era gave Memphis a distinct basketball identity that resonates with fans. The three most exhilarating things currently in the NBA are Russell Westbrook attacking the rim at full speed, Steph Curry pulling up from 40 and the Memphis PA system bumping Whoop That Trick during a crucial fourth quarter playoffs timeout.
If only NBA players were bigger fans of Elvis.
Portland Trailblazers
The last remaining frontier of professional basketball in the Great American Northwest. Portland, as a city, has undergone a surge of popularity among America’s twenty-somethings, inspiring such articles as the Washington Post’s Why quirky Portland is winning the battle for young college grads.
Oregon has lakes, streams, rivers, trees and picturesque mountains. It also has one of America’s most infamous foodie scenes and thousands of clones of young Bill Walton, albeit the political and socially-conscious new anti-yuppies of Portland lack The Big Redhead’s size and athletic ability. But riding a fixie bike does keep those quads strong.
While natural scenic beauty and hiking have not historically been strong sellers to NBA free agents, Portland - or at least nearby Beaverton - does have one thing that turns the heads of young athletes…The Swoosh.
The Blazers also boast an NBA title, one of the better logo/color scheme combinations in professional sports, a devoted cult-like local following, and hall-of-famers across multiple generations.
If only it did not rain so fucking much.
Denver Nuggets
I’d personally rather live in Denver than any NBA city outside of Los Angeles, but I reckon I enjoy snowboarding, the mountains and IPAs more than your average professional basketball player.
My team-building strategy for the Nuggets would be to target all Euro stars and convince them that living in the mile high city is like residing in an eighties ski movie, which it probably is for Gallinari. Vail and Aspen are surely suitable stand-ins for the Swiss Alps.
I would also try to work on getting Kendrick Lamar a residency at Red Rocks.
Unfortunately, among the most forgotten teams and players from the eighties were the really fun Fat Lever and Alex English led scoring machines. Fresh in the minds of most players is Melo’s slow and painful mid-season exit and there’s no other recent period in Nuggets history which serves as a draw for free agents.
But once the NBA gets out of the weed regulation business and ceases testing for non-performance enhancing drugs and non-narcotics, you can go ahead and bump the Nugs up a spot or ten.
Philadelphia 76ers
The city of brotherly love is the fifth largest United States city. But just because it is big doesn’t mean that there is anything notable about the town. No one talks about the restaurants or the bars or the museums or anything that has really happened since the 18th century. There is the liberty bell, so that’s cool? Most people only know about Philadelphia because of Ben Franklin book reports in fourth grade.
Alllen Iverson was just interviewed by Complex Magazine and said his favorite thing to do in Philly was go to TGI Fridays.
But people remember Dr. J and Moses Malone. And more recently, Allen Iverson had his best years in Philly and brought them to the Finals and I am not going to underestimate AI’s impact, as he is up there with Jordan as one of the most iconic and culturally transformative players to ever pick up an orange ball.
Too bad Sam Hinkie has worked his hardest to demolish a once proud franchise’s reputation.
At least Philadelphia is not Milwaukee or Detroit.
New Orleans Pelicans
I don’t have a lot of history to go on here, since The Big Easy has been a permanent NBA town for about a decade.
It seems like a pleasant enough place to live. It is inexpensive. The cuisine is excellent. You can hear the best Jazz of your life on an unassuming street corner. You can legally walk down the street with a drink in your hand. You can legally gamble. No one seems to mind if you urinate outside a bar in the French Quarter at five in the morning. There are Southern mansions and a quieter life available in the burbs. Cash Money records reps the 504, but unfortunately, I’m not sure Lil Wayne carries the same weight in 2016 as he did when he ruled the aughts. There’s an NCIS here now.
The weather is mostly mild during the NBA season, but the worst natural disaster in United States history likely still looms large in player’s minds.
Even if it is home to Mardi Gras and is essentially the Vegas of the American South, it’s still a very small town and that historically has not played well with NBA dudes.
I just have the feeling it’s more likely for a player’s bachelor party than it is as a permanent residence. But New Orleans’ place on this list should be revisited in five or so years.
Charlotte Hornets
Everyone in Charlotte is a bank teller, financial analyst at a large commercial bank, works for the Federal Reserve or worships at the altar of Dale Earnhardt. I am surprised that the professional sports teams in the state don’t have a permanent 3 patched onto the breast of the team jerseys.
Charlotte is where SEC and ACC grads end up if they didn’t get jobs in Atlanta.
Other than middle-management at a regional office and NASCAR, when I think of Charlotte, one other thing comes to mind - college hoops. Jordan, Worthy, Stackhouse, Vince, Sheed and Dean Smith. Tar Heels versus Blue Devils.
Pro basketball has already died once in Charlotte, but was singlehandedly resurrected by the greatest basketball player of all-time who just so happened to be from the state. If MJ was raised in Detroit, L.A. or Chicago, the Charlotte Hornets would be the Seattle Sonics 2.0 or the Kansas City Jayhawks.
But every male between 30 and 35 years old, no matter where they grew up in the U.S., had a teal Hornets Starter Jacket. If the Hornets want to increase their free agency rankings, they need to go back to their early-to-mid 90s LJ and Zo throwback attire. They also need to make Grandmama the permanent mascot.
And at least for the next five to seven years - the front office can lure free agents with 50 yard line seats to see Cam Newton.
Detroit Pistons
The epicenter of the desolate remains of once proud American manufacturing. If you sign with the Pistons, they may be able to hook you up with a good deal on a Ford Explorer.
Living options are between a dilapidated warehouse in downtown Detroit or a 10,000 square foot mansion in a Pleasantville-esque suburb, which are similar to the Northside burbs of Chicago, but if Chicago itself no longer existed and it was even colder.
But the Pistons do well with adopting the persona of Detroit toughness. From the Bad Boys to the Billups-Rip-Tayshaun-Sheed-Ben Wallace squad.
