Coaches often become the scapegoat in situations where a team is underperforming, both realistically and sometimes in their owner’s eyes. A quick fix is to fire the coach and patience is often in short supply in situations like these. NBA fans are used to that, but Kenny Atkinson’s firing from the Nets is one of the most undeserving one of recent memory. His Nets are almost surely making the playoffs, either from the 7th or the 8th position, he coached the full season without Kevin Durant and most of it without Kyrie Irving. Last year he made the playoffs with the highest paid players on the team being Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, and Jared Dudley. Let that sink in for a moment….

He seems like an obvious hire for the Knicks, to be honest, or even for the underwhelming Bulls. Hopefully, he gets his chance soon as he seems very deserving. Maybe the pressure from Rodions Kurucs to get him fired was too much for the owners to overcome…

On the fantasy front, I have to admit last week was not a great week in terms of my suggestions. Royce O’Neal and De’Andre Hunter were mediocre, while Jae Crowder pulled a Houdini and disappeared from the rotation and the scoreboard in his last three games. Even Cody Zeller, who I suggested as a “Sell” candidate got his minutes back and unsurprisingly proceeded to have a team-low -16 in last night’s double overtime loss in Atlanta.

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In Dave Hickey’s seminal basketball essay, “The Heresy of Zone Defense,” he celebrates and argues that the game of basketball has been fair, civil, and liberated, from its very inception. Hickey celebrates basketball’s continuous evolution toward freedom, though he has nothing but contempt for college basketball and (naturally) zone defense. By the time Hickey wrote and published his essay in 1995, zone defense had been outlawed in the NBA in favor of the now defunct illegal defense rules. Obviously, the illegal defense rules morphed into its own form of limiting monotony, and though it does not appear that Hickey expected such an evolution, there’s no doubt that he’d support its elimination once it ceased to inspire innovation. In 2020, zone defense is back with a vengeance, but the reality of zone defense today is different from the one Hickey saw as dangerous, uninteresting governance.

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It pains me to write this, but I was never a big Kobe Bryant fan during his playing days, and I regret that fact, immensely. I never had him on my fantasy team. I never watched his games late at night on the east coast. I never applauded his championships and didn’t care much about his 60-point performance to end his career. With that said, his passing hit me much harder than I thought it would, and that was before I found out his daughter was alongside him, which made it all the more tragic. I have come to appreciate him more since his retirement. His business acumen, his desire to succeed in every facet of life, and his willingness to mentor young NBA players and aspiring professionals alike, is inspirational. Those are the types of things that I respect, as a professional and as a parent.

It occurred to me that Kobe Bryant had that Tom Brady effect on me. While my Knicks fandom was not directly affected by the Lakers’ success, I felt as if Kobe had the same suffocating hold on me as Tom Brady and the Patriots have on my Jets fandom. It turns out I was likely envious of the success my Lakers friends were witnessing, while I sat rooting for dysfunction.

Well, over the last few days I have taken the time to watch that final 60-point performance, along with tons of amazing highlights I have seen over the years, and I enjoyed every second of it. The culmination of the career of the immensely talented and competitive specimen that was Kobe Bryant came to a head on a historic night. I have taken the time to understand the competitiveness that drove Kobe, and I wish I had that Mamba Mentality on a daily basis. Seeing that Kobe’s passing has had such an impact nationally speaks volumes to who he was as a player, an icon, and a role model for so many, and he will be sorely missed.

Every year the trade deadline comes and goes. This year there are some intriguing names that could be hitting the market. The next man up mentality is true in all facets of the game, and trades open many opportunities for players to seize. Here are a few deep stashes for the upcoming trade deadline.

