When we moved from California to Wisconsin last October, we knew it would be hard. Catching the tail end of fall was the final gasp of good air before the dual jaws of winter and the pandemic clamped down on us. From there, we just had to ride it out. Hiding indoors, online, and in the NBA calendar was all there was to do. As the days got darker — in every sense — we were subjected, over and over again, to the Milwaukee mantra: Summers make winters worth it. Having no experience to draw on, we had to take these hearty midwesterners at their word. 

They were right. 

Ice thawed and snow melted. Patches of terra firma sprouted and then turned green. The Bucks exercised Miami demons in Game 1 of the Playoffs and squeaked past the Nets by the margin of a single shoe size. The Hawks were feisty but underseasoned, and then there was the block and the steal and the alley-oop over Phoenix. “Bucks in six” was the song of the summer. Flowers for The Good Land. 

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I’m the big, fat loser this year in our 9-cat league’s championship game. Am I happy I made it this far in a totally insane season? Yep. Am I upset I lost? It always stings, but one week can make or break you and I don’t feel bad losing to a team I lost to the only time I faced them in the regular season. It feels like the right team won.

All that said, this season was completely wackadoodle and probably the most benefit you’ll get from reading these words is this introduction where I’m going to attempt to break down my thinking on the season and how we all got here.

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During draft season, I joked with the other Razz writers that, according to my extremely unscientific research, 100% of LA guys were in on LaMelo Ball. The echo chamber and hype bubble were too well-constructed for this not to be the case (also I didn’t really do much research and threw out evidence that didn’t support my theory. I’m Mister Hooper, not Doctor.) LaVar’s greatest creation was not the trio of ballers he sired (or those ugly shoes), but the machine he constructed to discuss them ad infinitum. Put off the Ball family brashness, I was lukewarm on LaMelo when drafting and missed out on an extremely fun and productive rookie year. The hype will be hot again next season, I assume, especially if the Hornets show some fight against one of the beasts of the East, so I’ll probably miss him next year too. But perhaps there’s a backdoor to one of these Balls. While little bro is taking up all the shine, Lonzo Ball has taken another step forward, especially as a shot maker. The vision and passing has always been legit (even my hater-ass was quick to concede that after watching him at Summer League) but the stroke has been sanded down and his 3-point percentage now creeps towards 40%. Still shy of 24-years-old, he’s putting it together.

Last night, playing in the aptly named Ball Arena in Denver, Lonzo consistently got where he wanted to go on the floor and then dimed up his teammates once he cracked the Denver defense open. The highlight package below isn’t spectacular, but if you want to watch a dude move to the exact spots  where he’s most dangerous, then I have the clip for you.

Lonzo Ball

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
16 12 12 4 2 4 6/14 0/0 4

It was another busy Wednesday in professional hoops. Here’s what else stood out:

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I used to hate blowing up inflatables. Basically anything and everything that the kids bring to the pool. Breath iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin. Bllloooooooooooooooooooow. Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin. Blllllooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow. Good thing I don’t smoke anymore. Iiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn. Cough. Wheeze. Cough. Blloow. The worst would be blowing up the sex do…..Uh, nevermind. The pumps for inflatable beds are the best. Press a button, listen to the whirrrr, and watch the bed rise, like yeast in the oven. So. Cool. That’s what it was like watching Jusuf Nurkic last season, in the Bubble ironically. He played his first game on July 31st and inflated for 17.6 points, 10.3 boards, four dimes, 1.4 steals, and two blocks in 31.6 minutes. In the playoffs, he averaged 32.3 minutes and put up 14.2 points, 10.4 boards, 3.6 dimes, 1.4 steals. and 0.2 blocks. Then the Bubble popped, both literally and figuratively. He played 12 games to start this season then proceeded to miss the next 32 games. Upon his return, he played 10 games and averaged only 21.4 minutes. Over the last two games, though, he played 29 minutes in each. He’s slowly been inflating. Yesterday, he played 29 minutes again and….

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
16 19 5 1 2 2 0 6/13 4/5

Top 25 player over the last three games. He’s inflating at the right time as the Blazers are sitting at 7th in the Western Conference and could make some noise in the playoffs if everyone is healthy.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

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I used to walk 500 Myles for Turner but he’s hurt and I’m a fantasy slut. Plus, I walked way more than 500 Myles. Go check the receipts. I was walking before people were talking. Anyways, the new campaign is to walk 500 Miles for Bridges. Remember back in the day when they’d have those heart challenges at school and you’d have to ask for donations for a walk? It’s similar except we are not asking for money. We are demanding respect for Miles Bridges. Last night was just the latest example of his dominance this season.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
15 14 3 1 1 4 3/9 6/16 0/2

In 38 minutes. Bridges has started the last nine games and been a top 35 player. He’s averaged 38 minutes, 21 points, 3.3 tres, 7.5 boards, 2.4 dimes, 0.9 steals, and 0.9 blocks while shooting 54% from the field and 77% from the line. The usage rate has been 21. That number was at 16 for most of the season. He’s benefited from injuries but the genie is out of the bag now. There’s no stuffing it back in. If it happens, then we walking, and walking, and walking until it’s water under the Bridges.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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Being in the zone is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Everything you chuck up has an increased probability of going in for some reason. Is it just perception? No, because the numbers bear it out. Is it some feeling or boost you get from confidence? Are the muscles and synapses firing faster and more efficiently to allow for greater accuracy? Are the stars aligned? Is the code in the matrix error-free? Whatever the case may be, it is amazing and I want it all the time. Unfortunately, that isn’t possible, and even if it was, then the script would flip because then the zone would be about missing a shot because we would be so accustomed to making everything. Ah, the conundrums of living. Last night, Landry Shamet was on one.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
30 2 3 0 0 1 7/12 10/15 3/4

The 30 points were a career-high. Over the last four games, he’s played 38, 21, 36, and 26 minutes, scoring 30, 20, 17, and 19 points respectively. The usage rate has been 22, 33, 19, and 20. That’s been good for top 70 value. Now, the 76ers are dealing with injuries so he will turn back into a pumpkin but enjoy this heater while it lasts.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

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It’s been just over a week since a friend of mine pointed me toward the Kevin Durant/Michael Rapaport beef that had bubbled up on social media. At the time, I somewhat gleefully read through their back and forth until I felt my emotions start to turn. KD, from all the stories I’ve heard and books that I’ve read, does not strike me as a happy man. The texts he sent to Rapaport support this. Then I saw the follow-up video that Rapaport put out that provide additional context for his spicy IG chat with Durant and I felt even worse. KD might be unhappy, but Rapaport strikes me as something far more distasteful than the aloof ennui of the unfathomably talented. After eating my fill of online garbage, I sent the following text to my buddy:

I wish I could get that time back. 

I can’t, obviously. None of us can. But what we can do is make up for the time lost, and Durant did just that in his return to NBA action on Wednesday night. All told, the Nets played 23 games since KD was last in uniform, but you wouldn’t have known that by watching him.

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Shake Milton lit it up off the bench for Philly, dropping 27 points on uber-efficient 10-of-14 shooting (including 5-of-7 from beyond the arc). That marks the eighth consecutive game Milton has scored in double figures—topping 20 points for the third time in that span. Consider picking up Shake (22 percent owned in Yahoo!) if you need points and threes.

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