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Ira Winderman: Will Summer of FOMO get best of the Heat?

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Ira Winderman: Will Summer Of Fomo Get Best Of The Heat?
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For the Miami Heat, the Summer of FOMO continues.

And when Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell are the potential prizes, the fear of missing out is understandable.

But at some point, it also becomes a matter of getting your house in order.

Yes, the Heat have it out there that they are content to move forward with a team that lost only 37-year-old P.J. Tucker from a roster that stood within one victory of the NBA Finals.

But there also likely are potential deals to be made if not for the FOMO factor.

The Indiana Pacers have made it eminently clear they are open for the business of change, with Myles Turner one of the few remaining pieces from the team’s previous incarnation.

The Atlanta Hawks have moved to even more of a backcourt-driving approach, perhaps to the consternation of John Collins.

The Sacramento Kings reshuffle could leave Harrison Barnes shuffled out.

The Charlotte Hornets might be poised to move on from the sometimes-available reality of Gordon Hayward.

And Jae Crowder has utilized social media in a way that certainly does not rule out relocation.

Against those backdrops stand the Heat with their three abundantly obvious trade mechanisms:

— The $16.9 million 2022-23 salary of Duncan Robinson, the ballast needed to balance trades under the salary-cap.

— The potential of Tyler Herro, a trade component that could entice suitors, but one on a ticking clock, with an extension agreement with the 2022 NBA Sixth Man of the Year this offseason effectively removing him from the trade market.

— First-round picks. With the Heat currently able to deal two, potentially able to unlock a third, and capable of offering a fourth in the person of No. 27 2022 first-round pick Nikola Jovic, who now is trade eligible one month after signing his rookie-scale contract.

All three of those potential components likely would be necessary in a package for Kevin Durant (and perhaps even more).

The three certainly could come into play for a possible deal for Mitchell.

But permutations involving two of the aforementioned elements might suffice in something less shiny, but something that still could provide a sturdy upgrade.

As for the trade elements: Robinson already has been replaced by the move to Max Strus in the starting lineup; Herro, at least in the short term, can be replaced by Victor Oladipo in the wing rotation should he be dealt for a big man; and the last time Pat Riley stood with fingers clenched to a first-round pick was when?

But much like Riley’s “one suit, one shirt, one tie” edict when the Heat traveled to Dallas for two potential closeout games of the 2006 NBA Finals against the Mavericks, there likely is one move of substance potentially still left for the Heat this offseason.

Thus, the FOMO.

Move now for an element that fills out the starting lineup at power forward, and trades of Durant and Michell elsewhere could produce a what-if hangover.

Of course, Durant and Mitchell might not be going anywhere. It’s not as if Sean Marks has said Durant has played his last game in Brooklyn, or Danny Ainge has said the same of Mitchell in Utah.

Crowder, in the final year of his contract, certainly could be an efficient one-year stopgap, similar to what Tucker ultimately proved to be.

Collins would provide the type of offensive spark missing in recent years at power forward for Erik Spoelstra, certainly more potential in that regard than going with Caleb Martin as the starting four.

Turner, even with his inconsistency, might stand as the perfect power balance to Bam Adebayo, with his 3-point stretchability and deterrence component.

As for Haywood or Barnes, it at least would address the void created by Tucker’s free-agency departure to the Philadelphia 76ers.

But make any of those moves, and no follow-up avenue for Durant or Mitchell.

No, nothing has to be done at the moment, in August.

And the Heat have shown with their every-game-matters approach that victories still can be stacked at the start of the season with mix-and-match lineups, even with a question mark at power forward.

But continuity also matters. And at some point, you have to get to who you are, what you are, and what you can be.

Or you play the waiting game.

Even if it means the Summer of FOMO turns into the Autumn of FOMO.

