The Slayer got Slayed! Or something like that…

After showing up to Friday’s game against the Lakers in a Slayer shirt, Russell Westbrook is trying to show he’s heavy even though he looks like an outcast from an 80s version of Annie. Are those leggings?! And I guarantee whatever he’s listening to isn’t Reign in Blood… Westy is always trying to be fashion-y, but while he spent Friday night and Saturday cutting holes in some other band’s T-Shirt for his next statement, he overlooked the Blazers and The Omen! Damian Lillard just went mad ham on Westbrook, going 31/7/9/2/0 with 8 treys, including 5 down the stretch for a comeback win. This was after going rainbow on the Warriors Friday night for 40/3/10/2/2 and 6 treys. Hopefully these stats don’t lie, and the plantar fascia is healed up for Lillard to be healthy the rest of the way. However, it is a concern as the Blazers have shown caution holding him out so long and they’re obviously not a playoff team. Hell, they even sat C.J. McCollum with no injury at all! If you’re a top playoff team with great PG stats, I might ride this Omen streak a few more weeks then sell to try to minimize some risk. A big argument in my high Lillard rank was his durability, but with a lingering injury like plantar fascia, it could easily crop back up by late-March and April and cost us games. Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, and The 7 Ahead for week 12:

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Finally! Our flaccid fantasy line-ups that have experienced a ton of shrinkage on the front line can re-erect their Stifle Towers! Although we certainly HOPE this lasts more than 4 hours…

After missing just over a month, Rudy Gobert returned to action right in the sweetspot of his 4-6 week timetable and looked solid off the bench for 6 Pts and 3 Reb, hitting 3-4 “from the field” (a couple were dunks). He looked spry and pretty close to the Gobert of old, which isn’t old at all – he’s still a young Flyin’ Frenchman. It’ll probably be one or two more games before he’s fully unleashed, but since he didn’t have a block (one was called a foul that seemed close), maybe the buy low window is still narrowly cracked open. If the minutes rise to 20 then 25 the next two outings and the stat lines aren’t shimmering with Boards-n-Blocks goodness, then I would be assaulting Gobert owners in one final push to acquire him. If you own Gobert, don’t get nervous, let your Stifle Tower stand strong, and let Monsieur Elbow pitch a tent on your front line! (I had to edit out like 5 worse metaphors – you’re welcome…) Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy hoops action:

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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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Although Byron Scott hasn’t been the best NBA head coach of all time, his opinion is the only one that matters in L.A. at the moment, and at the moment Byron Scott says Larry Nance Jr. would be a lottery pick if they redrafted the 2015 draft (he went 27th for reals) and Julius Randle stinks and needs to grow up.

Indeed, Nance has improved gradually since being inserted in the starting lineup last month. And over the past week, he’s averaging 10 and 10, including a 15-point, 14-rebound outburst against the Suns on January 3.

I watched him during his 14-board performance on New Year’s Day against the Sixers and I did get visions of his dandy dunker daddy. Larry Jr. is about the same size and flies around in much the same way as once did Larry Sr., who has a special place in my heart. He always wowed but lost to Dominique Wilkins or Michael Jordan in the classic Slam Dunk Contests of the mid-1980s, and he’s one of the dudes featured on that rad Sultans of Slam poster from that era. Hard to believe pappy’s not in the Hall with these nice career numbers: 17.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg, and 2.2 bpg.

As good as Larry Sr. was, I think those numbers aren’t out of the question for Larry Jr. if everything falls right. Buy in now!

Here’s some other goings-ons in Boards-N-Blocks land:

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I’M ON MY IIISSSSSHHHHHH, CALL IT!!!

I WATCH THESE HATERS TAKE THEY SHOTS LIKE THEY WERE ALCOHOLICS.

Now if Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ish Smith hasn’t selected a song for his lineup introduction, I highly recommend someone reach out to him to let him know I would like to speak to him. While there may be other reasons Childish Gambino has yet to endorse Smith, it has been a rough 2016 for the newly acquired guard until last night’s performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Smith finished with 21 points, 11 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals while leading Philadelphia to their fourth victory of the year. While the efficiency stats will not always be there, Smith rewarded fantasy owners last night with a 9-15 shooting performance from the field. As the new lead man in an up-tempo offense, expect lots of production in multiple statistical categories from Smith on a nightly basis. The 76ers are starved for capable ballhandlers, granting Smith the opportunity to rack up points and assists as he pounds the rock.

Although he’s most likely gone from the waiver wire in most leagues, I think it still might be possible to snag him in a quick trade.

Smith has been a beacon of hope for a horrendous 76ers team this year, but in assessing his fantasy value, he still leaves a little to be desired, avoiding 3-point shots and suffering from some abysmal shooting nights. Overall, I would love to have Smith on my team, and would encourage owners with a need at point guard to explore a trade before nights like this become too common.

