The embargo is lifted!  I can’t wait to buy some cigars… If you missed it, Obama has opened his front door to Cuba while continuing to backdoor the Canada oil pipeline.  Hey-o!

And Mark Cuban has opened up his roster for some international trade, bringing Rajon Rondo into Texas.  The Mavericks are reportedly changing their team name to the Dallas “You Don’t Mess With Texas!”  Huge move in real basketball, but who cares about any of that?!  Rondo takes a pretty substantial hit to his value, as Monta Ellis is going to sap a lot those assists with his slashes.  But it’s nothing to panic about, as his atrocious 40.5 FG% will go up and the 3.4 TO should go down.  And maybe a coach there can teach him how to hit a FT…

The rest of the swapperoo is Jameer NelsonBrandan WrightJae Crowder and a first-rounder to Boston for Rondo and Dwight Powell with a swap of second-round picks thrown around in there just to make it look fancier.  I guess if you still had Nelson in a 12 or 14er, he’s droppable.  I could see Tyler Zeller lose some PT to Wright, but who knows.  Chapel hill centers, reunite!  The obvious big impact here is Marcus Smart, who was at 30% owned right when the trade broke (somehow got him in both RCLs!).  That only shot up to 40% right when this posts, so he’s still available in several leagues.  Boston has no reason to start Nelson over him in order to get a ton of development time for their rook PG.  His fantasy game is really limited – I still don’t think the treys are going to come around in a huge way this year and we’ll be happy to see half the assists Rondo was getting a night.  But he should be plenty good enough for all 12ers.  Smart stashers feeling smart!  Here’s what else went down last night in NBA action:

[Psyche!  Quick note that I’m off next Monday, then Thursday and Friday due to Holiday scheduling.  So Daily Notes will only be out Tuesday and Wednesday next week, along with our Holiday special Razzball Basketball Podcast on Tuesday.  But I am of course always here for comments, even on Christmas, so if you need to get away from screaming kids in order to scream about how Batum has been awful, we’re ya spot!]

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Who says NBA is an indoor sport?!  Roll out the tarp!

During a rainy night in Brooklyn, all the sudden the ballboys were throwing towels on this spot on the court as somewhere in the rafters was a pretty steady leak.  I looked away from the game for a minute then looked back, and I thought at first they were cleaning up a massive bleeding injury!  At least that wasn’t the case… Ended up being about half an hour rain delay, complete with maintenance rolling out a trash can to collect the water.  It’s like Kap said when we were chattin’ last night – just like his high school gym!  The Nets arena leaking with the tears of Nets fans…

While Brooklynites had to watch a short-handed Heat team beat them at home, there’s at least some fantasy goodness to be had from some flashy younguns.  Professor Plumlee!  Young professors I bet would make a killing with college chicks… Anyway, Mason Plumlee for 21/9/1/1/1 last night, shooting 8-12 FG and leading the Nets in scoring.  Sure the Heat front line is a bunch of dudes you’ve never heard of and an over-the-chicken coup Birdman, but good to see him hitting on his potential as the starter, finally.  There’s still some blemishes – 4 TO and a surprisingly good-for-Plumlee but bad-for-real-life 5-8 FT (stop it with the hyphen phrases!), but if you can handle the FT drain or already have a FT-punting (dammit!) team, he’s a perfect fit.  I think he’s as close to a must-own in all leagues while Brook Lopez is out, but many teams don’t have a streamer spot and/or can’t handle the bad FT%.  Brolo is getting reevaluated Saturday, meaning he’s out at least three more.  So while the Nets are leaking talent, don’t let Plumlee leak through your waiver wire.  Here’s how the rest of the NBA big news shook out:

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Welcome back, Mr. Slim Reaper!  It’s a perfectly apt nickname too, because I own him in the JB vs. Slim RCL league and he’s going to be Slim’s reaper!  Even though I’m getting crushed this week so far…