IN THE LANE

RESPECTS PAID: During his appearance at the charity golf outing for the foundation of Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse, Heat point guard Kyle Lowry was asked about the legacy of NBA legend Bill Russell, who died at 88 last Sunday. “I think he meant a lot to the African-American community in general, that’s the most important thing,” Lowry said. “He was one of those guys who stood up and kind of pushed for African-Americans to have more freedom, more say and just to be more of everything. Basketball-wise? Just incredible. One of the greatest athletes, one of the greatest players to have ever played this game . . . player-coach, everything he was able to do. We wish he was still here because we want to show him more love, give him more flowers, and give him more everything.”

WAITING GAME: Just as the Heat are waiting on a decision on whether power forward Udonis Haslem will return for a 20th season with the team, the Golden State Warriors have the same open-door policy for a return by former Heat forward Andre Iguodala. “I leave Andre alone,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told The Athletic about a potential return by Iguodala, 38. “He knows where we stand. If he wants to come back, we’d love to have him. The one thing we feel strongly about with Andre is we want to give him whatever space and time he needs to make a decision. I’m leaving him alone. Whenever he makes his decision is fine with us.” Iguodala left the Heat last summer for a return to Golden State, where he has won titles in 2015, ‘17, ‘18 and ‘22. He appeared in 31 games for the Warriors last season, fewer than half he played for the Heat in 2020-21.

BACK AT IT: Yet to play for the Los Angeles Lakers after leaving the Heat last August in free agency, Kendrick Nunn said he finally is over the knee bone bruise that kept him out all of last season. “I feel great. I feel a hundred percent, to be honest,” Nunn said in an interview with Spectrum SportsNet, “back to where I’m normally playing at a high level.” With the Lakers limited with their offseason moves by the salary cap, Nunn, who picked up his $5.2 million player option for 2022-23, said last season made him appreciate the game. “Last year was a learning process for me, to be honest,” he said. “I learned a lot, sitting on the sidelines just watching. The game slowed down a lot for me. I got to see things from a different perspective. So I definitely took a step, just with my ability to learn the game.” Nunn’s most recent action came in the Heat’s Game 4 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the 2021 playoffs, when he scored 18 points.

STILL GOING: Nicknamed The Scavenger during his Heat tenure for the career he has cobbled together after going undrafted out of Kansas State in 2013 and then beginning his professional career in Hungary, Rodney McGruder is now locked in for a seventh NBA season after signing a guaranteed, one-year deal to return to the Detroit Pistons. McGruder’s winding road included being traded last season by the Pistons to the Denver Nuggets, seeing that deal voided when Bol Bol failed his Detroit physical, and then McGruder returning to close out the season with the Pistons. McGruder, 31, appeared in 51 games last season.

NUMBER

$15 million+. Estimated payout, per a league source, from the NBA pool for teams that remain below luxury-tax threshold during 2022-23. The Heat, after the expected signing of veteran forward Udonis Haslem, are expected to be $200,000 below the tax’s payroll threshold at the start of the season.

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Your Money: Coming fourth quarter offers opportunities, changes

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These Are Portraits Of Bruce Helmer And Peg Webb, Financial Advisers At Wealth Enhancement Group And Pioneer Press Business Columnists
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This has been a crazy year for the economy and markets, with inflation rising as the highest rate in 40 years. But as we advise our clients, you need to control what you can control and forget everything else. By sticking to a well-conceived plan, you remove a lot of market-related stress from your decision making. This quarter we’re focusing on tips for increasing your savings, planning for long-term care and giving to charity.

INCREASING YOUR SAVINGS

The IRS usually announces changes to tax brackets, 401(k) plan contribution limits, estate- and gift-tax thresholds and Social Security payouts in mid-October. Since these limits are indexed to inflation, the adjustments could be the biggest in decades. They’ll affect your 2023 taxes in the following areas:

Lower tax liability. An odd gift of inflation may actually be lower tax bills. Most Americans’ income will be taxed at lower rates next year, when the thresholds for income-tax brackets and the standard deduction will be raised. The top federal income-tax bracket could climb $50,000 for married couples next year. The 37% bracket may kick in at $693,750 (couples) and $578,125 (individuals). Consensus estimates are that other tax-bracket break points will rise about 7% from 2022 levels, more than double the previous year’s increase. Unless you expect your wages to rise significantly higher than inflation, you may pay less in taxes for 2023, and be able to sock away more savings.

