Let’s get one thing straight from the jump — until the Sacramento Kings actually conclude the year with a top-6 record (or top-10, if you must) and qualify for the Playoffs in the Western Conference, there is reason to be suspicious that this is finally their year. Yes, at 27-19 they’re currently the number three team in the West, the leader of the Pacific Division, and the winningest team in California. And yes, their overall net rating of +2.7 is good enough for seventh in the NBA, ahead of recent Finals participants like the Bucks, Suns, and Warriors. But these are still the Sacramento Kings, right? Owners of the longest playoff drought in basketball (16 years and counting) and the franchise most closely associated with mismanagement, bad ideas, and poor execution. Dysfunction has been living in the capital city for a long time, and the legacy of failure cannot be overlooked until absolutely proven otherwise. Skepticism, a necessary body armor for long-suffering fans, is warranted and advisable. All that said, there’s also reason to believe the worm has finally turned. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Happy New Year, friends! I hope there have been some days of rest and rejuvenation for you as we turn the calendar over and start anew. Considering the tardiness of this post, it might be obvious that I was successful in unplugging and getting away from the tyranny of my computer for a bit. What have I been doing with that blissful time of solitude? Thinking about the Utah Jazz, mostly. 

2022 has been a weird one for Utah. During this time, an era of sustained success ended. Quin Synder got the boot, stars were shopped and shipped, Danny Ainge came home. Following these significant steps of a teardown, a bonafide firesale wasn’t just expected, it seemed imminent. The 2022-23 season of Jazz basketball, conventional thinking went, wouldn’t amount to much more than a long, slow, painful march toward ping pong balls the promise of Victor Wembanyama. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

In this life, do-overs are rare. The opportunity to go back and change the mistakes of the past is reserved for science fiction plots or melancholy discussions over a pint in dimly-lit watering holes. But over this last week, I was presented with an opportunity to do just that – to go back with the knowledge of hindsight and fix where I failed, to atone, to set things right. I had screwed up once and now I was gifted a second chance. Please, I told myself, don’t blow it again. 

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After a much-discussed rough week watching the Timberwolves, we’re changing speeds a bit this time around and taking a look at a team that’s actually moving in the right direction. At 16-10, the Denver Nuggets currently sit in third place out West, trailing the top-seeded Pelicans by just two games. Despite a slow pace, Denver is home to a top-four offense in basketball (and a bottom-five defense), the NBA’s second-best eFG%, and the reigning two-time MVP. Let’s start with him.

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You can’t win a championship at the beginning of a season, but you can lose one. Much as it pains me to say, I think I’ve already lost.

After a successful Writer’s League last year that ended against Kostas in the semifinal and a pretty intensive offseason of thinking about hoops, I came into this year’s draft feeling like I was in decent shape to post a good showing again. But this year ain’t last year. Stats and success don’t carry over, and if you’re resting on laurels rather than applying lessons learned, there’s no way to bank Ws on account of “experience.” If you’ve been following Kelder’s weekly recaps, you might have noticed that my team isn’t anywhere in the mix. Indeed, you’ve got to scroll almost the way to the bottom of the table to see my name. A record of 19-34-1 is good enough for 11th and I feel all but certain the hole that I’ve put myself in is going to be too deep to recover from. I’m not quite ready to quit on some other struggling squads, but I think it’s safe to let go of preseason expectations at this point and set a different goal for the remaining three-quarters of the season here in the Writer’s League.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The week begins with a container ship in the old windows, its long red belly splitting the gray vault of sky from the mirror gray of lake. Flakes fell a day or two later, a dusting, a sign of things to come. A day after that, the sun and wind wipe the dry snow from the concrete into the grass. Overnight on Friday, a second ship, this one white, appears in the same window. I’m two years late to winterizing, but this year will be different, I think, as I squeeze out lines of caulk along the sill. We’ve passed a significant, severe line up here. Winter has arrived irrevocably and my mind, perhaps now finally falling into the rhythms of this place, sets in on ideas like patience and endurance. It’s the slow season up here, perhaps slowest of all for that red ship lingering in the bay. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I really do hate to admit this, but it sure looks like these Atlanta Hawks got my ass again. 