So a player can feel good about being perceived as a badass, but will soon learn why everyone respects his toughness and resilience, he has to live in Detroit.
Sacramento Kings
It sounds appealing to work and live in the capital of California, until you realize that the capital of California is Sacramento.
The current Kings arena – Sleep Train (formerly Arco) – is located in a cow pasture.
The best thing about Sacramento is the approximate 100 mile distance to Lake Tahoe and 90 mile distance to San Francisco. When your best selling point is being located not that far away from better places, it does not speak all that highly about your city. Sacramento…at least we’re not Barstow.
The Maloof bros sold, so there is no longer access to free Vegas depravity.
The Webber-Bibby-Peja-Vlade years were fun, but the franchise has since slowly slid into complete chaos and incompetence.
They should just ditch the new digs and move to Orange County (which would immediately be a top three free agent destination), where players can live in Newport and Laguna Beach and not have to wait until retirement to hit on cougars at Javier’s.
Indiana Pacers
Reggie Miller scoring eight points in nine seconds and miming the choking sign to Spike Lee single-handedly keeps the Pacers out of the bottom of the barrel.
Aside from Hoosiers, Bobby Knight, Peyton Manning before the neck, Andrew Luck, Parks and Recreation, the beginning of The Jackson 5 and the non-NASCAR kind of racing, I don’t know much about Indiana. I know Notre Dame is in South Bend, but the Irish pretty much exist independently of the State.
Apparently you can fish there, which Roy Hibbert and Paul George taught us that a friendly team fishing expedition can heal deep wounds.
So…here we are. Indiana!
Cleveland Cavaliers
I’ll start with the obvious – if I was factoring in playing with Lebron, the Cavs would be near the top of these rankings. Although, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving might argue differently.
Before Lebron Round One, the most iconic Cavs moment was Jordan nailing the double-pump, buzzer beating jumper in the 1989 playoffs and sending Craig Ehlo crying to his knees.
During the early Lebron years, the Cavs are most remembered for wilting twice in the playoffs and being subsequently deserted by The King for the number two squad on this list.
Cleveland rests on the shores of water so disgusting and polluted, that Lake Erie has caught on fire MULTIPLE times, including the 1969 Cuyohoga fire that played a major role in inspiring the formation of the EPA and the Clean Water Act of 1972. That same fire even had a cameo in Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.
The stench of failure is so strong in Cleveland that the Indians were the franchise chosen to be featured in Major League. Other than Jim Brown, Otto Graham and Lebron, Roger Dorn is probably the city’s most treasured professional athlete.
At least there is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is basically a Hard Rock Café without the food.
Oklahoma City Thunder
One of my good friends and former college roommates is from Oklahoma City. His dad is an incredibly nice and smooth man who happens to own an oil and gas business and whose world view is equally shaped by attending college in Austin in the 1970s. If he were so inclined, I’d let him frack in my living room.
Here is what he has to say about living in Oklahoma City: We may not have the beach and we may not have the mountains, but people sure smile and say hello when you pass them on the street.
While it may have warmth and friendly strangers, I don’t know if that is enough for NBA free agents. And until Durant and Westbrook are no longer in the Sooner State, we will not find out.
Minnesota Timberwolves
It is cold in Detroit. It is cold in Milwaukee. It is cold in Chicago. But only one United States city has an entire downtown system of enclosed pedestrian footbridges (Minneapolis Skyway System), so residents can walk in a climate-controlled environment year round. How fucking freezing does it have to be for a city to build an infrastructure so people never have to feel the outside air?
Minneapolis is one of the more underrated American cities, but that designation mostly applies between Memorial and Labor Day. A July day on Lake Minnetonka is a Kenny Powers wet dream.
But unless you’re an ice fishing enthusiast, there are better places for the young and absurdly rich to spend their winters.
It does not help that the most notable retired former Timberwolf is Wally Szczerbiak.
Light Beer and Sausages:
Milwaukee Bucks
Kareem played here, but after six seasons, forced a trade to the Lakers. In return, the Bucks received four guys I am certain you have never heard of. Oscar Robertson played here, but played the majority of his prime in Cincinnati. Ray Allen played here, but was traded after six and a half seasons along with a collection of spare parts for old Gary Payton (who left the next offseason) and Desmond Mason (who would play two more seasons for the Bucks). Expect to see the Bucks trade Giannis in three years for Deron Williams and Frank Kaminsky.
The Bucks did have one of the better forgotten runs in NBA history between the 1970 and 1974 seasons, where they won an average of nearly 61 games per year. Their 1971 championship run led by Kareem and The Big O was among the most dominant in history, where they went 12-2 through the playoffs including a finals sweep.
Most outside of Milwaukee forget that the Bucks’ success continued after Kareem and Oscar departed, when Sidney Moncrief led them to a decade of near excellence in the Reagan era. But their strong eighties teams have been greatly overshadowed by those great and better 76ers, Celtics and Pistons squads.
As for the rest of Wisconsin - it is shitty beer, the Packers, cheese, Madison and whatever the hell is going on in Manitowoc County.
The New Orleans Jazz Moved to Utah, Where They don’t Allow Music:
Utah Jazz
The State of Utah is about 61% Mormon and 91% white. Approximately 1.27% of the population is African-American. No other U.S. state that has an NBA team has a smaller African-American population.
If the Jazz could guarantee the NBA players/budding film producers that their projects would be admitted to Sundance, they might be able to field a dangerous team. A Baron Davis/Kobe/Lebron core could perhaps secure the 7th seed in the West.
The Jazz do boast a rich history and a rabid fan base. But the very smart and talented front office knows that they operate in Utah, so they are better served building through the draft, where you can retain players against their will.
submitted by EricHangingOut to nba [link] [comments]

