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.

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For drama.

Yes, this isn’t just a TNT thing (is that still their tagline or did I just date myself?), and a large reason why I love the NBA so much. True, I still tune into the Super Bowl and some playoff matchups every year, I might watch over a dozen or so Padres games here and there if I feel like hating myself. But the NBA, the players have always done that great job where they have my curiosity and then they have my attention. And while you should never start a sentence with “The” and “Jews”, from Kyrie to Jalen Brown to Isaiah Thomas, there’s definitely some beer being held onto. Then you have Ladder vs. Man, Montrez Harrell standing firm as the defender of ladders. You dig the romance part of soaps? Did you know that Booker/Jenner is officially no more? And oh yeah, there are actual games being played too, crazy I know! So Happy Thanksgiving y’all, here’s what I saw during last night’s games…

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Rookie forward AJ Griffin finished the night with 17 points, but his biggest bucket came in the closing moments of overtime when he knocked down a wide-open layup to steal the victory over the Toronto Raptors.
De’Andre Hunter was second on the Hawks in scoring with 22 points; Dejounte Murray finished with 17 points, seven rebounds, and four assists; Clint Capela had a double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds along with three blocks.
Scottie Barnes had an amazing night with a near triple-double but missed the potential game-winner in regulation
OG Anunoby finished with 27 points, three rebounds, and five assists; he missed the go-ahead basket before Barnes and could have won the game.

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Hey Dallas, did you overlook your opponent just because they were 1-9? Was it because they were the Orlando Magic? Was it because their best player this year, Paolo Banchero, was out for the game? You only scored 87 points against a very inexperienced team and 53 of those points came from Spencer Dinwiddie and Luka Doncic. The bench depth as a whole has been a weak point for the Mavericks this season. Outside of Christian Wood, players such as Dwight Powell, Reggie Bullock, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber really haven’t been producing for them.

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On a day with few games on the slate, we had an eventful day in the National Basketball Association. There was some movement in the coaching ranks. Steve Nash was dismissed by Brooklyn after only seven games. Rumors were rampant in the offseason that Kevin Durant wanted Nash fired. As life would have it, that happened. Whether or not Durant had any involvement is unknown. The two-time league MVP, Nash, in all his professionalism, thanked the city of Brooklyn, the players, and the organization for the opportunity. Nash exits, leaving the Nets 2-5, currently sitting at 13th in the Eastern Conference. The only way is up, right?

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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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LaVine led the team with 25 points as the Chicago Bulls outlasted the Cleveland Cavaliers, 98-94. DeMar DeRozan returned to the lineup after missing the last game with a groin injury and added 20 points but the key to this game for the Bulls was defense. Chicago held the Cavs to only 35 points in the first half and stifled their try at a fourth quarter comeback. With this win, the Bulls got their first road victory since March 9th as they maintain control of the 5th seed in the East.

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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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The Indiana Pacers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 129-98. In a rarity for this version of the Pacers, they were the more veteran team. Oshae Brissett spearheaded the Pacers’ attack, as he tallied 24 points (8-10 FG, 2-3 3PT), nine rebounds, one assist, and one steal. His day also included a highlight reveal reverse dunk in transition which came off a behind-the-back pass from Lance Stephenson. Have I mentioned that the Pacers are fun now!? Justin Anderson added 18 points, six rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Jalen Smith notched 17 points, five rebounds, and one block in just 17 minutes of play. I’m not sure if Smith will ever become the player the Suns hoped they were getting when he was drafted with the 10th pick in 2020, but he has at least grown into an intriguing prospect. He was 2-of-3 from behind the arc and also whipped out a Dirk-esque step-back off the dribble in the midrange. Terry Taylor (17) and Duane Washington Jr. (13) both had solid games as well. The Pacers led wire to wire and the lack of competitiveness of the game is reflected in the lower minute totals for Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield. Haliburton finished the game with 10 points, four rebounds, and seven assists. Hield tallied nine points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Finally, Lance Stephenson scored just two points, but grabbed six rebounds, dished out 11 assists, and swiped three steals.

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One has been helping seafood everywhere reach its full flavor potential (their words, not mine!) and one just had a 51-point performance. I’ll let greater minds figure out which one is worth more, but with a win last night, the Pistons find themselves within reach of .500 basketball by some time next season. Maybe. And what a coincidence, as something similar could be said of the team that lost, the Orland Magic. Sitting now at an 18-53 record, last night’s only scheduled game did at least provide us with the above-mentioned monster effort by Saddiq Bey and that’s. About. It.

Did I see anything else in this game last night? Maybe. Should I talk about it? Double-maybe.

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The Nets defeated their in-state rival Knicks 110-107, behind a statement performance from Kevin Durant, who finished the game with 53 points (19-37 FG, 4-13 3PT), six rebounds, nine assists, and two steals. The 53 points were a season-high and just a point shy of his career-high. Andre Drummond added 18 points, 10 rebounds, and one block on a perfect eight for eight from the field. Bruce Brown, whose value and strong play has grown consistent of late, finished the game with 15 points (7-14 FG, 0-1 3PT), seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Nic Claxton contributed off the bench, compiling 10 points, five rebounds, one assist, two steals, and one block. Seth Curry was a late scratch due to an ankle injury. The Nets have now won three in a row after losing four in a row.  During this winning streak, Durant has reminded everyone in the league and everyone watching at home just how dominant he can be. The spiciest and most hilarious result of a late-season Nets winning streak would be a 76ers vs. Nets first-round matchup—one can only hope!

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