[Hits play on The Zombies classic hit song … “boom boom boom, buh-kah AHH …”] It’s the time of the Eason [““boom boom boom, buh-kah AHH”] …

Tari Eason gave his believers reason to celebrate with a second-straight 14-rebound night, adding a career high 25 points (10-16 FG, 3-4 3PT, 2-4 FT) and singles in the dimes, steals and blocks categories, in 27 minutes off the bench. And in the post-game interview he dropped this beauty: “He (Ime Udoka) is a dog. We got dogs. Coaches are dogs, all the players are dogs. I’m a dog. That’s just what it is.” 

Replace “dogs” with “dudes” and you have a hit 90s Nickelodeon sketch. But that’s not the point. The point is that Tari Eason has been the Rocket’s best player for two games straight. To be fair [“To Be Faaaaiiiirrrr” – been binging Letterkenny hard lately] it’s been against a couple bottom feeders. 

Eason finished the game in place of Alperen Sengun, which isn’t anything to get used to … I don’t think. Jabari Smith Jr. and Jae-sean Tate have been too solid for Eason to take away too many minutes. But  Eason is also too good a fit for this rotation to not get at least 25 minutes a game – getting run as a small ball center, as happened Wednesday night, certainly will help make that a reality – and can easily settle into a Top 100-120 ranking if so. 

Rolling right along to an solid NBA slate Wednesday night with a new major eyebrow raises in certain parts of The Association

Houston Rocket 117, Memphis Grizzlies 104

Tari stole the show, but Smith Jr. was just as good with a 20-10-1-1-1 line with efficiency (7-10 FG, 3-5 3PT, 3-6 FT). Watching the two 2022 1st round picks in the lineup together sure is fun. Given how much small ball is being played in the NBA, perhaps a slight worry about Sengun, who’s seeing a dip in usage over the last four games. Nothing to panic about, but he may be headed more toward his season floor than ceiling – which is still pretty dang good. 

I guess Jaren Jackson Jr. didn’t want to wait for Ja to return before smashing through any conceived early season struggles he was having. Triple J was a beast with 44 points (15-24 FG, 3-8 3PT, 11-13 FT), 7 boards, 2 assists, 4 steals and a block. The last two weeks he’s returned back to the decorative hallways of knocking on the door of first round status. Desmond Bane took the night off, so Derrick Rose decided to go vintage with a 19-4-6 line in 31 minutes – but the minutes aren’t consistent enough to rely on him for a short-term streamer while we wait for Morant. 

New Orleans Pelicans 142, Washington Wizards 122

Speaking of feasting on bottom feeders, Trey Murphy went off for 27 points (7-10 FG, 6-7 3PT, 7-8 FT), 6 boards, 4 dimes, two steals and a block against the un-magical Wizards – including a hilariously huge +42. I had my worries about Murphy’s injury, but he seems juuuuust fiiineee. Zion took a break last night – hopefully to do some sit ups – and when all Pelicans are healthy, we may have a “too many mouths to feed” issue here. The Hawkins/Daniels runs are kaput. Herb Jones (6-2-1-2-0 in 20 minutes) could be the odd man out, but his defense seems too important for that to be true. And Naji Marshall (16-4-7 with 2 steals) has been solid enough this season to retain a 20+ minute role. Regardless, Murphy is damn good. I don’t place him far behind Brandon Ingram (who posted a 40 burger on 14-of-23 shooting), and it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s NO’s best player come end of the season.

From hot takes to cold shooters: Just a moment of silence for anyone battling the dark end of the Jordan Poole (11-1-4-2-1; 5-12 FG) this season. … Now onto the weekly check of mediocrity: 13-5-7 for Deni Avdija, 2-8 from the field. Splendid.

Milwaukee Bucks 140, Indiana Pacers 126

A career and franchise record 64 point (20-28 FG, 0-3 3PT, 24-32 FT!) for Giannis Antetokounmpo, a story that had to share headlines with “Game Ball Gate” that followed a scrappy game [“With so much drama in the NBA…”]. That all overshadowed Khris Middleton’s second solid outing in three games, posting 14 points (6-11 FG, 1-3 3PT, 1-1 FT), 9 boards, 7 assists and a steal in 29 minutes. He did that with just a 16.3 usage and continues to trend in the right direction. 

A solid zero-double line of 9-8-9 for Bruce Brown, who added 2 steals, topping the crop of role players for Indiana this game, which surely will change the next game.

Toronto Raptors 135, Atlanta Hawks 128

The Raptors’ starting 5 all balled. Jakob Poeltl broke out of a mini slump with 15-13-6 and 3 blocks, and the OG Anunoby comeback tour rolled on with 22-5-3 (10-13 FG, 2-5 3PT) and a steal. He’s ranked No. 41 in 9-cat over the last two weeks, and the steals haven’t totally returned, yet. 

Things are happening! We got 4th quarter minutes with Clint Capella (17-10-1 and 3 blocks) and Onyeka Okongwu (13-8-1 and 2 blocks) sharing the floor. Double-O 17 played a season high 30 minutes and camped in the outskirts a bit on offense, finishing 3-of-5 from deep. This may have just been a wild hare for Quin Snyder to try in a comeback attempt, but the initial results were intriguing at a minimum – at least while Jalen Johnson is out. If OO was dropped, you know what to do.