After a decent enough start, Kevin Durant was still without the big eruption type game in his first three back, but last night dismantled the Bucks in an uber-efficient 23/9/7/1/1 game shooting 7-11 FG and 8-8 FT.  He’s worth 9 or 10 Bucks, at the least!  Was 1-5 from deep, so didn’t miss within the arc.  All of that in 29 minutes, as Beam-me-up Scotty Brooks benched the Thunder studs down the stretch of the double-digit win.  Even though this was against the young Bucks, the Thunder as a whole are coming together with Russell Westbrook having a fantastic 28/5/7 night with like, a million free throws made, and Serge Ibaka is back to his %-gold ways for 15/5/0/2/2 shooting 5-5 FG & 5-5 FT.  Durantula and Westy are going to command their first-round values in trades, but I bet you could still swindle Ibaka away at a buy-low price.  3+ blocks the past four games and 16-26 from the field his last three, and isn’t needing to force shots anymore.   Things are right in order for OKC to go on a mad run, so be counting your lucky stars if you got KD at a discount on draft day!  What we preached all preseason post-injury!  Here’s some other happenings from the NBA last night:

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This was a very big week for the Thunder. They got both of their superstars back in a matter of days.

Russell Westbrook returned on Friday night, putting up 32 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists in only 24 minutes of clock. Now owners may be concerned with the lack of minutes, but know that Westbrook wasn’t on a minutes’ restriction. Instead, Westbrook, along with the rest of the starters, were pulled early since the Thunder were up 32 late in the game. They were playing the New York Knicks after all.

A few days later, Kevin Durant returned to score 27 points on Tuesday night. He showed little rust on the court, shooting 9-18 from twos, 3-8 from downtown, and 6-7 from the line. Durant didn’t do much else outside of the scoring, but those numbers will happen in due time. The important thing is that Westbrook and Durant are both back and healthy.

Westbrook and Durant immediately regain their statuses as two of the top ten fantasy producers. At the same time, their return also hurts the guys filling in for them. Reggie Jackson’s statistics will take a hit, as he won’t be needed as much as an offensive producer. In the two games since Westbrook returned, Jackson had his two lowest usage rates of the season and saw his field goal attempts decrease to 11 FGA per game (down from 17.9 without Durant and Westbrook). Now there is still value to be had with Jackson, since he’ll be getting around 30 minutes a night, but don’t expect the same numbers he was providing early in the season.

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Razzball Nation!

DraftKings is back, and while we don’t have a Razzball Only contest this week (bummer, I know…), we can still all get together and sing some campfire songs over a big contest in the several they run every night!  I wanted to keep it low key, albeit with a big payday, so join me why don’t ya in the NBA $50K Layup!  It’s $2 to play, and pays out a cool, hard $50-grand for the overall winner.  If somebody from Razzball Nation wins, I better get a heavy dose of Crown & Cokes!  I’ll be in there with my jbrazzball moniker, so you can track me as I finish middle of the pack, which has been my normal finish most of the time this year in daily… I’m coming for that payday this Friday though!  If not, I might Drunk Uncle rant after tonight… So click-ity click that link right there, draft your team today, and let’s get some skrilla for Razzball Nation!

Here’s 5 of my picks for tonight’s action:

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Kinda sounds like a porn name, doesn’t it?

After a day of giving thanks, fantasy owners got a huge boost while scarfing microwaved plates of Thanksgiving leftovers with Russell Westbrook healing up and putting on a historic comeback off the broken hand.  Is this guy’s bones made of Adamantium or what?!  Señor Westback seems to beat his timetable every injury the past few years, which I don’t know if it’s really a good or bad thing… Can heal fast, but is gettin’ hurt a lot!  Reckless Russell.  The made-for-TV Skinimax sequel to Wreck-It Ralph starring Russell Westback.  I’d watch that!  Although they’re apparently making a Wreck-It Ralph 2, which I hope embraces some Grand Theft Auto elements.  Would make sense to star Russell Westback!  Rated R, sorry kids…  It’s like confusing them with Death to Smoochy having a purple dinosaur.  Anyway, Westbrook absolutely torched the Knicks last Friday night in his return for 32/7/8 hitting 12-17 shots and notching three treys.  Twas the first 32 Pts 8 Ast game in 24 minutes or less in the shot-clock era.  It was like stealing the car, then running over the driver trying to sprint away for good measure.  Even though it’s “just” his hand, got a huge layoff from that game until facing the Pelicans tomorrow.  Plenty of time to catch up on his turkey leftovers, and refuel to give fantasy owners that first-round production for the bulk of the season ahead.  So drop the confetti, and welcome Westback!  But let’s hope it’s a little less Reckless, and we’ll take 25/5/5 every 24 minutes without any issues… Here’s what else went on around the league since we’ve been off from Thanksgiving:

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In a jam-packed weekend with all sorts of big news and Anthony Davis putting up a career-high, I figured why not start as off-the-fantasy-radar as possible!  Well, that’s a lie, my Steve Nash open about him being a malnourished librarian turned out to already be a commercial

The injury gods were working overtime this weekend, as big ol’ Roy Hibbert landed funky on his ankle and left very early in the Pacers’ game Saturday.  The bad news continues to floweth down the bad news river in Indianapolis.  Drown your sorrows in onion rings, Pacers fans!  Not gonna have any other rings any time soon.  “That was mean, JB!”  I’m rooting for Paul George to come back healthy next year and shock the Cavs in the playoffs, don’t you worry.  But back to the issue at hand, when Howard Cosell made the call “Down goes Hibbert!” I immediately had something bubbling up inside [Mahin]me.  Certainly not one of the premiere backup Cs in the NBA, but Ian Mahinmi is passable, and a solid short-term add for some early-week big man upside.  Mahinmi carried the torch with the starters for an all-leagues usable 12/10/1/3/1 line in only 26 minutes, without even finishing down the stretch as the Suns went full supernova to the Pacers white/brown dwarves (I don’t wanna say one or the other, might get into trouble…).  The backup Frenchy could easily go 10/10 with 2 swats in a few starts early this week.  Tonight is against a gimpy Tyson Chandler who tweaked his kankle, then Wednesday against a Spurs team who have struggled to handle bigs since Tiago Splitter has been in a siesta.  So while I Mahin-Me, I hope while reading this there is time to Mahin-You!  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy basketball:

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Slam Dunk Contest winners scare me.

There’s pretty much no in between with these dudes. Other than, say, Nate Robinson, they’re either future all-stars or total duds. For every Michael Jordan there’s a Harold Miner. For every Kobe Bryant there’s a Fred Jones. For every Dominque Wilkins, there’s a Brent Barry.

And then there’s Gerald Green, who is definitely not an NBA jobber, but is not quite an all-star yet. Not really sure if he ever will be, and what scares me most is that while he was a pretty awesome dunker, he’ll always be known as a gimmick dunker for his Birthday Cake Dunk. And being a gimmick dunker is kind of like being a gimmick wrestler on the order of Koko B. Ware or the Gobbledy Gooker.

In a way, it would be interesting if Green never was an all-star, because he wouldn’t be the first 6-7-ish wing sixth man for the Suns who can run the floor, shoot from distance, was on the same team as Jeff Hornacek and never made the All-Star Team.

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“Hey Kobe, I’m open, I’m open!”  That’s every Laker…

Despite the plausibility that the Lakers are a real NBA team, they once again proved the contrary with yet another blowout loss.  Well, I guess they’ve been in some games, but c’mon!  Kobe Bryant is trying to do everything himself, like an asexual chronic masturbator.  15-34 FG last night (3-12 3PTM 11-16 FT) for 44/5/3/0/0.  After a 1-14 brickhouse Friday night, that’s a 16-48 weekend (33%).  At least Sunday was good!  Ish.  Most concerning are those treys, going 3-17 from deep in both games.  He’s never been a good three-point shooter, especially the past four years.  Glasses anyone?   Russell Westbrook has got a guy…

As I’m sure Kobe would appreciate to no end, I have a comp for him.  Dwight Howard.  Hah!  Mostly kidding, but Kobe is Dwight-ing (new adjective) your FG%.  In H2H it’s not a paramount concern, but in Roto it’s getting scary.  I don’t know what you do about it except try to trade Kobe high to a team at the top of your FG% standings.  Then let Kobe and that ridiculous volume sink them like the whole Purple and Gold franchise.  I keed of course!  There’s just nothing there.  Like hairs on Carlos Boozers‘ head or anatomy on Ken’s crotch.  Kobe vs. NO tonight, 5-on-1!  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy basketball action:

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We are a few weeks into the NBA season and things are really taking shape.  The 76ers might set the record for losses in a season, the Knicks are still the same garbage team after paying Melo, Brian Shaw has made a mess with the Denver Nuggets and the Sacramento Kings set a NBA record for losing consecutive games in which they were up 18+ points after the first quarter.  With that said how about we get on with some picks.

On Saturday night we have a big 10 game slate:

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