Retirement plan contributions. Maximum contribution amounts for a traditional or Roth IRA are expected to increase to $6,500 for 2023, up from $6,000 (where they’ve been stuck since 2019). According to benefits consultant Milliman, maximum contribution amount for a 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored plan could rise from $20,500 this year to $22,500 in 2023, with catch-up contributions for workers aged 50+ bumping up from $6,500 to at least $7,500. This is a good time to consider increasing your deferrals during your company’s open enrollment season, especially if you’re not already taking advantage of the maximum employer matching contribution.

Estate and gift taxes. Lifetime estate and gift-tax thresholds could increase next year. An individual’s federal estate-tax exclusion amount may increase from $12.06 million this year to $12.92 million in 2023 (nearly $26 million for couples, allowing them to shelter nearly $2 million more from estate and gift taxes). In addition, the annual limit on tax-free gifts could rise from $16,000 to $17,000. This could benefit wealthy families, who will be able to give away more without gift or estate tax consequences.

Social Security COLA. Social Security is likely to see the biggest increase in benefits payouts from mandated cost-of-living adjustments (COLA). Social Security payouts are expected to be 8.7% higher in 2023 — the largest bump in benefits in decades.

PLANNING FOR LONG-TERM CARE

November is National Long-Term Care Awareness Month. About 60% of us, at some point in our lives, will need some help with things like getting dressed, driving to appointments or making meals. Fully 78% of adults receiving care at home rely on family and friends as their only source of care and the average caregiver is a 46-year-old woman, who spends 21 hours a week caring for a loved one.

Many people think Medicare or Medicaid will pick up the tab for this, but this isn’t the case. That’s why considering the possibility of needing long-term care (LTC) at some point in your life is a key element of financial planning. LTC insurance (LTCI) is designed to provide funds for you to live on when you’re not able to care for yourself. More specifically, LTCI may help keep you from having to go into a nursing home. Indeed, some policies allow you to pay a family member to provide care in your home, giving you more control and choice over the type of care you wish to receive.

There are many types of policies, designed for multiple purposes, such as supplementing your retirement, paying for in-home or nursing home care, providing a death benefit to your loved ones. One caveat: LTCI tends to be expensive and complicated. Talk to a financial adviser before you buy.

GIFTING/GIVING TO CHARITY

As the end of the year approaches, you may want to share your good fortune with the people and causes you care about. Giving cash is your simplest option. However, if you are giving to family members, you need to consider tax implications. Lifetime exemptions are higher than they have ever been, but if future tax laws reduce that exemption amount, it could affect your gifting plans.

Gifts to charity. You can give cash to charities and still claim a deduction. For any gifts over $250, you must have a written acknowledgement in order to earn a deduction. You also have the option to gift appreciated securities that may have some imbedded long-term cap gains. You can donate these shares to a nonprofit and you and the charity will both avoid paying a capital gains tax. But if you are thinking about gifting stocks that have lost money, it might be smarter to sell them and donate the cash.

Donor Advised Fund (DAF). A DAF is a good option if you know you want to give to a 501(c)(3) charity, but aren’t sure which one, or want to make a gift anonymously. You get an immediate tax deduction for any assets you transfer to the fund, and you free your estate of any cap gains those assets have accumulated or will accumulate in the future.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Wealth Enhancement Group and LPL Financial do not provide legal advice or tax services. Please consult your legal advisor or tax advisor regarding your specific situation.

Bruce Helmer and Peg Webb are financial advisers at Wealth Enhancement Group and co-hosts of “Your Money” on KLKS 100.1 FM on Sunday mornings. Email Bruce and Peg at [email protected] Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Wealth Enhancement Advisory Services, LLC, a registered investment advisor. Wealth Enhancement Group and Wealth Enhancement Advisory Services are separate entities from LPL Financial.

