Category Archives: National & Global News

Kevin Durant’s Having A Career Year, Even If Steph Curry Won Round 1

Any lingering doubt as to whether Kevin Durant could recapture his past form after suffering a devastating Achilles tendon injury (and missing an entire season as a result) has been answered. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Kevin Durant Charity Foundation)

By Moke Hamilton

When Steph Curry and his Golden State Warriors walked into Barclays Center on Tuesday night, they knew that they were squaring off against the Eastern Conference’s hottest team.

Wanting to make amends for their Sunday loss to the Charlotte Hornets, the Warriors had some extra pep in their step. And they knew they needed it.

After all, they were squaring off against the best version of Kevin Durant we’ve ever seen.

By his own admission, when Durant decided to take his talents to Brooklyn, it was done at least partially because he wanted less noise in the foreground. Basketball, he said, was all he cared about.

The glamour, the glitz, the flashing lights and the celebrities, Durant said, wasn’t attractive to him.

At this point, it’s hard to argue with the results.

As of Nov. 17, most NBA teams have played about 15 games, and for Brooklyn, Tuesday night’s contest against the visiting Warriors happened to be exactly that. And remarkably, it took exactly that long for Durant to turn in his first effort of the season in which he made fewer than seven field goals. More impressively, though, was that it took Durant all of 15 games to shoot less than 44% from the field during a contest.

Any lingering doubt as to whether he could recapture his past form after suffering a devastating Achilles tendon injury (and missing an entire season as a result) has been answered. Rather emphatically, at that.

We all remember the sad scene.

At 30 years old, in the NBA Finals, one of the game’s all-time greats helplessly sat on the hardwood at Scotiabank Arena. Torn Achilles — the two worst words a basketball player can possibly hear.

From the time he confirmed his diagnosis and ensuing surgery on Twitter, we all knew that the road back for Durant would be difficult. Not Rudy Gay, not Chauncey Billups and not even the late, great Kobe Bryant were the same after they suffered the same injury.

We hoped, that somehow, despite scores of contrary examples, he could be close to the same. Merely recapturing his previous form was believed to be a long shot, but while he silently and steadfastly attacked his rehab in Brooklyn, Durant was determined to make fools of us all.

Somehow, miraculously, he’s been better.

Now 33 years old, it’s amazing that we’ve spent more time getting a taste of Durant as an early-season MVP candidate than we have lamenting the fact that he’s no longer the same player. We’ve spent less time talking about his injury than we have Kyrie Irving or Ben Simmons, and that’s saying something.

But although it may seem like ancient history at this point — due to Durant missing the entire 2019-20 season and the Toronto Raptors playing the 2020-21 season in Tampa — he played his first game back at Scotiabank Arena since the crushing moment on Nov. 7.

It was like returning to the scene of a crime, except the accused had already been exonerated.

“The last time I was here was one of my lowest moments as a basketball player, but it’s good to come back here and see the fans and get a W,” Durant said after he casually led the Nets to a 116-103 win.

This was just another day at the office — 31 points on 11-for-19 shooting from the field to go along with 7 rebounds and 7 assists —  and he reflected on the long path back following the victory.

“I’m proud of all the people that’s sacrificed their time to help me through this long period, this tough period, because I was a burden on a lot of people mentally,” Durant said. “You never knew how I was gonna approach the day. But so many people took their time with me and helped me through this. I’m just proud that they stuck with me, obviously I was gonna do the work but they made sure I was doing the right work, so I appreciate those who were there for me.”

For the most part, many of the lingering questions about Durant’s ability to play at a high level were answered during last season. In 35 games, he recorded per-game averages of 26.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists on what was — remarkably — a career-best 53.7% shooting percentage. He also shot a career-best 45% from three-point territory.

Wanting to ramp him up though, Brooklyn obviously pitch-counted Durant, and the questions as to whether he could stand up to the rigors of a long season persisted. He mostly put those doubts to rest with an inspiring performance during last year’s Eastern Conference semifinal series against the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks.

