The Hornets were buzzing to have LaMelo back and that showed on the court with their victory over a Detroit Pistons team that is already officially out of playoff contention and without their best player in Jerami Grant. 

Frank Jackson surprisingly led the way for the Pistons off the bench with 25 points, seven rebounds, and three assists while he shot. 42.1% from the field and hit six triples. Rookie Killian Hayes played nearly 32 minutes as he continues to progress back from that hip injury and to prove to the many doubters that he is not a bust. You cannot call someone a bust when he has barely played. Last night he put up 10 points, six rebounds, and six assists as well as two steals. “Beef Stew” Isaiah Stewart had an underwhelming game with only nine points and two rebounds while playing the bulk of the minutes in the stead of Mason Plumlee who was held out for rest purposes. 

For the Hornets, LaMelo Ball was up to his usual shenanigans, as he returned to action and made Hornets announcer Eric Collins lose his cool and go bananas in his booth. His full-court passes were in full effect as shown through his eight total assists that went along with seven rebounds and 11 points. Malik Monk also returned to action and scored 11 points, stole the ball once, and grabbed two boards in 22 minutes of action. Meanwhile, LaMelo’s best bud on the team was flying even higher than usual to throw down his passes. Miles Bridges scored 27 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Miles has really come into his own this season and one upside of Hayward’s unfortunate injury is that now Miles has an even bigger opportunity to do so. We cannot forget about Scary Terry Rozier, who scored a game-high 29 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished out four assists. An excellent season as well for Rozier. These Hornets are fighting and LaMelo’s return may now be that extra punch they need to stay in a play-in spot. 

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I know the NBA is a business and players are professionals but I just can’t wrap my head around the Kevin Love situation in Cleveland. It all started with a panic move after Lebron left the Cavaliers in which they offered Love a four-year, $120 million contract. This has proven a burden for a rebuilding franchise that is unable to trade the oft-injured power forward and has resulted in frustration from both sides.

Just to be clear, this happened in a real game with the score very close. It must be really deflating to see it from his teammates’ point of view and hopefully, they work something out in the offseason to get him out of Cleveland, despite the fact that he still has two more years left in his contract.

Regarding last week’s suggestions, Bruce Brown balled out in the games the Nets were shorthanded and was an excellent streamer but can be safely dropped now that they are getting Kevin Durant back. Moe Harkless was another positive contributor and, unlike Brown, he still has value as his playing time seems relatively safe. The same can’t be said for De’Anthony Melton as his playing time is hovering around 20 minutes per game making him a borderline player to own.

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An extremely encouraging pattern is beginning to emerge with my every-other-week recapping of the Wednesday night games: Happy returns that are highlighted in the lede. You see, it was my distinct pleasure to highlight KAT’s return from his early season wrist + Covid absence, and I was the one who placed Kevin Durant in this place of prominence when he came back from the extended hammy vacation. Now, I’m due up for the recap on the night Jaren Jackson Jr. returned and you know damn well that I’m going to make him the lede. Welcome back, Jar—

Ah. Actually not. Sorry JJJ, I’m breaking up the welcome party and going with the 40 piece instead. We’ll see you later in the recap, because this lede (and maybe all of the Western world) belongs to…

Julius Randle

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
40 11 6 1 0 6 11/21 12/13 4

This is second time in the last week that Julius has gone 40+/10+/6+ with 6 made threes. Wut. That’s just unspeakable heat from New York’s Caesar, who led the Knicks to an OT win against the Hawks last night. Woe to those of you having wrestle this monster in head-to-head playoffs. It might be better just to simply bend the knee when Randle is going like this.

Here’s what else stood out on another busy Wednesday in the Association…

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Beef Stew is running away with the starting 5 job in Detroit as the season winds down. Casey has been resting his vets in Plumlee and Ellington and as a result, Stewart has been feasting. 8 blocks in his last four games alone, to go with an average of 14.25 boards in those four outings. He’s going to make a huge difference in fantasy playoffs for those who foresaw the downfall of Plumlee.