 

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Amazon launches epic sale with up to 59% off Echo, Fire TV, Fire Tablets and more

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Amazon launches epic sale with up to 59% off Echo, Fire TV, Fire Tablets and more – CNET – ApparelGeek


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Amazon Launches Epic Sale With Up To 59% Off Echo, Fire Tv, Fire Tablets And More

We are just over a week away from Amazon Prime Early Access Sale, but that hasn’t stopped the company from launching a huge sale with up to 59% off a bunch of its best hardware. Amazon recently hosted an event where it announced a bunch of new devices like Fire TVs, Kindle Scribe and more, but they are not yet available. If you’re looking to get your hands on some Amazon devices like the Echo, Fire TV, Ring Doorbell and more, now’s your chance to save big.

With this sale, you can get some of the best prices of the year on Amazon’s Fire TVs, Fire tablets, Echo hardware, and more.

The sale covers a lot of devices, so you’re going to want to take a few minutes and sort through them all to see which ones interest you the most. As we learned at its event, Amazon will be bringing some of its new features, such as Eero support, to older devices such as the 4th Gen Echo Dot, which makes these discounts even better. We’ve highlighted some of our favorite deals from the sale below, so be sure to check them out now.

Echo Offers

Fire TV Deals

Fire Tablet Deals

More Amazon Device Deals

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The 10 least popular US states to move to in 2022

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The 10 Least Popular Us States To Move To In 2022
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A recently released report, moveBuddha, a relocation technology company, ranked the least popular states to move to in 2022.

The 2022 Mid-Year Migration Report used data collected from January 1 to July 5, 2022, through the company’s moving expense calculator.

moveBuddha compared the influx to the influx of people from state to state to see which places are gaining new residents and which are losing their current population.

1st least popular state to move to in 2022: New Jersey

Input-output ratio: 0.50

New Jersey tops the list of least popular states. According to the report, the Garden State is losing the most residents to those moving in.

Residents of the East Coast state pay the highest property taxes in the country, which may explain the population loss.

The other two states that make up the New York metropolitan area — New York and Connecticut — are experiencing similar challenges to New Jersey.

The two made the list of states whose people are leaving more than they are moving in, or no. 4 and no. 5 on the list respectively.

The 10 least popular states to move to in 2022:

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Pat Leonard: NFL, players’ union, Dolphins medical staff all failed Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa

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Pat Leonard: Nfl, Players’ Union, Dolphins Medical Staff All Failed Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa
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Tua Tagovailoa shouldn’t have been on the field Thursday night. Loopholes in the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and players’ union allowed the Miami Dolphins’ medical staff to clear him and create the frightening situation that unfolded in front of the entire nation.

“The problem isn’t necessarily that the protocol wasn’t being followed,” said Miami-based attorney Brad Sohn, a candidate with some player support to become the NFLPA’s next executive director. “It’s that they have these toothless rules and no one’s being held accountable. The league and P.A. codified a protocol that has loopholes big enough to drive a truck through.”

The central question — and the reason the union launched an investigation for a potential protocol violation immediately — is why Tagovailoa was cleared mid-game from the concussion protocol the previous Sunday during a win over the Buffalo Bills.

The quarterback’s head hit the turf after taking a hit from a Bills defender. Tagovailoa immediately raised his hands towards his head, with the fingers on his left hand looking a bit strange.

Then he stood up and tried to shake it off, he stumbled, lost his balance, and had his knees buckle underneath him. Teammates had to hold him up on his feet until trainers came out.

Tagovailoa was taken to the locker room and announced as questionable to return with a “head” injury. But he later returned to the game, and the team clarified he had injuries to his “back” and “ankle.”

“Ninety-nine percent of doctors who don’t work for the team see Tua shake off the cobwebs, wobble, have to be held up, and that player never goes back in,” neuroscientist Chris Nowinski, Ph.D., the founding CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, told the Daily News Saturday.

So how was it possible to bring him back into the game, especially with an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant (UNC) involved?

Well, the NFL’s concussion game checklist says in the fine print that a players’ “gross motor instability” is “determined by [the] team physician, in consultation with the UNC, to be neurologically caused.”

In other words, Sohn said, “a team doctor can make the finding that an injury wasn’t neurologically caused, that it’s a player’s knee and not his head, and the independent neurologist no longer needs to be consulted. And the PA agreed to that.”

