It’s been just over a week since a friend of mine pointed me toward the Kevin Durant/Michael Rapaport beef that had bubbled up on social media. At the time, I somewhat gleefully read through their back and forth until I felt my emotions start to turn. KD, from all the stories I’ve heard and books that I’ve read, does not strike me as a happy man. The texts he sent to Rapaport support this. Then I saw the follow-up video that Rapaport put out that provide additional context for his spicy IG chat with Durant and I felt even worse. KD might be unhappy, but Rapaport strikes me as something far more distasteful than the aloof ennui of the unfathomably talented. After eating my fill of online garbage, I sent the following text to my buddy:

I wish I could get that time back. 

I can’t, obviously. None of us can. But what we can do is make up for the time lost, and Durant did just that in his return to NBA action on Wednesday night. All told, the Nets played 23 games since KD was last in uniform, but you wouldn’t have known that by watching him.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

It’s about that time again, isn’t it? The trade deadline has come and gone, the sun is starting to peek out with some regularity, and teams who have had long, dark, unsuccessful winters are beginning to look ahead to a little summer vacay. Even with the expanded playoff format for this season, there are still a handful of teams that are done. We haven’t gotten to “Cancun on three” yet, but if you’re in Orlando or Oklahoma City you can start thinking about it. 

For this week’s Hangin’, I looked at a couple of these lost causes and the opportunities for fantasy help that exist there. It’s not an exhaustive list, but all of the teams featured are 12th or worse in their conference and have gestured toward giving up. But just because they’re done with the year does not mean that the year is done with them. Every game needs to have 240 minutes of statistics accounted for, and we’re in the interest of compiling numbers. 

This is a bigger one, so let’s get to it. 

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How about some love for the underdog?

These daily recaps, especially on nights with a lot of games, often demand focusing on one of two players per team that had good nights. Most of the time we’re looking at star players doing what they do. It’s tough for a role player to get a write-up, and it’s even tougher for those end of the bench guys to get any ink.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to…

Alize Johnson

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
23 15 3 2 0 0 11/15 1/1 1

Johnson signed a 10-day contract with Brooklyn on Sunday and had himself a debut on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City. A G-League monster who averaged 16 points and 13 boards in this season’s bubble, Johnson stepped up for a Nets squad that was without Durant, Irving, and Harden while playing the second night of a back-to-back against the best team in the West. If you watched the highlights, you noticed that this game was O-V-E-R pretty much from the jump. Johnson was doing major mop up work and will be facing an uphill battle for PT going forward. He’s not an add by any stretch, but I’ve got no problem highlighting him to celebrate his big night. Raise a glass to my man. He earned it.

Here’s what else caught my eye on a busy night of basketball…

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Last Friday I participated in my first fantasy baseball draft, which is the informal cue that we’re beginning to come down the home stretch for this fantasy basketball season. Depending on your league settings, we’re roughly a month out before the fantasy playoffs and the silly season of DNPs, phantom injuries, and more overt tanking tactics. 

To combat the non-competitive play that plagues spring basketball, the NBA has expanded the playoff format this year to incorporate the 9- and 10-place teams in each conference, making the line between buyers and sellers ahead of the March 25 trade deadline harder to see than in seasons past. Trade targets both IRL and fantasy will be hot topics in the coming days, so I decided to see if I could parse what the future holds for the Chicago Bulls, who are currently in 9th place out East and have held my fascination for the last few weeks. 

Currently sitting at 17-20, Chicago will have to hold off the 17-21 Pacers and the 17-22 Raptors if they’re going to return to postseason play for the first time since the Jimmy Butler era. Without a 2021 first round pick and contract decisions to make, I find the Bulls intriguing and genuinely don’t have much of a clue about how they’ll proceed. I’ll give away the game early and say that I don’t have any answers and my crystal ball is on the fritz. What follows is simply a consideration of the pieces that could be in play in the coming weeks. 

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I had the good fortune of playing on some pretty good basketball teams in my youth. Well, good fortune in the sense that I was on teams that won a bunch of games and had the best seat in the house at the end of the bench. The two high school classes ahead of mine were absolutely loaded, creating a bottleneck of talent and pushing varsity-caliber players down to a JV squad that churned through overmatched programs over and over again. Winning by 15+ and then getting an earful about how poorly we played the next day in practice was a pretty routine occurrence. I’m not sure we lost more than three games over the course of two years.

What Jonas Valanciunas did to the Wizards reminded of these glory days, as JV was absolutely dominant against a frontcourt that didn’t have anything resembling an answer for the Memphis big man. Jonas is a load in the paint, and if you don’t have a big body to throw at him, the results can be Just Vicious.

Jonas Valanciuias 

PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 3PM FG FT
29 20 3 0 4 2 0 12/21 5/7

JV feasted on Washington’s undersized group. Moritz Wagner could only hang for 21 minutes with him before collecting six fouls. Davis Bertans racked up five fouls in 20 minutes. Robin Lopez fared better than those other two, but Scott Brooks eventually had to turn to his fourth big, Alex Len, for a couple of minutes in search of relief from the abuse. This is the second time Valanciunas has posted a 20+  points and 20+ rebounds line this year. Skilled and huge, he abuses teams that don’t have an ogre of their own to throw at him. With only two games on the slate, there was nowhere to hide JV’s dominance.

