It’s the takeover, the break’s over. Apparently firing David Blatt may have been the right decision after all, inspiring the recent play of LeBron James and company.

With the Cavs winning their last five games, I have no reasonable doubt that the Big 3 will fail to continue this trend after the All-Star Break. Despite heavy minutes and an up-tempo pace, James has unfinished business on his quest to win his third ring, and this style of play is the blueprint from the successes of his Miami Heat teams.

Maybe this is all a convoluted way of saying the Ruler’s back, but King James and the Cavs look rejuvenated under new coach Tyronn Lue, attacking the opposing defense and getting to the foul line. Playing 43 minutes in an overtime contest, James finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block while shooting 9-22 from the field. Although shooting 4-8 from the foul line is more Drummond-like than MVP level, just remember everyone makes mistakes, everyone has those days.

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The Flash is finally finding his stride!

Skiles still had some “SKIIIIIIILES!” moments, but is finally letting the youngun Aaron Gordon get his consistent minutes in the starting 5. It was such a tough decision sitting that phenomenal Channing Frye! Ugh. And as much as I’d like to see the Magic lose every game to get Skiles the hell outta there, he’s coached Orlando to a better record than anyone woulda thought. Last night he kept rotations that were sparking a comeback, led by Gordon who went 19/14/5/0/2 in 39 minutes, shooting 8-11 with no TO. The only black eye was a very unsavory 3-9 FT. That’s almost two black eyes! But he’s been a decent enough FT shooter to not worry too much on that… With the minutes starting to look consistent (gulp, I may have jynxed it… SKIIIIILES!), Gordon is looking like a must own in all 10 team leagues or deeper. The STL and BLK have been pretty anemic until last night, but as the Magic were streaking late in the 3rd quarter, he just seemed to get this stride in him, and little extra pep in his step. He had a nasty steal with a behind the back shake-n-bake then dime during the comeback run, and a great putback slam in the 4th. Sometimes the younguns can really build off success, so let’s hope this is the start of a streak as epic as Will Ferrell heading to the quad. There’s more coming! Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops, plus The 7 Ahead for Week 15:

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PPPPPAAAANNNNTTTHHHHEEERRRRSSSS!!!!!  Aight, aight, this is fantasy hoops, we’ll just leave it at that.

On Friday morning, the Clippers shed one of their % drain players, giving the DNP-king [another] fresh start in Houston.  And what does Josh Smith do in his debut?!  Goes all J Smoove like you’d expect!  Goes 1-10 FG, 0-2 FT, for some reason took 4 treys and missed them all (what did you expect after bricking the first 3, Smoove?!), but still gets a rainbow line for 2/5/6/2/3.  Oh yeah, 2 TO in there too.  Smoove did bounce back last night after almost single-handedly costing the Rox a W in his debut, going 16/3/2/2/2 yesterday afternoon for back-to-back rainbows.  He apparently stole someone else’s talent ala Space Jam alien, because he shot 6-14 FG, 2-2 FT, and had only 1 TO.  “Talkin’ bout the Dream Team, we’re the Mean Team!”  Josh Smith is not a good 9-cat fantasy asset in any league, and even in 8-cat, he’s probably not ownable in 12ers for me.  That mean enough?!  But the real criminal aspect of the acquisition is of course their absolute hatred for Terrence Jones.  HE’S getting the full Mean Girls treatment – they’re feeding him Swedish weight gaining bars, JB Bickerstaff made out with his boyfriend, they’re turning his best friends against him…  That organization is an institutional bully – culminating in a whopping 10 minutes of action last night with Dwight Howard (kankle) still out.  I didn’t understand the McHale firing, I don’t understand this trade, I don’t understand the Ty Lawson signing…  They’re taking this off the rails faster than Lindsay Lohan’s Prius!  Or, well, Lawson’s Prius…  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, plus The 7 Ahead for Week 14:

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I’m all for switching it up and trying something new to win. And while I think Hack-a-Shaq can work in the right situations, the Rockets took Hack-a-Whoever way too far. The Rockets fouled Andre Drummond repeatedly, giving him 36 free throws! At one point, K.J. McDaniels intentionally fouled Drummond 5 times in 9 seconds! (McDaniels finished the game with a very Jan Vesely-ish line of 1 minute, 5 fouls).

Drummond made only 13 of his 36 free throws, but it didn’t matter, as the Pistons still defeated the Rockets by 9. The 23 missed free throws was an NBA record for the most missed free throws in a game.

So you’re telling me the intentional fouling was effective in limiting the Pistons’ possessions, but somehow the Rockets still lost? How? The Rockets are definitely one of the biggest disappointments of the season and really need to turn it around if they’re going to make a splash in the playoffs.

While Drummond owners will be screwed in FT%, he still managed to post 17/11 with 1 steal and 1 block. Now onto the other highlights from Wednesday night’s games:

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In a season beginning with high hopes for Nerlens Noel, things have been a bit of a disappointment for the third-year player, surrounded by a dearth of playmaking and shooting while struggling to play alongside Jahil Okafor. Frankly, Noel’s season could only be made worse by injury, or the brash decision to shave off his iconic high-top fade (please, whatever you do, keep the hair.)

But for one night last night, coming off 3 single-digit scoring outings in his last 4 games, Noel looked like the best player on the 76ers once again, finishing with 18 points and 13 rebounds to accompany 1 assist, 2 steals, and 3 blocks.