Indeed, the full CBA language says that “the decision to return a player to participation remains within the professional judgment of the head team physician or team physician designated for concussion evaluation and treatment, performed in accordance with these protocols.” And all return participation decisions only need to be “confirmed” by the independent neurologist.

The investigation hopefully will reveal the facts about how this decision was made. NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills promised all findings would be released to the public.

But when NFL executive VP of communications Jeff Miller said Wednesday that “every indication from our perspective is that [the protocol] was” followed, unaffiliated professionals weren’t buying it.

“It was a series of bad choices that gave Tua a serious brain injury,” Nowinski said. “I could accept if last Sunday was a mistake in the game. But to pretend it wasn’t a mistake the rest of the week shows a callousness with player health that I feel like I haven’t seen in a while.”

“Sometimes the cover-up is worse than the crime,” Nowinski added. “But I feel like the crime is very bad and the cover-up is becoming worse.”

The fact is that Tagovailoa demonstrated at least three “potential concussion signs,” as defined in the CBA, after that Bills hit:

1. Slow to get up following a hit to the head (‘hit to the head’ may include secondary contact with the playing surface)

2. Motor coordinator/balance problems (stumbles, trips/falls, slow/labored movement)

3. Clutching of head after contact

If Tagovailoa’s left hand indicates upon review that he was also in a brief “fencing” posture, that would make it four potential concussion signs. “Balance or coordination difficulties” are also listed as a “potential concussion symptom.”

The difference between signs and symptoms are signs are things you can observe with your eyes, and symptoms are what a player reports to the doctors or tests reveal.

The Dolphins QB was administered the required tests before being cleared to return to the Bills game, according to Sills, and subsequently tested throughout the week. But Nowinski said the league’s preference to lean on these back-room tests is part of the problem, too.

“This is a tactic the NFL has used for years,” he said. “The NFL is trying to make concussion evaluation about the locker room protocol or blue tent protocol. And what trumps those things is on-field signs. But the NFL doesn’t want that because they want the wiggle room of ‘he sobered up and passed the known-to-be-not-fully-accurate concussion test.’”

Returning Tagovailoa to play after unquestionably demonstrating those signs and that symptom was egregious. Thankfully, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh stood up and blasted the Dolphins on Friday to make clear that people in the clear do not believe this is OK.

“Like probably most people, I couldn’t believe what I saw [Thursday] night. I couldn’t believe what I saw last Sunday,” Harbaugh said. “It was just something that was astonishing to see. I’ve been coaching for almost 40 years in college and the NFL, and I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Harbaugh said the Ravens exercise extreme caution. A couple weeks ago, wide receiver Devin Duvernay didn’t have any symptoms at all but Baltimore held him out for the following game and most of the week’s practice.

“I appreciate our docs,” he said. “I think they probably would call themselves conservative, but that’s what they should be. The other part of it, [Thursday] night, was not something you want to see.”

Giants tackle Evan Neal, Tagovailoa’s Alabama teammate in 2019, told The News he turned the Dolphins-Bengals game off after seeing Tagovailoa go into the “fencing” posture with his hands up in front of his face and his fingers twisted.

“I couldn’t watch it anymore,” Neal said. “It was tough to see him carted off like that. It was scary. At first I thought he broke his fingers or something. But I watched the play more and saw that he hit his head. That’s scary. Thankfully he’s responsive, he’s conscious, he can move his limbs.”

Giants coach Brian Daboll, Tagovailoa’s 2017 offensive coordinator at Alabama, started to tear up on Friday when asked about the Dolphins QB.

“He means a lot to me,” Daboll said. “It was tough … I don’t really think about them as players. They’re not too far off from my kids [in age].”

JC Tretter, the NFLPA’s recently-retired player president, said players are “outraged” and “scared for the safety of one of our brothers” after seeing a player cleared from the protocol despite clear demonstration of “no-go” symptoms.

Like Sohn, Tretter advocated for amending protocols, not just reviewing this case.

