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Why Warriors’ start in 2018-19 better than 2017-18

first_imgMark Medina breaks down what to watch as the Golden State Warriors prepare for games against the Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves this week. NEW YORK – One moment, the Warriors are making a video poking fun at Fergie’s rendition of the national anthem during the 2018 NBA All-Star game. At another moment, the Warriors are keeping a strict routine with meticulous treatment in the training room. At another moment, the Warriors appear excited every time one of their …last_img

Emerging farmers on the rise

first_imgThe Jagpan mentorship programme helpsemerging farmers to build up their flocksof hardy Dorper sheep.(Image: MediaClubSouthAfrica.com. Formore free photos, visit the image library) MEDIA CONTACTS • Gawie van Wyk  Jagpan Vennootskap Boerdery  +27 83 270 3161 • National Wool Growers Association   +27 41 365 5030 RELATED ARTICLES • Zuma: SA farmers make things happen • Not just a fluffy face • Paying it forward with goat farming • SA’s women farmers root out hunger • R200m tomato factory opens in PEEmily van RijswijckBlack emerging farmers are beginning to find their feet in the tough environment of commercial farming, with success stories being recorded in the Eastern and Northern Cape provinces.The majority of the 17 000 wool sheep farmers living in the former Transkei and Ciskei regions – located to the north and south of the Kei River in the Eastern Cape, respectively – are small farmers, running herds of 20 to 30 sheep on average.On their own, these farmers would struggle to make a sustainable living but thanks to a mentorship and support programme offered by the National Wool Growers Association of South Africa (NWGA), these same farmers are now serious players in the wool export industry. The NWGA’s Training and Development for Communal and Emerging Wool Farmers programme aims to pool resources and establish ongoing mentorship. Started in 1997, it has helped to increase the bale volumes of the region’s farmers from just over 222 000 kilograms in 1997 to a hefty 2.9-million kilograms over the last season. “We teach them everything from shearing their sheep, to classing the wool and packing it properly into bales,” says Leon de Beer, GM at the Port Elizabeth-based NWGA head office. “We also introduce them to wool brokers.”The programme follows a five-tier approach:Providing infrastructure development and upgrading of shearing stations and facilities;Giving ongoing development and training;Mentorship assistance with local, established farmers;Help with all marketing-related aspects; andGenetic improvement of the local herds with the gradual introduction of superior rams.Increased earnings, better lifeThe programme has made a huge difference to the income and overall social status of the farmers, adds de Beer. The rand value for the area’s 2010/11 season is estimated at almost 70-million (US$8.9-million), of which 90% is earmarked for export. The genetic improvement aspect has also brought about significant change to the quality of the wool produced in the area. With help from the NWGA, farmers from areas bordering the Ciskei and Transkei have gradually been building up the genetic quality of the local herds with superior breeding rams.To date, almost 28 000 rams have been introduced into local herds over a nine-year period.  Partnering with emerging farmersFar removed from the rolling green hills of the beautiful Transkei and Ciskei, lies the Hantam district of the Great Karoo, a semi-arid farming area in the Northern Cape, known for its delicious mutton. It is here that farmer Gawie van Wyk and his brother-in-law Jannie van Heerden set up the Jagpan Vennootskap Boerdery in 2007, a mentorship project with emerging farmers.“Our motivation was to make a contribution, to do something to help. I grew up in the area and know the people very well,” says Van Wyk, who is also NWGA’s production adviser in the district.Located 120 km from the small town of Carnarvon, the initiative has already won accolades from the Rural Development and Land Reform Department for its financial systems. “We lay great emphasis on the financial management of the farm,” says Van Wyk.Van Wyk and Van Heerden are mentoring four famers – Patrick Sacco, Jan Moolman, Dirk Sacco and Ismael Louw. Three of the group have never farmed commercially before, and for the moment all of them are still part-time farmers. With the exception of Louw, the others still hold down nine to five jobs during the week, with farming activities restricted to the weekends.  A business model that worksJagpan’s business plan is simple and ensures success for all three parties – the state, the emerging farmers and the two mentors. The state has allowed the partners to lease the land for a seven-year period at no cost, but with commitments to manage and maintain it. At the outset of the project four years ago, the state donated 400 Dorper ewes to the initiative. These are locally-bred sheep, developed by cross-breeding the Dorset Horn and Blackhead Persian varieties. The breed is well suited to hot, dry areas and is known as a fast-growing meat producer.The Dorpers were run with 400 ewes belonging to Van Wyk and Van Heerden.  The 800 sheep were farmed as a unit with a 50% profit share going to the trainees and 50% going to the two mentors.The emerging farmers are required to build up their own flock to 800 ewes within seven years. As this happens, Van Wyk and Van Heerden gradually reduce their own ewe numbers and their percentage of the profits accordingly. The farm is already running 600 of its own Dorper ewes. It wasn’t all plain sailing though. After experiencing two excellent years the farmers had a tough season in 2010, losing a lot of sheep to Rift Valley Fever. Van Wyk believes the emerging farmers may not have been able to sustain their efforts were it not for the mentorship and support provided during this difficult period.But he sees a promising future. “By the end of the seven years, they’ll be self-sustaining,” he believes.Transkei and CiskeiThe Transkei and Ciskei are two of the four formerly independent homelands created under the apartheid government in the 1970s. The other two homelands were Bophuthatswana and Venda. The Ciskei and Transkei are now part of the Eastern Cape Province.The Transkei boasts some of the most spectacular seascapes in South Africa, many of which remain largely untouched, prompting the use of its other popular name, the Wild Coast. The Wild Coast is a favourite tourist spot for the more adventurous as roads can be sub-standard in places, but awards the visitor with places like the Hole in the Wall and Wavecrest, the southern-most mangrove swamp in the world.Inland, visitors are treated to the sight of soft rolling hills dotted with homesteads still built in traditional fashion, with clay walls and thatch roofs. The area’s inhabitants, the Xhosa people, live mostly off subsistence farming and the local tourism industry. The Ciskei region is home to Bhisho, the capital of the Eastern Cape. The area is poor and most inhabitants exist on subsistence farming.The Ciskei has a small stretch of pristine coastline, offering great opportunities for hiking, such as the rewarding Shipwreck hiking trail, which allows hikers the opportunity to really “rough it”.last_img read more

