Well, kids…we have officially entered the NBA silly season.

Coaches for teams locked into the post-season are only too happy to rest their starters, as evidenced Tuesday by LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka all receiving healthy DNPs.

Coaches for teams destined for the lottery are exercising extreme caution with future core players, as seen last night with the Nets’ Rondae Hollis-Jefferson & Thaddeus Young getting a precautionary rest day, and franchise center Brook Lopez sitting for the entire second half of a blowout loss.

Even teams not in action on Tuesday were making headlines by shutting down players or announcing their plans to rest star players periodically as the 2015-2016 season draws to a close. DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo, Danilo Gallinari, Ryan Anderson, and Jrue Holiday have all been added to the “shutdown watch” list. (And in Jrue’s case, you can officially stick a fork in him. He’s done.)

Additionally, DeMarre Carroll suffered a setback in his recovery from knee surgery and won’t be of use to fantasy players until next year, Nikola Vucevic can’t get cleared to return from what was believed to be a mild groin strain, and the starting Philly frontcourt of Nerlens Noel & Jerami Grant is going to be treated with kids’ gloves due to knee injuries.

It’s bad, folks. It’s real, real bad.

Thankfully for fans of the NBA and fantasy owners grinding through the final days of their season, a select few professional basketball players did, in fact, decide to earn their pay checks last night. Let’s take a look at who shined brightest, who fell short of expectations, and who else made waves on a six-game Tuesday slate.

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Lob City was alive in well in Houston on Wednesday. Chris Paul was throwing DeAndre Jordan alley-oops left and right. By halftime, Paul already had 11 assists. He finished the blowout with 15 points and 16 assists, while Jordan added 23 points and 16 rebounds. Jordan even shot over 50% from the FT line (7-13 FT, but not by much!). J.J. Redick also knocked down 5-9 from the 3PT line to finish with 25 points. It was all Clippers from the beginning and the Rockets just couldn’t find an answer.

James Harden did his usual thing, trying to carry the disappointing Rockets, but it wasn’t enough. He finished with 33 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds. Big men Dwight Howard (6 points, 7 rebounds) and Clint Capela (3 points, 3 rebounds) were rendered useless against Jordan. The only other bright spots for the Rockets were Trevor Ariza (16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 threes) and newly acquired forward, Michael Beasley, who scored 16 points and grabbed 8 rebounds off the bench. Coming over from China, Beasley makes a good waiver wire add for all teams.

The Rockets started the season with lofty expectations, but are currently tied with the Dallas Mavericks for the 7th playoff spot. If they finish 7th or 8th, they’ll end up playing the San Antonio Spurs or Golden State Warriors in the first round of playoffs, something that nobody wants to do.

The Warriors, by the way, won their 50th straight game at home on Wednesday, dismantling the New York Knicks by 36. Stephen Curry hit 8 threes and scored 34 points (6 rebounds and 4 assists), before sitting out the 4th quarter of the blowout.

I don’t think anyone saw the Warriors playing on an historic level or the Rockets playing this poorly at the beginning of the season, but that’s why you play the game!

Now onto the other nightly notables:

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That was the last time I saw a Butler as mechanical as Jimmy Butler… “He’s more machine now, than man!”  Well, that was more a bartender, but ya know…  Godzilla returned from a pretty scary knee injury faster than I thought, going 24/11/6/1/0 in 34 minutes Saturday night exactly a month after “straining” his knee.  I’m sorry, when I hear nonspecificity with a knee injury, it’s scarier to me than realizing Deebo from Friday would lead our presidential candidates right now.  “WHY THE HELL IS IT EATING ALL THE SATELLITES!?”  Future came sooner than we thought on that one…  Focus, JB!  Aziz, light!  Godzilla did have some warts with the 5 TO and fouling out (actually the first time he’s fouled out in his career!), but when you’re a lizard-beast born from nuclear winter, it’s tough to have a blemish free outing!  I preached caution in trying to buy Buckets low, so hopefully you were bolder than me.  More daring.  Basically let’s hope you treated this like a giant Dorito, while I was a tasteless vegan vegetable straw.  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops action, plus The 7 Ahead for week 19 (last week of the regular season!!!!):

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It’s unusual for teams to be clinching playoff spots this early in the season. The Warriors are on a historic pace to challenge the ’95-96 Bulls for the best single-season record in NBA history, at 72-10.

Because of this, the Spurs are flying under the radar, something that they seem to do every season. By beating the Pistons on Wednesday, the Spurs improved their home winning streak to 29 games and are now 51-9 on the season. That’s 17 straight 50+ win seasons. Absolutely incredible.

Marcus Morris (16 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists) the oldest Pistons’ starter was 8 years old when Tim Duncan (12 points and 8 rebounds) made his debut. And when Duncan is ready to call it a career, he has two young studs to continue the Spurs’ legacy: LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard.

Just like David Robinson and Duncan, Aldridge has played nicely along with Duncan. He grabbed a double-double against the Pistons with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists. Meanwhile, the reigning Finals’ MVP, Leonard, posted a 27/6/5 line with 2 steals.

While the Warriors have a shot at 72-10, both the Warriors and Spurs are still a ways away from matching the Bulls’ record of 44 straight wins at home.

Now onto the other nightly notables:

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I love Sports.  WORST CLICHE OPEN EVER!  But seriously, what makes sports awesome is you can have very little interest in one-particular game, then all the sudden you’re watching something unbelievable.  A great example was that 2013 Alabama Auburn game that I flipped on for the 4th quarter then the way short field goal ended up being an Auburn TD.  I had no stake in that game!  But sooooo glad I just happened to flip to it…  Then it happened again on Saturday night.

