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?

I’m pretty sure Ivica Zubac doesn’t have a pocket full of rocks. He’s definitely not skinny and likely has never gotten his ass kicked. He was probably doing the ass kicking. He’s not smoking blunts but has made millions without having to cut a quarter ounce. That said, if Zubac wants to continue making millions, he’s gotta keep dealing and ballin’. And ballin’ he did as no one can take Sunday’s game away from young Z:

31 29 3 0 3 5 0 14/17 3/3

Holy schiztnitz. It was a White Man’s World. The only other player who has put up a 30-point, 29-rebound, 3-assist, and 3-block game was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar back in 1978 when he went for 37 points, 30 rebounds, 5 assists, and 6 blocks! As a Lakers fan, it makes me sad that the Lakers traded him away. And to the Clippers no less for Mike Muscala. And by Jerry West, who is the greatest general manager in the history of the game and ended up consulting for the Clippers.

“The Clippers, sources said, never even called the Lakers to inquire about Zubac. The Lakers made the offer and the Clippers gladly accepted. Sources said that those at the dinner table shared a hearty laugh at the Lakers’ expense.”

Excuse me as I go perform seppuku for the eighth time in my life. I guess I’ll find out soon if I’m a cat or not.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The big Fin Lauri Markkanen put up a big stat line, hit a big shot and led the Jazz to a big win Friday night over the Suns. He scored a career-high 38 points on a silly 15-of-18 from the floor, 2-of-3 from deep and 6-of-8 at the line, and added 6 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a giveaway to the line. 

So far this season Markkanen has delivered late 2nd / early third-round value, which isn’t too  surprising. The skills were evident, it was just a matter of the fit and program in what was supposed to be a tanking Jazz team. And so far he’s fit like a glove worn by a big white dude in Utah. 

His counting stats aren’t too far from this 2019-20 breakout sophomore season, before things got stormy in the Windy City. The major difference is his ability to get shots inside, and being surrounded by willing and able passers helps, too. Markkanen is shooting 65.6% on 2-point shots with nearly 10 attempts a game, numbers comparable only to Nikola Jokic. The other improvement in the stat line is nearly 2.5 assists per game – again a result of playing in an offense that complements his skill set. 

Most of his career high points were actually easy buckets while taking advantage of a string of blown defensive plays. However, the difficulty level was high on this Kobe/Dirk vintage turnaround jumper:

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?

While not an actual in-game injury, news broke late last night that Kawhi Leonard is now out indefinitely amid his ACL recovery. This is both possibly the least-surprising surprise since Elon Musk bought Twitter and turned the platform into… well whatever you want to call it. I’m sure if you tie a bunch of adjectives and expletives, you’d be pretty accurate. And this was the same week! True, Kawhi had not looked great all so far and was already very limited recently due to “tendinitis” but I think it’s clear at this point that the best Kawhi ever was has already happened and his magical run in playoffs on the Raptors may have been the number one contributing factor to the Leonard we see now today. And frankly the past several years. And no matter how you look at it, we’re talking about a player who took a year off and has been handled with extreme care so far in 2022 and probably hadn’t had back-to-back games since the Great Depression. Hate to say it, but this might be his career swan song. On that note, it’s Tuesday so go vote! That way we don’t lose Kawhi and Democracy in the same week…

Here’s what else I saw during last night’s full slate of games:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Darius Garland returned to the Cavaliers, putting up 29 points and 12 assists in a close victory over the Boston Celtics. In both games where Garland and Donovan Mitchell have played the Cavs bigs have struggled to score. Jarrett Allen had 15 points last night while Evan Mobley had 14, both were below regular season averages. As for the Celtics, it’s hard to win games when Jayson Tatum shoots 8-21 from the field. On a positive note his defensive numbers were quite solid last night: nine defensive rebounds and four blocks. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week Two!  In this post, I identify widely-available players who can help you win your head-to-head matchup.  If this is your first brush with midweek guidance, check out the intro to last week’s post to get some insight on my groundbreaking methodology (it’s not groundbreaking).  The dust is settling on the initial rush to grab surprise successes like Santi Aldama, but there is still a lot of rotation churn in the NBA as teams try to find the best way to win (or lose).  Unsurprisingly, we’ve already seen multi-game injuries and/or load management issues with big names on the Pelicans, Cavaliers, Clippers, Thunder, and Hornets, so there are potential opportunities on those teams as we look for streaming candidates to cycle through with that final roster spot.

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?

Basketball is back!

It was a wild offseason in the NBA, one highlighted by more off-the-court news than on. Kevin Durant demanded a trade; then after a long, drawn-out soap opera, ended up remaining in Brooklyn.  The defending Eastern Conference champion Celtics lost their head coach Ime Udoka for the season, after he was suspended for an “improper intimate and consensual relationship” with a female staff member. Lastly and most devastatingly, the basketball world lost all-time legend Bill Russell after 88 of the most accomplished years anyone’s ever seen on this earth.

In terms of impact roster moves, old-school center Rudy Gobert was dealt to the Timberwolves, the Spurs’ best player Dejounte Murray was traded to the Hawks and Donovan Mitchell – after being linked to the Knicks in over 10,000 rumors – ended up being shipped to the Cavs. But without further ado or hoopla, let’s jump right into my NBA preseason predictions and rapid-fire fantasy summaries.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I’ll be honest, my original plan was to have this piece written and published at the end of last season, back when the failed chase for the top spot in the RazzJam was still fresh in my mind. But the NBA season is long and the Playoffs are so good, so when I fell just short of a championship, it seemed just fine to me to put this on the shelf for a bit. So, I sat on this with it being 95% completed and rested instead. Then Middleton went down and the Bucks got beat. The sun came out, the Celtics ran out of gas, and another Golden State summer onto my shores like a warm wave, even though I’ve traded in the Bay Area for Bay View. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?