Matt Barnes capped off the Memphis Grizzlies comeback victory over the Pistons, by drilling a half court shot with 1.1 seconds left in the game. It’s probably the best mood that Barnes has been in all season. I don’t think Derek Fisher will have to worry about getting punched this week..

I was a bit surprised that Barnes took the shot considering there were still a few ticks on the clock when he chucked it up. Either way, it was a nice finish to a nice game from Barnes (8 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists in 30 minutes). The journeyman forward has always been a borderline fantasy player for his ability to do a little bit of everything.

Barnes had a nice string of games at the end of November, but now that Zach Randolph is back (21 points and 16 rebounds), Barnes has seen his minutes decrease. He should probably be dropped in 10 and 12 team leagues, but should continue to be monitored, should he see around 30 minutes a night.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

And now it’s time for “Daily Affirmation with Pete Nice.” Pete Nice is a caring nurturer on the order of Stuart Smalley, who once worked with Michael Jordan on his segment on “Saturday Night Live.” He’s also a member of several 12-step programs, but not a licensed therapist.

Pete Nice: I’m going to do a terrific column today! And I’m gonna help people! Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!

Hello, I’m Pete Nice! Well, I’m still getting through the hate email I received after saying that Jahlil Okafor deserved to be the No. 1 pick over Karl-Anthony Towns. I have to admit, it wasn’t my best column, but that’s … OK. I have to give myself permission to do a bad column every now and then. OK, for those of you who read the column regularly, you know that I don’t have guests, I always write the column in some combination of first person, third person and the Royal “We” … and that’s … OK. But yesterday, JB said, “Pete, I can get you a guest that you would be insane not to have in the column.”

So I decided to take a risk – in life, you have to take risks – and, today we have a guest … and his name is DeMarcus C. I’ll protect your anonymity. DeMarcus is a basketball player for a professional basketball team somewhere in Northern California. Well, that’s very good, DeMarcus, you should be very proud of yourself.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

In an NBA landscape characterized by Steph Curry’s wizardry and Golden State’s record-breaking start, casual fans have missed one of the most interesting subplots from the first quarter of season: the East’s ascension to respectability. With a winning record against the Western Conference (60-58) and ten teams over .500, 2015 has marked a rebirth for the historically lesser conference, now sporting more top-to-bottom depth than in recent memory.

While it’s easy to say, “welcome to the party, we’ve been waiting for you for at least the past decade,” restoration of competitive balance in the East finally appears to be a tangible goal. With two of this season’s biggest surprises in the Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets squaring off to open yesterday’s nine-game slate, last night’s contest may have actually been the first iteration of competitive basketball for this particular matchup since the mid-2000s.

With the Hornets emerging as the victors, it begs the question: are they actually good?? For a team with disillusioned hopes of postseason basketball heading into the season, their early successes may still spark skepticism after each passing victory. But with a +3.6 point differential and the fifth placed ranking in the standings this year, the Hornets actually appear to be a legitimately solid basketball team.

One of the main catalysts behind the turnaround, Nic Batum has played excellently on the wing as a secondary ball handler and defensive stopper. For fantasy owners who did not abandon the Batum bandwagon after a disappointing 2014-2015, the Frenchman has more than delivered this season, elevating his status to one of the primer fantasy wing options. Batum continued to produce last night with a near triple double of 13 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds in addition to a steal and a block. Vive la France!

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The Kobe Bryant farewell tour has already begun. After announcing that he would be retiring this past weekend, teams will start giving him the Derek Jeter treatment as fans and teams say goodbye to the legend.

There was a lot of fanfare when Bryant returned to Philadelphia on Tuesday night, where his basketball journey began. The hype was there and despite a strong start, the Lakers lost, giving the 76ers their first win of the season. Bryant shot 7-26 from the field, including 4-17 from downtown. Definitely not the homecoming that everyone was expecting.

On Wednesday, Bryant played his last game at the Verizon Center and boy did he leave those in attendance with a memorable performance. Fresh off his poor shooting Tuesday, Bryant shot 10-24 from the field and 4-11 from downtown. Not vintage Kobe, but a marked improvement. More importantly, 12 of his season-high 31 points came in the fourth quarter, as the Lakers defeated the Wizards.

Now this was definitely one of his best games of the season. Maybe with the Lakers’ season over and having already announced his retirement, Kobe will have one less thing on his mind and start to play better. I mean he can’t shoot any worse, right? I wouldn’t necessarily be buying low, but I’d hold onto him and pick him up in any leagues where impatient owners have dropped him. You never know, maybe he closes out his last season healthy and on a tear, a la Mariano Rivera (and that wasn’t an ACL joke).

