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.

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You wanna know who could use some Suns is the East Coast over here! Let’s hope this weather doesn’t cost us some reschedules tonight!

Sure, sure, sure, the Suns are a mess mainly due to injuries, and of course got slaughtered by the Spurs last night. Nothing surprising there. But the Suns still deserve some slappage in a wake-up call – Brandon Knight (out last night with a groin strain) and Eric Bledsoe had rumors they didn’t like playing alongside one another, Tyson Chandler got an awful contract based on his returns thus far and Alex Len is a capable starter, and of course the whole Markieff Morris thing. Marcus Morris might be the best player on this team right now! As they continue to implode into a black hole (science metaphor!), it will create more and more opportunities for youth. Devin Booker has been a lot better than I thought as a starting 2, going 24/1/5 with 2 treys and 6-7 shooting last night. Archie Goodwin, a guy I loved going into his rookie year, had a full 20/3/2/1/1 line. And you can’t really keep a guy in the doghouse when you have 6 injured players, so T.J. Warren was back in the fold for 18 Pts. On top of investing in their youth ROS, the Suns have become the Sixers of the West for opposing rotations – no Spur regular played over 22:12 and Pop sat a lot of his guys… And they still won by 28! So keep an eye on the Suns if you’re streaming – play some of the key reserves against them and maybe on full schedule nights, you bench your backend starters as they are likely to get less run. Here’s what else went down last night in fantasy hoops action:

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I’m all for switching it up and trying something new to win. And while I think Hack-a-Shaq can work in the right situations, the Rockets took Hack-a-Whoever way too far. The Rockets fouled Andre Drummond repeatedly, giving him 36 free throws! At one point, K.J. McDaniels intentionally fouled Drummond 5 times in 9 seconds! (McDaniels finished the game with a very Jan Vesely-ish line of 1 minute, 5 fouls).

Drummond made only 13 of his 36 free throws, but it didn’t matter, as the Pistons still defeated the Rockets by 9. The 23 missed free throws was an NBA record for the most missed free throws in a game.

So you’re telling me the intentional fouling was effective in limiting the Pistons’ possessions, but somehow the Rockets still lost? How? The Rockets are definitely one of the biggest disappointments of the season and really need to turn it around if they’re going to make a splash in the playoffs.

While Drummond owners will be screwed in FT%, he still managed to post 17/11 with 1 steal and 1 block. Now onto the other highlights from Wednesday night’s games:

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A record-breaking $1.5 billion jackpot was up for grabs in the latest powerball drawing on Wednesday. While I didn’t buy a ticket, winning that kind of money is very tempting, despite the terrible odds. The odds are so bad that Bartolo Colon is more likely to hit an inside-the-park homerun than you are at winning the big jackpot. (Interesting fact: Colon also shares a nickname with JB: Big Sexy.) Even with the odds, hopefully your number was called!

The odds of Russell Westbrook scoring 0 points is definitely better than winning the jackpot, but it’s still rare. He was ejected after 15 minutes of playing time with nary a point. Fortunately, he still contributed 7 rebounds, 8 assists, and 2 steals before departing.

Another rarity: Mavericks big man Salah Mejri came off the bench to post 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 block in 25 minutes. Zaza Pachulia and Dirk Nowitzki were rested, but still. Mejri had played a combined 20 minutes all season coming into the game!

Stephen Curry scored 38 points. Not that surprising. Well, how about the Nuggets beating the Warriors? Now that’s unexpected. The Warriors were playing without Draymond Green (scheduled rest day), but the Nuggets were just 14-24 coming into the game! In addition to his 38 points, Curry also added 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 threes, and 3 steals.

Those were some of the stranger games of the night. Here are the rest of Wednesday night’s daily notes:

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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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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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No, no, no, we never root for injuries. It’s terrible fantasy karma. But as one of the main cliches as fantasy lays out – injuries are the great equalizer. They end campaigns and create opportunities. Fortunately the torn ACL to Jarrett Jack isn’t going to end anyone’s campaign! But the opportunity for Shane Larkin is monumental.

Last Saturday night, we saw the dreaded non-contact knee buckle from Jack against the Celtics, and we got the somber news yesterday afternoon that he has a torn ACL and meniscus. “Wahhhhhh, I bet I never start a game again!” Meh, the Wahhhh gag just seems too mean right now… And if you listen to the Pod, you know I’m a Jack supporter and of course everyone in Razzball Nation wishes him a speedy recovery. But with the starting job open, Larkin-the-Herald-Angels-Sing immediately steps in as the no-question starter. While he’s looked mad impressive to me the few Nets games I’ve watched and he’s certainly a must-add, I’m not banking on top-50 value or anything. His skill set should make him more valuable than Jack as the starter with more 3s and STL, but I imagine he’ll have fewer AST with the same bad TO. Add Larkin everywhere, and if he starts absolutely gangbusters then sell high. I also could see Donald Sloan having a bigger role than most envision – after that nice run he had in Indy to start last year, I was really impressed with him as a player. Here’s what else went down over our first weekend of 2016, and The 7 Ahead for Week 11:

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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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Happy Festivus everyone!  The Aluminum pole is shining in the warm winter sun, and it is officially time to air grievances.  There is definitely a lot to talk about, people!  First of all, I have problems with many coaches so far this season.

  1. Scott Skiles is a perennial member of this list, and his infuriating rotations will keep him on this list for years to come!
  2. Recently, Fred Hoiberg has managed to move way up the list.  With the recent set of wacky rotations, the playing time of Portis, and the fact that Mirotic has playing time still, he certainly has lost my respect, and the respect of his own team.
  3. There are a few more names I could choose from, but a list of coaching grievances would not be complete without mentioning Jason Kidd.  I certainly don’t need to spell out why he is mentioned here.

Next up, I also has a major problem with the eyelid of Terrence Jones, the attitude of Markief Morris, and the fact that Rondo is good this year.

With that out of the way, I’d just like to say that I’m looking forward to the Christmas day slate of games!  Especially the game where the Cavaliers are going to smash Curry’s hopes and dreams.

Here are my waiver gifts to you!

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