It’s the takeover, the break’s over. Apparently firing David Blatt may have been the right decision after all, inspiring the recent play of LeBron James and company.

With the Cavs winning their last five games, I have no reasonable doubt that the Big 3 will fail to continue this trend after the All-Star Break. Despite heavy minutes and an up-tempo pace, James has unfinished business on his quest to win his third ring, and this style of play is the blueprint from the successes of his Miami Heat teams.

Maybe this is all a convoluted way of saying the Ruler’s back, but King James and the Cavs look rejuvenated under new coach Tyronn Lue, attacking the opposing defense and getting to the foul line. Playing 43 minutes in an overtime contest, James finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block while shooting 9-22 from the field. Although shooting 4-8 from the foul line is more Drummond-like than MVP level, just remember everyone makes mistakes, everyone has those days.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

In the same way Gregg Popovich, trolled the Warriors by resting Tim Duncan, it was only right for the basketball gods to get back at the national viewing public by showing the game on NBATV….

Seriously, was this some type of cruel joke??

To the decision-makers in charge of the NBA schedule, YOU’RE NOT FUNNY!

This matchup has been the highlight of the calendar year for many NBA fans, and it deserves to be broadcasted on a major network (mainly so I do not have to search for sketchy internet streams).

If that wasn’t bad enough, the game itself was far from competitive with the Spurs losing by 30 points.

Since all my hopes and dreams were crushed by this game, I think it’s best to just move on and look for other wrinkles of positivity in last night’s 9-game slate.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

…The Sixers don’t have a Clue, that’s for sure!

On a night of comebacks where we saw the Spurs come back from their largest deficit at home to beat the Cavs, we also saw the Bulls down more than 20 in the 2nd quarter and 16 at half come back and just obliterate the Sixers in the 2nd half and overtime by unleashing the Godzilla.

Jimmy Butler Godzilla

“God” the key word in that one! Jimmy Butler just went insane going 15-30 FG (2-4 3PTM 21-25 FT) for 53 Pts. “Ohhhhhh, look at me, I’m Slim, I get another point on the 30-pt Challenge Board! Do you get double if they score 60, because it was close!” And of course I poked the Slim, texting him earlier yesterday afternoon that Butler might not play, being listed as a game-time call due to a kankle. Yeahhhhh, so much for that. At least I won’t suffer this kind of loss again, as Butler made himself a top-10 scorer last night, upping it to 23.1 PPG. Butler still kept it multi-cat with 10 boards, 6 dimes and 3 steals to top if off. I haven’t been so turned on by a Butler since Michael Caine! He’s also continuing a trend that the second round wings are paying off – Buckets, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Draymond Green… It’s really making some nice parity among the game’s elites so there’s enough to not mind a later draft pick in 16-17, as you’ll be able to nab two solid players at the first turn. It’s going to make next year really interesting… Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy hoops action:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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…

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The prototypical Boards-N-Block dude is not a Hoosier. They don’t Tweet about how the best thing ever is singing “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve, and they don’t shoot well from the line.

Yet here we are leading a B-N-B column with one Cody Zeller, the once-proclaimed savior of Indiana basketball, crooner of carols and 74 percent career free-throw shooter.

Zeller

Look, this isn’t something I want to do. Zeller is the modern-day Brad Lohaus, the most un-fun player on the fantasy hoops planet. Who the hell wants Cody Zeller on their fantasy team?

Well, if you want boards, maybe that’s you. Because over his past four games, Zeller is averaging more boards (10 rpg) than Al Horford and Nerlens Noel and almost as many as Andre Drummond (11.5 rpg), minus the major charity stripe headaches (25 percent; more on this later).

Zeller is actually really close to becoming a double-double machine on the order of another cheap source of rebounding this season, Zaza Pachulia, who also shoots for high percentages from the field and the charity stripe (and is averaging more than 14 rpg over the past week, by the by).

I’m selling Zeller here mainly for points-leagues players. I had Drummond in one points league and just couldn’t take it anymore. The free-throws had me lodged in third-place with no way out. So I got what I could for ‘Dre (Gordon Hayward, ugh) and decided to try and use dudes like Zeller and Zaza to make up for the loss of boards while patching up that lowly FT percentage. Don’t know if it’ll work, but it was worth a try.

In other B-N-B news …

Please, blog, may I have some more?

With the sporting world turning its attention to the College Football Championship game last night, professional basketball was put on the back burner with only 3 games played. As I flipped between athletic contests, I couldn’t help but notice the parallel between the historical consistency of the Alabama Crimson Tide and the San Antonio Spurs. While the Crimson Tide hold the distinction of being the best team in college football (and one of the most hated at the same time), the Spurs excellence does not always translate to the proper accolades (although I don’t think it’s possible to hate the Spurs). Despite this difference in perception, both teams are the models of achievement in the respective sports.

So on a night in which a new champion was crowned, it was San Antonio’s victory, its tenth game this by a margin greater than 25 points, that illustrated the disparity between the Spurs and the rest of the 28 non-Warrior teams in the NBA.

As the Spurs fight to catch up to Golden State for home court advantage in the Western Conference playoffs, LaMarcus Aldridge not only played against the lowly Brooklyn Nets, he dominated them. The power forward recorded 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 assists in 28 minutes of action, marking his 38th 20/10 game over the past 2 seasons.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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?

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Although Byron Scott hasn’t been the best NBA head coach of all time, his opinion is the only one that matters in L.A. at the moment, and at the moment Byron Scott says Larry Nance Jr. would be a lottery pick if they redrafted the 2015 draft (he went 27th for reals) and Julius Randle stinks and needs to grow up.

Indeed, Nance has improved gradually since being inserted in the starting lineup last month. And over the past week, he’s averaging 10 and 10, including a 15-point, 14-rebound outburst against the Suns on January 3.

I watched him during his 14-board performance on New Year’s Day against the Sixers and I did get visions of his dandy dunker daddy. Larry Jr. is about the same size and flies around in much the same way as once did Larry Sr., who has a special place in my heart. He always wowed but lost to Dominique Wilkins or Michael Jordan in the classic Slam Dunk Contests of the mid-1980s, and he’s one of the dudes featured on that rad Sultans of Slam poster from that era. Hard to believe pappy’s not in the Hall with these nice career numbers: 17.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg, and 2.2 bpg.

As good as Larry Sr. was, I think those numbers aren’t out of the question for Larry Jr. if everything falls right. Buy in now!

Here’s some other goings-ons in Boards-N-Blocks land:

Please, blog, may I have some more?