But this season has been something different entirely.

So it was impossible to recognize the irony on a random Tuesday night in mid-November.

Durant took the court against the team he won a pair of championships with, and entered the contest having been the best version of himself that we’ve ever seen. And he did so after he left them on crutches just over two years ago.

Even without Irving, Durant managed to not only regain his form, but improve dramatically. He entered play on Nov. 16 having played every game for the Nets this season, averaging an incredible 29.6 points per game. The scoring output would be his highest since he won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2014 and the third-highest of his career. His 58.6% shooting from the field coming in was absurdly high, and about five points higher than what his career-best last season was. There are big men in the league who don’t leave the paint who can’t approach that mark. Durant, on the other hand, attempts only 13% of his shots from within three feet of the basket.

For the most part, he’s made a living by being an incredibly proficient mid-range and three-point shooter, and he’s only improved upon that while in Brooklyn. It’s no coincidence that he entered Tuesday night’s contest as the league’s leading scorer, as well as an early favorite for MVP.

In the end, Durant had a miserable night against his former club — 19 points in a 117-99 loss in which for had his worst shooting performance of the season (6-for-19).

For Durant, though, at least this season, that’s been the exception. It’s a blip.

There’s a long way to go still, but Durant has shown us that impossible is nothing. At least in some cases, it’s possible to save your best for last, even when the odds are against it.

Someway, somehow, Durant leads the NBA in both total points (434) and points per game (28.9) while taking the 15th-most attempts (18.8) on average. He’s been so good that he’s helped everyone forget that Brooklyn is missing one of its Big Three, and that the other member of the triad, James Harden, is having his worst season in quite some time.

“When you’re playing against a guy like Kevin, you’re never just stopping him,” Draymond Green said after the Warriors got their win on Tuesday night. “You’re never locking him down. It’s always going to come down to a matter of whether he misses or makes shots, and you just try to make those shots as tough as you can.”

Green spoke about Durant with the ultimate respect.

It was almost as if KD’s Achilles injury never happened at all.

In fact, it’s almost as if it hasn’t.

Produced in association with

Edited by Kristen Butler

The post Kevin Durant’s Having A Career Year, Even If Steph Curry Won Round 1 appeared first on Zenger News.

Homeless Champion Brings Lived Experiences To Bear

Donald Whithead, executive director for the National Coalition for the Homeless, has experienced being without a home twice in his life. (Courtesy Donald Whitehead)

By Kevin Michael Briscoe

Over the course of 26 years being clean and sober, Donald Whitehead has carved out a name as a top advocate to end homelessness in the United States. Twice homeless himself and addicted to drugs and alcohol at a very young age, the executive director for the National Coalition for the Homeless is at the forefront of a new effort to a make affordable housing a “human right.”

“In essence, we are a collective of agencies, individuals and people who themselves have experienced homelessness that work together to organize around [this] issue,” Whitehead said of the Washington-based organization he heads. “Our first principle of practice is that homeless people should be in leadership positions in all the work that we do and be the ultimate solution to homelessness.”

He added that 80 percent of the National Coalition for the Homeless staff and 60 percent of its board of directors are formerly homeless.

The Journey to the Streets and Back

As a kid, Whitehead was forced to “double-up” with numerous aunts and uncles and five siblings at his grandparents’ home in his native Cincinnati. Despite the challenges of living with 20 or so people in a single-family unit, he said that he managed to carve out a pretty good life.

“My mom worked in the education system, so we all did well educationally,” Whitehead said. “I was voted most likely to succeed, prom king, and I played football and basketball. I had all the trappings of success, but I started using [drugs] at a very young age. And, for the most part, I was a functioning addict.”

Brief stints at both the University of Cincinnati and in the Navy left Whitehead with too much time and opportunity, giving his addictions (“mostly alcohol at that time”) a chance to take hold of him body and soul.

