Most of the teams in this division are what we thought they were. The Dallas Mavericks are more competitive with their new additions, but still not playoff ready. The Memphis Grizzlies, with a healthier roster, are returning to Grit-and-Grind, playing at a pace nobody wants to play. The New Orleans Pelicans will go as far as AD takes them, while hoping to capitalize on the momentum of sweeping the Trail Blazers in last year’s playoffs, but ultimately realizing the rest of the roster has a second-round ceiling. The Spurs are the Spurs, so even with multiple roster changes, the Kawhi Leonard drama, loss of veteran leadership, injuries, and adjustments, Coach Greg Popovich is still the master puppeteer who will figure out how to win more than he loses. He would probably do that even if you gave him a roster of Lilliputians. Which leaves the exception and the outlier, the Houston Rockets, who have not been what we thought they were. We all thought they would take a step back defensively, but who thought they would forget how to shoot? They seem to be finding their sea legs, and even beat the World Champion Golden State Warriors, but who would have guessed the team with the best record in the league last year would be happy to be 7-7 after 14 games?

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Charley Murphy, Eddie Murphy’s brother, is probably a decent actor and comedian in his own right, but I am sure he understands exactly how the LA Clippers have always felt, living under the shadow of the vaunted Lakers purple and gold. For a few seasons, though, the Clippers had the better record, a series of playoff finishes, the better nickname (Lob City), and a troika of stars that could not be matched in the other locker room. However, CP3 is now in Houston, DeAndre Jordan went to Dallas, and Blake Griffin is in Motown. Compound that with the fact that Lebron James wears purple and gold, and back to red-headed stepsister status go the Clippers. The Los Angeles Times is wasting barrels of ink on Lebron, his contingent of baby faced talents, and oddly matched veterans. The Clippers, though, are not completely bereft of talent, especially at the guard positions. A healthy season, which they are certainly due for, a little luck, and/or a Jimmy Butler trade could have the Clips fighting for a playoff slot.

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Basketball is a funny game. The Atlanta Hawks were riding a six-game losing streak and heading to Utah to face off against one of the best defensive teams in the league. Dennis Schroder, the point guard for the Hawks, had failed to score 20 points in each of the six losses. Then, a funny thing happened. The D went missing. Did Dennis change his name to Ennis? No!

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 41 5 7 0 0 2 3/7 16/28 6/10

Forty burger! Against a team that was 8th in defensive efficiency against the point guard position. Against Ricky Rubio, who was 10th in defensive real plus minus. Schroder had a 42.7 usage rate last night! Going forward, though, I wouldn’t expect too many performances like last night. Taurean Prince, who had been the alpha in terms of usage, got Prince’D, so someone had to step up. In addition, while Schroder has had a couple of big games this season, they have been too few to count on. Expect scoring to be in the 18-20 point range with 5-7 assists, and 2-3 boards.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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I grew up before cable television, when a remote control was, “Son, get your ass off the couch and change the channel.” The number of channels could be counted on two hands. So, many of my fond memories were from watching infomericals. Tom Vu was one and will always have a special place in my heart, while the other one was Billy Blanks and his Tae Bo. That was the OG. Seriously, everything now should pay homage and pay royalties to Blanks. Anyways, after more than 20 years, Tae Bo is still going strong. There are fitness centers and classes all across the county and Billy Blanks still has, not only an operational website, but one that looks legit. Which brings me to Zach Randolph, aka Z-Bo. He’s so OG that his friends…in middle school….named him Z-Bo after Deebo. This is his 18th season in the NBA, yet, like Tae Bo, is still going strong. Last night, Z-Bo went:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 26 12 2 1 0 4 3/6 11/23 1/2

He played 32 minutes. So, that thing about the Kings going young. Yeah…..Z-Bo has actually played 32, 32, and 28 minutes the past three games. But he did not see the court the two games before that. He’s only a streaming option or a DFS play in the right matchup. He must’ve been licking his lips when he saw that Dante Cunningham would be guarding him last night. He went so OG that he knocked him out of the game with injury. I’m getting all nostalgic and will try one of the Tae Bo workouts. Shit, I shouldn’t have done that. Still effective, like Z-Bo.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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According to our good friends at Wikipedia, the word leprechaun is thought to come from “the Old Irish luchorpan, a compound of the roots lu (small) and corp (body). Looks at depth chart for the Boston Celtics. Nods head. Looks at mascot for the Boston Celtics. Nods head. The glove fits. Looks at OJ nodding his head vociferously from side to side. So, this iteration of the Celtics is perfect for the new-age positionless basketball, but it’s one that makes Celtics old timers cringe. Bill Walton. Dave Cowens. Robert Parish. Bill Russell. All big men that brought the pot of gold to Boston. Now, the 2017 Celtics are 34-12, the second-best record in all of basketball. Brad Stevens for President! But, a huge glaring weakness is facing off against dominant big men. Over the past two weeks, Anthony Davis went 45/16. Karl-Anthony Towns went 25/23. Even Tristan Thompson went 10/11. Tristan Thompson people! Which brings me to Joel Embiid. Last night, Embiid went:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
 26 16 6 1 2 4 0/1 10/19 6/7

He was a true Sixer: 6 free throws made. 6 assists. 16 boards. 26 points. Nods head vociferously like OJ. Ok, back to reality. You don’t need me to tell you that Embiid is awesome. What would be of interest, though, is that the 76ers may allow Embiid to play in back-to-back games. He’s a top 25 player for fantasy right now. If he starts getting full run, that might get OJ to nod his head vociferously up and down.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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“One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.” (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)

 

In 2029, the planet GJ 273b will receive a message that could change the lives of the inhabitants there. That is, if life does in fact exist. This month METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and the organizers of Sónar (a music festival), announced they had sent a series of missives towards Luyten’s star, which GJ 273b orbits. The message consists of mathematical operations and, of course, music. The team plans to send messages to thousands of other stars. Maybe we can find the planet of Giannis Antetokounmpo. This season, he is averaging 29.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.8 blocks. Since 1973, only three players have done something similar.

