Regarding last week’s suggestions, Jalen Duren had an OK, if uninspiring week, while both Brandon Clarke and Xavier Tilman were serviceable and will continue to be with Steven Adams sidelined. The highlight of the suggestions though has to be Deni Avdija, who took advantage of the increased opportunity in the last four games, despite not starting, and produced a top 35 week. Kristaps Porzingis is back and Daniel Gafford will not be sidelined for long but I would hold onto Avdija to see where his usage is headed.

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Five game slate on a rainy Tuesday evening.  Well, might not have been raining in your neck of the woods.  I hate ice storms more than I hate this year’s Bulls squad and watching LeBron James complain about every game mattering, the refs screwing us, and then resting the next game so he can break a scoring record later on TNT.

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Can you tell that Joel Embiid is tired of coming in second? Because that was made extremely clear after last night’s performance in the battle between the top two MVP finalists the past two seasons. After being snubbed as an All-Star starter and barely being mentioned in the MVP conversation this season, Embiid had a near 50-20 game on the head of the reigning MVP and this year’s lead candidate, Nikola Jokic. Embiid took this matchup so personally that he finished in style, hitting a dagger jumper in the closing moments, followed by the infamous Michael Jordan shrug. Five other Sixers finished in double figures, including James Harden, who had 17 points and 13 rebounds, but last night was all about Embiid.

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I was high on Precious Achiuwa in the offseason, as he showed flashes at the end of last season, both offensively and defensively. He improved his shooting and was able to make it rain from downtown. In addition, he exhibited the ability to make life difficult for Joel Embiid while also being able to switch on the perimeter against guards. Most importantly, though, Nick Nurse spoke glowingly about him over the summer, commenting on his work ethic and finally “getting it.” Then the season started, and it didn’t go as planned. He had two monster games while playing over 33 minutes in each, but after that, was relegated to playing in the teens. To stick a rusty knife into my belly, Achiuwa then succumbed to injury and missed the next 24 games. My Precious once had bling that blinded the eyes, but now was as dull as my jokes. Upon returning to action, he was once again playing in the teens, but slowly but surely, the playing time increased. Christian Koloko was sent down to the G League and my Precious began to glisten once again. Over the last five games, he received 28, 21, 26, 21 and 37 minutes, starting in the most recent contest and putting up 17 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.

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The Magic have been everyone’s favorite fantasy outlet this season, from Bol Bol Euro-stepping into monster jams to Paolo Banchero compiling historic rookie numbers. The play of Franz Wagner has by no means been lost in all the excitement, but his games of late have been next level good. Over his last six games, he’s averaging 24 points on 55% shooting, 68.3 TS%, pitching in about 4 boards, 3 assists, a steal and 3 threes per game. 

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I’ve always been fascinated with how humans can control other objects. The Shaolin monks are able to access the energy of the universe and light things on fire from a distance. Think Ryu’s Hadoken from Street Fighter. Random people can spin a 10-pound ball down a lane and knock down pins. Others can use a stick and make a ball spin like planets in an orbit around a table. For hoops, the ultimate joy is making the net dance after launching the ball into the air with the perfect amount of backspin. I always appreciated the chain-linked nets. There was nothing better than that sound. In the NBA, there’s no need to ghettofy things as they can supply the finest nylon for their nets. On Sunday, Julius Randle was the conductor of a nylon ballet, putting on a show for the Detroit crowd.

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The Magic at full strength have a great, young frontcourt, and that was on display last night.  They totaled 78 points, 22 boards, and 6 assists last night.  If you own Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., and Paolo Banchero, well, that’s kinda weird to have three guys from the same team.  But any of them are legitimate starters going forward, and they all still have some upside.  Unfortunately, if you are holding Bol Bol, he looks like the fourth wheel of this tricycle.  I would hold him and see, but I’m not optimistic.  The other three are better players.

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After dropping 41 points while starting 8-of-8 from beyond the arc, Zach LaVine’s hot streak continued as he knocked down six more threes en route to a game-high 35 points. His All-Star co-star DeMar DeRozan also had a big night with 35 points of his own and even chipped in with some dimes as he finished with seven assists.

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Not that there was anything else much to talk about with the normal slate of games, but even on a night with a full schedule of matchups, Donovan Mitchell’s career-high 71 points in a comeback win against the Bulls would have probably taken the lede no matter what. Unless of course someone with the name that rhymes with Buka Fonkitch did something like his normal self. But enough about Harry Potter characters, Mitchell just didn’t create a loathing from Chicago fans. Nope. His 71/8/11 night also created so much self-loathing in Minnesota and Utah that they actually might raise up, the dozen or so of them, and actually, well, I don’t know what they’d do to be honest. I guess throw bad midwestern accents and Mormons at the rest of the world. I’m sure that’s a metaphor for something. Regardless, while Mitchell will have some hype follow him, don’t forget that, while a good basketball player, he’s still just a scorer. A scorer that the T-Wolves should have traded for instead and a scorer that the Jazz should have built around, sure. But for now, the Cavaliers have the spotlight in Cleveland, and whatever takes away from the eternal dumpster fire (now with added gasoline for obvious reason) from the Browns, well, something-something goose-goose and the gander. My homies in the Midwest know what’s up. Maybe? Here’s what else I saw during last night’s games…

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It was tough to enjoy watching my Ducks eek out the Holiday Bowl Wednesday because every commercial break was chock full of warnings about shingles. I have never known anyone in my life getting shingles, and after that I’m convinced all of us are getting it next year. 

On Friday night, however, Minnesota had to deal with a case of the non-viral irritation known as Ingles: Joe Ingles. [Wow, Phil, way to send off 2022 with the oddest lede/transition yet.] In his sixth game back from injury, Ingles played a season-high 25 minutes and banked 14 points (5-9 FG, 4-7 3pt), 5 boards and 10 assists, and was a major factor for the Bucks in the second half, as Milwaukee pulled away from Minnesota in a 123-114 win. Ingles probably won’t garner enough minutes when Jrue Holiday and Middleton play, but is worth adding to the streamer board as needed. 

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We have had some sure-fire hits, a couple misses and some that are still straddling the fence. That is part of what makes fantasy basketball so exciting. We can actively manipulate our individual line-ups and impact outcomes from making the right move or two at the correct time. While the same can be said for making the incorrect move for the wrong player affecting your team negatively.

As the saying goes, “You gotta pay to play”.

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I may not be the most religious of men, but I do believe in a higher power and understand the significance of the Christmas day holiday. Many view it as a day of giving thanks, and participate in the commercialization of the holiday without understanding the true significance of the day. Christmas is the day Jesus Christ was born. The same Jesus Christ who died later for the sins of man, then was reborn three days later. Christian Wood has traversed that birth/death/ressurection story many times in his career. Undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft, he latched on with the 76ers, then went to the G League, returned to the league with the Hornets, then went back to the G League. He got another chance with the Bucks then went down to the G League once again. In 2019, the Pelicans gave him another shot and, while he has never sniffed the G League again, he went to the Pistons and Rockets before ending up with the Mavericks this season. But the story doesn’t end there. He was coming off the bench and playing fewer than 30 minutes a game in the early part of the season, but then injuries struck the front court and he started the last four games. So, it’s only fitting, that on Christmas, this Christian balled out:

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