80+ FREE Cinematic Atmospheres: Musical Textures and Sound Files

first_imgThis is “Cinematic Atmospheres.” A collection of over 80 extremely versatile music textures and sounds for your films and editing.Finding music is easy (especially when you have a PremiumBeat account, wink wink). What can be a lot more difficult is finding the right tones and sounds to fill the spaces in between. Sometimes you just need a little bit of an emotional tone or texture to give your quieter moments more depth.Sometimes, you want to score your film with just emotional tones and sounds that give your scenes more weight without being overly distracting. Well, if you’ve ever run into this problem, then this collection is for you.This is an extremely dense collection that, frankly, we shouldn’t be giving away for free. “Cinematic Atmospheres” includes over 80 sound files that you can layer and use and extend in ways that will allow you to completely score your project with lush emotional sounds and tones that will bring your audience to the edges of their seats.These five suites offer 80+ free cinematic sounds.Download ALL 5 Genres and StylesThis collection is so large we had to split it into 5 different downloads. Each download contains a different style and sound for a different feel or genre. Each download includes a fully mixed file and the samples we used to create it. On top of that, you’ll find loops, so you can extend and control the tones and sounds the way that you like them for as long as you want. Everything is fully controllable and customizable.With this sound collection, you can make your own scores.These sound files are free to use in any personal or commercial projects. By downloading, you agree not to resell or redistribute these free assets. The “Beach Sunrise” suite is for all your heartwarming, beautiful sound needs.Suite 1 — Beach SunriseHopeful/BeautifulThis suite is the perfect complement to a beautiful moment. A hopeful sound. The sun rising, nature, slow-motion footage, stunning drone shots — this sound is perfect for those moments that you can’t quite put into words.Included: 1 Fully Mixed Track, 8 Loops, 8 SamplesDOWNLOAD Beach SunriseThe Endless suite is for ambiguous or mysterious situations.Suite 2 — EndlessHeavy/EmotionalThis suite is for moments with emotionally ambiguous tones. These are scenes and shots that you want to put some weight behind, without feeling particularly sad or happy — just important. This suite is for the important moments when you want to make sure your audience is paying attention.Included: 1 Fully Mixed Track, 8 Loops, 8 SamplesDOWNLOAD EndlessFuture Rain offers the sounds of dystopia.Suite 3 — Future RainDystopian/Sci-FiThis suite is the sound that you want for your Blade Runner-style dystopias. It has dense textures and a melancholy and hopeless feel. Like an empty and abandoned city. There are many layers and tones to choose from and build the perfect sound.Included: 1 Fully Mixed Track, 8 Loops, 8 SamplesDOWNLOAD Future RainThe Serial suite is for those moments when you want the audience to know something’s about to happen.Suite 4 — SerialDark/OminousThis is the type of tone you want when you want your audience to feel uncomfortable, or like something is lurking in the distance. Something is about to happen. Uncertainty. This suite has everything you need to create a Fincher-esque moment of dread and make your audience wish, if only for a moment, that they weren’t about the see what’s going to happen.Included: 1 Fully Mixed Track, 8 Loops, 8 SamplesDOWNLOAD SerialThe Stitches sound suite is pure horror.Suite 5 — StitchesHorror/GhostlyThis suite of sounds is pure horror. You use these sounds when you have a jump scare right around the corner. You can use these sounds when you have a murderer lurking in the shadows or a passive ghost floating in the distance. This portion of the collection in particular yields interesting results with you mix it with the other portions. You can get some really creepy and asynchronous tones.Included: 1 Fully Mixed Track, 9 Loops, 9 SamplesDOWNLOAD StitchesHow to Use This CollectionSo, once you’ve downloaded all these files, how do you use them?Well, the way to break it down is that there are Full Tracks, Loops, and Samples.Full TracksThis is pretty self explanatory, but these tracks are fully mixed, curated, and ready to go. You can just cut them to the length that you need and work them into your edit, and you’re ready to go.LoopsThe loops allow you to mix and create your own versions of the full track — but at the length and with the customization you want. For instance, if you want one part of the track to play for an extended period of time, and then eventually have everything swell up in a particular moment, the loops are the best tools for the job. Here, you can create your own score.SamplesThe samples are one-hit sounds that you can just throw in at your own discretion. These sounds all stand on their own perfectly well, and you can really use them however you like. They are the sounds from the loops, just non-looping. With these, you can just quickly add a little touch of sound here and there.Looking for more free video production assets? Check these out.51 FREE Eye-Catching Accent Animation Motion Graphics21 FREE Hand-Painted Brush Stroke Motion Graphics191 Free Motion Graphics, Sound Effects, Action Elements, and More17 Free Anamorphic Lens Flares for Your Videos and Motion Graphics15 FREE Lower Thirds for Your Next Project in Premiere ProNeed more music and sound elements? Check these sources too:Free Music on PremiumBeatOnline Music Subscription on Shutterstock Musiclast_img read more

