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?

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.

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?

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.

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?

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?

As the early part of the NBA 2022-23 season churns on, a lot of storylines and off-the-court drama permeates. Some of these were built off the back from previous seasons; the trending bewilderment of Ben Simmons, the Lakers continued struggles while inadvertently tanking for Wembanyama while the Pelicans have the rights to their first-round pick also remains a bold strategy. Kyrie Irving is still a hateful idiot. But there are also new and interesting storylines being created right now, like the Jazz competing with the Spurs and TrailbBlazers for the number one seed (early, but you can talk about it!), the Clippers being a mess, the resurgence of James Harden… and the Bucks continue their quest for 82-0, squeaking out a win last night. While there’s a lot to ridicule (mostly the Nets), there’s a lot of interesting items both on and off the court that have made this season already special. Here’s what else I saw last night:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The Sacramento Kings get their first season victory, leaving the Los Angeles Lakers as the only winless team remaining.
Kings got strong play from rookie forward Keegan Murray, who was finished second on the team in scoring with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field; De’Aaron Fox was also very active on the glass as he led all players with 13 rebounds along with his 17 points.
Miami Heat big man Bam Adebayo finished with 23 points, six rebounds, four assists, and two blocks in 37 minutes before fouling out.
A notable statistic for the Heat is that while Tyler Herro led all players with 22 shot attempts, veteran leaders Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler only combined for 19 attempts.

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?