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Shortly before the tip of the Grizzlies’ game in New Orleans on Tuesday night, Memphis beat writer Ronald Tillery reported that coach Dave Joerger “desperately wants to reduce Marc Gasol‘s minutes.” Coming into the game, MG had averaged in excess of 38 MPG over his last five contests – a number that is, by all accounts, quite high for a true big man in today’s National Basketball Association. Fantasy owners of Gasol were probably watching Tuesday’s game to see how Joerger would adjust his rotations to get the prized center some more rest. What did they witness? (I’m so glad you asked…)

Marc Gasol played 42 minutes of other-worldly basketball, posting 38/13/6/0/4. If that wasn’t enough, he shot an even 50% from the field on 22 attempts and was flawless from the FT line on 16 (!!!) tries. Yep, sixteen for sixteen.  He was the only Grizzlies starter with a positive rating (+8) on the night and his team won the game, which goes to show you just how instrumental Gasol was in this one.

(As an aside – perhaps Tillery heard coach Joerger wrong and he said he desperately wanted to reduce everyone but Gasol’s minutes? No other Memphis starter played more than 31. Go figure.)

This is your ultimate sell-high moment on the younger of the two Gasols. If you can score a top-25 asset in return, I think you pretty much have to do it. In trade negotiations you can point to the high minutes, the nice boards & blocks numbers, and the sweet out-of-position dimes. That is, unless you are a believer that Marc can withstand this kind of workload over the course of an 82-game season. I’m never one to predict injuries, but wear & tear is a very real thing, and when you’re dealing with a 7’1″, 265lb monster of a man on the wrong side of 30, miles add up quickly.

I’d be interested to know where Gasol’s owners stand after this one. Are they looking to sell? Or are they going to ride him all the way to the edge of the cliff? (Chime in below via the comments section if you have a buy/sell/hold take.)

Let’s take a look at what else shook down on Tuesday night with 12 teams in action…

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After a tough loss in Detroit, it’s safe to say things have yet to take flight for this year’s Houston Rockets. While many came into the season thinking Houston’s out-of-this-world lineup had the potential to challenge the incumbent Golden State Warriors for the title as best team in the West, those dreams came crashing back to earth weeks ago (and Kevin McHale is still searching through the wreckage for the cause of the incident). Last night’s struggles are just another indication of this season’s overall trend: the Houston Rockets are looking more like Team Rocket when they step on the court.

Even a near triple double from James Harden (29 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists) wasn’t enough for Houston to surmount a surprising Pistons squad. With Harden passing 40 minutes for the fourth straight game, it’s looking like the Rockets are going to be riding their thoroughbred until the saddle cracks. In fairness, a monster game from Harden is probably the best chance Houston has to win every night, but for fantasy owners, the team’s struggle bodes well for the Beard’s outlook. Harden is going to score in abundance while racking up rebounds, assists, 3s, and steals as Houston fights to stay in the playoff hunt early. I think these past five games are particularly telling for the current state of the team as well as Harden’s prospects for the next few weeks as they try to right the ship (or the rocket).

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Hoops fans were treated to a pretty entertaining six-game slate on Tuesday night, and those who were able to stay awake into the wee hours of Wednesday morning (for us East coasters anyways), saw history made at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors set a new benchmark for best record to start an NBA season by winning their sixteenth straight game to open the 2015-2016 campaign.

For all intents and purposes, the game between the Warriors and the visiting Lakers was over before it started. GSW entered the contest as 17-point favorites and it took them all of 10 and a half minutes to cover that number. The Dubs were up 34 after three quarters and LA had the look of a team that might as well have just stayed home – they walked in defeated. (Aside: Byron Scott needs to go. Awful, awful ball coach.)

Unfortunately the blowout factor was in full effect as none of the Warriors starters were needed in the fourth quarter, evidenced by Stephen Curry and Draymond Green playing a game-high 30 minutes each. However, in honor of this Golden State team destroying the league so far this season, here are the lines for each of their starters tonight:

  • Chef Curry – 24/4/9/2/0, four triples, zero TOs
  • Klay Thompson – 11/3/2/0/1, two triples, one TO
  • Harrison Barnes – 8/2/1/0/0, two triples, one TO
  • Draymond Green – 18/7/5/1/2, two triples, 7-11 FGs
  • Andrew Bogut – 8/7/2/0/2, 4-7 FGs, zero TOs

Those are pretty pedestrian numbers (relative to each player’s typical contributions this year), but these are the types of lines that we’ll occasionally see with a team as dominant as the Warriors. For season-long owners you just have to move on to the next game and hope it’s a more competitive affair. And for DFS players, you know for the future to fade GSW players on nights when they’re huge favorites as the main guys won’t be needed for the full 48. At some point we’ll also have to keep an eye out for DNP-Rest days, though I can’t imagine that will happen until Golden State loses their first game. (For the record, the teams standing in the way of a 28-0 Warriors team hosting the Cleveland LeBrons on Christmas Day are: Phoenix twice, Sacramento, Utah twice, Charlotte, Toronto, Brooklyn, Indiana, and Milwaukee twice. Seriously – who of those teams is scaring you if you’re the Dubs?)