“Until we have an objective and validated method of diagnosing brain injury, we have to do everything possible, including amending protocols, to further reduce the potential of human error,” Tretter wrote. “A failure in medical judgment is a failure of the protocols when it comes to the well being of our players.”

Unfortunately, the union is part of the problem because there aren’t enough checks and balances to protect the players in the CBA the union signed off on.

Nowinski said in the union’s defense, though, the sad reality for players is that they’re also afraid of concussion diagnoses because it attaches a stigma. And plenty of players have had their careers ended because they were deemed untouchable by teams due to concussion histories.

“It can be worse to be out when you’re healthy than to play when you’re concussed,” Nowinski said of the mindset unfortunately adopted by plenty of players fighting for jobs.

Sohn boiled down the need for reform this way: “There are so many short-term interests that run the risk of being prioritized over health. Tua to his credit is probably a tough kid who wants to get out there and play football. But you need to police guys from making bad short-term decisions. The same is true with the team doctor. The same is true with the league.”

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Jeremy Lin’s stereotype-busting run with Knicks the focus of new HBO doc ‘38 at the Garden’

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Frank Chi had trekked from Washington D.C. to witness Linsanity, the basketball phenomena that connected deeply with the Asian-American filmmaker.

Scalpers outside Madison Square Garden had other ideas.

“They were trying to charge $700 at the door,” Chi recalled. “It was not happening.”

So Chi wandered to a karaoke bar in nearby Koreatown, where he discovered a crowd with similar enthusiasm for Jeremy Lin. Together, as a culture suppressed by stereotypes that should’ve rendered Lin’s confidence and athleticism impossible, they saw the Knicks guard drop 38 points against the Lakers and Kobe Bryant.

“I’m surrounded by people who look like me and it was just two hours of us just losing it. People are crying in their beer. They’re screaming their lungs out. I’m doing all those things too,” Chi said. “And I’m like, ‘What is going on?’ Maybe it’s the wall of stereotypes Asian people feel following them around and then suddenly there’s a cathartic reaction when they see somebody break it on the world stage.”

Chi’s film on Linsanity, “38 at the Garden,” will debut Oct. 18 on HBO as a celebration of those special weeks and an education into the stereotypes that still follow Asian-Americans. Lin recounts his experience as an overlooked D-Leaguer turned overnight sensation, including his humble living arrangements on the tiny couch of teammate Landry Fields. There’s also an anecdote of an unnamed Knicks assistant coach dismissing Lin’s game as that of a “Japanese cartoon character.” But the implications of Linsanity to other Asian-Americans are the meat of the 38-minute documentary, with comedian Hasan Minhaj providing the most poignant and colorful analysis.

“Jeremy was not going to do a movie about Linsanity just recounting it and what happened on the court, even if it’s 10 year later. That’s not something I was interested in making and neither was Jeremy,” said Chi, who also worked on the 2018 documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “We wanted to make something that took the story and put it in the context of the people who freaked out about it the most.”

It’s also heavier a decade later. The COVID-19 pandemic amplified anti-Asian sentiment in the United States, with former President Donald Trump stoking the hatred with his “Chinese Flu” and “Kung Flu” references. It fed into a rise in violence against Asian-Americans, including a mass shooting last year at a spa in Atlanta.

“We get to stereotypes that follow Asian people all the time, especially when you’re weak and submissive,” Chi said. “What happens when all those stereotypes get weaponized like during COVID? That’s anti-Asian violence.”

Lin’s story is not only about overcoming the emasculating stereotypes attached to Asians, but also how they almost kept him out of the NBA. He was a star in high school but received zero recruiting letters. He was a star at Harvard but never close to getting drafted. Chi said the pre-draft scouting reports on Lin “read like a lintany of anti-Asian stereotypes: passes the ball too much, lacks confidence in his shot.”

“Linsanity is a product of people underestimating him his whole life,” added Chi. “Jeremy is the greatest example Asian Americans have of someone who has this wall of stereotypes and is trying to crush them. He found every single crack in that wall and kept pushing, and pushing and pushing.”