Gotta mention the 25-point, 17-assist game by Trae Young, who flung four rockets in from the logo. 

Los Angeles Lakers 122, San Antonio Spurs 119

LeBron took a breather from his emotional in-season tourney championship run, so Anthony Davis feasted on the young Spurs to the tune of 27 points (13-23 FG, 2-3 3PT, 9-12 FT), 10 boards, a dime and 4 steals. But no blocks? Lame. Going to choose my words softly here as to not jinx all us fine Brow owners: He’s missed just one game this season, and that’s all I got to say about that.

Cam Reddish snagged 3 steals along with a block and a 10-2-3 line. The thefts have been absent since returning from injury, but he should return to steals streamer status in no time. 

Victor Wembanyama was flat out awesome: 30 points (11-21 FG, 4-5 3PT, 4-7 FT), 13 boards, 2 assists, 3 steals and 6(!) blocks – making Son look super-duper smart for snagging him at pick 14 in the running mid-season draft [see Joel Pod].. The move to center has paid early dividends; on the flip side, it has made Zach Collins (10-2-0 in 19 minutes) droppable in 12-team and iffy for 14-team. We know at this point to not trust Pop’s rotations, but Malaki Branham is getting enough minutes as the starting point guard to take notice. He posted 19 points, 3 boards and a steal. Yeah, tough to get excited about a starting point guard who couldn’t get an assist in 28 minutes. But, the minutes are there to at least monitor. 

Miami Heat 115, Charlotte Hornets 104

I guess we [the royal we] got a little too hot-to-trot about Orlando Robinson, who started again in Bam’s absence, but was allowed just 12 minutes. Thomas Bryant posted 11 points and 9 boards in 16 minutes, and Kevin Love (3-8-1-2-1) retained some center minutes. 

Still at a loss about what happens with the Heat role players when Tyler Herro returns. At the moment, Duncan Robinson (23-2-3 with 2 steals, 6-9 3PT) seems to have the strongest of the roles and is playing well. But Jaime Jaquez Jr continues to play great, and steered the ship in the 4th quarter to seal the game in this one, finishing with 17-6-8 and a steal. I’d be willing to make a move for him in deeper leagues where an owner could be spooked about Herro’s return gobbling up JJJ’s game.

Big Nick Richards with 10 boards and 4 blocks in another fill-in game for injured Mark Williams. PJ Washington went out after 3 minutes with a shoulder injury, which just adds to the run of the starters. 

Utah Jazz 117, New York Knicks 113

Lauri Markkanen returned (23 and 8 with 4 threes), but Keyonte George went down 4 minutes into the game with a foot injury and is set for an MRI today. He hobbled off the court on his own, so hopefully not too serious. Colin Sexton feasted on offense (26-4-7) in 30 minutes. Talen Horton-Tucker was his usual meh in 24 minutes (15-4-3). But, an eyebrow raise for Kris Dunn’s production in just 17 minutes: 10 points (4-4 FG, 2-2 FT), 2 boards, 7 assists and a steal. If George misses time, you’d think this would be a perfect time to showcase Dunn for the upcoming trade season. You would think. 

Taylor Hendricks got 20 minutes of run (5-4-1-2-1) with John Collins still out, as Hendricks ramps up for a 2nd half tankathon rookie run to fantasy relevance. 

Jericho Sims started his second game in a row, with little to show in 18 minutes, and Isaiah Haartenstein (7-6 and 2 blocks; meh) remains the big to own with Robinson out.

It was Donte DiVeincenzo’s night to get hot for the Knickerbockers, posting 21 points (6-13 FG, 4-9 3PT, 5-7 FT), 7 boards, an assist and 4 steals. We know from his run with GSW last year that Double-D can be fantasy relevant. But we also know there’s little trust in any Knicks guard this season – other than Brunson, of course – to offer even a schmeckle of consistency. 

Philadelphia 76ers 129, Detroit Pistons 111

Tobias Harris presented his first positive-Value game in nearly a month, taking advantage of the lowly Pistons for 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting (3-5 3PT), 7 boards, an assists and rare block. Minutes were spread out in this blowout for Philly. 

[Deep sigh] On to the Pissertons. Killian Hayes (6-3-6; 3-8 FG in 32 minutes) and Jaden Ivey (7–2-1; 2-8 FG in 21 minutes) both sucked. As did Isaiah Livers, but played 27 minutes. At least Ausar Thompson’s obscure time-out from the starting lineup is over. He posted 10-8-3 and a steal in 30 minutes – where’d the Ausar stocks go?!

Brooklyn Nets 116, Phoenix Suns 112

Two blocks and steals each for Cam Johnson, adding 15 points (5-10 FG, 3-7 3PT, 2-2 FT), 5 boards and 4 assists. Can he get back to sniffing the Top 50? I think he can.

I wish I had good news for Bradley Beal (14-1-4 and a steal; 14.4 usage) owners. One game, but a concerning amount of usage in a game missing Eric Gordon and Greyson Allen. Devin Booker continued to cook (34-6-12) and Nassir Little played a season high 27 minutes with Josh Okogie also sitting, contributing 10-7-3 with 2 threes off the bench. Nas can be a solid 14-team guy with 20+ minutes and is one to monitor.