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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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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Alright, truth be told I had that article title in my head before the early games even finished up. It looked like it was going to be a yawn-worthy evening of basketball… but then some cool stuff happened.

Kyle Lowry‘s 17/10/7 with a pair of threes was nice. As was DeMar DeRozan‘s 28/4/4 with two long balls of his own. Bismack Biyombo pulled down a career-high 20 rebounds in a winning effort and that gave me some warm & fuzzies. But dedicating a lead to “my team” when they barely hung on to beat a mostly disinterested Dallas squad didn’t feel quite right. And also, how many semi-legitimate opportunities am I going to have to write the word “Snoozeday”? (Answer: hopefully just this once.)

But Tuesday’s schedule, man. Come on now…

Grizzlies/76ers.

Pistons/Heat.

Mavericks/Raptors.

Lakers/Nuggets.

Outside of the local fan bases, who gives a smurf about any of those games? I was this close to watching Polar Express instead of the Raptors game since it looked like they were going to run away with it early (up 16 after the 1st Q). The game ended up being mildly entertaining as the Mavs’ second unit scratched & clawed their way to within one possession late in the 4th, but Kyle, DeMar & Bismack proved to be a bit too much.

I suppose if we broke things down a little more to the individual player level we could have gotten stoked for the Andre Drummond/Hassan Whiteside matchup in South Beach. Unfortunately, the two young centers failed to deliver the monstrous lines we’ve grown accustomed to seeing early this season. Drummond was just “ok” with 11/12/1/0/2, but shot only 4-12 from the field. Whiteside was markedly better with 16 & 16 plus four blocks and 7-13 FGs. Solid stuff, but it would’ve been pretty cool to see a pair of 20/20’s in the same game. (I wonder when was the last time that happened? Somebody else please check, I’m busy/lazy right now.)

Ultimately this proved to be the second (mostly) lackluster Tuesday in a row. However, if there is NBA basketball being played there are player performances to be discussed. So let’s get after it.

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Mötley Crüe once sang, “Friday night and I need a fight, my motorcycle and a switch blade knife. Hand full of grease and my head feels right, but what I need to make me tight are those girls, girls, girls.”

Me, I just need me some classic NBA Jam.

I was actually kind of shocked at the piss-poor teams they had when I settled in for the first of three full games that would be played at the local barcade. Obviously, no Jordan, because Midway hadn’t secured the license to use his name, so you had Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen. Utah’s Stockton-Malone and Houston’s Dream-Kenny Smith were the tops, followed by maybe Charles Barkley and Dan Majerle.

But I didn’t feel like being any of these classic duos. Instead, I dialed up the Milwaukee Bucks and their pathetic offering of Brad Lohaus and Blue Edwards, by pure coincidence Deadspin’s worst-ranked duo in the original game.

Of course, I somehow got stuck with Lohaus as my dude. I ended up pouring in 54 points on 23-38 shooting (mostly limp reverse dunks). He got on fire twice, helping me to a 66-55 victory.

Later, I used the Washington Bullets’ duo of Tom Gugliotta and Harvey Grant, coincidentally Deadspin’s second-worst all-time, against the Clyde Drexler-Terry Porter Portland tandem, and I ended up losing by a hair, 48-46. Even though Gugs scored all 46 of my points, I just couldn’t get him past Drexler, nor could he guard either of those dudes.

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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!

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For those of you who didn’t watch the Sixers vs Lakers game on Tuesday, you really missed out on something special.  It was Kobe Bryant’s final game in Philly (where he played high school ball), and the atmosphere was absolutely electric.  Kobe led off the game by draining 3 treys in his first four shots, with fans cheering every time he touched the ball.  Unfortunately, the adrenaline could only take his aging body so far, and the inefficient Kobe of this year, soon took over.  There were flashes of former glory throughout the game, but it’s clear that his brilliant career is coming to an end.  “There’s so much beauty in the pain of this thing,” Bryant said of his struggles on the floor.  Thankfully, he is playing the season out, and giving his fans a last chance to say goodbye.

kobeshoot_93222a

Kobe has given us some incredible moments over the years, and like him or hate him, you have to respect him.  He is one of the greatest competitors in NBA history, and he plays with as much intensity and heart as anyone that I can remember.  Bryant always put 110% into the game, and that constant strain is likely what wore his body out.  However, it’s also what makes him one of the greatest to ever play the game.

nba_g_kbryant_sy_576

It’s going to feel very odd watching a Laker team without Kobe Bryant.  I suppose all stars come and go, but Bryant just seemed to defy all odds up until this year.  It’s even stranger to see Kobe starting to show up on some waiver wires.  As for me, I own him in a couple leagues, and will be holding him for the duration of the season.  Just for the principle of the thing.