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No, no, no, we never root for injuries. It’s terrible fantasy karma. But as one of the main cliches as fantasy lays out – injuries are the great equalizer. They end campaigns and create opportunities. Fortunately the torn ACL to Jarrett Jack isn’t going to end anyone’s campaign! But the opportunity for Shane Larkin is monumental.

Last Saturday night, we saw the dreaded non-contact knee buckle from Jack against the Celtics, and we got the somber news yesterday afternoon that he has a torn ACL and meniscus. “Wahhhhhh, I bet I never start a game again!” Meh, the Wahhhh gag just seems too mean right now… And if you listen to the Pod, you know I’m a Jack supporter and of course everyone in Razzball Nation wishes him a speedy recovery. But with the starting job open, Larkin-the-Herald-Angels-Sing immediately steps in as the no-question starter. While he’s looked mad impressive to me the few Nets games I’ve watched and he’s certainly a must-add, I’m not banking on top-50 value or anything. His skill set should make him more valuable than Jack as the starter with more 3s and STL, but I imagine he’ll have fewer AST with the same bad TO. Add Larkin everywhere, and if he starts absolutely gangbusters then sell high. I also could see Donald Sloan having a bigger role than most envision – after that nice run he had in Indy to start last year, I was really impressed with him as a player. Here’s what else went down over our first weekend of 2016, and The 7 Ahead for Week 11:

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Here’s tonight’s slate:

Detroit Pistons (18-15) at indiana Pacers (18-14)

Spread: Ind  -4 ½ O/U 201 ½

Oklahoma City Thunder (23-10) at Charlotte Hornets (17-15)

Spread: OKC -6 ½ O/U 208

Orlando Magic (19-14) at Cleveland Cavaliers (21-9)

Spread: Cle -9 O/U 194 ½

Milwaukee Bucks (13-21) at Minnesota Timberwolves (12-21)

Spread: Min -1  O/U 201 ½

New Orleans Pelicans (10-22) at Dallas Mavericks (19-14)

Spread: Dal -3 O/U 207 ½

Houston Rockets (16-18) at San Antonio Spurs (28-6)

Spread: SAS -11 200 ½

Memphis Grizzlies (18-16)  at Utah Jazz (14-17)

Spread: Mem -1 186

Denver Nuggets (12-21) at Golden St. Warriors (30-2)

Spread: GS -14 213 1/2

Philadelphia 76ers (3-31) at L.A. Clippers (21-13)

Spread: LAC -12 ½ 210

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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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Earlier in the year when the NBA released its schedule for the 2015/2016 season, one of the very first things I did was flip forward to December 25th. I was really stoked to see five games, neatly stacked one after the other, for our holiday viewing pleasure. The excitement continued to grow right up until the games went live and we quickly learned that putting the ball through the hoop is, apparently, quite a bit more difficult on Christmas.

Anthony Davis in South Beach for a noon eastern tip-off against the Heat. What a great way to kick off the afternoon after tossing back a few coffee & Baileys, scarfing down some cinnamon buns, and opening some presents, right? Yeah…  no. They needed overtime and the Pelicans still couldn’t hit the 90-point mark. Brow was nice (29/15/4/4/3), as was Chris Bosh, but the game was not pretty. At all.

So I says to myself, I says: “Self, one stinker does not a bad day make. We just got the ugly one outta the way early. This will not be a harbinger of things to come. No, sir, it will not.” Next up we got the weirdly entertaining (and enigmatic) Bulls visiting the dynamic duo of Russell Westbrook & Kevin Durant in front of an always raucous Oklahoma City crowd. Well, Chicago doubled up OKC in the third quarter (32-16) to quiet the crowd and pulled away as nobody other than the Thunder’s two stars bothered to show up. The league’s second most efficient team on offense couldn’t crack the century mark and fell 105-96.

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Congratulations to Dirk Nowitzki. He passed Shaquille O’Neal for number 6 on the all-time NBA scoring list.

While Kobe Bryant gains the headlines in his last season, Dirk and Tim Duncan have quietly shown how to adapt their game for the team’s sake, taking less money and adding more wins to their already impressive résumés.

At 37, Dirk isn’t the same fantasy monster that he used to be, but is still valuable. He’s scored 20+ points in three straight games and so far has posted better overall numbers than last season. His game is much different than Kobe’s, with much less wear and tear on his body, allowing him to remain relatively healthy later in his career. Personally, I don’t see any reason why Dirk has to tie the sneakers up anytime soon.

In addition to passing Shaqtus, Dirk hit the game winner in the Mavericks’ overtime win over the Nets. He finished with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Not bad for a 37-year-old.

Overtime basketball is free basketball and it usually means great stat lines for everyone involved:

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