Here’s what else I saw on slow Wednesday in the NBA:

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If you’re looking for intro material, check out yesterday’s post regarding the Eastern Conference All-Star team. If click and reading isn’t your thing, here’s a quick refresher:

The task was to assemble a 12-man ballot comprised of 3 Guards, 3 Forwards, 2 Centers, and 4 Flex positions with 9-category scoring (points, boards, dimes, steals, swats, turnovers, three-pointers made, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage) in mind. Votes were cast and write-ups were, uh, written up by the Razzball basketball staff.

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Flashback, if you will, to about three weeks ago — it was colder, snowier, and darker then, I’m sure you remember it — when I reached out to Son with an idea.

Mr. Hooper: I’ve got three words for you, Son: the 2020-2021 Razzball Writers Fantasy Basketball All-Star Team. We’ve got some sharp players in this corner of the Razzverse. Why don’t we poll the writers and have them submit ballots? We can tally the votes, form our own super team, and then present our readers with a fantasy basketball All-Star team from each conference. It will be great!

Son: That’s a lot more than three words, Hoop, but as long as you do the polling and tabulating and writing, I won’t stop you.

How do you not love a guy like that? Such inspiring stuff. Flashforward past doing some research and a half dozen emails about Google Forms and then a few more about Google Sheets, and poof! We’ve got a couple of All-Star teams for you to enjoy/critique/grouse about.

Before we do the big reveal, a few notes about what exactly we’ve done here. The task was to fill out a 12-man ballot for each conference that has: 3 Guards, 3 Forwards, 2 Centers, and 4 Flex positions. It’s also important to keep in mind that we were using 9-category scoring (points, boards, dimes, steals, swats, turnovers, three-pointers made, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage) when punching our ballots. Because it was a collaborative effort to construct each team, I also enlisted my fellow writers to share their thoughts about their favorite All-Stars.

Observant readers will notice that we ended up with more than 12 Eastern Conference All-Stars. It turns out the Leastern Conference is actually pretty stacked (check out Keith’s piece exploring the why) and when it came to the final two flex spots we found ourselves with a five-way tie. Because this is a for-fun exercise and I didn’t have the foresight to create a tie-breaker, we decided to expand the bench and bring all our favorites on board (plus we needed to find a way to get Julius Randle onto this team so Vas could cook.) In this case, asterisks are not scarlet letters for PED users, but signifiers that the player listed was part of that five-way deadlock.

Without further ado, Razzball readers, here are your Eastern Conference Fantasy All-Stars!

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In some ways, I have sympathy for what happened to the Celtics last night. After all, who among us hasn’t done the groggy barter with the alarm clock in the morning and hit the snooze button? Five more minutes, we tell ourselves, just a bit longer and then I’m getting up. Sometimes it’s fine — the bonus z’s make you feel better and you leisurely arrive at your morning rested and ready to go — and sometimes you really needed to get out of bed on time.

Roosters, nature’s alarm clock, have no snooze button. When it’s time to go to work, they’re going to let you know about it. Last night, the NBA’s Rooster crowed loudly and emphatically, but the Celtics slept right through it.

Danilo Gallinari

PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 3PT FG FT
38 6 2 2 0 4 10 13/16 2/21

Unable to get up for their game against Atlanta, the C’s instead found themselves in waking nightmare featuring a 6’10” gamecock that also happened to be absolutely on fire. While the guys in green were rubbing sleep out of their eyes, Gallo canned the wide open triples. By the time Boston had put their slippers on and started closing out to him, Danilo had extended his range out to the logo. All told, Gallinari hit seven first half threes. The bonus three balls in the second stanza were his way of tucking Boston back into bed. Buona notte!

Sleep on the Rooster at your own peril.

Here’s what else happened on a busy Wednesday in the NBA:

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Pretty big Monday for Pistons and ex-Pistons, eh? In case you missed it, news broke yesterday that current-Piston big man Blake Griffin and former-Piston big man Andre Drummond have both been taken out of the rotation for their respective NBA teams, marched out to the frozen beach, and forced onto the icebergs that are slowly but surely winning the war against Lake Eire. 

Figuratively speaking, of course.

Both the Cavs and the Pistons are exploring the trade market for their big men, and neither will play until a deal is struck and new homes are found. Stuck in a Great Lakes limbo, Blake and Andre will have no choice but to wait it out until they’re liberated from their winter wastelands. The trade deadline is about a month away but hopefully, arrangements will be made well before the buzzer. Drummond has slipped a touch from last year, but he’s still a valuable and productive player. It would be a pity to watch him wither on the vine.

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There’s an argument to made for LaVine or Giannis being the lede tonight (spoiler alert: 40 burgers ahead), but I’m going a different direction in my first ever recap. Karl-Anthony Towns returned to an NBA court last night against the Clippers following his bout with Covid. It’s just the fifth game he’s played this season, and while the line is hardly a stunner by KAT standards, it’s just really good to see this dude back on the floor. The impact that the pandemic has had on his family is well documented, so on a human level, it’s wonderful news that he’s back on his feet. Fantasy players will be rejoicing too, as replacing the sheer volume of goodies KAT provides has been a tall order.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 3PT FG FT
18 10 3 1 0 3 2 8/15 0/0

He played 31 minutes tonight, which should quiet some concerns about conditioning. Whatever. He’s here. Welcome back, KAT!

Here’s what else I saw from last night’s action…

Please, blog, may I have some more?