“I eventually left the Navy — not by my choice — went back to Cincinnati and started living the American Dream,” he said. “I had pretty decent jobs as a restaurant manager, car salesman and environmental activist with Greenpeace. But, then I started experimenting with other substances, and, in the end, I was overwhelmed to the point where I got a divorce. I ended up in my sister’s basement and then my brother’s spare bedroom and then another brother’s third-floor apartment.

As is the case with many addicts, Whitehead “finally ran out of relatives” and found himself living in shelters, abandoned buildings and even the back seats of cars.

But, after six months in a treatment facility, he began his new life’s work.

“In order to get into the program, I had to do community service, and that was with the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless,” Whitehead said.

After two years, he was named executive director of the organization and eventually became a board member for the national organization. In 2000, he was named the first African-American executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, where he served until 2004 before launching his own consulting firm. In August 2020, Whitehead came back to lead the National Coalition for the Homeless as its current executive director.

He has been clean and sober since April 26, 1995.

Blacks Most at Risk

Whitehead asserts that homelessness boils down to two basic factors: lack of affordable housing and poverty.

“There are a lot of other factors that play a role in people becoming homeless, but those themselves are not the reason for homelessness,” he said. “Sure, there’s substance abuse, mental health issues, issues of domestic violence, which is very prominent among women in the homeless community. But really the issue is a lot of structural issues that started 60 or 70 years ago that we’ve not fully addressed, and that is most common when we talk about people of color.”

Homelessness is a long-term problem; this image of panhandler in downtown Cincinnati is almost 20 years old. (It was shot Dec. 5, 2001) (Mike Simons/Getty Images)

The State of Homelessness 2021 Edition, released by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, highlights these structural issues.

“As with so many other areas of American life, historically marginalized groups are more likely to be disadvantaged within housing and homelessness spheres,” the report states. “Higher unemployment rates, lower incomes, less access to healthcare and higher incarceration rates are some of the factors likely contributing to higher rates of homelessness among people of color.”

The report points out that the black homeless population was 228,796 in 2020 or 52 per 10,000 people, and that while White people make up the largest racial group in the homeless community at 280,612, the rate per 10,000 of them is nearly five times less than it is for blacks.

Racially driven real estate practices (commonly called redlining), as well as urban renewal plans that wiped out entire black neighborhoods, bear some blame for the discrepancies but so does the lack of support for returning military veterans, Whitehead said.

“The inability to access housing has created a tremendous wealth gap in this country,” he said. “Most people of color experience ‘network poverty.’ Because of this lack of wealth generation, which has been an intentional policy of the federal government, many people of color don’t have that network to rely on to support them when something traumatic happens.”

Bring America Home Now

Whitehead and his National Coalition for the Homeless team recently launched Bring America Home Now, which its website describes as “a comprehensive grassroots campaign to end homelessness in the United States” through a cross-sector group of national and community-based partners. There are now more than 50 partner organizations involved in the effort.

“[We are] proud to join the ‘Bring Home America Now’ campaign spearheaded by Mr. Whitehead and our longtime partner, the National Coalition for the Homeless,” said Deborah De Santis, president and chief executive officer for the Corporation for Supportive Housing. “The campaign is notable for bringing together a diverse array of stakeholders … and aligning grassroots support around housing, health, education, racial equity and employment to scale resources to address this national issue.”

The initiative, said Whitehead, has both short- and long-term goals.

“We’re looking at things that have to happen right now, like protecting people from criminalization, doing a better job of planning for discharges from hospitals, foster care and mental health facilities,” he said. “But we’re also looking down the road. We have to make housing a human rights issue, we have to provide the income that supports people with the ability to stay in their housing, and we have to do a better job with health care in this country.”

U.S. President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill is directing historic funding to housing issues, including $24 billion for housing vouchers, with $7.1 billion earmarked for the homeless and victims of domestic violence; $1 billion for rental assistance and $65 billion to repair and renovate public housing units.

“We have seen historic dollars coming out of the Biden administration through Build Back Better,” Whitehead said. “This housing funding is at levels we haven’t seen since the New Deal. But we’re looking to build on that.”