Let’s take a look at the non-Bay Area happenings on Tuesday night…

Please, blog, may I have some more?

As you can tell from my Avatar, I’m no genius. Heck, that’s me actually trying to look smart.

But after watching last night’s Epic Battle of Rookie Big Men, featuring Jahlil Okafor vs. Karl-Anthony Towns, I do feel like I got one thing right: It is indeed Jah, and not KAT, who should have been the number one pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Can you honestly and fairly say that after one game between the two?

I say yes, and the stats are only part of the story. Okafor finished with 25 points, 12 boards and two blocks and absolutely manhandled Towns the whole game, in which the Wolves topped the Sixers 100-95. Towns had six points, two boards and two blocks in 17 minutes. In fact, Towns barely got off the bench after Okafor out-positioned him for a rebound and forced Towns to commit his fourth foul before the end of the first half.

For the season, Towns has arguably better stats. But with Okafor, it’s not just the stats that he gets, it’s how he gets them. He gets them without a real point guard, and without any great shooters to help open up the paint. He gets them looking like Tim Duncan Jr., whether its gracefully sweeping the lane for a lay-in with some dandy big-man footwork, denying a Towns’ shot with some uncharacteristic anger or pulling up and nailing a 15-footer at will.

Some say this is Okafor’s ceiling. They say he’s a 20-10 guy, and is only getting that because he’s on one of the worst teams in NBA history. I’m not so sure about that. I think he’d be getting better stats with better guys around him, and therefore I’m not so sure that this is his ceiling.

As for Towns? This is definitely not his ceiling. This is Andrew Wiggins‘ team right now, so he has time to develop, which is scary.

Still, despite the Wolves getting the win, Round 1 of this battle goes to Okafor. Round 2 will be January 4, 2016 in Philly.

Here’s some other B-N-B studs and duds from the past week:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Like LeBron James, I find underwear constricting.  It just smashes shizz together that feels so much more free in some gym shorts or pajama pants.  Let me be free!

And I just can’t imagine what Tyler Johnson goes through…  Must be like putting on shrunken spandex when he’s getting suited up every night!  He certainly brought the full Johnson effort against the Kings, putting up 19/3/3/1/0 with 3 treys on 6-8 FG and 4-4 FT.  That line is longer than…  Ok, ok, we get the idea…  Every time he gets run, he just seems to deliver.  He got a DNP in the opener, played 1:28 in game 2 before seeing an expanded role, and had a couple sub-20 minute games in there.  But in the 7 he’s played 20+ minutes, he’s 11.6/3.7/2.3/0.9/0.7 with 1.1 treys and hitting over 60% from the field.  All with only 1.3 TO!  I would call him a metrics whore, but with assets like we talked about above there, it’s tough not to be!  Even though Hassan Whiteside is tripdubbing here and there with his redonkulous blockage, Johnson finished up down the stretch with the other 4 regular starters.  Gerald Green only played 16 minutes, and it looks like Johnson and Justise Winslow are firmly entrenched as your main two subs.  Johnson certainly isn’t a must-own in 12ers, but that’s three straight Thursday games he’s been a fantastic streamer.  It’s almost like I said that on Monday in The 7 Ahead!  I’m not one to toot my own horn too much, but then again, it’s not as big a horn as Johnson…  I’m just your regular ol’ trumpet while he’s a tuba!  Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy hoops action:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

After a pretty quiet first week, we’re all the sudden getting ravaged by injuries and late DNP scratches.  LET STEROIDS BE ALLOWED AGAIN DAMMIT!  No one wants to see Austin Rivers start an NBA game…  And then to top it off, the Clippers started a backcourt with daddy’s boy Austin alongside Pablo Prigioni…  Who is certainly old enough to be Rivers’ daddy too…

But before that travesty in Phoenix, the Wolves decided to scratch Ricky Rubio after calling him probable.  To be fair, it was probable they were going to get bludgeoned by the Warriors, then again they played Golden State pretty close…  Mitchell probably thought this was a loss anyway, but who knows if Rubio would’ve made a difference over the Zach LaVine start and the out-of-nowhere minutes for Andre Miller.  Then to just make assists even more a lost cause for fantasy owners, Chris Paul was suddenly questionable then ruled out with his groin strain.  Maybe his groin injury is some sort of cosmic karma for punching Julius Hodge in the nuts when at Wake Forest…  Isn’t cosmic karma an ice cream flavor…?  Whatever, anything to keep me from saying groin again!  There isn’t much of a fantasy spin on these frustrating-as-hell DNPs, other than Rubio indeed looked like a massive sell-high after that opener and CP-3 needs to re-nicknamed CP-DNP.  Both will be managed and it will hurt their overall value, so if you can sell for per-start stats, I would.  And just like the trend we’re seeing in all the other major sports, players will be managed through minor bumps and bruises, especially injury-prone and older players.  LET STEROIDS BE ALLOWED AGAIN DAMMIT!  Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy basketball action:

Please, blog, may I have some more?