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This was the Gary Trent Jr. game! He willed the Raptors to a much-needed victory over the Cavs in Cleveland. Of course, we have to start off with Trent Jr. Last night, the man shot 17-19 (89.5%!) from the field and did not miss a single two-pointer on his way to 44 points! He also grabbed seven boards while dishing out four assists. Rookie Malachi Flynn also had a very good game scoring 20 points, handing out 11 assists, and stealing the ball twice. Chris Boucher had another excellent defensive night swatting four shots while getting one steal with his teammate OG Anunoby scored 15 points with five rebounds and three assists. 

On the other side, the Cavs got 29 points from Collin Sexton, who shot 50% from the field and also handed out five dimes. Kevin Love put another 20 minutes of action under his belt scoring 18 points, grabbing in three boards, and stealing the ball once. Before exiting the game due to injury, Darius Garland put up 19 points and had eight dimes on 41.2% shooting from the field.

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Dallas rolled up without Kristaps Porzingis to face the Bradley Beal-less Wizards, and won on the second night of their back-to-back. 

Luka Doncic, for the Mavs, came close to a triple-double with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. He also had one steal to go along with that and shot 50% from the field. Overall, it was a very balanced scoring effort from the Mavs who had six players (including Doncic) in double figures. Jalen Brunson had another solid game with 19 points, three assists, and two steals. 

On the other side of the court, Russell Westbrook was five assists short of a triple-double (26 points, 14 rebounds), while backup point guard, Raul Neto, also had an impressive game in which he scored 16 points, grabbed four rebounds, and dished out two assists. Robin Lopez also reached double figures with 18 points, while also having four rebounds, a block, and a steal. 

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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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Down goes Horford. We all lamented at the recent news of Al Horford getting shut down for the rest of the season, but it came as no surprise to some who have been playing fantasy basketball for going on two decades. The Oklahoma City Thunder have zero incentive to attempt to win basketball games as they try to squeeze the most value of their million draft picks.

The reality of this season is that COVID-19 continues to screw everything up. The second half of the season for every single NBA team this season is BRUTAL, with things like three games in four nights, and multiple back-to-backs. We are about to see a bunch of people sit out games they may have otherwise played.

In that same vein, we will likely see more shutdowns this season than ever before, as teams decide that playing for that playoff play-in isn’t as important as developing pieces for the future. We saw it with Al Horford, and we will see it again with other players.

But who will they be? Here is my best speculation:

*PLEASE NOTE: RECORDS AND STATS TAKEN BEFORE THE GAMES ON 3/28*

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There are some players who left their mark in the NBA more with their personality rather than with their game. This is not meant as disrespect for their game but more of praise of their personality and a major example of this has to be Brian Scalabrine. The original “White Mamba” played five seasons for the Boston Celtics and was one of the most beloved players. His unorthodox style and physique made him stand out but his lack of athleticism always had casual fans go “I could easily beat this guy one-on-one”, “why is this guy even in the NBA?”, and other similar comments. Well, a high schooler actually challenged the 43-year-old Scalabrine to a one-on-one game, and the man, the myth, the legend agreed.

The total annihilation that followed really puts in perspective how much of a difference the level of these players are to an everyday or above-average player. I will wrap this introduction with a quote from Mr. Scalabrine that said, “I’m closer to Lebron than you are to me” to a casual heckler.

Regarding last week’s “Buy” suggestions, Kenyon Martin Jr. has been mediocre, Moses Brown has been must own with Al Horford being a strong trade candidate and getting more and more rest days, while Danny Green proved an awesome suggestion with some of his best performances of the season coming this past week. On the “Sell” front, Kevin Love has yet to play and I highly doubt he will ever this season if he remains in Cleveland, while Kendrick Nunn has predictably lost some of the usage he enjoyed with the Heat injuries.

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