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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Mmmmmm soup… I mean noodle soup! I mean soup! COME ON!

After a long existence in the kitchen cabinet, Myles Turner finally got a chance to be mmmm, mmmm good going 25/7/2/1/2 on 11-13 shooting. He even had a third block called a goaltend with a verrrrry late whistle late in the game. Just like a fine batch of cream of broccoli, it just needed some time to age! I was a well-documented Turner-crazed ranker, but I think most would agree he’s been awesome when he’s on the court. Some nagging knee soreness limited his minutes early before breaking his thumb, but we finally got to see the potential I was so crazy for last night. Now, Ian Mmmmmmahinmmmmmmi was out with a sore heel which doesn’t sound too serious, so the minutes certainly aren’t assured. Turner’s 29 minutes were off the bench, with Vogel starting the inferior SC Apple Jordan Hill at the 5. Even with the depth the Pacers have at C, I gotta think this game has awarded Turner more consistent run. And if you aren’t sold yet, his per-36s are 17.1/8.9 with 2.2 BLK shooting 55% from the field (even though he’s a jump shooter). I was fortunate enough to add him in all 4 of my RCLs, so he’s likely out there in a lot of 12ers – I’d scoop him up as I think he’s the creamed corn of the crop of waiver bigs! Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, and The 7 Ahead for week 13:

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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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As many of you already know (or as my avatar may suggest), I’m a Canadian so I don’t really have a dog in the 2016 United States Presidential fight. I do, however, live close to the border and have enjoyed traveling throughout the United States (including the entire northeast, Florida, California, Colorado, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands) with my wife over the better part of the last ten years. So I have a keen interest in American politics as it indirectly impacts “my world.”

That leads me to my admission – I watched President Barack Obama’s eighth and final State of the Union address last night (and the subsequent analysis & reaction) instead of basketball. There was basketball to be watched up here, I just chose not to. But it gave me some perspective – it reminded me that a common sense approach to the big picture issues is never as simple as it should be, and that holds true in the NBA as well. Examples from some of the 16 teams in action on Tuesday alone:

  • The Timberwolves have a wealth of young talent to cultivate and yet they start Kevin Garnett & Tayshaun Prince?
  • The Suns have a cancerous presence in their locker room (Markieff Morris) and they can’t decide what to do about it – they give him multiple healthy DNPs in a row, and then they unleash him for 27 minutes, taking opportunity from someone like Jon Leuer (17 minutes) who could actually be a part of their future plans.
  • The Celtics and Knicks – both of whom are in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt – continue to run heavier-than-necessary rotations rather than identifying the best court combinations and maximizing their efficiency and output.
  • The Rockets have an extremely fragile, high-salaried starting center (Dwight Howard) who is prone to usage-related injuries and they run him for 38 minutes when they have a number of other very capable young frontcourt players to ease the burden.
  • The Bulls appear to embrace their future for a moment by giving a solid rotation spot to Bobby Portis, only to yank it out from under him (he played 4 minutes on Tuesday) once they’re back to full health.
  • The Pelicans offer center Omer Asik a massive contract in the offseason and even when he’s playing well (13 rebounds, a steal and a block, team-high +7 net rating), and they’re absent their best frontcourt player, he can’t get minutes (18).

Essentially what I’m saying is that there are a lot of things we, as fantasy owners, think should happen by any measure of common sense, but just don’t because of a number of factors beyond our control. We can go data mining until the cows come home and have an open & shut case to make why Player X deserves more minutes/opportunity, but it doesn’t matter. We can only do so much. There will always be someone on the other side who impacts that situation and we just have to make the best of it. Thankfully, the NBA has a long season and, unlike football, one or two bad weeks won’t spell doom for your campaign. I love that we get 82 games to try and figure out what the heck is going on. We’ll never be right 100% of the time, no matter that the stats or common sense says we maybe could be, but it sure doesn’t stop us from trying…

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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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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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Early in the day on Wednesday, Major League Baseball announced that All-Star Todd Frazier was traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a seven-player trade. Wait, I thought this was a basketball blog! Well, one of those guys involved in the trade was Trayce Thompson. Not quite a Splash Brother, but the biological brother of the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson and former NBA player, Mychel Thompson, who now plays in Italy.

As brothers, it’s pretty common to be competitive with each other. We may not be on as big of a stage as the Thompson brothers, but my older brother and I make almost everything a competition between each other, whether it’s games of one-on-one, 10-mile races, or Settlers of Catan.

While Trayce was gaining popularity as a new member of the Dodgers in California, Klay went off for 27 points in the 3rd on his way to a game high 43 points (15-22 FG, 8-13 3PT). It must be a happy time for the Thompson family!

Coming off their first loss of the season, the Warriors blew out the Suns by 25, leading by 40 after the 3rd quarter.

With the game in hand, Thompson, Draymond Green, and Stephen Curry weren’t even needed in the 4th quarter. That was enough minutes for Green to go for a triple double (16/11/10/5) and Curry to drop 25 points and 7 assists. So much for feeling sad about their first loss.

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On an unusually quiet Tuesday night in the NBA that saw only four games, the most remarkable item is just how unremarkable everything was. Truth be told, I watched a lot more of the Republican debate on CNN than I did professional basketball. (I’ll withhold political commentary for the most part as Razzball isn’t the appropriate forum, but holy heck is the RNC ever in a pickle.)

The usual suspects (James HardenLeBron JamesDeMarcus Cousins) were all solid for their owners, but it’s not like somebody dropped a 40-burger. Nobody poured in a ton of 3-pointers or threw a massive block party. There were no catastrophic injuries (thankfully) and no statement performances. Just a whole lot of “meh.” You can actually count on one hand the number of players who even saw 36 minutes.

Each of the two early games were decided by a dozen points and offered little in the way of drama or uncertainty about the outcome. The late games followed suit as the Greg Monroe-less Bucks got creamed by the Los Angeles Kobes, while Sacramento took care of Houston by 10 in a matchup of what might be the two most unhappy rosters in the league. Only four of the eight teams even managed to hit the century mark.

I guess what I’m ultimately trying to say is that nobody on Tuesday jumped up and said, “Hey Matty! I want the lead. I deserve the lead!” So take notice, NBA – the lead is not simply given, it must be earned. Be better than Donald Trump, basketball.

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