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As NBA fans and fantasy basketball players we all lust for the power of NBA general managers. Many of us wrongly assume we could do a better job heading our favorite team’s basketball operations—it isn’t hard to get those ideas if you happen to be a Knicks, Magic, Timberwolves, Suns, or Kings fan. But what we long for as much as the power, is the seriousness of the endeavor. NBA GM’s get to make decisions that carry weight. A draft pick is quite simply a choice—a highly public, decade-defining choice in some cases, but a choice all the same. We make choices every day—the blue or the red tie, Toyota Camry or Nissan Altima, Fleabag or The Good Place, two drinks or twelve, poetry or literally anything else that might actually pay the bills. We make applicable sports decisions as well. We choose between Kyrie Irving or Damian Lillard in our fantasy draft, we add Kendrick Nunn or Davis Bertans off the wire, we kill Russell Westbrook in the group chat, we build property on Julius Randle, Dion Waiters, or Lonzo Ball Island. We tweet, we engage, and we argue. We win our league or we don’t. In time, we are either vindicated or pilloried. At best, we have a lighthearted thing to lord over people we care about, at worst, we have to dye our hair, wear ugly ill-fitting clothes, or in a more recent trend, consume enough waffles to avoid sleeping in a Waffle House. But largely, no one notices or cares, as our sports opinions are indiscernible dots in a sea of data points.

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When Kyrie Irving went down to injury on November 14, the Nets lost their leader. The fantasy community lost its leader. And hope was starting to look bleak for the upcoming stretch of games without the explosive veteran running the point.

But Spencer Dinwiddie has not missed a beat. In the eight games that he’s started in place of Irving, he has averaged 24.5 points, 7.8 assists, three boards, a steal, and a block per game. He’s shooting 93% from the line with a decent sample size of 7.5 attempts per game. He has limited his turnovers to 2.4 per game. The only knock has been his efficiency from the field (42.4%) and from deep (34%), but all things considered, Dinwiddie is deserving of many thanks from his teammates.

His teammates were especially thankful last night, as he was giving at a particularly generous rate and recorded the following stat line:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
32 5 11 2 2 4 6-8 10-19 6-6

His 11 dimes led the NBA (along with LeBron and Luka), and his sharp-shooting from deep led the Nets to a great win over the division-rival Celtics. Here’s what else happened around the league on Friday night.

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Yesterday, I was walking in the woods. The booty call chirps from the male birds filled my ears while the wind blew crispness onto my face like a bug on a windshield. Since the season is autumn, the ground was layered with leaves of many colors; red, brown, and orange. It was pleasing to the eyes, but depressing when I got philomosophical about what I was seeing. The leaves were that color and on the floor because they were dead. As I crunched one leaf, then smooshed another, I began to fall deeper and deeper into a depressive state when……I saw it; a sole Leaf hovering in the air with a ray of light shining upon it. It was center stage, floating, wavering, then eventually started dancing; making a mockery of the autumn wind. This Leaf was none other than T. J. Leaf of the Indiana Pacers, who danced to a line of:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
15 15 1 1 1 2 1/2 6/13 0

Before we mental masturbate over the prospects of this Leaf flying forever, keep in mind that he only played 22 minutes off the bench, and those 22 minutes only came as a result of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis not playing. Leaf has some potential, as he’s a big who can rebound, shoot from downtown, and run the floor. Unfortunately, his defense is suboptimal and he’s buried on the depth chart.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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There have been 59 players in the history of the NBA who have scored 50 points in a game more than once. Laughably, Wilt Chamberlain produced a 50-burger 118 times. For perspective, Michael Jordan is second on the all-time list, and he was “only” able to do it 31 times. Only nine players have accomplished the feat at least 10 times. What I’m trying to say is that scoring fifty points in a game is freaking hard and few are able to do it. You know who knew, though? The Stocktonator, as it had Kyrie as the #3 player last night. Entering last night’s game, Kyrie Irving had accomplished the feat two times.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
50 8 7 0 1 0 7/14 17/33 9/10

Make that three now. When a player drops a 50-burger, the world is truly his. Look, it’s an auto intro in my daily recaps. Now, since the world is Kyrie’s, if he says the world is flat, then the world is flat. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the 50-burger was dropped on the corner of FLATbush Avenue and Atlantic Ave inside the Barclays Center? Me thinks not. But then I remembered something about history, in that it is written by the victors. Despite Kyrie’s heroics, the Nets fell to the Timberwolves in OT, 127-126. You round Earthers live to fight another day.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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I now understand why this forward position is named power, as it is a microcosm of society at large. There is the 1% vs everyone else. For fantasy basketball, there is Giannis Antetokounmpo vs womp womp womp. While all the other positions have multiple players who could legitimately vie for the top spot, everyone bends the knee to G. This is 1985-1989 Mike Tyson-esque domination. Could a Buster Douglas come out of nowhere? Sure, as black swan events can never be discounted, but outside of injury to G, that scenario is highly unlikely.

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