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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Congratulations to Dirk Nowitzki. He passed Shaquille O’Neal for number 6 on the all-time NBA scoring list.

While Kobe Bryant gains the headlines in his last season, Dirk and Tim Duncan have quietly shown how to adapt their game for the team’s sake, taking less money and adding more wins to their already impressive résumés.

At 37, Dirk isn’t the same fantasy monster that he used to be, but is still valuable. He’s scored 20+ points in three straight games and so far has posted better overall numbers than last season. His game is much different than Kobe’s, with much less wear and tear on his body, allowing him to remain relatively healthy later in his career. Personally, I don’t see any reason why Dirk has to tie the sneakers up anytime soon.

In addition to passing Shaqtus, Dirk hit the game winner in the Mavericks’ overtime win over the Nets. He finished with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Not bad for a 37-year-old.

Overtime basketball is free basketball and it usually means great stat lines for everyone involved:

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Early in the day on Wednesday, Major League Baseball announced that All-Star Todd Frazier was traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a seven-player trade. Wait, I thought this was a basketball blog! Well, one of those guys involved in the trade was Trayce Thompson. Not quite a Splash Brother, but the biological brother of the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson and former NBA player, Mychel Thompson, who now plays in Italy.

As brothers, it’s pretty common to be competitive with each other. We may not be on as big of a stage as the Thompson brothers, but my older brother and I make almost everything a competition between each other, whether it’s games of one-on-one, 10-mile races, or Settlers of Catan.

While Trayce was gaining popularity as a new member of the Dodgers in California, Klay went off for 27 points in the 3rd on his way to a game high 43 points (15-22 FG, 8-13 3PT). It must be a happy time for the Thompson family!

Coming off their first loss of the season, the Warriors blew out the Suns by 25, leading by 40 after the 3rd quarter.

With the game in hand, Thompson, Draymond Green, and Stephen Curry weren’t even needed in the 4th quarter. That was enough minutes for Green to go for a triple double (16/11/10/5) and Curry to drop 25 points and 7 assists. So much for feeling sad about their first loss.

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Woooooooooooo!  I don’t need to say much more than that, other than what about this weather here on the East Coast over the weekend?!  I got friggin’ sunburnt!  At a football game in mid-December!

While we continue to watch history for the Panthers franchise, we witnessed history come to an end Saturday night, with the Warriors losing at Milwaukee to move to 24-1.  Those fans wearing the 24-1 shirts were ballsy!

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Most of them don’t look like they have undershirts, they would be pretty stupid-looking if they lost!  Now I’m no fan of the Warriors (look at their paltry .960 win % vs. my Panthers 1.000! – and I don’t mean that to sound like I’m not a fan, I don’t really have a big home-team fandom), so during this whole streak and its impact on real-life NBA, I’ve been more obsessed with the fantasy stuff.  Ya know, Stephen Curry‘s 3s and Draymond Green being a PF deity.  In that 2OT triller against the Celtics, DrayDray went 24/11/8/5/5 in just an epic 2.5 rainbow performance.  Approached a triple-rainbow!  According to Rotoworld (a site that’s awesome for being able to pull research in the history books vs. my lack of even properly communicating which team won a game sometimes…), first 5×5 since Nicolas Batum in 2012 and only the third player to go 20/10 + 5×5 in the past 40 years after Hakeem the Dream and Derrick the Knee.  I’m a little jaded with DC since I used to be a big Hornets fan the first time around, and he was terrible and fat.  Then hurt his knee (yet again!) on that dumb Pros vs. Joes show (hilarious though!  hurting it against average joes!), but sadly I could only find the promo.  Anyway, #OccupyDraymondGreen has pulled yet another article-lead with his multi-cat game, and didn’t even come down too hard in the Saturday loss for 24/11/5/1/1, given a fluky 6 TO.  At 13.9/8./7.0 and still improving every season, maybe he can go full Oscar Robinson and give us a season of the O face.  Speaking of Os, 13-0!!!!!!!!!!!  Man, what a weekend…  Here’s what else went down in fantasy hoops action, plus The 7 Ahead for week 8:

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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:

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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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Shortly before the tip of the Grizzlies’ game in New Orleans on Tuesday night, Memphis beat writer Ronald Tillery reported that coach Dave Joerger “desperately wants to reduce Marc Gasol‘s minutes.” Coming into the game, MG had averaged in excess of 38 MPG over his last five contests – a number that is, by all accounts, quite high for a true big man in today’s National Basketball Association. Fantasy owners of Gasol were probably watching Tuesday’s game to see how Joerger would adjust his rotations to get the prized center some more rest. What did they witness? (I’m so glad you asked…)

Marc Gasol played 42 minutes of other-worldly basketball, posting 38/13/6/0/4. If that wasn’t enough, he shot an even 50% from the field on 22 attempts and was flawless from the FT line on 16 (!!!) tries. Yep, sixteen for sixteen.  He was the only Grizzlies starter with a positive rating (+8) on the night and his team won the game, which goes to show you just how instrumental Gasol was in this one.

(As an aside – perhaps Tillery heard coach Joerger wrong and he said he desperately wanted to reduce everyone but Gasol’s minutes? No other Memphis starter played more than 31. Go figure.)

This is your ultimate sell-high moment on the younger of the two Gasols. If you can score a top-25 asset in return, I think you pretty much have to do it. In trade negotiations you can point to the high minutes, the nice boards & blocks numbers, and the sweet out-of-position dimes. That is, unless you are a believer that Marc can withstand this kind of workload over the course of an 82-game season. I’m never one to predict injuries, but wear & tear is a very real thing, and when you’re dealing with a 7’1″, 265lb monster of a man on the wrong side of 30, miles add up quickly.

I’d be interested to know where Gasol’s owners stand after this one. Are they looking to sell? Or are they going to ride him all the way to the edge of the cliff? (Chime in below via the comments section if you have a buy/sell/hold take.)

Let’s take a look at what else shook down on Tuesday night with 12 teams in action…

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Welcome back from Thanksgiving!  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, with leftovers still to spare to get you through a full work-week back.  I even bought a few extra boxes of stuffing since that ran out fast on T-giv day!  Got two or three meals left to go…  God I love Thanksgiving!

And while I added several inches to my waistline, Draymond Green has been stuffing his stats even more!  Back-to-back tripdubs over the weekend for #OccupyDraymondGreen, going 14/10/10/1/2 then 13/11/12/1/4 on Friday and Saturday.  The multi-cat phenom hit two treys as well on Friday – averaging a career-best 1.6 3PTM a game on the season – while his FG% has continued to climb all four seasons as a pro, up to 48.2% this year.  It’s almost like the Warriors have good players or something!  The only knock is his TO are up, but even in standard 9-cat he’s bringing back top-15 value on BBMonster and top-10 on Yahoo.  I remain a little incredulous that a lot of people thought 2014-15 was a fluke (I guess?), and I had to defend a “high” rank a few times in the comments.  So after this Thanksgiving weekend, I am thankful Dray is helping our Yahoo F&F team be decent this year and that rank is working out…  Because trust me, a lot has gone wrong.  Friggin’ Rubio…  Here’s what else went down over the weekend in fantasy hoops, plus The 7 Ahead for week 6:

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Wow, how good is Russell Westbrook? Two nights after dropping 40 points and 14 assists against the Grizzlies, Westbrook scored 43 points, 8 assists, and 9 rebounds on Wednesday. The Thunder controlled the game, but never really put the game out of reach for the injury-riddled Pelicans. Whenever the Thunder needed a basket, Westbrook had no problem getting to the hoop or finding the open man. My only knock on Westbrook’s game is the turnovers, but when you’re posting near triple doubles every night, you’re allowed to turn the ball over as much as he does.

Now his stats are inflated a little because Kevin Durant has been sitting with a hamstring injury, but Westbrook is still a top 10 talent even with Durant in the lineup. Should Durant leave the Thunder next season (to go to, say, the Wizards!!!), Westbrook would enter my top three, along with Steph Curry and Anthony Davis.

Now onto the other notables from Wednesday night:

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