Playing a season-high 47 minutes, Noel’s extended look can hopefully provide stability to an otherwise shaky season. His effectiveness and usage have both been limited, but performance like yesterday’s show his immense potential and ability to impact games.

While Philly’s long-term success depends on Noel’s continued development, our immediate fantasy success depends on his ability to turn yesterday’s flashes into consistent showings.

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A record-breaking $1.5 billion jackpot was up for grabs in the latest powerball drawing on Wednesday. While I didn’t buy a ticket, winning that kind of money is very tempting, despite the terrible odds. The odds are so bad that Bartolo Colon is more likely to hit an inside-the-park homerun than you are at winning the big jackpot. (Interesting fact: Colon also shares a nickname with JB: Big Sexy.) Even with the odds, hopefully your number was called!

The odds of Russell Westbrook scoring 0 points is definitely better than winning the jackpot, but it’s still rare. He was ejected after 15 minutes of playing time with nary a point. Fortunately, he still contributed 7 rebounds, 8 assists, and 2 steals before departing.

Another rarity: Mavericks big man Salah Mejri came off the bench to post 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 block in 25 minutes. Zaza Pachulia and Dirk Nowitzki were rested, but still. Mejri had played a combined 20 minutes all season coming into the game!

Stephen Curry scored 38 points. Not that surprising. Well, how about the Nuggets beating the Warriors? Now that’s unexpected. The Warriors were playing without Draymond Green (scheduled rest day), but the Nuggets were just 14-24 coming into the game! In addition to his 38 points, Curry also added 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 threes, and 3 steals.

Those were some of the stranger games of the night. Here are the rest of Wednesday night’s daily notes:

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If Lionel Hollins could give you any advice, it would probably be something like this: enjoy every day like it was your last, young man! Smell the daisies. Have a cookie. And above all, if you ever break your finger, take the time to have it splinted, it will not heal well on it’s own. Because it can all come crashing down around you, regardless of if it’s your fault or not. Billy King, you get no love from my smelly little article, as you are the architect to your own demise (re-assignment), the Nets and poor, sweet Lionel had to pay for your sins. What can we learn from this debacle, gentle reader? It can only be this: if you were thinking about making a roster move, either big or small, don’t wait, do it now! And with that, let’s take a look at some roster moves that your sensitive heart been yearning to make:

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With the sporting world turning its attention to the College Football Championship game last night, professional basketball was put on the back burner with only 3 games played. As I flipped between athletic contests, I couldn’t help but notice the parallel between the historical consistency of the Alabama Crimson Tide and the San Antonio Spurs. While the Crimson Tide hold the distinction of being the best team in college football (and one of the most hated at the same time), the Spurs excellence does not always translate to the proper accolades (although I don’t think it’s possible to hate the Spurs). Despite this difference in perception, both teams are the models of achievement in the respective sports.

So on a night in which a new champion was crowned, it was San Antonio’s victory, its tenth game this by a margin greater than 25 points, that illustrated the disparity between the Spurs and the rest of the 28 non-Warrior teams in the NBA.

As the Spurs fight to catch up to Golden State for home court advantage in the Western Conference playoffs, LaMarcus Aldridge not only played against the lowly Brooklyn Nets, he dominated them. The power forward recorded 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 assists in 28 minutes of action, marking his 38th 20/10 game over the past 2 seasons.

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I’m living at home with my parents temporarily, while work is being done on my condo. I didn’t want to be bothered living there while they’re painting and installing new carpeting and flooring. As a result, I’m getting kicked off the television so that my mom can watch her shows. I missed the Sunday Night Football game for “Downton Abbey” and then had to turn off the Wizards/Cavs and Knicks/Heat games for “Law & Order.” I guess it’s a fair trade, since I’m getting so many home cooked meals and leftovers for lunch.

Fortunately SVU ended early enough for me to catch the Thunder’s dismantling of the Grizzlies. Kevin Durant returned from a toe injury to post 26 points and 17 rebounds, while Russell Westbrook continued his near triple-double stat lines with 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. You always worry with Durant’s foot being a problem last season, but it was nice to see KD back, after only missing one game.

It was all Thunder in this game, as the Grizzlies played down due to injuries. Mike Conley was out because of a sore left Achilles and Courtney Lee, who started for Conley, left early in the second half after injuring his hip. That left Mario Chalmers, who exploded for 23 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, and 4 threes. It’s unclear how long Conley and Lee could be out, but Chalmers would become the starter by default. It’s not like the Grizzlies will give Vince Carter lots of minutes!

Now onto the other Wednesday night games:

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Much has been written about Jimmy Butler and Bulls lately. Butler publicly criticized head coach Fred Hoiberg saying that the team needed to be coached harder. Reports then came out that there is growing tension in the locker room between Butler and his teammates. With Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose taking back seat roles this season, there are questions around Butler’s leadership. Just because he is paid well, doesn’t mean he’s the leader.

Leader or not, Butler willed the Bulls to victory over the Pacers in overtime. He scored 7 points in the final minute to force OT, before knocking down the game winner on an alley-oop tip in with 1.2 seconds remaining. The Pacers tried an alley-oop of their own on the ensuing inbounds, but Butler defended Paul George on the lob to preserve the Bulls’ win.

For the game, Butler finished with 28 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. This was a much needed game for Butler, as Rose was a game time scratch with right hamstring tendinitis. As long as Butler is producing, owners shouldn’t worry about the drama surrounding the team. These things usually get blown out of proportion when teams are playing below expectations.

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