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.

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Welp.  Went up against the first place team and predictable things happened. JokerSmoker outclassed the Infector 6-2, but I did manage a glorious tie in the blocks category!  I was within ten points in every category.  My strategy of well-rounded guys to start, then fill in the gaps has failed.

What do do when your plan fails?  Trade!  Scottie Barnes, Jayson Tatum, and Anthony Edwards should be able to fetch good big guys.  I’m in good shape with rebounds and blocks.  I’m finna make some bad offers on paper but try to magnify my strengths and maybe get some Ws.  I’m also guessing none of the writers read this site trying to defeat an Infector.

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On a day with few games on the slate, we had an eventful day in the National Basketball Association. There was some movement in the coaching ranks. Steve Nash was dismissed by Brooklyn after only seven games. Rumors were rampant in the offseason that Kevin Durant wanted Nash fired. As life would have it, that happened. Whether or not Durant had any involvement is unknown. The two-time league MVP, Nash, in all his professionalism, thanked the city of Brooklyn, the players, and the organization for the opportunity. Nash exits, leaving the Nets 2-5, currently sitting at 13th in the Eastern Conference. The only way is up, right?

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Son had a nice moment of self-reflection on the latest podcast, recognizing how he – and we all – tend to get easily sucked into preseason storylines that make us overhype or dismiss certain players without questioning the herd mentality around said player. 

Case in point: Myles Turner, who was discussed more for his potential to be traded than for his promising fantasy game. After sitting out a couple games and taking one to ease back to form, Turner put up 27 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks and 2 assists while shooting 3-4 from three, 7-14 from the field and 10-10 from the line as the Pacers beat the Wizards 127-117. The trade talk will eventually reemerge, but in the meantime, Turner owners may get to feast on a steady diet of blocks with quality numbers across the board. It’s worth remembering he’s just 26, when big guys usually enter their prime. If that age and experience turns into consistency for Turner, there’s Top 15 value to be had here. 

More notes from a busy Friday night in the Association:

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The Suns’ off-season produced enough fireworks to sustain Kenny Powers on the Fourth of July.  Unfortunately, if you’re a Suns fan, the drama was less of the blockbuster trade or free agent acquisition variety, and more front-page-of-the-tabloid variety.  For starters, majority owner Robert Sarver is putting the team up for sale after being suspended for the entire season.   The news unleashed a circus of speculation surrounding the identity of the next owner, with Bob Iger, Shaq, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. being mentioned as candidates with varying levels of seriousness.  The Suns are also trying to deal a frustrated Jae Crowder, who capped off his summer of discontent by sitting out training camp and pre-season while the franchise works out a trade.  Speaking of pre-season, the Suns got off to an inauspicious start when the Adelaide 36ers came from Down Under and handed Phoenix a loss on their home court.  We all know not to read into pre-season too much, but between distractions at the top, the cloud hanging over Crowder’s exit, and simmering tensions between coach Monty Williams and Deandre Ayton, one gets the feeling that the turmoil from their disastrous second round ouster may extend into this season.

Whatever happens, there is still fantasy goodness to be mined from this fast-paced squad.  Here are my assessments as we near the start of the action:

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I’ll be honest, my original plan was to have this piece written and published at the end of last season, back when the failed chase for the top spot in the RazzJam was still fresh in my mind. But the NBA season is long and the Playoffs are so good, so when I fell just short of a championship, it seemed just fine to me to put this on the shelf for a bit. So, I sat on this with it being 95% completed and rested instead. Then Middleton went down and the Bucks got beat. The sun came out, the Celtics ran out of gas, and another Golden State summer onto my shores like a warm wave, even though I’ve traded in the Bay Area for Bay View. 

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We’ve gone through the Top 25. You’ve made the choice between SUV or sports car. The engine and transmission have been selected and you’re ready to go varoom varooooom. Now it’s time for the meat and potatoes of the squad. How is the interior going to be flushed out? Rims? Of course, but how big? Cost is always a concern but so is supply and demand. Make sure the pieces fit. There’s no reason to get a spoiler if you have a SUV. 