Players with 29+ points, 10+ rebounds, 1+ steal, 1+ block in an entire season

 Player  Season  Points  Rebounds  Steals  Blocks
 Bob McAdoo  1973-74  30.6  15.1  1.2  3.3
 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar  1974-75  30.0  14.0  1.0  3.3
 Bob McAdoo  1974-75  34.5  14.1  1.1  2.1
 Bob McAdoo  1975-76  31.1  12.4  1.2  2.1
 David Robinson  1993-94  29.8  10.7  1.7  3.3
Giannis Antetokounmpo*  2017-18 29.5 10.5 1.5 1.8

(courtesy: Basketball-Reference)

Luc Mbah a Moute had a +57 in plus/minus against the Nuggets on Wednesday, which marked the highest mark in the past 20 seasons.

Last Friday, LeBron James (the key player in our team of the week), notched his 57th career triple-double. James finished with 27 points, 16 rebounds, 13 assists, and three blocks. Only Larry Bird did so (two times), and without the blocks, only four players in the last 25 years have had 27-16-13.

Player Season Points Rebounds Assists
Draymond Green 2015-16 29 17 14
James Harden 2015-16 33 17 14
Russell Westbrook 2016-17 27 17 14
James Harden 2016-17 53 16 17
LeBron James 2017-18 27 16 13

(courtesy: Basketball-Reference)

It is no coincidence that the Team of the Week had LeBron James on the roster. James was the number one player in fantasy with 26.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 3.3 3pts, one steal, and 1.3 blocks during that span. Add Trevor Ariza with 5.5 3pts, Klay Thompson with 4.0 3pts, Aaron Gordon doing well across the board, and DeAndre Jordan with his line and 75% from the free throw line and the result is a Tomahawk.

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A capella music is singing without instrumental accompaniment. According to choraldirectormag.com, here’s what’s needed to create an a capella group: soloist, great bass, original music, time together, and momentum. That basically describes the Houston Rockets. Let’s break it down. Mike D’Antoni doesn’t micromanage possessions like some coaches. Things flow naturally. Soloist. James Harden. Great bass, the voice that’s low and powerful. Clint Capela fills that role by battling down low and doing the dirty work on the glass. Original music. Mike D’Antoni’s “Seven Seconds or Less” offense from the Phoenix days combined with the analytics of Daryl Morey equals “Game the Math.” Time together. Self explanatory. Momentum. The Rockets offense in a nutshell. Yesterday’s game against the Indiana Pacers was a microcosm of the synergy they’ve displayed all season enroute to an 11-3 record, with six victories in a row. Harden led the way with 26 points, five boards, 15 dimes, and two steals. Capela provided the base with 20 points, 17 boards, one dime, and one block. Eric Gordon filled his gunner role by hoisting up 11 downtowners. He finished with 21 points, one board, four dimes, two steals, and one block. If this was college, you’d think he was trying to get laid. Trevor Ariza scored 15 points, grabbed five boards, dished out a dime, and pilfered two. He’s Mr. Versatility. Can hit the high, low, and middle notes. Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker provide toughness while still being an offensive threat. It’s going to be interesting when Chris Paul returns to the fray.

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How did you read the title to this post? Was it, “Oh, What a Night!” or was it, “Oh, What a Night…” because we got both last night. The NBA was finally back after a crazy offseason and provided matchups that had us all salivating: Boston vs Cleveland and Houston vs Golden State. Hot diggidy! Unfortunately, the story of the night was the gruesome injury to Gordon Hayward. Last night was finally having great sex with the “crush.” Not having to do the walk of shame. Making it to the morning. Even going out to the local joint for breakast. Then…..the “crush” goes Exorcist and pukes all over your food, clothes, and the table….with some chunks causing collatoral damage to the innocent byeaters. Get well soon Hayward. Our thoughts are with you. Since this is a fantasy website, we have to get into the impact of injury. The Celtics started the game with Kyrie Irving at PG, Gordon Hayward at SG, Jaylen Brown at SF, Jayson Tatum at PF, and Al Horford at C. With Marcus Morris injured, I’d imagine that they continue to play small ball with Tatum at PF, Brown at SF, and Marcus Smart at SG. Terry Rozier would receive elevated minutes backing up both Kyrie and Smart.

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Image result for rockets logo

The Houston Rockets made a ton of moves in the offseason. The one that best exemplifies this squad, though, was……..

Ha! The 80s. Anyways, the Rockets did re-sign a Bobby Brown to a $1.5 million contract. This Brown is a 33 year old point guard that played his college ball at Cal State Fullerton and actually played in 25 games last season. Now, he will make no impact from a basketball perspective. Maybe he’s a good dancer and can provide energy on the bench perhaps? Maybe he performs on the court during timeouts and halftime? It would be an efficient use of resources. Honestly, the only reason I mention Bobby at all is because I chuckled when I saw his name on the depth chart and immediately thought of the song above. It’s an apt song, if you don’t take the lyrics literally. EVERY. LITTLE. STEP. I grew up playing Kung Fu on the NES. Basically, you start on a floor, kick and punch a bunch of things, then climb a set of stairs….rinse and repeat until you get to the top. That’s how I view this Rockets team. They’ve made improvements and EVERY. LITTLE. STEP. will be spent towards one goal. How quickly they can figure out things and traverse the landscape will determine how high they can go.

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