Biden’s program is just the beginning, said Joel Segal, who is spearheading the Bring America Home Now campaign.

“The Build Back Better housing provisions are a significant first step in an unprecedented commitment by the federal government towards ending homelessness,” said Segal, a former legislative assistant to the late Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). “An expansion of Section 8 vouchers is going to help scores of working families and the physically and mentally challenged stuck in homeless shelters.

“However, on any given night, there are over a half-million homeless people without a place to call home. While most are individuals (70 percent), the rest are families with children, which is a national disgrace.”

Segal added that homeless people who don’t qualify for Section 8 are forced to sleep in hotels, bus stations or in temporary living conditions that can often be unsafe.

The Bring America Home Now campaign — headed by Whitehead and Segal — plans to advocate that Congress pass a comprehensive bill to end homelessness that includes universal access to quality and affordable health care, jobs, job training, access to higher education, child care, transportation services and improved mental health and drug and alcohol treatment programs.

The campaign also supports the Ending Homelessness Act of 2021, introduced in July by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), and working with the National Organization for Women on a national call-in day urging key Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) to forego additional cuts to housing funding.

Edited by Matthew B. Hall and Richard Pretorius

The post Homeless Champion Brings Lived Experiences To Bear appeared first on Zenger News.

Report: How Scammers Rip Off Communities Of Color

Communities of color tend not to use credit cards as much as white communities, making it more difficult to recover their money. (Thomas Cooper/Getty Images)

By Jenny Manrique

The latest Federal Trade Commission report shows how consumer fraud affects communities of color in the United States.

While Latino consumers are frequently victims of imposter scams, African Americans report fraud mainly in debt collection through credit bureaus, while Asian Americans are cheated with fake health products. Across ethnic communities, scams via used-car sales and lending agencies have preyed on people with financial struggles.

“Since 2016, we have established 25 law enforcement actions where we could identify conducts specifically targeting or affecting communities of color in a disproportionate way,” said Monica Vaca, acting deputy director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

In a year, the federal agency establishes an average of 100 cases that affect thousands of victims.

“These are found in a broad spectrum of industries: auto buying, for-profit colleges, prepaid cards, government impersonators, money-making opportunities and student debt relief.”

One case brought by the Federal Trade Commission was against a Bronx company for discrimination in the sale of automobiles to African American and Latino customers. The general manager asked the sellers to charge higher financial margins and fees to these consumers, which resulted in a sale price change on paperwork without notice, and the collection of taxes and fees from people without their knowledge.

“As a result of that law-enforcement case, we were able to get $1.5 million back for people,” said Vaca.

In a more recent case, the Federal Trade Commission and the state of Arkansas sued the operators of a blessing loom investment program that made false promises to people struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It told them they would receive investment returns of up to 800 percent. The scheme was specifically aimed at thousands of African Americans.

“We happen to be a civil law-enforcement agency, which means that we don’t lock people up, but when appropriate, we refer scammers to criminal authorities,” Vaca added. “But we do get money back: 1.66 million people have recovered $160 million [since July 2018].”

Cash and COVID

Another key agency concern is that most Latinos and African Americans use payment methods that have little or no protection: cash, cryptocurrencies, debit cards or gift cards, which they use for bank and electronic transfers.

“How you pay can determine how easy it is to get your money back if you are defrauded,” said Rosario Mendez, an attorney at the Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Consumer and Business Education. “People who live in majority white communities reported paying scammers with credit cards, and those have some protection against fraudulent transactions.”

The Latino community is targeted by scammers posing as officials from government agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service, service providers, or job search companies. They all ask for money in exchange for unfulfilled promises.

During the pandemic, the Federal Trade Commission identified several health promoters offering bogus cures for COVID-19, advertised specifically to the Korean and Vietnamese-speaking communities.

“We’ve also sent hundreds of cease-and-desist letters, both in the United States and abroad, to stop making unsubstantiated claims that products can treat or prevent COVID-19,” said Mendez, who said that misinformation “is extremely difficult” to fight and that it causes “really substantial harm.”