Four hockey players killed, 3 injured in Madhya Pradesh road accident

first_imgFour national-level hockey players were killed and three injured when their car crashed into a tree on a highway in Hoshangabad district on Monday morning, said the police. “The players were travelling on the Itarsi road towards Hoshangabad to take part in the Dhyan Chand trophy tournament at 7 a.m.,” said M.N. Chhari, SP. Witnesses told the police the driver of the speeding car had lost control and seconds later crashed into the tree and tumbled to the side near Raisalpur village, he said. “Several locals helped rescue the injured.” The deceased had been identified as Shahnawaz Hussain, Ashish Lal, Aniket Varun and Adarsh Hardua, all between 18 and 22 years. They trained at the Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy, said the police. The injured had been admitted to the Narmada Apna Hospital in Hoshangabad, where they were being treated free of cost, said Mr. Chhari. “The Chief Minister had announced a compensation of ₹2 lakh for each of the families of the deceased,” he said. Condoling the deaths, Chief Minister Kamal Nath tweeted that he prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured and “instructions had been given to officials for the complete treatment of the injured and every possible help to the families of the deceased”.last_img read more

Prateik’s birthday bash cost him heavily!

first_imgPrateik BabbarPrateik Babbar’s 25th birthday celebration recently cost him dear, but the young actor is not complaining. Son of late actress Smita Patil and actor-turned MP Raj Babbar, Prateik, who stars with Aamir Khan in Dhobi Ghat recently entered his 25th year on November 28, had quite a lavish bash.According to sources to the actor, Prateik had not planned anything on his birthday. “He went to a popular joint in the suburbs with one of his friends. He casually announced that it was his birthday, and therefore he would buy drinks for everybody present there. Prateik was greeted by loud cheering by everybody present there,” sources added.But to his shock, Prateik was presented a bill of Rs 70,000. “He took it sportingly, and footed the bill without any complaints,” sources said.last_img read more

