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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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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Ya know, I used to love the winter.  I like the cold weather, I like snow (hey, when you’re in the south and only see it a few times a year, it’s kinda nice!), my birthday is in December, Christmas is fun, etc. etc.  But now working a 9-to-5, I hate it!  It’s friggin’ dark all the time!  And no different on this Winter Solstice, where I don’t think I’ll ever see the sun this morning and I struggled even through copious amounts of coffee to wrap up this Holiday Edition of Daily Notes – sorry it’s up a little late!  Shout out to anyone reading in Alaska, I have no idea how they do it!  At least this Holiday season, we did get an early stocking stuffer:

Christmas stocking isolated on white background

Making his season debut, Kyrie Irving went 12/4/1/2/0 in 17 minutes against the Sixers, hitting 5-12 from the field and both of his 3PTA.  It just makes so much sense to debut against the Sixers – they’re a staging team.  We saw Brandon Jennings get a rehab game in the D-League, but when the D-League comes to you, you can just debut Kyrie right away!  Not to be too much of a Grinch, but Uncle Drew’s minutes are obviously going to be strictly monitored, and I really worry about how much run he gets in the fantasy playoffs.  With all the fervor and fanfare surrounding his return, I actually kinda see this as a sell-high moment.  I’d obviously need more than draft day value back – missing the first 8 weeks is built into the discount – but if I were getting top-25 value in a deal, I’d take it in a heartbeat.  Not that I think Kyrie’s per-minute and eventually per-game numbers won’t be worth that, I just see it as a smart way of minimizing risk.  If you’re able to move him, then double up the rum in your egg nog, cover that ish with a ton of nutmeg, and sing a Christmas DeMarre Carroll to the fortune of your fantasy team heading into 2016.  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops, plus the 7 Ahead for week 9:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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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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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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:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

So after working overnights, it’s a big change working standard hours and doing Razzball in the wee-hours of the morning.  Instead of following sports all night, you wake up to them!  Which in some cases is nice; others, infuriating.  At least I don’t have to go to sleep mad!

On the annoying end, in fantasy football I’m going into a must-win game against an Aaron Rodgers owner.  Plus I recommended a friend play Kyle Rudolph over Richard Rodgers.  How annoying was that 70 yard hail mary?!?!?!  Ahhhhh!  Luckily I don’t care as much about fantasy football, since it’s 100% luck.  We don’t play that ish here at basketball, we at fantasy hoops play a game of skill!  And very few are as skilled as Kawhi Leonard, who went 27/8/3/2/1 to continue his dominant season.  On top of his normal multi-cat, he was mad hot hitting 9-13 from the field including a nuts 7-9 3PTM.  Instead of texting my buddy Kap all night about how giddy it made me, I wake up to just the one text of “Kawhi banged 7 threes!  How much of a boner did you get?”  The answer is, I constantly wake up during the night half mast!  Kawhi’s been a wet dream all season…  Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy hoops action:

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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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Hoops fans were treated to a pretty entertaining six-game slate on Tuesday night, and those who were able to stay awake into the wee hours of Wednesday morning (for us East coasters anyways), saw history made at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors set a new benchmark for best record to start an NBA season by winning their sixteenth straight game to open the 2015-2016 campaign.

For all intents and purposes, the game between the Warriors and the visiting Lakers was over before it started. GSW entered the contest as 17-point favorites and it took them all of 10 and a half minutes to cover that number. The Dubs were up 34 after three quarters and LA had the look of a team that might as well have just stayed home – they walked in defeated. (Aside: Byron Scott needs to go. Awful, awful ball coach.)

Unfortunately the blowout factor was in full effect as none of the Warriors starters were needed in the fourth quarter, evidenced by Stephen Curry and Draymond Green playing a game-high 30 minutes each. However, in honor of this Golden State team destroying the league so far this season, here are the lines for each of their starters tonight:

  • Chef Curry – 24/4/9/2/0, four triples, zero TOs
  • Klay Thompson – 11/3/2/0/1, two triples, one TO
  • Harrison Barnes – 8/2/1/0/0, two triples, one TO
  • Draymond Green – 18/7/5/1/2, two triples, 7-11 FGs
  • Andrew Bogut – 8/7/2/0/2, 4-7 FGs, zero TOs

Those are pretty pedestrian numbers (relative to each player’s typical contributions this year), but these are the types of lines that we’ll occasionally see with a team as dominant as the Warriors. For season-long owners you just have to move on to the next game and hope it’s a more competitive affair. And for DFS players, you know for the future to fade GSW players on nights when they’re huge favorites as the main guys won’t be needed for the full 48. At some point we’ll also have to keep an eye out for DNP-Rest days, though I can’t imagine that will happen until Golden State loses their first game. (For the record, the teams standing in the way of a 28-0 Warriors team hosting the Cleveland LeBrons on Christmas Day are: Phoenix twice, Sacramento, Utah twice, Charlotte, Toronto, Brooklyn, Indiana, and Milwaukee twice. Seriously – who of those teams is scaring you if you’re the Dubs?)

Let’s take a look at the non-Bay Area happenings on Tuesday night…

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