Perpetrators often target their own community and sometimes take on roles as facilitators to “help” people understand, for example, the tax and the immigration system. Others are based offshore and have a bigger network of people collecting money from their victims in the United States, as in the case of telemarketing fraud originating from India and the Philippines.

“When cases cross international boundaries, they tend to become more difficult, but they are not impossible,” said Mendez.

“While we cannot eradicate all scams, what we can do is inoculate people in our community from falling prey to scams, with information,” said Vaca. “Research has shown that when people know about a specific scam, they are 80 percent less likely to lose their money. So we want to encourage them to share their experiences.”

Learn more about how to prevent these scams here.

Government Imposters And Fake COVID Cures — How Scammers Rip Off Communities Of Color is published in association with Ethnic Media Services

Edited by Melanie Slone and Fern Siegel

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‘The Killing Of Kenneth Chamberlain’ Reenacts Retired Marine’s Killing By Cops 

Frankie Faison delivers a riveting performance in his portrayal of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. (Courtesy of Redbird Entertainment) 

By Percy Lovell Crawford

While removing his LifeAid necklace before going to bed, 68-year-old retired Marine Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. accidentally pressed the alert button. Sound asleep, he did not hear the LifeAid callback. Officers were sent to do a welfare check on Chamberlain — a move that would cost him his life.

Chamberlain had refused to open the door. Police broke it down and after a series of events, an officer shot Chamberlain. He died later in the hospital.

Nov. 19 marks the 10-year anniversary of that tragic evening. “The Killing Of Kenneth Chamberlain,” a must-see film, is now available on YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Vudu, Apple TV and Amazon Prime.

Director David Midell released the award-winning film in 2019 detailing the tumultuous events of that night. He selected a talented cast for “The Killing Of Kenneth Chamberlain” to reenact the welfare check that went wrong that night.

Chamberlain suffered from mental illness due to his time in the military. His paranoia and distrust can be heard throughout the film from actor Frankie Faison as well as from real LifeAid recordings. Morgan Freeman, one of the executive producers, used his status to push the project.

Midell takes Zenger behind the creative thought process in making this film.

Percy Crawford interviewed David Midell for Zenger.

Zenger: Busy times for you. How is it going?

Midell: Good. It has been busy. The film has been out for several weeks at this point, and we keep building momentum. I think it’s been great for the Chamberlain family too. This has been a bright spot in their pursuit of accountability for what happened.

Zenger: There were no criminal charges against the cops in White Plains, New York, who killed Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. Any new revelations?

Midell: There have been some positive developments recently with the case. Initially, none of the officers were charged or indicted. But recently, I think in June of 2020, there was a three-judge panel that actually decided to overturn part of the original judge’s decision that allowed the officers to walk away without any consequences whatsoever. There is a possibility that there will be consequences on the civil end. A couple of months ago, the new district attorney in Westchester County announced that an independent review of the case is going to be conducted. Depending on what the review of the case yields, I believe there is a possibility that the criminal case could be reopened.

Zenger: What is the Chamberlain family seeking?

Midell: Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. has really been the primary public face of the fight for justice. And what he says is, it’s really too late for justice at this point, he’s just looking for some type of accountability. I think after 10 years his perspective has been, it’s too late to really achieve any type of justice. He’s just really looking for some form of accountability and acknowledgement that wrongdoing occurred.

Zenger: Your compassion for mental health stems from long before you heard about Chamberlain and the aftermath of his mental health from serving as a Marine. Obviously when you heard about his death, it triggered something.

Midell: It did. That was one of the reasons why this case in particular resonated with me. I taught special education for several years. I worked with students with developmental disabilities and behavior and emotional disorders, and I’m also on the autism spectrum. I’ve seen crisis situations spiral completely out of control like it did in this case.

