Just like how Denial is not just a river in Egypt, so too has Kawhi Leonard risen above the ashes in this new final form of continued limited play. But, it’s quite the improvement from the semi-obituary I wrote several weeks ago, essentially a long-winded sigh followed by some comments about muscle sprains. That’s basically Leonard’s entire Clippers career in a nutshell. But over the last few weeks, Kawhi has slowly started getting more minutes and, while he looks a bit hobbled still (and is there a landing he doesn’t grimace on?), there’s only a handful of players you’d like to have on your last few possessions and I don’t think there’s a better closer out there when healthy. It’s just that, you know, he’s never that… But the dude has taken on and beaten peak LeBron and Steph and has a career 70%+ win percentage, not many modern names on that list. And so of course when given the chance, he’ll do the same thing to the Hornets, nailing an elegant step-back two-pointer with 1.4 seconds and securing the 119-117 win. Kawhi is definitely back, but at rate and for how long? No one can really know, but I do know that the Association is a better place when he’s on the floor and that’s all that matters… Here’s what else I saw during last night’s games:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Now that Thanksgiving is over and done with, I feel I can now safely state what I’m not thankful for. Balance in all things! And you know, I’m totally willing to accept that I bring this on myself, but I tend to get all the lame headlines this season heading into the NBA midweek. A roller coaster ride, as we’ve held the funeral for Kawhi Leonard’s career (a roller coaster in of itself), we’ve dealt with Ben Simmon’s fear of approaching the basketball rim in any shape and form. We’ve, of course, seen the drama of Kyrie Irving (and others, yikes) and we even missed the resurrection of Wilt Chamberlain in the form of Ivica Zubac and 29 rebounds… you’d think it’s timed that I miss all the fun things and have to talk about all the dumb things. But the one shining light has been the consistent and amazing play from Tyrese Haliburton. Coming off a nail-biting 116-115 win against the Lakers, it was Haliburton’s third straight game of 10+ assists with 0 turnovers, and in his last three games, has 30 assists and no turnovers. To insulate myself, I hereby declare Tuesday “Tyreseday” in hopes I can just talk about him the rest of the season. Just please, I don’t want to talk about Kyrie anymore…  Here’s what else I saw during last night’s games:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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 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?

Welp.  Went up against the first place team and predictable things happened. JokerSmoker outclassed the Infector 6-2, but I did manage a glorious tie in the blocks category!  I was within ten points in every category.  My strategy of well-rounded guys to start, then fill in the gaps has failed.

What do do when your plan fails?  Trade!  Scottie Barnes, Jayson Tatum, and Anthony Edwards should be able to fetch good big guys.  I’m in good shape with rebounds and blocks.  I’m finna make some bad offers on paper but try to magnify my strengths and maybe get some Ws.  I’m also guessing none of the writers read this site trying to defeat an Infector.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The Atlanta Hawks get some late-game heroics from their All-Star backcourt of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray to pull out the close overtime win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Murray recorded his first triple-double of the season with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists; Young had a game-high 34 points along with 10 assists on 9-of-26 shooting and going 14-of-15 from the free throw line.
Big night for Clint Capela who finished with 21 points, 19 rebounds, and four blocks.
The New Orleans Pelicans got 29 points apiece from the duo of CJ McCollum and Zion Williamson.
Jonas Valanciunas finished with 13 points and 17 rebounds while Herb Jones had a near double-double with 19 points and nine rebounds to along with three steals.
A notable thing to monitor is the play of Brandon Ingram who had a quiet night with 16 points on 7-of-23 shooting from the field in his second game back from injury; Might not be anything, but there is a chance that his stats may fluctuate from night to night as he gets reacclimated.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The NBA on Friday Night rolled back the clock two nights too early (the end of daylight savings is Sunday 2 a.m.), harkening the days where big men ruled the professional basketball roost. There were myriad starting backcourts taking the night off with injuries and “injuries” (the league loves it when teams rest their stars on Friday night!), leading to a slew of point-forward play and 7-footers trying out for the 3-point contest.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Sliding into the DMs gets such a bad rap. I’ve done it many times. For instance, when I needed assistance in doing projections for fantasy basketball, I slid into the DMs of a bunch of fantasy hoops analysts. Geez, I’m such a nerd. I’ve never slid into the DMs for sexy time, though, although I’ve heard that it happens. I’d imagine it gets steamy in there but you have to be careful as I’ve seen many women keep receipts and plaster them all over the internet. If I slide into a steamy DM, my wife would have nothing to worry about because it would be just me slobbering away at the performance of a fantasy baller. On Sunday, I was all about sliding into the DMs of Donovan Mitchell. But then I thought better of it because, while I’m a nerd, I’m a respectfully tasteful nerd.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Son had a nice moment of self-reflection on the latest podcast, recognizing how he – and we all – tend to get easily sucked into preseason storylines that make us overhype or dismiss certain players without questioning the herd mentality around said player. 

Case in point: Myles Turner, who was discussed more for his potential to be traded than for his promising fantasy game. After sitting out a couple games and taking one to ease back to form, Turner put up 27 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks and 2 assists while shooting 3-4 from three, 7-14 from the field and 10-10 from the line as the Pacers beat the Wizards 127-117. The trade talk will eventually reemerge, but in the meantime, Turner owners may get to feast on a steady diet of blocks with quality numbers across the board. It’s worth remembering he’s just 26, when big guys usually enter their prime. If that age and experience turns into consistency for Turner, there’s Top 15 value to be had here. 

More notes from a busy Friday night in the Association:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

After one week of regular season play, the NBA has started in a less-than-predictable way for most teams. DFS and annual fantasy leagues are humming right along, with many of the usual suspects producing as expected. Just as we thought, the best team in the Western Conference are the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, and San Antonio Spurs. Everyone saw that coming.

Similarly, the Eastern Conference has been equally predictable, with both the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat starting 1-3, and the Brooklyn Nets at 1-2. One point of normalcy is the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics currently sit atop the east.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The starting small forward positional battle for Portland was fierce all offseason. Chauncey Billups would change the dial, start bobbing his head, then go to the next channel and start bobbing his head some more. He’d turn the dial to the right, but like Beyonce, would get to the left. And start bobbing his head some more. Nassir Little, Justise Winslow and Josh Hart were all viable candidates. Little is the most athletic of the bunch but he lacks the experience of the others. Winslow has the biggest frame and can do a variety of things on the court. Hart is small in stature but he plays much bigger than his frame and his experience and IQ are top level.

Please, blog, may I have some more?