The peak of Linsanity only lasted 10 days in 2012, with the Lakers game neatly situated in the middle. The ensuing months were a mess with accusations of Carmelo Anthony’s jealousy to questions about the severity of Lin’s knee injury to James Dolan’s refusal to match the Rockets’ contract offer. But that aftermath isn’t explored in “38 at the Garden,” which is more interested in contextualizing the gravity of Linsanity through the people it inspired.

Chi said the idea started through a conversation with fellow producer Travon Free. They were trying to find comparisons to Barack Obama’s election as the first Black president, “when society at large assigns a stereotype to a group of people saying you can’t do something. And someone comes out of nowhere and shatters it.

“So we were like what other moments feel like that,” Chi said, “and I said, ‘Look, I’m Asian, and I only have one answer for that — Linsanity.’”

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Minnesota bear harvest down 33% from this time last year

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Bear hunters in Minnesota are having a tougher time of it this year than recent seasons thanks to ample wild food like berries and acorns in the woods, according to Minnesota Department to Natural Resources wildlife officials.

The bear season started Sept. 1, and, as of Sept. 26, hunters had registered 1,857 bears. That’s down 33 percent from the 2021 harvest of 2,770 at the same time.

The season runs through Oct. 16, but the vast majority of bears are harvested in the first few weeks of the season, so it’s not likely the harvest will go up much more.

The 1,857 bears killed so far is down 35 percent from the recent peak of 2,992 at this point in 2020 and 2,146 in 2019 and is the lowest harvest since 2018, when 1,537 bears had been registered at this time.

When berries, acorns, hazelnuts and other natural foods are abundant like this year, bears are less likely to visit hunter bait piles, leading to fewer opportunities for hunters to shoot, DNR officials said. Last year’s harvest was likely up because the severe drought vastly reduced natural foods in the woods, sending bears scurrying to find human sources of food, be it hunters’ bait or Northland residents’ garbage cans.

“It’s the natural food abundance that’s bringing that harvest total down,” said Dan Stark, large carnivore specialist for the DNR. “There’s a lot of food in the woods this year in most places.”

Stark noted that the overall number of bear hunting permits available in the quota zones of the state were nearly the same as last year, with a few less permits in the north and a few more to the south. Overall, including the no quota or unlimited license area in central Minnesota, about 200 fewer licenses have been sold this year than in 2021.

Andre Tri, the DNR’s bear project leader, said that well-fed sow bears should go into their winter dens in great shape and come out with a good number of cubs next spring.

“There are still lots of chokecherries, dogwood berries and acorns out on the landscape,” Tri said. “This will be a good winter for cub production indeed.”

Stark said it’s too early to tell how this year’s reduced harvest will impact the number of permits available in 2023. Those numbers will be crunched over the winter with a decision by spring.

Bear hunting in Minnesota is bucking a long-term trend by drawing more participants over the past decade even as other forms of hunting have declined in popularity.

Last year, 24,698 people applied for a quota-area bear hunting license in Minnesota, up 11 percent over 22,279 applicants in 2020 and up a whopping 57 percent since 2009.

Overall, including the unlimited, or “no quota,” bear range in the state, 8,990 bear hunting licenses were sold in 2021, up nearly 37 percent from 6,589 in 2013. Over that same time, Minnesota deer hunting license sales fell by about 12 percent.

The increase in bear hunting interest comes as the state’s bear population has slowly increased as well, from an estimated modern low point of 12,995 in 2013 to 15,247 in 2021.

The recent high numbers for both bears and bear hunters still remain below the historic high levels from the turn of the century when, in 2000, Minnesota had an estimated 18,268 bears and the DNR was trying to bring the population down, with bears expanding into farm field regions and causing trouble across their range. That year, a record 19,304 hunting licenses were sold and hunters bagged 3,898 bears, with nearly 5,000 killed in 2001.

The bear population then crashed due to the high hunter harvest, which is by far the highest cause of bear mortality. For the past decade, DNR wildlife biologists have been trying to walk a line between having enough bears to make the public and hunters happy, but not too many bears that they become a widespread nuisance to farmers and cabin owners.

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