And I’ve also seen crisis situations get resolved smoothly and safely where everyone feels respected, everyone’s feelings are valued, and there’s empathy going back and forth. Having experience of seeing crisis situations unfold in a way that they resolve smoothly and safely, and in a way that they spiral completely out of control, really made this story resonate on a personal level with me.

Zenger: This was simply a welfare check because Chamberlain inadvertently activated his LifeAid alarm. In short, the cops that were dispatched to check on him ended up killing him. How does a welfare check go so wrong?

Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. when he was in the Marines. (Courtesy of the Chamberlain family
Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. when he was in the Marines. (Courtesy of the Chamberlain family

Midell: It’s so hard, because there are many different stories that have emerged about what took place on Nov. 19, 2011. There is the story that the police officers told — their version of events. Then there is the version the residents of the building have communicated. And then there is also the forensic evidence that tells a third story. There are some aspects where all three of those stories line up. And there are parts where they diverge. The police officers’ story doesn’t jibe with what the residents reported. The police officers’ story doesn’t jibe with what forensic evidence suggests.

Being that none of us was there on that day, we can’t put ourselves inside anyone’s head to know what they were thinking or feeling. But my sense is that… what happens so much in America and around the world when it comes to policing, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. seemed like he had three major strikes against him in the eyes of the police officers, even before they knocked on his door. He lived in a low-income area, he had a mental health challenge, and he was a person of color.

Had any of those three strikes had not existed, this may have ended differently. Had this taken place in Beverly Hills or the Hamptons, it may not have ended this way. Had Kenneth Chamberlain not had a mental health issue that sometimes made communication more difficult… He was doing things that sometimes the police officers didn’t understand and weren’t empathetic to. It may have ended differently in that case, as well.

David Middell, director of “The Killing Of Kenneth Chamberlain.” (Courtesy of David Midell)

Zenger: When you’re creating a film of this magnitude, how much goes into getting as accurate of an account as possible without having Chamberlain there to speak for himself?

Midell: It was a tremendous amount of work. We felt a large responsibility to make sure that we were portraying what happened in as honest of a way that we could and in as factual of a way that we could, given that there isn’t one single set of facts about this case. What we had to do was use the available factual evidence. There is a fair amount of audio recording of the events, there’s a little bit of video, but not a lot. There was a camera that was mounted on the taser that the police officers used, so while that taser was turned on, the camera was recording. But that was only for a few minutes. So, there was not a lot of video.

Then there are firsthand witness reports. We took the evidence and content that was available from depositions, police reports, media interviews, the actual audio and video, and we tried to craft something that was as accurate as possible. But we did have to use our imagination in certain sections where there isn’t a factual historical record of what happened in this particular moment.

We did have to fill in some of those gaps by taking educated guesses based on conversations we had with people in the community, conversations with the Chamberlain family, conversations we had with representatives in law enforcement about protocols. It was a combination of actual factual research that we were doing by looking over documentation and interviewing people.

Zenger: I thought the LifeAid audio was priceless. How imperative was it for you to get your hands on that audio?

Midell: That was a huge part because you could hear the urgency in Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.’s voice. You can hear the urgency in the LifeAid operator, in the medical attendant, you can hear a little bit of what’s going on with the police officers. You could hear them screaming at Kenneth, you could hear them sometimes and unfortunately ridiculing him. You hear the pounding on the door. That was really an invaluable part of our research, going through all of that audio. As difficult as it is to listen to, it was very important to establish the feeling and the tone, and the sense of escalation that was on both sides.

Zenger: How did Morgan Freeman become involved with the film?

Midell: So, I was the first one that started communicating with the Chamberlain family. It all started with me and the conversations I was having with Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. From there, my producing partner, Enrico Natale, got involved and we have been involved in it for over four years now. Morgan’s team has been an incredible part of getting the film out there, giving the film a larger platform than it may have had otherwise in terms of the promotions. They were actually sent a copy of the film after it was finished.

We were in the middle of our festival run, and a colleague of ours sent the film to Morgan’s team. It resonated really powerful with them and resonated really powerfully with Morgan. They’ve really been incredible to work with. Morgan has done a lot of promotions on the film. Watching him and Frankie Faison, our lead actor, as well as Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. go out in the media… it’s just three really powerful voices speaking about the film, the case, and what they hope comes out of it.