Missouri veteran who escaped Nazi prison camp gets medal

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Missouri veteran who escaped Nazi prison camp gets medal ::
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Published: 2016-04-03 11:55:17 Updated: 2016-04-03 11:57:35
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Political News Missouri veteran who escaped Nazi prison camp gets medal
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Assigned to the Army's 30th Infantry Division, 1st Battalion, 117th Infantry Regiment, Company C, Shifrin landed on France's Normandy beach in June 1944 a week after the D-Day invasion and then fought the Germans in battles at St.Triangle Area Special Offers Get 15% Off of Terminix Termite Services 10% off lawn treatment package when you sign up in April Click Here to Search All Triangle Homes for Sale Get a $75 HVAC System Tune-up from BellCow HVAC Myrtle Beach Girlfriend Getaway Packages
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What's In Stores #16 Walmart: NASCAR AUTHENTICS BOUNUS WAVE 1 FOUND!!!!! Ohio St Buckeyes National Championship Futures Odds  College Football Picks NASCAR Betting Tips from Driver Brendan Gaughan Brickyard 400 Picks to Win and Betting Odds from the NASCAR Betting Experts on Gone Racin' Dixie Vodka 400 Homestead-Miami Speedway Picks

PFA Player of the Year odds - Kevin De Bruyne touches odds-on over Jordan Henderson . There are at least three viable contenders... 9 hours ago The ballots have been counted and Donald Trump visits the White House on Thursday as president-elect. It was a wild election campaign and an even crazier election night as the results came in and showed that the polls, predictions and oddsmakers were not going to get this one right.. Paddy Power in the UK got it so wrong that they paid out Clinton bettors in advance and in doing so cost Why Betting Odds Matter with U.S. Elections If United States voters learned one thing following the 2016 election, it’s that presidential polling should be taken with a boulder-sized grain of salt. The voluminous amount of polling data shared by the media all but guaranteed Hillary Clinton would win the presidency and she didn’t. NASCAR ® and IMG ARENA, a leading sports betting service and content hub, announced today that IMG ARENA has licensed official assets to create a virtual sports betting game that replicates some of NASCAR‘s most iconic tracks, including Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Watkins Glen International. The virtual product, created by Leap Gaming*, will be offered to Additionally, NASCAR and IMG ARENA have formed a long-term partnership that will provide international sports betting operators the ability to live-stream NASCAR Cup Series races for the first time.

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What's In Stores #16 Walmart: NASCAR AUTHENTICS BOUNUS WAVE 1 FOUND!!!!!

NASCAR Diecast Flea Market Finds! (Dual Autograph & Trucks!) - Duration: 5:58. ... 2016 Lionel NASCAR Authentics Wave 11 HD Unboxing and Review - Duration: 45:30. Our sports analyst, Joe Osborne, is here to breakdown his two best bets, a sleeper pick as well as a driver he will be looking to fade in head-to-head betting markets. Kevin Harvick is a co ... Published on Dec 23, 2016 The Ohio St Buckeyes are the second choice of the sports betting markets to win the National Championship in college football, but they are way behind the team currently ... Learn the basics of betting NASCAR races from someone who know the sport from the inside. There are multiple options to bet on auto races including driver match-ups, props, and overall winner. The Christmas markets this year are split right down the middle between lower quality this week and much higher quality next week. ... Betting strategy ... NASCAR DECS All-Star Race 2016 ...