Harbhajan Singh dedicates Man of the Match award to mother and close friends

first_imgOff-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who made a memorable comeback to internataional cricket by helping India thrash England in a World Twenty20 group league match, on Sunday dedicated his man-of-the-match award to his mother and close friends who stood by him in his hour of crisis.”It’s been a hard year. Being out of the side. Other boys were doing really well, so it was really difficult for me to make a comeback,” Harbhajan, who took 4/12 in India’s 90-run win over defending champions England, said.”This award is for my mom and those who have stuck with me,” he added.Harbhajan said the wicket in his second ball of international comeback gave him the much-needed confidence.”For me it was an important game. I hadn’t played international cricket for a full year. Getting a wicket first or second ball gives you a lot of confidence,” he said.Asked about any change in his game, he said, “In T20 cricket, it’s important to just read the game. I have tried to cut down my run-up a bit.”I was running in too fast, and struggling to find my areas. So I was consciously coming in off a short run, and slowly,” said the off-spinner.An emotional-looking Harbhajan said that he had always thought that he would make a come back and play for the country again.”This India short is everything for me. I don’t know what I would do if not playing for India. I would like to thank my friends and team-mates and the Essex (his English county side) people too.”advertisementlast_img read more

Bolt, Phelps, Federer, Maradona, Ali benchmarks for everyone: Sourav Ganguly to India Today

First Nations say the can build more projects with changes to federal

first_imgREGINA – First Nations leaders say they’ll be able to do more projects and build more homes because of changes that give them more control over financial resources.The federal government announced Tuesday that First Nations will now be able to carry funding from year-to-year, instead of having to return money if a project wasn’t completed within a fiscal year.Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde said the problem was that projects often didn’t get approved until late in a fiscal year.“There used to always be the requirement, but you know the monies never got out fast enough and everybody would panic that you have resources that have to be expended by the end of March or you lose them or you have to send them back,” Bellegarde said after making the announcement at the AFN’s annual meeting.“The monies coming out for housing came out so late, you can’t finish your housing programs, so now you’re going to be able to carry them over to the next fiscal year so that work can continue.”Bellegarde called the old situation “March madness,” but said communities won’t have to scramble now.Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said the old process left communities in a situation where projects could be caught in a cycle of starting and stopping.“They can start the project and then know that if it’s not done by the following spring, that they still have the money to carry on and finish the project,” said Bennett, who also addressed the AFN on Tuesday.“There’s no question these are first steps, but these were real irritants that we can get out of the way.”Ottawa will also work with First Nations on a new approach to funding essential services, such as fire, emergency services, schools, and water and waste treatment systems, she said.Both the government and the AFN said the current policy, which was introduced almost 20 years ago, is outdated, and does not reflect First Nations needs.“The requirement to find other sources of funding to ensure that you have clean drinking water or emergency management services, it means that some communities go without these essential services,” said Bellegarde.“This policy…does real harm and it’s holding First Nations back.”last_img read more

Prince William Visits Rhino Horn Demand Reduction Campaign In Viet Nam

first_imgHis Royal Highness Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, saw first-hand this week the efforts by the government of Viet Nam and animal protection organisation Humane Society International to inspire Viet Nam’s school children to protect rhinos from devastating poaching by reducing demand for rhino horn.In an event featuring school children from the Hong Ha primary school in Hanoi, Prince William spoke about the need to protect rhinos from poaching and urge the public to shun rhino horn consumption. HSI wildlife Program Manager Adam Peyman read children the book called “I’m a Little Rhino,” written and produced jointly by the Viet Nam CITES Management Authority and HSI, and illustrated by Peyman, to teach children about rhino poaching concerns, conservation efforts and to dispel the myth that rhino horn has medicinal value.Prince William is in Viet Nam to attend the Hanoi Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, a conference in which participants will call for tangible and unified action against illegal wildlife trade. A week earlier, HSI funded an event in which Viet Nam government officials destroyed 2,177.5 kg of elephant ivory tusks and 70.1 kg of rhinoceros horns confiscated from the illegal trade, to permanently remove the products from trade, call public attention to the poaching and trafficking tragedy, and urge people not to buy or use elephant ivory or rhino horn. A rhino is killed for its horn every 10 hours in South Africa, largely to satisfy demand in Viet Nam.Teresa Telecky, Ph.D., director of HSI’s wildlife department and author of “I’m a Little Rhino,” said: “We are thrilled that Prince William is helping to bring attention to the plight of rhinos and the dire poaching crisis they face, which is decimating their wild populations in Africa and Asia. Driving the crisis is the demand for rhino horn for its use in traditional medicines and health tonics despite the horn having no medicinal value. Our “I’m a Little Rhino” book educates children about rhinos and the threats to their survival and encourages them to ask adults in their lives not to buy or consume rhino horn.”HSI has been working with the government of Viet Nam since 2013 on a national, government-led campaign to reduce demand for rhino horn in the country. Viet Nam is one of the world’s major transit points for and consumers of trafficked ivory and horn. The multi-faceted campaign has reached an estimated 34 million people — approximately one-third of the national population. According to national poll results, over the three years of the campaign, the demand for rhino horn has dropped by 38 percent and the number of people in Viet Nam who think rhino horn has medical value has decreased by 25 percent.One of the campaign’s main priorities is educating children, and “I’m a Little Rhino” is at the heart of the program. The book tells the story from the perspective of a little rhino affected by poaching, and teaches children that poaching is a crime, that the horns have no medicinal properties, and that wildlife must be valued and protected. The book has now been distributed to 700 primary schools and is formally part of the school curriculum.“I’m a Little Rhino” is the first book in HSI’s “I’m a Little…” series of children’s books and videos, produced through our partnership with the Vietnamese government. Other books include I’m a Little Elephant, I’m a Little Pangolin, and “I’m a Little Tiger” to reduce demand for products from these animals.In addition to the schools education project, the demand reduction campaign has focused on Viet Nam’s capital city, Ha Noi, and engaged stakeholder groups including the 800,000-member Ha Noi Women’s Association, the business and scientific community, university students, as well as leading health experts. The organisation launched advertisements on city centre and airport billboards and on city busses.last_img read more