Zenger: The entire cast is amazing, but I have been a Frankie Faison fan for a long time, and he really nailed his role as Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.

Midell: It was interesting. We went through a very extensive audition process for most of the cast. We shot the film in Chicago. I’m originally from Chicago and Enrico is from Chicago. We were plugged into that Chicago film community. And there is a large theater community in Chicago as well. So, there are a lot of really great cinematographers, production designers and actors in Chicago. We went through an extensive process to find the various police officers, members of the community and building residents.

With Frankie, we actually just reached out to his manager. We had a relatively small list of actors who we thought might be appropriate for a role like this and interested in something like this. Frankie was always pretty high on that list, even though none of us had worked with him before. We knew his work from all of the classic films and TV shows he’s been involved in. We reached out to his manager on a Thursday, and it usually takes a while, it will take the actor some time to read the script.

The following Monday or Tuesday, I got an email from her saying, “Hey, Frankie is interested, let’s make this happen.” That was so exciting for us. To have an actor of Frankie’s stature and ability to be interested in this project. The experience of working with him… one of the most incredible professional experiences that any of us have had. His level of commitment to this character, as you can see in his performance, was just incredible. It was beyond anything we would have expected or could have hopes for.

Despite the fact that he was going so deep into this character, he was nothing but 100 percent professional and gracious on set. Some actors, their commitment to the role could cause some tensions on set because they might need things to be set up a certain way. With Frankie, not only was he giving us the performance of a lifetime, he was very easy work with.

The movie poster for “The Killing Of Kenneth Chamberlain.” (Courtesy of Redbird Entertainment)

Zenger: When my 9- and 13-year-old daughters were visibly upset watching this film, I knew you had hit your mark. What was the moment you knew you hit your mark with this film?

Midell: There are so many different phases to the filmmaking process. We really hadn’t seen the film with an audience until our first screening at a festival. We premiered at the Austin Film Festival in late 2019. It was right before the pandemic started when we started our festival run. We had shown it to a couple of friends here and there, just to get their thoughts on, can we trim this scene, is this piece of music working. Just to get some thoughts. We had never seen it with a full audience before. That’s when I really knew that we had done something that was really going to affect people.

At the end of that screening, the silence was deafening. And then you start to hear the weeps and the sobs, and how emotional people were. Which was very powerful and meaningful, I think particularly because the Chamberlain family was in attendance. This was the culmination of a very long journey for them as well. They’ve been involved in every phase of the film making process. We had become very close with them, so it was meaningful to have them there, and experiencing that audience reaction with us was pretty incredible.

Zenger: Some films can get a little bit all over the place. I love the fact that you guys shot this film on one location. Was that intentional, just what the budget allowed?

Midell: It was kind of both. It just made sense to me to tell the story in real time like that. I wanted the audience to feel that sense of claustrophobia. It obviously helped us in terms of our budget. We were able to shoot the film on a lower budget than we would have been able to shoot another film because we didn’t have to pay for many locations. It was also a small number of actors.

It was very convenient and helpful that we could use our budget in other ways. It also just made sense for me to tell the story in that way because the real incident took place in the matter of about 80 minutes. The film itself is about 80 minutes long.

Zenger: Anyone with a pulse should watch this movie. You nailed this thing, my man. I hope it gets all the attention it deserves. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Midell: Thank you, Percy. I just hope everyone watches the film and takes something away from it because the story and the Chamberlain family deserves any light that can be shed on Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.’s story.

Edited by Matthew B. Hall and Judith Isacoff

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PJ Tucker: The Heat’s Ultimate ‘Roll’ Player

PJ Tucker was brought in to defend, but he’s flirting with the best offensive season of his career. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

By Nekias Duncan

PJ Tucker was brought in to defend.

At the very least, that was the conventional wisdom.

