Much was made of the Chicago Bulls’ offseason, and rightly so. Following his promotion to president of basketball ops in 2020, Arturas Karisovas attempted to put the GarPax era firmly in the rear-view this summer by flipping the roster over pretty dramatically and moving the center of gravity away from a Zach LaVine-shaped black hole to a more egalitarian committee featuring new-comer Lonzo Ball, a full-season of Nikola Vucevic, and the $85M man himself: DeMar DeRozan. Ink was spilled and hands were wrung about the money spent on the 32-year-0ld DD and how all these new pieces would fit together, but considering Chicago’s position atop the Eastern Conference as we approach the quarter post of the season, it’s hard to feel anything but positive about the early returns on the new-look Bulls. DeRozan in particular has been balling of late, and following Sunday’s performance against the Knicks, DD is now on the cusp of the top-10 in fantasy hoops. Like Sinatra before him, DeMar is doing it his way.

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Anyone seen the movie, Red Dawn? *raises hand* Anyone else? A true American classic in which patriotic teens in the good ole’ US of A are able to thwart a Russian invasion on the Motherland. On Monday, the Knicks were the mighty Russians, as they went into Philadelphia against a depleted squad without three of their best players – Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and Ben Simmons. The initial invasion went smoothly as the Knicks led by 14 points at halftime but those pesky 76ers came out of the halftime locker room pumped up from watching Braveheart, presumably, and HEEEEEELLLLLLDDDDDDDDD. Like any King of New York does, though, Julius Randle squashed the rebellion to bring victory to its rightful owner as the Knicks eventually triumphed, 103-96.

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This is where the men get separated from the boys. True decisions have to be made. Do you draft for need or best player available? Do you take a shot at that rookie, even though historically, it hasn’t been a good bet? What about the good players who have fallen due to injury concerns? Decisions, decisions, decisions. Speaking of decisions, there have been around 10% of NBA players who are choosing not to get vaccinated. Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, and Jonathan Isaac are the most known out of the group. Irving and Wiggins are in danger of not being allowed to play in their home arenas due to protocols. So be wary of drafting these players.

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A routine win for the Nets here against the Bulls, who were without Zach LaVine. The Bulls have already mailed it in this season since they have been out of playoff contention for a couple of days now while the Nets are getting ready for their title charge in the post-season. 

Patrick Williams had himself a game yesterday and he showed why the Bulls took him so high in the draft last year. He scored 24 points on the back 64.3% shooting from the field while also grabbing five rebounds and getting two steals. Nikola Vucevic also contributed with yet another double double of 10 points and 11 rebounds, while one of the revelations of the year, Thaddeus Young also got a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds. As the season dwindles down the Bulls now have to look forward to the draft and free agency in order to start addressing their problems. They could start with finding a point guard, whether it be through the draft or attempting to make a play for Lonzo Ball. 

As far as the Nets go, it seemed like they did not need to come out of first gear as Kevin Durant put up only 12 points, but had an impressive performance on the glass with nine rebounds as well as six assists. Kyrie Irving did not do much else except score 22 points off the back of three triples while the other member of the big three, James Harden had an unlikely performance with just five points, five rebounds, seven assists, a steal and two blocks. Bruce Brown, though, put up a double-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds to go along with three assists and two steals. The Nets already have their sights and mind and hearts in the playoffs and are waiting to see who their first round opponents will be. This team has high aspirations and anything less than a championship will be seen as a failure. 

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I feel like our children’s generation and their children’s generation are going to look back upon our generation and have a gross underappreciation of Kevin Durant. Maybe it’s because of all the narratives floating around but I rarely hear him mentioned as one of the greats. Because in my mind, granted my mind is small and has been heavily influenced by trees and mushrooms, he is one of the greatest to ever play the game. He’s a seven-footer who has handles like a guard, is a career 1/1/1 player, a career 27-point scorer, and a career 49/38/88 shooter. He’s got the hardware and is one of the most unstoppable offensive forces in the game. Because he’s missed so much time this year due to injury, he’s been out of the consciousness of many but Dudeisamazingant reminded us of his ability yesterday.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
42 10 2 1 0 5 7/13 16/33 3/4

In 40 minutes. The 58th time Dudeisamazingant has scored at least 40 points in a game. Durant has played 28 games this season and he’s the number six player on a per-game basis. Over the last seven seasons, he’s finished as the numero uno player for fantasy three times and been top five in six seasons. I hope he stays healthy so I can continue to watch his greatness.

Here’s what else I saw yesterday:

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The ridiculous and predictably bad “condensed” NBA schedule has finally reared its ugly head. The injuries are rolling in faster than me when they say there’s free cake in the break room, and fantasy teams everywhere are hurting. Hopefully you have multiple IL spots. I have two in the league I run usually, but we upped it to three midseason.

If your commissioner didn’t have such foresight, RIP. But there’s good news: You don’t have to hurt anymore.

When players go out, that means other players step up to fill the void. So who should we be grabbing for the week? Who is going to win us our fantasy playoff matches?

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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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I used to walk 500 Myles for Turner but he’s hurt and I’m a fantasy slut. Plus, I walked way more than 500 Myles. Go check the receipts. I was walking before people were talking. Anyways, the new campaign is to walk 500 Miles for Bridges. Remember back in the day when they’d have those heart challenges at school and you’d have to ask for donations for a walk? It’s similar except we are not asking for money. We are demanding respect for Miles Bridges. Last night was just the latest example of his dominance this season.

PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV 3PT FG FT
15 14 3 1 1 4 3/9 6/16 0/2

In 38 minutes. Bridges has started the last nine games and been a top 35 player. He’s averaged 38 minutes, 21 points, 3.3 tres, 7.5 boards, 2.4 dimes, 0.9 steals, and 0.9 blocks while shooting 54% from the field and 77% from the line. The usage rate has been 21. That number was at 16 for most of the season. He’s benefited from injuries but the genie is out of the bag now. There’s no stuffing it back in. If it happens, then we walking, and walking, and walking until it’s water under the Bridges.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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If your league has been around a while, you have likely started the fantasy playoffs already. If not, you’re likely starting them very soon. There’s always a shift that happens after the all-star break as teams decide they need a drastic shift or they choose to tank.

As a result, players often slip into fantasy relevance that were once forgotten, or borderline, plays. All rankings in this article were taken from Basketball Monster and are the 9-category player rankings for the last two weeks of the season in PER GAME value, not total value.

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I used to love watching Animal Planet. That is, when they actually used to show freaking wild animals in their natural habitat. Now it’s a bunch of BS shows that IDGAF about. Anyways, watching a cackle of hyenas or a pride of lions working together to take down prey was always an exhilarating watch. That’s usually because the prey was a big, burly beast who could F shit up. It would take hours and a coordinated precision to take it down. Sometimes they trudged home empty-handed, but every once in a while, they would overcome and feast. Last night, a pack of Pacers Voltron’d up and took down the hurly-burly Grizzly for a 132-125 victory. Domantas Sabonis produced 18 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, and one steal. Malcolm Brogdon contributed 29 points, nine rebounds, 11 assists, and one steal. Caris LeVert went for 34 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal, and three blocks. It took 48 minutes, but the Pacers finally defeated the Grizzlies, 132-125 as Jonas Valanciunas was a freaking beast, going for 34 points, 22 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. He shot 16-for-25 from the field.

Here’s what else I saw last night:

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