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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I hope everyone is having a nice Christmas with their families and stayed off Santa’s naughty list.  It wouldn’t be Christmas without the NBA.  We have a nice five game slate and since I am pressed for time let’s get on with it.

New Orleans Pelicans (8-19) at Miami Heat (16-11)  Spread: Mia  -6 O/U 200

Chicago Bulls (15-11) at Oklahoma City Thunder (19-9)   Spread: OKC -8 O/U 206

Cleveland Cavaliers (18-7) at Golden St. Warriors (26-1)  Spread: GSW -8 O/U 212

San Antonio Spurs (24-50) at Houston Rockets (15 -14)  Spread: SAS -8 O/U 204

L.A. Clippers (16-13) at L.A. Lakers (5-23)   Spread: LAC -11 O/U 207 ½

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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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Pressed into additional service with Nicolas Batum out sick, Jeremy Lin started for the Hornets last night and played like Linsanity was back in full effect.  At 47 minutes of action, even a few cans of Dapper Dan wouldn’t keep the mohawk afloat!  As the game pressed on, the spikes kept drooping like wet noodles.  “Hey Jeremy, the trainer has a handful of Elmer’s Glue for you on the bench for a touch up!”  I still can’t understand how he can play through a really sweaty game, and have it not feel like he just dunked his head in a pool full of Vaseline.

Whatever product he uses is just gonna ooze down his whole face!  While looking like a melting wax statue, Lin went nuts for 35/5/3/0/2 on 13-22 FG (2-5 3PTM 7-9 FT).  He was constantly attacking the rim and all over the defensive glass, really giving this starting opportunity 100%.  Unfortunately there’s nothing too actionable with the strong performance, as Batum should be back soon after his rough Chipotle visit and Lin will be back to a swing man off the bench.  If your streamed Lin then hat’s off to you (mainly because Lin can’t wear a hat), and it does let us know that if Batum should suffer a prolonged injury, you can feel pretty good calling Lin a must-add.  You’d bust out your Ben Stiller hair gel, spike up your hair, and enjoy the ride!  Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy hoops action:

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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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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).

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