I’m the big, fat loser this year in our 9-cat league’s championship game. Am I happy I made it this far in a totally insane season? Yep. Am I upset I lost? It always stings, but one week can make or break you and I don’t feel bad losing to a team I lost to the only time I faced them in the regular season. It feels like the right team won.

All that said, this season was completely wackadoodle and probably the most benefit you’ll get from reading these words is this introduction where I’m going to attempt to break down my thinking on the season and how we all got here.

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During draft season, I joked with the other Razz writers that, according to my extremely unscientific research, 100% of LA guys were in on LaMelo Ball. The echo chamber and hype bubble were too well-constructed for this not to be the case (also I didn’t really do much research and threw out evidence that didn’t support my theory. I’m Mister Hooper, not Doctor.) LaVar’s greatest creation was not the trio of ballers he sired (or those ugly shoes), but the machine he constructed to discuss them ad infinitum. Put off the Ball family brashness, I was lukewarm on LaMelo when drafting and missed out on an extremely fun and productive rookie year. The hype will be hot again next season, I assume, especially if the Hornets show some fight against one of the beasts of the East, so I’ll probably miss him next year too. But perhaps there’s a backdoor to one of these Balls. While little bro is taking up all the shine, Lonzo Ball has taken another step forward, especially as a shot maker. The vision and passing has always been legit (even my hater-ass was quick to concede that after watching him at Summer League) but the stroke has been sanded down and his 3-point percentage now creeps towards 40%. Still shy of 24-years-old, he’s putting it together.

Last night, playing in the aptly named Ball Arena in Denver, Lonzo consistently got where he wanted to go on the floor and then dimed up his teammates once he cracked the Denver defense open. The highlight package below isn’t spectacular, but if you want to watch a dude move to the exact spots  where he’s most dangerous, then I have the clip for you.

Lonzo Ball

PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG FT TO
16 12 12 4 2 4 6/14 0/0 4

It was another busy Wednesday in professional hoops. Here’s what else stood out:

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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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Fox has been on an absolute tear. In the last month, he’s shot 50.2% from the field and 80.2% from the line while averaging 28.3/3.5/6.1 and almost 2 steals per game. I still think the percentages are bound to fall, but this hot stretch might take Fox straight through the season, prompting many to take him too early in drafts next year. Be careful is all I’m saying, but enjoy the production for now.

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Steve Urkel and CJ McCollum have so much in common. Just look at them. Both are underappreciated and often get brushed aside. In Urkel’s case, he’s got an annoying, nasally voice, the style is juvenile, and he’s just a straight-up nerd. McCollum plays alongside Damian Lillard, who spits hot fire off the court and goes NBA Jam He’s Heating Up on it. But man, both are ballers on the hardwood. Here’s Urkel:

McCollum had his own heroics last night:

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
23 7 5 2 3 1 1/7 9/18 4/4

Yes, he did that. He rarely is a maven on defense but he got busy last night. In his career, that was the eighth time in his career that he’s notched at least two steals and two blocks in the same game. Since returning from injury, McCollum has played eight games, scored at least 20 points in four with two of those over 30, and garnered a usage rate over 30 in four of those contests. Last night, the usage rate was 22. With Norman Powell now in the mix, it will be interesting to see how the pie is spliced between Lillard, McCollum, and Powell. Regardless, McCollum gonna get his and could finish as a top 40 player in fantasy.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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If you’re looking for intro material, check out yesterday’s post regarding the Eastern Conference All-Star team. If click and reading isn’t your thing, here’s a quick refresher:

The task was to assemble a 12-man ballot comprised of 3 Guards, 3 Forwards, 2 Centers, and 4 Flex positions with 9-category scoring (points, boards, dimes, steals, swats, turnovers, three-pointers made, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage) in mind. Votes were cast and write-ups were, uh, written up by the Razzball basketball staff.

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