As the early part of the NBA 2022-23 season churns on, a lot of storylines and off-the-court drama permeates. Some of these were built off the back from previous seasons; the trending bewilderment of Ben Simmons, the Lakers continued struggles while inadvertently tanking for Wembanyama while the Pelicans have the rights to their first-round pick also remains a bold strategy. Kyrie Irving is still a hateful idiot. But there are also new and interesting storylines being created right now, like the Jazz competing with the Spurs and TrailbBlazers for the number one seed (early, but you can talk about it!), the Clippers being a mess, the resurgence of James Harden… and the Bucks continue their quest for 82-0, squeaking out a win last night. While there’s a lot to ridicule (mostly the Nets), there’s a lot of interesting items both on and off the court that have made this season already special. Here’s what else I saw last night:

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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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With fantasy playoffs right around the corner, I thought it would be a fun exercise to go team by team and point out one player that should be available on waiver wire in most fantasy leagues. With most fantasy trade deadlines passing, I thought it would be informative that you know who’s available on waivers. A quick note before we get into the article, the percentages are based off of ESPN leagues, the numbers may vary on other platforms, however they shouldn’t change to a significant degree.

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The Orlando Magic beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-108 in a nailbiter in the sunshine state. The vaunted Mavericks defense posed only so much resistance as seven Magic players scored in double figures, led by Chuma Okeke off the bench. Okeke finished the game with 19 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Franz Wagner finished the game with 18 points, two rebounds, three assists, and one steal.  Cole Anthony tallied 16 points, four rebounds, and six assists. Wendell Carter Jr. notched a double-double with 14 points, 14 rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Moritz Wagner tallied 14 points, four rebounds, and two assists off the bench. The last time these two teams played Mo Wagner and Luka Doncic got into a bit of a curfuffle. Wagner has an earned reputation as an irritant and Luka did not forget their exchange. He spent much of the first half talking trash to Wagner, growing bolder and bolder every time a Mavericks player scored on the German. However, later in the game, the Magic seemed to make point of involving Luka in the action when the Mavericks were on defense. Wagner rolled to a number of dunks in pick and roll action with Luka guarding Wagner or in the vicinity as a help defender. With the victory, it was Wagner who got the last laugh, at least for now. Mo Bamba and Gary Harris each scored 10 points.

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The Miami Heat took home the nervy, 113-107 victory, but the Lakers nearly caught them slipping. In a game the Heat led almost the entire way and by as many as 26 points, the Lakers put together a fierce fourth quarter and nearly stole the victory. For three quarters, however, the Heat played the basketball version of “the beautiful game.” Offensive production was spread across the lineup and they were flowing into good looks. Jimmy Butler led the charge in Kyle Lowry’s absence (personal reasons) and he finished the game with a triple-double: 20 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, two steals, and one block. Butler’s 10th triple-double moved him into the first place on the Heat’s all-time list, surpassing LeBron James. Duncan Robinson was hot early and even scored some important points in the fourth quarter; he finished the game with 25 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Bam Adebayo had a decent, but uneven game. He was stifled a fair amount by LeBron’s defense, as he was LeBron’s primary cover when the Lakers went small. Adebayo finished the game with 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block. Gabe Vincent filled in admirably, once again, for Lowry and finished the game with 11 points, one rebound, six assists, and two steals. Caleb Martin also notched eleven points and further cemented his “best two-way player in the league status”—a dubious honor, he’d no doubt like to be rid of as soon as possible.

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The Charlotte Hornets were on a three-game losing streak heading into this Sunday evening matchup with the Atlanta Hawks—a bad loss to the Rockets in overtime, a sluggish and overmatched defeat against the Bulls, and a buzzer-beating loss at the hands of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. LaMelo had a standout game against the Bucks and before Giannis’ game-winning layup, he hit a beautiful leaning three over Pat Connaughton to tie the game. Sometime after their loss to the Bucks, LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Jalen McDaniels, and Mason Plumlee were placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. At the time of that announcement, Ball was leading the Hornets in points, assists, steals, and rebounds per game. Heading into this contest, I was bummed to not get a chance to watch these two teams compete at something closer to full strength. But as is so often the case with the Hornets, they did the unexpected, beating the Hawks 130-127 with two of their best four players sidelined.

Don’t spit the bit was the directive from Eric Collins—after the Hornets coughed up leads against the Rockets and Bucks. Collins—the team’s television play-by-play announcer and rising star in the NBA universe—brought his full bag of phrases for this road game. It was almost like Collins was trying to will the undermanned Hornets to a victory by unloading his full clip of quips—and it worked! (Miles Bridges might have helped)

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The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Sacramento Kings 105-99 in the Sunday matinee game. Viewers were treated to the full  “Luka Doncic Experience,” as he had a near triple-double, 23 points (10-21 FG, 1-7 3PT), eight rebounds, 10 assists, one steal, one block, and three turnovers. Doncic also picked up a technical foul midway through the third quarter after an expletive-filled barrage, that followed three-quarters of Doncic’s patented palms up, pouty-face routine. Oh, and he made this ridiculous, back-breaking three-pointer to round out the experience:

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The Charlotte Hornets were everyone’s favorite League Pass team last season and they should remain one of the most exciting teams to watch, though they might have some serious competition from the Houston Rockets. It was a mixed bag of a season for the Hornets in 2020-21. LaMelo Ball emerged, Gordon Hayward looked good when healthy, and both Terry Rozier and Miles Bridges had breakout seasons. They managed to sneak into the expanded playoffs, where they failed to advance out of the Play-In tournament. They might fall out of the Play-In this season due to the surprisingly tough Eastern Conference, but it’s all about development and improvement for this roster anyways. As long as they draft well, or, you know…tank, their best years should be ahead of them. Let’s figure out what all this means for fantasy!

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In Brooklyn, the veterans always preferred DeAndre Jordan over him, even though he was better. Now in Cleveland, he’s forced into a timeshare with Andre Drummond and Larry Nance Jr. When will Allen get his due? According to leading armchair psychologists, it was all that pent-up frustration that led to this outburst. In contention for the line of the year so far.

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