The University of Kentucky basketball program was well represented in New Orleans on Tuesday night. Wildcats alums Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns produced quality multi-category lines for their fantasy owners in an oddly entertaining contest. Minnesota got up big in the first quarter, riding a hot start from their prized rookie big man; Towns finished the game 20/13/2/1/1 with a 3-pointer and a perfect 5-5 from the foul line. Unfortunately, his five turnovers and cold shooting after the opening frame (7-17 FGs) contributed to the Pelicans getting back into the game and eventually claiming the W. Regardless of the real world outcome, KAT’s fantasy owners have to be encouraged by Tuesday’s outing. He was posting per-game numbers that had him ranked only 80th through nine January contests entering this tilt with the Pellies, so the big double-double – with money counting stats to boot – was a sight for sore eyes.

Davis led the charge for the home team with an efficient 35 points on only 22 field goal attempts (plus 8-10 FTs), chipping in seven rebounds and a pair of blocks. Perhaps most impressive was the fact that Brow navigated some foul trouble and a tight whistle while never turning the ball over in 37 very impressive minutes. He also connected on one of his two attempts from behind the arc, marking only the second time in 2016 he’s hit from deep (11 attempts). If he’s to leapfrog Kevin Durant for the best fantasy player not named Steph Curry, he’s going to have to start expanding that part of his game. His shooting stroke looks good and once a few more drop he should find the confidence to start taking more (ala DeMarcus Cousins). With New Orleans largely out of the playoff picture, they may take a developmental approach and encourage Davis to experiment with more shot variety on the offensive end. If he can avoid the little bumps & bruises he seems to accumulate on a near weekly basis, he should be a top-3 asset the rest of the way.

Here’s what else shook down on a relatively quiet four-game Tuesday night in the NBA…

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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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Conventional basketball wisdom suggests that smaller lineups play at a faster pace and typically score more points. That wasn’t exactly the case in Chicago on Tuesday night. The Milwaukee Bucks rolled out their massive starting lineup that features five players who all measure between 6’6″ and 6’11”. The Bulls countered with considerable size of their own, as only Derrick Rose came in under 6’7″ among the first unit. Coming into this one, Chicago ranked 10th in the league in pace while Milwaukee was 24th, and both teams sat in the bottom third in offensive efficiency. On paper this looked like a matchup destined to be played in half court sets with plenty of contested late-in-the-shot-clock possessions. The opposite came to pass as all ten starters scored in double figures and we saw 223 combined points poured in.

Following his record breaking 40-point second half against that basketball team that plays in a country other than the United States, Jimmy Butler remained en fuego, scoring 20 first half points to give him an even 60 for that four quarter stretch. The man they call “Buckets” finished with a game-high 32 on 11-21 from the field, 2-4 from beyond the arc, and a perfect 8-8 on his freebies. Jimmy is every bit a first rounder this year regardless of whether or not the usage-sucking, possession-wasting Rose lines up next to him or not. (He did on Tuesday.) There aren’t ten players I’d rather have on my roster, especially considering the Bulls’ outstanding playoff schedule.

On the other side, Khris Middleton did his best to keep the Bucks in it, posting a stellar 26/4/7/1/0 line. The Duchess of Wisconsin did his damage on 10-21 shooting, pouring in five threes and only turning the ball over twice in 38 minutes. Middleton has been a top-20 nine category player over the last month and with Jason Kidd not around to mess with lineup & rotation consistency, there’s no reason to think Khris can’t keep this hot streak going.

Let’s have a little look-see at the rest of the notable fantasy lines from Tuesday night, shall we?

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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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Sorry folks, there will be no lengthy lead-in for this edition of the Daily Notes. (And likely very little attempt at clever humor.) I’m a bit under the weather and doing my best to spill any digital ink on the page at all. I hope everyone is cool with me just jumping right in to The Good, The Bad & The Noteworthy for Tuesday’s five-game slate so I can catch a few extra ZZZs.

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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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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.

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On a weekend where elite guys did elite things – we got served more 40-burgers than a McDonalds – I’m going to open this Monday morning a little further down the bunnyhole.  It may be “rabbit” hole, but it sounded dirtier my way…

When Al Jefferson went down with his calf strain (he’s still out at least another 1-2 weeks), I clowned the Hornets for their “three-headed” monster for C minutes.  I joked it was a nice way of saying none were any good.  Kinda like saying the “three-headed monster” of good M. Night Shyamalan movies.  Especially Frank the Stank, as Michael Jordan’s never-ending conquest of building an NCAA dream team continues to keep the Charlotte franchise in the awful-to-mediocre range.  At least Spencer Hawes looks OK out there, putting up decent lines in 20+ minutes the past two Hornets games.  But watching the Hornets against the Bulls on Saturday – I was mad impressed by Cody Zeller.  Took the lion’s share of PT playing 32 minutes, and went 17/8/2/1/1 on 6-10 FG (5-7 FT) with no TO.  And it wasn’t a cupcake matchup either against Pau Gasol.  Although Gasol wouldn’t get that joke, let’s say “it wasn’t a flan matchup.”  Just at the eye level, he was cutting to the basket with great speed, finished strong at the rim with a few dunks, and took jumpers confidently.  I think the Hornets wanted someone to step up with Big Al down, and they’ve found their guy.  Now this would only be a medium-term pickup in 12ers, plus the schedule is going to be a crazy test.  Hornets get DET, MIA then @MEM the next three, so Zeller is going to have to D up Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, then Marc Gasol.  Eesh.  At least the Gasol one is more his player-type…  And it’s not like Hawes or Frank Kaminsky is going to play any better against those beasts…  So if you’re looking for a little help up front without the big blocks upside, Zeller is worth a look.  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, including The 7 Ahead for week 7:

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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.

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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.

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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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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?