It was tough to enjoy watching my Ducks eek out the Holiday Bowl Wednesday because every commercial break was chock full of warnings about shingles. I have never known anyone in my life getting shingles, and after that I’m convinced all of us are getting it next year. 

On Friday night, however, Minnesota had to deal with a case of the non-viral irritation known as Ingles: Joe Ingles. [Wow, Phil, way to send off 2022 with the oddest lede/transition yet.] In his sixth game back from injury, Ingles played a season-high 25 minutes and banked 14 points (5-9 FG, 4-7 3pt), 5 boards and 10 assists, and was a major factor for the Bucks in the second half, as Milwaukee pulled away from Minnesota in a 123-114 win. Ingles probably won’t garner enough minutes when Jrue Holiday and Middleton play, but is worth adding to the streamer board as needed. 

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I was prepared to lead this Friday Night Recap with a fancy take on Aaron Gordon, but King James had other plans. With Anthony Davis sitting the second half with a bum foot in the Lakers-Nuggets game, Denver had a double-digit third quarter lead and were cruising to a road win. Then LeBron James stepped into the center spot and ran circles around Nikola Jokic and friends, finishing with 30 points (13-20 FG, 1-4 3pt, 3-4 FT), 9 boards, 4 dimes and 2 steals along with a +26 in the 126-108 victory.

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I’ve always had the need for speed. Since I was able to reach the pedals, my legs always pushed them to the metal. Video games helped to refine my urges, as the experience of playing countless other driving games gave me the experience and instincts to anticipate potential hazards while identifying slivers of space to maneuver through. For you New Yorkers, I used to pick up a buddy on the Jersey side of the GW bridge then see how fast I could make it to the east side of Manhattan. Sure, that was driving on expert mode, and we should’ve died more than a few times, but we always escaped unscathed. Oh, what a thrill. The same emotion is elicited when I watch the fantasy points rack up for Joel Embiid this season. He’s scored at least 30 points 11 times this season with three over 40 and a high of 59. On Sunday, he did this:

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Following back-to-back years of Top 40 production, Terry Rozier has disappointed so far this season, mainly due to some rookie-level percentages (in fact, his worst percentages since his rookie season as it stands). But he’s just a hot shooting streak away from producing as owners have become accustomed to, and on Friday he helped the Hornets edge the Wizards 117-116. Rozier scored 25 points on 8-of-21 shooting, 2-of-5 from deep, with 5 boards, 8 assists, 2 steals and a season-low zero turnovers. Charlotte has been paying the doctor’s new vacation home so far this season, and Rozier’s percentages should benefit whenever (if ever) LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward return. For the time being, the assists are up along with his usage rate, and he’s a great buy target, especially for those punting the FG% category.

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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? 

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The path should be crystal clear now for your squad. If not, then it may be time to order those seppuku knives on Amazon. Don’t forget the sharpener. I kid, I kid. Drafts are fluid so pivoting and changing lanes are always within the range of outcomes, especially when there are snipers and ADP jumpers to your left, to your left, to your left. Then you have all those heathens to your right. This is why we must always adhere to the wise and venerable Bruce Lee:

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There were quite a few players who exploded for big performances on Friday, but Obi Toppin deserves the fantasy star of the night award the most, for a career-high 35 points on 6-9 three-point shooting. Toppin has scored 19 or more in his last four games starting and looks like he is getting more comfortable in the NBA with every minute he plays. This stretch of starts was a possible look into the future if Julius Randle is traded or if Toppin manages to get more minutes next to Randle next year. Obi will remain as an interesting stash in dynasty leagues with an undetermined role moving into next year. Immanuel Quickley ended the night with 23 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds as he saw more minutes than usual with RJ Barrett leaving the game with a knee injury. Quickley continues to show upside in all facets of the game and is leaving the Knicks with a difficult decision on what to do at the point guard position next year. His role has a lot to do with what the Knicks do in the offseason.

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Change. Is good, although it takes time for it to manifest. There are trials and tribulations. There are new things to learn and old things to forget. There will be haters. There will always be haters. But change is vital to reach one’s potential. A caterpiller walks and eats before wrapping itself in a cocoon, then morphs into a butterfly and eventually flies into the sky. Pascal Siakam entered the league in 2016 and embarked upon the journey that all rookies undertake. He flashed his two-way potential early on and continued to climb the ladder. In 2019, after Kawhi Leonard left, he was thrust into a more prominent role and became an All-Star. While the numbers were there, there was some hesitancy. Fred VanVleet put it best: “I think what happened was Kyle [Lowry] was such an immovable object, such a force of who he was in his status as a Hall of Famer, it was like a little tit-for-tat there, even if it was subconscioius….It’s not something where’ I don’t like this guy’ or ‘I’m not passing to him’, it’s a little nuance that you would never understand unless you played at the highest level.” Lowry was traded before the beginning of the 2021-22 season and things became more clear and comfortable for Siakam. He missed the first 10 games of the season but it’s been alllll good this season and last night was the culmination of the season.

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I get why Trae Young vs New York is a thing. I too remember last year’s gentleman’s sweep in the first round, and I understand that any time the Knicks do anything it gets an unreasonable amount of attention because New York, the media, Stephen A., etc. I also know that America is the land of large appetites, so even though the NBA in late March can be a real grind, content must still be pumped into the great yawning maw. Trae turning heel in MSG is cheap heat and the Knicks are highly flammable. Ring the dinner bell, friends. It’s time to eat again.

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