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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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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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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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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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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?