Christmas Day is among the most hyped lineup of games during the NBA season. But Friday, Dec. 23, was a Festivus celebration for the rest of us. After all, the Association exemplifies feats of strength and airing of grievances this time of year, as the slow-starting teams begin to gripe in the locker room, trade chatter reaches new highs, and the established powers of the season start showing more muscle in impressive wins. 

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The Lakers lost eight of their first 10 games. Anthony Davis did not play in one of those contests and he put up fewer than 50 DraftKings points in seven. Since then, Davis went over 50 DK points in every game with three over 70 and a high of 84.8. The Lakers won seven games during that span. On Sunday, Davis said “Hold my beer” to no one in particular. Maybe to the world that is filled with despicable keyboard warrior haters that populate mom’s basements across the world. And he did this:

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On a recent podcast with Son, I let slip, “If you’re a center that doesn’t get blocks, I don’t think I have any use for you.” It was a knee-jerk line, one that I hadn’t much considered before it fell out of my mouth, and I’ve been wrestling with how true that might actually be ever since. For most of the summer, I’ve been vexed by the center position because, outside of the elite guys, the shortcomings of the position are obvious and numerous. For many, their usefulness in category leagues extends only to rebounds, blocks and FG%, and oftentimes those few spoils are sacrificed at the altar of points, dimes, triples, and free-throw percentage. Drafting a center that doesn’t, it’s a steep tradeoff in the best of circumstances, so when looking at someone like Deandre Ayton – a top-50ish, center-eligible player who produced exactly enough swats last year to break even in the category by z-score – I began to wonder what exactly the point was. 

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Long-suffering Kings fans are back on the hopium, and since 2006 was the last time we witnessed playoff basketball in Sacramento, who can blame them? But after February’s blockbuster trade, an outstanding Summer League performance from their first round pick, and a pair of free agent guard acquisitions, there is a sense that the optimism is warranted.  On paper, the Kings have a more focused roster built around the playmaking abilities of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis.  They get a fresh start to a season after shedding players who didn’t want to be there – Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III.  They have arguably more depth with Richaun Holmes shifting to the bench, Malik Monk playing significant minutes off the pine, and Davion Mitchell continuing to develop.  They have a new head coach in Mike Brown who will seek pull them out of the bottom half of the defensive rankings.  This time may be different…

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The trade winds are blowing! After some smaller pieces were moved over the last few days, Tuesday brought about the most significant player shuffling to date ahead of Thursday’s Trade Deadline. Indiana sent All-Star Domantas Sabonis and friends to Sacramento for a package headlined by Buddy Hield and second-year stud Tyrese Haliburton. As someone who has dipped their toes into Kings fandom, it’s hard not to feel like the Kings are screwing things up all over again. Haliburton is arguably the best draft decision the Kings have made since taking DeMarcus Cousins at pick five in the 2010 draft, and his high basketball IQ, passing prowess, and ability to sit down and defend sure seem to be things that would be valued in Sac, especially considering the defensively leaky and largely clueless roster the Kings have assembled. In shipping out Hield and Hali, the Kings have kinda nuked their three-point shooting and Sabonis’ presence largely neutralizes the value of Richaun Holmes, a player they just handed a four-year deal. But hey, with Sabonis at least there’s an All-Star on the roster now (De’Aaron Fox grimaces at this). Longtime Blazer CJ McCollum was also given his walking papers on Tuesday. He’s headed down New Orleans way to play for the Ples, who might have something cooking now, even without Zion.

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The Utah Jazz defeated the Denver Nuggets 125-102, snapping a four-game losing streak. The Jazz were just 1-4 without Rudy Gobert in the lineup and Gobert and Donovan Mitchell seemed to trade subliminal jabs in press conferences and on social media. They appear to have righted the ship, for now. The Jazz are a bit of conundrum. They are an undeniably good team that has been labeled “a regular season team” for a few years, maybe even erroneously, except it didn’t matter because they did fall short of expectations in the playoffs. This year, there is once again general indifference towards the team outside of Utah and most interested parties are just wondering when Donovan Mitchell asks for a trade because he can’t get along with Gobert. The Jazz can’t get very far without Donovan Mitchell’s scoring, but they appear even more doom-struck without Gobert’s defense. What can be done? Would Jerami Grant help? Harrison Barnes? Whatever happens, I know fans outside of Utah will watch with crazy-eyed delight if the foundation once again crumbles beneath them in the playoffs.

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For the first time this year, the fantasy star of the night comes from a losing team. It is well deserved as Dejounte Murray has gone from zero games with 30 or more points, to two of those games in just a week. Murray followed up his 32 point triple-double from Wednesday with a 30-point near triple-double on Friday. He finished with 30 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists. Murray sits inside the top-20 players and has been on an absolute tear of late, but this upside may not last long as Derrick White is very close to returning from the league’s health and safety protocols. 

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The Brooklyn Nets took home the 121-119 victory in this Sunday matinee against the rebuilding, but still pesky San Antonio Spurs. In classic 2021-22 Nets fashion, they gave up a 14-point lead and allowed the Spurs to tie the game late in the fourth quarter and push the game into overtime, where Nets’ rookie Cam Thomas stole the show. Both teams struggled to score in the waning minutes of regulation and overtime, most notably Kevin Durant. As a result, when Durant was doubled on the Nets’ final possession at the elbow, with about six seconds left in the game, he rose up and fired a pass to Cam Thomas sliding up from the corner. Thomas pump-faked, took two hard dribbles and rose up for a one-legged runner fading to his left at the free-throw line. Nothing but net. Thomas’ made floater in overtime turned out to be the game-winner as Lonnie Walker was blocked on the Spurs ensuing inbound play. Even if he hadn’t been blocked, however, the shot wouldn’t have counted. Walker released the shot after the buzzer, as the Spurs had just one-point-four seconds to shoot. The narrow escape victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Nets.

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Welcome to your midweek guidance for Week 12! The goal of this post is to steer you towards quality streamers who can help you win your head-to-head matchups.  We’re nearly halfway through the season, and we’ve already seen more than 540 players cycle through the league thanks to COVID-19 protocols.  While this unprecedented situation is frustrating, it is providing opportunities to try out players who never would have sniffed 12-team league rosters otherwise.  Last week, we witnessed the resurrection of Gary Harris and some astonishingly good shooting performances from Coby White and Malik Monk.  Hopefully some of you were able to cash in on those recommendations.  This week, there’s a whole new set of COVID absences and injuries, so let’s get into the schedule and some player recommendations.

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A late Happy New Year to everyone taking the time to read this article. Welcome to 2022 NBA basketball where 10-day contracts bear 30-point performances, the league is finally getting healthy and every armchair general manager swears that every team should just blow it up. The more things change the more they stay the same eh? Well with 11 games and 22 teams playing last night let’s get right into it. 

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On Monday, Mr. and Mrs. Hooper packed up the car, coaxed our puppy Buckets into the backseat, and left the Mecca of American basketball (Milwaukee) in our rearview mirror to pay a post-holiday visit to Mama and Papa Hooper in Ohio. Though it runs counter to who I eventually ended up becoming, there actually isn’t any basketball in this particular household, so this Tuesday night recap is coming to you more or less blind. I’ve scoured Twitter and box scores as best I can, and we’re on track to be back home for next Tuesday’s action, but because I didn’t watch any hoops last night, I’m foregoing nominating a lede player here and just getting straight into it.

It was a busy night Tuesday night across the league. Here’s what jumped out to me here in the hinterlands of hoops…

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