Two seasons ago, wigged out about the pandemic and in the midst of a cross-country move, I volunteered to write for Razzball hoops and agreed to participate in the RazzJam. A true noob, I spent two of my first four picks on Trae Young and John Collins and then spent the winter watching that team be ground into dust and a bottom-20 finish. Never again, I told myself. 

After confusing “never” with “just take a year off,” I once again find myself rostering Young (on another struggling RazzJam team) and Collins and living in a world of hurt. Blinded by the value of threes, points, assists, and elite free throws, I was snagging Trae at the end of the first round with an amnesia patient’s enthusiasm. Collins I was more disciplined about, passing on him in the middle rounds most of the time, but I still bought in during a 30-team dynasty start-up where I now have the privilege of rostering him for at least three years.

The season is still young, no doubt, but it’s not baby-fresh anymore. After 13 games, Collins is treading water as the 52nd-best player in 9-cat while Trae and his grotesque shooting percentage are languishing at 67th. 

Yes, my people, these Hawks got another one over on me, at least for now. But will it last? 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

One week after writing a piece about the fantasy fallout of Joshua Primo’s dismissal from the Spurs, I am back on the bad behavior beat. This week’s contestants, as you may have guessed, are the Brooklyn Nets. In an attempt to get ahead, I’ve consulted my Tarot cards to get a jump on next week’s piece and see the Charlotte Hornets coming down the pipe. NBA action, it’s not full of hypocrisy, double standards, and compromising morality in pursuit of competitive and monetary success – it’s actually fantastic! 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I almost never know what I’m going to be writing about week to week. Not exactly a planner, my process – if it can even be called that – consists of watching a lot of basketball and tapping notes into my phone. When the weekend comes, I look back through the scribblings and begin to flesh things out. 

The San Antonio Spurs, with their top-10 offense, a surprising 4-2 (now 5-2) record, and six top-150 fantasy players were well-represented in my collection of stray thoughts. The fact that I’m rostering Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Tre Jones, Zach Collins, and Jeremy Sochan across a variety of leagues this season also didn’t hurt. As of last Thursday, I was prepared to do a write-up about the goings on in Alamo City. Then the bomb dropped on Friday night. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Welcome back indeed! Draft season is okay, but it feels so good to have basketball back. Roster speculation and divination is no substitute for actual games and real rotations. Considering all my fretting about what to do with Centers, it should come as no surprise that I’ve still got my eye on how some of these uncertain situations are coming together in this first column of the season. Granted, it has only been a week, but some telling decisions have been made now that we’re off and running. Eventually I’ll give some love to guards and forwards, but for now I’m hung up on the big guys. Here’s what’s caught my eye thus far. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I guess when it comes down to it, I’m just a sucker for a comeback story. Call it homerism, or a Great Lakes bias, or Stockholm syndrome — it doesn’t much matter to me — because I am here for the redevelopment plans that are starting to come together in the Central division. The Bucks provided the blueprint: Invest heavily in your own (Giannis, Middleton) and then bring in outside help (hello, Jrue!) to get you over the top. After breaking through in a big way last year with their own in-house Big Two of Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, the Cleveland Cavaliers seized on New York’s hesitation and snatched an in-his-prime All-Star guard to help them get where they want to go. The cost of doing business was steep in both cases — the Cavs only have one future first-round pick from now until 2030 — but that’s what it takes to trade for a player as good as Donovan Mitchell. Spida arrives in Believeland carrying 25 points per game, and while there will be an adjustment period as the usage rates find their new levels, his presence makes it all the more challenging not to take Cleveland seriously in a fiercely competitive Eastern Conference. There’s still a hole on the wing and the depth is a bit shaky, but the youth of the core four puts the Cavs in a position of strength for years to come as they try to replicate the Milwaukee Miracle on the shores of Lake Erie.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Does anyone remember Zion Williamson? Strange as it sounds, he still exists most clearly in my mind as a cannonball at Cameron Indoor. Basketball Reference tells us that there have indeed been three professional seasons for Zion, but none of them have been able to dislodge the image of him in the clean white and blue from my mind, youthful explosiveness so undeniable that the shoes on his feet crumble when he steps. Teenage Zion made quite an impression.

Please, blog, may I have some more?