Tucker is fresh off of winning his first NBA championship, thanks to the defensive role he played on the Milwaukee Bucks. He defended up and down the lineup, duking it out versus different types of players.

Jimmy Butler and his mid-post rugged nature in one round. Kevin Durant and his slithery pull-up game in another. Trae Young for spurts in the Eastern Conference Finals. Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton all saw Tucker for a few possessions.

In other words: Tucker was asked to do a lot defensively, as he has been during his career as a rotational piece.

Offense has always been a different story. A simpler story. Get your butt to the corner, stay ready if a pass comes your way and shoot down to the offensive glass if necessary.

It doesn’t get much easier than that, right?

Right, but that’s also been part of the problem with Tucker. His offensive value was so singularly focused — 71% of his shot attempts from 2017 to 2020 were threes, and 72% of those threes came from the corners, per Basketball-Reference — that defenses didn’t have to think too much concerning him.

Add in the fact that his corner efficiency dropped in consecutive seasons — from 39.9%, to 39.3%, to 38.4%, to 34.7% last year — and his value became complicated. Was the defense good enough to offset the lack of offensive attention? Could he make defenses pay enough in his role? Were there counters to add?

For the Heat so far this season, the answer has been “yes” on all accounts.

Tune into a Heat game, and you’ll see Tucker defending a little bit of everyone. His defensive-matchup dashboard is as diverse as the world is supposed to be. Among players he’s matched up with for at least 20 possessions: Donovan Mitchell, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis. He doesn’t always force a miss, but he always forces his matchup to work hard. It’s all you can ask for.

On the other end, Tucker is doing the usual. He’s up to a blistering 45.2% from deep on a moderately-low volume (2.6 attempts). Most of his damage is being done from the corners; 37 of his 42 attempts — and 16 of his 19 makes — have come from those side pockets.

From there, it gets kinda weird. Tucker’s three-point volume being low isn’t out of the ordinary; half of his total shots coming from behind the arc is extremely odd. Again, north of 71% of his shots came from downtown in the four seasons prior to this one.

In a figurative sense, Tucker has seemingly found a new role. In a literal sense, he’s found a new roll.

The Heat have utilized him as a screener more often than many (read: I, Nekias) anticipated. It hasn’t just been of the let’s-force-a-switch variety either; Tucker has made himself a legitimate option in ball screens.

You won’t confuse him for a true vertical spacer. Tucker has dunked the ball once this season, and has converted just 51 slams in his 11-year career.

What Tucker is doing, however, is finding a pocket. First as an outlet after the screen, then as a scorer from the painted area. He has a strong understanding of angles and pacing. He pries the ball-handler loose with a pick, but flips his hips early enough to become a scoring option within the rhythm of the action.

From there, he’s flipping in a little floater. It’s very quietly the most effective weapon in basketball nobody’s talking about.

That sounds like hyperbole, but Tucker’s really getting it done as a release valve. He’s generating over 1.47 points per possession on floaters, the highest mark in the NBA among players that have logged at least 10 of them, per Synergy.

The fun part — this level of efficiency (and volume) has seemingly come out of nowhere. His floater stats:

  • 2017-18. (HOU): 1-of-5, 20% FG
  • 2018-19 (HOU): 7-of-22, 31.8% FG
  • 2019-20 (HOU): 11-of-26, 42.3% FG
  • 2020-21 (HOU, MIL): 3-of-11, 27.3% FG
  • 2021-22 (MIA): 14-of-19, 73.7% FG

Between making hay in ball-screens, random cuts and timely offensive rebounds, Tucker is converting a career-high 62.5% of his twos.

If you had “PJ Tucker is going to flirt with the best offensive season of his career” on your preseason bingo card, I simply don’t believe you. That’s the case right now, though. He’s scored more before — he averaged 9.4 points in Phoenix during the 2013-14 season — but he didn’t so with this blend of efficiency and shot versatility.

Props to Tucker for expanding — or at the very least, showcasing — his offensive bag.

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Edited by Kristen Butler

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