I know what you’re saying…  “But JB, it’s GSW and OKC, you weren’t planning your whole weekend around that matchup?!” Well, I have none of those guys on my favorite teams (who are we kidding, none on my REL team), and was out Saturday night anyway at my buddy’s house.  We kinda nonchalantly put it on in the background, then the next thing you know, Stephen Curry is running back out of the tunnel like a gladiator after his injury and we watched one of the best regular-season NBA games I’ve ever seen.  If not THE best.

In case you missed it during the depths of the offseason, I wrote a pretty lengthy rant on the awfulness that was Interstellar.  At some point during the movie, Anne Goaway says something like “Love is the ONE THING that can transcend time and space” or some crap expository dialogue…  Well, Christopher Nolan, looks like you need to do a 4-years-too-late re-write!  It should be “Stephen Curry’s jump shot is the ONE THING that can transcend time and space”!  I don’t think I need to transpose his numbers ever again; he just is the best at basketball.  And the game was a little bit of a microcosm of his career – started fine but not awesome, got a kankle, but persevered and was able to get back into the game, then was the best shooter the NBA has ever seen.  Cleaning house of awards and records like Mad Max: Fury Road last night!  To think he went to college less than a mile from my childhood house and I sat right behind him once at a Davidson College game!  I should’ve tried to nab his mouthguard when it was hanging out on a FT shot…  Here’s what else went down over the weekend of fantasy hoops action, plus The 7 Ahead for Week 18:

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A real American hero! Are you old enough to remember the wisdom doled out by various G.I. Joe soldiers, such as Skidmark, Scarlett, Airtight and Ripcord at the end of the afternoon cartoon? When you were repeatedly reminded that knowing is half the battle? I have not forgotten these pearls of wisdom from the brave warriors who stood up to resist the nefarious C.O.B.R.A., but as they applied to regular life. What would Duke tell you about your fantasy team? He would tell you not to take candy from strangers, and to be aware of your league’s trade deadline! Yo Joe!

You need to be aware of when you can last make a deal, as the waiver wire is probably less likely to bear significant players. If you still can, check out if these cats would be Joe worthy:

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Full disclosure – the entirety of this post was written before Sunday afternoon. I know that either A – I would be too drunk to try to finish this if the Panthers win the Super Bowl, and my writing would be as incoherent as the screenplay of Southland Tales. Although to be fair, I actually kinda liked that movie! It was a mess; but a weird mess! A little JT before he went full movie star! And Amy Poehler before she, ummmm, fired her agent. And Cheri Oteri! Before she, ummmmm, was never heard from again. Or B – I would be too depressed to write anything about basketball.

As we chug along into the All-Star Break, one train is certainly doing the Ozzy Crazy Train right now! Gorgui Dieng just tore apart the Bulls, going 24/14/7/0/1 in 41 minutes, hitting 10-13 FG and 4-4 FT. And you’ve been benching this guy for Kevin fuc$*$*$&#*#*$$ing Garnett!? Even Ricky Rubio is like, “wait, he got more assists than even MI last game!? Ay dios mio!” The Dieng Train is on an absolute tear the past 7 games, and Coach Sam Mitchell said “he might be willing to find out” if Dieng can play 40 minutes a night. Hey Mitchell, I might be willing to bitchslap you if you play KG at the starting 4 again! I might go so far as saying Dieng is a top-50 option ROS, which is as disheartening as it gets as I own him nowhere. I was late for the Train! The conductor was like “All Aboard!” and I was like, “F that, Mitchell isn’t playing him enough!” Kudos to you if you hopped aboard anyway right before this run. Here’s what else went down over the weekend, plus the 14 [kinda] Ahead for Week 16:

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Ladies and Gentleman, the results are in!  In a runaway victory, Will “The Thrill”  Barton took the Most Valuable Pickup title in a landslide!  Keep in mind that this is only a vote for the first half of the year.  I have a feeling, it won’t be Barton when it’s all said and done.  Myles Turner is coming on strong, and Kent Bazemore keeps putting up rock solid numbers.  For now though, congrats to our first half MVP!

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Here’s how the final vote played out:

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Personally, I think Bazemore deserved it, but there’s definitely a lot more flash to Barton’s game, so the vote is understandable.

Let’s dive in to the wire for this week!

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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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I’M ON MY IIISSSSSHHHHHH, CALL IT!!!

I WATCH THESE HATERS TAKE THEY SHOTS LIKE THEY WERE ALCOHOLICS.

Now if Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ish Smith hasn’t selected a song for his lineup introduction, I highly recommend someone reach out to him to let him know I would like to speak to him. While there may be other reasons Childish Gambino has yet to endorse Smith, it has been a rough 2016 for the newly acquired guard until last night’s performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Smith finished with 21 points, 11 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals while leading Philadelphia to their fourth victory of the year. While the efficiency stats will not always be there, Smith rewarded fantasy owners last night with a 9-15 shooting performance from the field. As the new lead man in an up-tempo offense, expect lots of production in multiple statistical categories from Smith on a nightly basis. The 76ers are starved for capable ballhandlers, granting Smith the opportunity to rack up points and assists as he pounds the rock.

Although he’s most likely gone from the waiver wire in most leagues, I think it still might be possible to snag him in a quick trade.

Smith has been a beacon of hope for a horrendous 76ers team this year, but in assessing his fantasy value, he still leaves a little to be desired, avoiding 3-point shots and suffering from some abysmal shooting nights. Overall, I would love to have Smith on my team, and would encourage owners with a need at point guard to explore a trade before nights like this become too common.

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