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The Charlotte Hornets defeated the Brooklyn Nets 119-110 to remain ahead of the Nets in the Eastern Conference standings. The two teams have identical 39-36 records, but with this win, the Hornets move to 2-1 against the Nets and secure the tiebreaker. Led by LaMelo Ball’s hot shooting, the Hornets spoiled Kyrie Irving’s home debut. Ball finished the game with 33 points (10-21 FG, 7-12 3PT), seven rebounds, nine assists, and three steals. Miles Bridges added 24 points (9-24 FG, 3-6 3PT), eight rebounds, two assists, and one steal. P.J. Washington tallied 18 points (8-12 FG, 2-3 3PT), 11 rebounds, and five assists. Terry Rozier notched 14 points (5-12 FG, 2-5 3PT), seven rebounds, four assists, and one steal. If the Hornets are making their threes they can be tough to beat and that was the case in this game. They shot 42% from the field as a team, but they shot 53% from three (17-32). As things currently stand, the Hornets would match up against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the play-in tournament, rather than the Nets. That’s unfortunate for us, the fans, as the pace of play and lack of defense on both sides would make a Nets vs. Hornets matchup must-see TV. Then again, there likely won’t be much defense in a Nets vs. Hawks series either.

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The Indiana Pacers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 129-98. In a rarity for this version of the Pacers, they were the more veteran team. Oshae Brissett spearheaded the Pacers’ attack, as he tallied 24 points (8-10 FG, 2-3 3PT), nine rebounds, one assist, and one steal. His day also included a highlight reveal reverse dunk in transition which came off a behind-the-back pass from Lance Stephenson. Have I mentioned that the Pacers are fun now!? Justin Anderson added 18 points, six rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Jalen Smith notched 17 points, five rebounds, and one block in just 17 minutes of play. I’m not sure if Smith will ever become the player the Suns hoped they were getting when he was drafted with the 10th pick in 2020, but he has at least grown into an intriguing prospect. He was 2-of-3 from behind the arc and also whipped out a Dirk-esque step-back off the dribble in the midrange. Terry Taylor (17) and Duane Washington Jr. (13) both had solid games as well. The Pacers led wire to wire and the lack of competitiveness of the game is reflected in the lower minute totals for Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield. Haliburton finished the game with 10 points, four rebounds, and seven assists. Hield tallied nine points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Finally, Lance Stephenson scored just two points, but grabbed six rebounds, dished out 11 assists, and swiped three steals.

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My man had 41 in the first half en route to a career-best 60. Kyrie is a wizard with the rock and when he gets going it’s hard to take your eyes off him. The extra rest he’s enjoyed this season practically jumps off the screen (not that he or Brooklyn necessarily needed it to get by a pretty bad and pretty checked-out Magic team), especially here in the doldrums of the season.  He’s a first-round talent when he’s out there, but of course we know that he’s not always out there.

This begs the question: Wouldn’t you rather only have 50 games played by the best players in the world who aren’t visibly fatigued instead of the 82-game marathon that routinely eats some of its young by the time the season’s over? I may not agree with everything Kyrie says or does, but the point he’s making by showcasing the value of fresh legs could be a silver lining if the league ever moves away from an oversaturated product and finally pares back their slaughterhouse of a season. Irving looks unbelievable out there. Imagine if everyone was this fresh.

Here’s what else I saw on a quiet Tuesday night in the NBA…

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The Nets defeated their in-state rival Knicks 110-107, behind a statement performance from Kevin Durant, who finished the game with 53 points (19-37 FG, 4-13 3PT), six rebounds, nine assists, and two steals. The 53 points were a season-high and just a point shy of his career-high. Andre Drummond added 18 points, 10 rebounds, and one block on a perfect eight for eight from the field. Bruce Brown, whose value and strong play has grown consistent of late, finished the game with 15 points (7-14 FG, 0-1 3PT), seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Nic Claxton contributed off the bench, compiling 10 points, five rebounds, one assist, two steals, and one block. Seth Curry was a late scratch due to an ankle injury. The Nets have now won three in a row after losing four in a row.  During this winning streak, Durant has reminded everyone in the league and everyone watching at home just how dominant he can be. The spiciest and most hilarious result of a late-season Nets winning streak would be a 76ers vs. Nets first-round matchup—one can only hope!

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