Kobe is among the last of the old guard, with veterans and retired players like Pierce, Allen, Garnett, DuncanNowitzki, Nash, and Shaq.  New players like Curry, Harden, Westbrook, Leonard, Durant, Davis, and George, have risen to take their place.  It’s a pretty incredible cycle if you think about it.

Ok, enough of the nostalgia, lets get into the waiver wire for this week!

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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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Man, is it really Thanksgiving Day again? Seems like yesterday that I was thanking that the Wizards were a playoff team….

Paul Pierce is gone and now we got Kris Humphries and Jared Dudley thinking they can play the stretch four. And how has that worked out for us? A 17-point loss to the Pacers on Tuesday and another 14-point loss to the Hornets on Wednesday. The Wizards are looking closer to the Redskins everyday. At least one doesn’t have a racist name.

So rather than complain about my home team, let’s say thanks to all teams and players that have actually helped us on Wednesday – I can try to enjoy Marvin Williams (14 pts, 11 rebs, 2 3s), Nicolas Batum (16 pts, 11 asts, 7 rebs), and Jeremy Lamb (18 pts., 7 rebs., 3 asts.) putting up fantasy worthy numbers against my Wiz kids.

On the Wizards side, Marcin Gortat had a monster double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Gary Neal had 18 points off the bench. Neal is straight buckets off the bench, but consistency will be a problem. I’d suggest investing in Bradley Beal, while he’s getting back into the swing of things after missing a few.

Moving onto the rest of the games:

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Wow, how good is Russell Westbrook? Two nights after dropping 40 points and 14 assists against the Grizzlies, Westbrook scored 43 points, 8 assists, and 9 rebounds on Wednesday. The Thunder controlled the game, but never really put the game out of reach for the injury-riddled Pelicans. Whenever the Thunder needed a basket, Westbrook had no problem getting to the hoop or finding the open man. My only knock on Westbrook’s game is the turnovers, but when you’re posting near triple doubles every night, you’re allowed to turn the ball over as much as he does.

Now his stats are inflated a little because Kevin Durant has been sitting with a hamstring injury, but Westbrook is still a top 10 talent even with Durant in the lineup. Should Durant leave the Thunder next season (to go to, say, the Wizards!!!), Westbrook would enter my top three, along with Steph Curry and Anthony Davis.

Now onto the other notables from Wednesday night:

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Well, you might lose your patience after I plagiarized last week’s title and didn’t even have a rhyme-y pun in it!  I’m like the Robert De Niro of short filmmaking

But it is interesting that we’ve had back-to-back weekends of patience paying off.  It’s like having to hold it in and thinking of baseball to make it last!  Although when I think of baseball I think of Grey, so it’s not making anything last!  The injuries have been ridiculously frustrating the past two years, but this last one was just a bad cut that Terrence Jones accidentally squeezed lemon juice in when he was making shrimp scampi.  At least it wasn’t a leg or body part injury, so I remained firm in my Tjones love.  A lot of commenters were asking about selling Tjones away for virtually nothing, and there was even some drop Tjones sentiment.  After a pretty lowly return last Wednesday, Jones showed everyone how good he is when his run is normalized, putting up 23 Pts on Friday and Saturday, with 23/7/0/0/4 and 23/6/1/1/3 lines hitting well over 50% from the field with a combined 4 treys.  I can’t think of baseball fast enough when seeing those numbers!  As I quickly change my pants, it’s probably too late to swing some buy low offers and hopefully you own Tjones in several leagues to ride the wave.  If anyone wants to pay top-30 or 40 value (doubtful), Jones does have the inherent risk of more injuries, so I might sell him off at that price.  But I’m not looking at this weekend as a fluky, sell-high couple of games.  Pateince is a Tjones!  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, and The 7 Ahead for week 4:

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