Kyle Lowry Could Make Toronto An NBA Finals Dark Horse

It’s likely no coincidence that Toronto’s opponents are scoring at a rate of nearly 4 fewer points per 100 possessions with Lowry on the court than they did a season ago. In fact, Lowry’s rehabilitation has been so complete that the Raptors now rank among the league’s top 10 teams at both ends of the floor and he has risen to full-blown MVP candidate status.You’re only as good as your best playerIt’s no secret that there’s a distinct relationship between a team’s championship probability and the quality of its best player, but it takes a truly exceptional player to make a run at a title. In the past, Lowry hasn’t been good enough to move that needle, but this season’s version is inching into the territory where small individual improvements can drastically upgrade a team’s chances of winning a championship.We’d expect a team being led by Lowry at his previous career-high BPM of +5.9 to win the title about 5 percent of the time; at this season’s +7.2 mark, those odds are doubled, to 10 percent. (Not even Carter in his prime led Toronto with a BPM so high.) Add in a decent supporting cast — and it’s debatable as to whether Toronto has one of those, particularly with DeMarre Carroll on ice, but let’s entertain the notion anyway — and suddenly the idea of a championship parade down Bay Street doesn’t seem quite so pie-in-the-sky. By just about any measure, the last three seasons have been the best time to root for the Toronto Raptors in their 20-year history. The Vince Carter era was thrilling but brief, and Chris Bosh’s dinos never quite realized their potential. Since 2013-14, however, the Raptors’ winning percentage has hovered around 60 percent, and their efficiency differential has been roughly 3.5 points per 100 possessions — numbers that those previous runs only approached in spurts.For all that success, however, Toronto has had trouble making any kind of dent come playoff time. As my ESPN colleague Zach Lowe wrote about Tuesday, each of the team’s past two postseasons ended with a first-round exit, and although the Raptors were upset both times — implying they had the talent to potentially go further — 49-win teams don’t typically vie for NBA championships anyway.1There are rare exceptions, but even conditional on making it past the first round of the playoffs, only 13 percent of teams that won 48 to 50 games in a season went on to the NBA Finals. If this season’s version of the club is basically the same, expecting different results would be irrational.These Raptors, however, have a secret weapon that their predecessors lacked: skinny Kyle Lowry.Technically speaking, this is Lowry’s fourth season with Toronto; he even logged the second-most minutes of any Raptor during the failed playoff runs of 2014 and 2015. But that version of Lowry was — how can we say it? — less svelte, and far less productive. By Box Plus/Minus (BPM), Lowry’s 2014-15 season was the worst he’d had in four years. This season, though, Lowry profiles like a top-five player according to the advanced metrics. And his sudden improvement could finally give Toronto the star power necessary to truly compete for a championship.Lowry’s evolving gameBefore this season, Lowry appeared to be on an evolutionary arc many players go through, trading a higher usage rate for less efficient scoring. In his rise as one of the game’s best guards, he’d once ranked in at least the 70th percentile of NBA players in both true shooting percentage and usage. That isn’t an easy thing to do. But last season, Lowry seemed to have surpassed the workload at which he could maintain a reasonable level of efficiency — a situation exacerbated by the banged-up state he found himself in as the season progressed. As a result, his offensive numbers dipped: He settled for more midrange shots and drew fewer fouls; he ran the pick-and-roll less often (and less efficiently); and over the course of the season, he struggled with his jump shot in a way he hadn’t for years.Although Lowry was pretty clearly not being himself, the Raptors won the Atlantic Division and locked up the No. 4 seed in the East. But the team was also unceremoniously swept by Washington, a series in which Lowry kept a high usage but saw his efficiency completely collapse. This seemed like a bad sign.Perhaps even more troubling, it was getting harder to find evidence that Lowry — a player with a good two-way reputation — was still among the league’s best defensive guards. Going into last season, he’d ranked up around the 80th percentile of NBA guards in defensive BPM over his career — a ranking corroborated by play-by-play plus/minus metrics and tracking data from Synergy Sports Technology — numbers underpinned by smart, bruising pick-and-roll defense. But in 2014-15, Lowry’s defensive indicators offered mixed messages. Although he still gave the Raptors’ defense a boost while on the floor, the team was also significantly worse defensively than it had been the previous season, and Lowry often looked slow, clunky and, at times, indifferent when trying to fight through ball screens. This season, Lowry has made course corrections at both ends of the floor. Although his usage continues to grow, his scoring efficiency has bounced back, in part because of smarter shot selection. He’s once again devoting fewer shots to the midrange, allowing his rates of taking threes and drawing fouls to return to their historical norms, and he’s been faster and more aggressive in the transition game as well. On defense, you can really see the effects of Lowry’s offseason weight loss. Last season, Lowry frequently failed when trying to use his strength to fight through screens (both on the ball and off), ceded too many easy buckets on pick-and-rolls and was generally slow to recover when he guessed wrong or his gambles didn’t pay off.2014-15: So this season should be encouraging for Raptors fans, at least by this metric. But after years of watching Chris Paul-led teams underachieve in the playoffs, it’s fair to ask whether this algorithm oversells the title chances for a point guard-driven squad. And as it happens, controlling for the entire skill set of a team’s best player, we found a slight tendency for teams led by players with a lot of value tied up in passing to perform worse in the postseason than we’d expect from their BPM. This could be due to any number of causes — from defenses keying in on passing patterns in a long playoff series to the way a playmaker’s value is only maximized when complemented by other skills (or perhaps it’s just random noise) — but it’s one (albeit minor) reason to consider lowering expectations for Lowry.Except that this season, Lowry’s game has been extremely well-rounded — he ranks in at least the 78th percentile of all NBA players in scoring efficiency, possession usage, assist rate and defensive BPM. Historically, teams whose best players excel in the first and last of those categories tend to exceed expectations in the playoffs at a rate far greater than any penalty that’s levied against passers.Of course, all of this presumes that Lowry’s overhauled game is legit. He’s currently 29 years old, an age at which NBA players are typically already on the downside of their careers, not metamorphosing into championship-caliber stars. Also, there was little in Lowry’s preseason CARMELO projection (our statistical crystal ball for NBA careers) to suggest an imminent breakout, aside from the late-blooming presence of Steve Nash on the fringe of his comparables list. An optimistic look at his strongest CARMELO comps suggested that he might pull a Rod Strickland and stay productive into his mid-30s; a less rosy one saw the possibility of flaming out far sooner, like Michael Adams and Derek Harper. So it’s entirely possible that Lowry will regress toward his previous career norms in the season’s second half.But given the particulars of Lowry’s skill set, and the ways in which he’s corrected his deficiencies of a season ago, it’s also very possible that if his caloric intake doesn’t regress, neither will his output.The question of whether Lowry’s teammates are good enough to support a championship run is still very much open. And even if they are, Lowry may have timed his improvement poorly, elevating his play during a season with two abnormally dominant teams that are soaking up all the league’s title odds. But Lowry’s sudden upgrade to the NBA’s elite class of players gives the Raptors a superstar the likes of which they’ve never had before. At the very least, they now possess a crucial element that was missing from the team’s recent string of good-but-not-good-enough campaigns. The new, slimmed-down version of Lowry has been quicker afoot and more focused in his pursuit of ballhandlers around and through screens, forcing more turnovers and fouling less as a result.2015-16: read more