Like most of us, I’ll always remember where I was when I first heard the news that Kobe Bryant, his young daughter, Gianna, and seven others had passed away on Sunday. It reminded me a little bit of 9-11. Surely it was a small, two-seat plane that had accidentally hit the World Trade Center, right? When I first caught wind of the Kobe news, I thought that it was a hoax, especially given that it came from a random Facebook friend’s post who was making her first ever sports-related comment after likely getting a TMZ alert on her phone. And just like everyone else, I checked a few other sites to make sure it wasn’t true. But sadly, and eventually, we learned that the unthinkable was true.
Kobe’s killer instinct and drive are legendary, and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve told my young son that he has to be more like Kobe when we’ve been playing backyard sports. In fact, I’ve also called myself out for a lack of Mamba juice when I’ve blown a lead in ping pong, driveway hoops, Mario Kart, golf, mini golf, pool or anything else I might be playing with my kids or friends. I truly enjoyed watching the Monday night replay of his final game and I found myself wishing I’d paid a little more attention to detail to his final season, as well as his career. I vividly remember watching his entire 81-point game against the Raptors and have always been proud that I watched it live from start to finish. I also loved the Ron Artest/Metta World Peace post-game press conference after Kobe set Metta up for a dagger 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals. “He passed me the ball! Kobe passed me the ball!” And the living legend was also a great father and was truly enjoying his retirement. I have a Dose to write, but I didn’t want to do it without saying goodbye to Mamba. The only other guy in the NBA with the same kind of determination and mindset as Kobe was Michael Jordan. And that’s what separated them from everyone else. R.I.P., Mamba.
On a side note, I texted a good friend with the news of Kobe's passing as news was breaking. His response was "What? I'm in a helicopter." Needless to say, I didn't tell him how it happened and told him to call me when he was safely on the ground, which he did. He said that when he got the text his pilot was circling in an unfamiliar area, nervous to land and afraid of hitting wires. It was a bit surreal.
Kings 133, Timberwolves 129 OT – The Kings were down by 17 with just 2:49 remaining but still managed to come back and win the game. NBA teams were a combined 0-8,378 since 1996-97 when trailing by 17 or more in the final three minutes, so this was a truly remarkable win. Buddy Hield exploded for a career-high 42 points, five boards, three assists and nine 3-pointers on 14-of-24 shooting in the exciting win. Maybe the move to the bench will end up serving him well and he was clearly motivated by the loss of Kobe. De’Aaron Fox added 22 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, a steal and two blocks, and Nemanja Bjelica kept it going with 20 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, two steals, three blocks and four 3-pointers. I’ve been rolling with Bjelica all season and nothing can seem to slow him down. He’s helped by the fact that Richaun Holmes (shoulder) and Marvin Bagley (foot) are out right now, but I’m going to stick with Bjelica, even when the other guys are healthy. What a monster line! Bogdan Bogdanovic had 11 points, six boards, a steal and two 3-pointers in a start and is worth grabbing if he’s available. Dewayne Dedmon started, but hit just 1-of-4 shots in 16 minutes, meaning he belongs on waivers, and Kent Bazemore came through with 15 points, five boards, a steal and two 3-pointers off the bench. Just keep an eye on him.
The reeling Wolves blew a 17-point lead in the embarrassing loss and are now just 15-32 on the season but got some big fantasy performances in the loss. Andrew Wiggins went off for 36 points, nine boards, eight assists and seven 3-pointers, Robert Covington had 24 points, seven rebounds and six 3-pointers, and Karl-Anthony Towns added 23 points, eight rebounds, three assists, a steal, a block, three 3-pointers and seven turnovers in the loss. Shabazz Napier kept it going with 10 points, six boards, eight assists, two steals, a block and two 3-pointers in another start, while Jarrett Culver continued to struggle with five points and three steals on 2-of-7 shooting. Napier is worth owning if he’s available in your league and quietly triple-doubled in his previous game.
Rockets 126, Jazz 117 – Clint Capela (heel), James Harden (thigh) and Russell Westbrook (rest) were all out, so Eric Gordon decided to go ballistic with a career-high 50 points, six boards, three assists, two steals, a block and six 3-pointers on 14-of-22 shooting. He literally had the game of his life and hopefully Harden was taking notes on his efficiency. P.J. Tucker (9-10-5-1-1-1), Danuel House (21 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals, 2 3-pointers) and Austin Rivers (21 points on 7-of-21 shooting) all stepped up in the undermanned win. I’d like to think that this is the game that will get House going, but I just don’t see it happening once his teammates are back in action. In fact, there was nothing to learn from this game, except that EJ can still turn it on if need be.
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The Jazz were led by 36 points from Donovan Mitchell and an empty 30-point line from Bojan Bogdanovic, while Rudy Gobert came through with 12 points, 14 boards, a steal and two blocks. Joe Ingles was quiet again with seven points and six assists on 2-of-8 shooting, and even though Mike Conley is coming off the bench, he just can’t seem to play well when Conley is in uniform. It’s frustrating. I’m still not giving up on Jingles, but things were running more smoothly when Conley was out with his injury.
Mavericks 107, Thunder 97 – Luka Doncic led the way with 29 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and five 3-pointers on 10-of-24 shooting. He hasn’t been as efficient lately as he was earlier in the season and he hit just 4-of-7 free throws, which is making me nervous in my bet with Matt Stroup. Luka has to hit 75 percent from the line, or I owe Stroup a Danuel House jersey shirt, if they even still make them. Speaking of inefficiency, Kristaps Porzingis hit just 5-of-15 shots for 14 points, 10 rebounds, a steal, a block and two 3-pointers in the win. Dorian Finney-Smith had an off night, but Tim Hardaway Jr. (15 points, three 3-pointers), Maxi Kleber (11 points, three 3-pointers) and Delon Wright (14 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal, two 3-pointers) all played well in the win. I have no idea where this version of Wright has been all season, but it was nice to see. And no, I’m not picking him up. Centers Boban Marjanovic and Willie Cauley-Stein didn’t play, and while the Rotoworld crew is collectively against the idea of WCS holding any fantasy value in Dallas, I’m still holding out some hope. We’ll see if he starts doing anything once he’s had time to learn the ropes in Dallas. Surely, they didn’t trade for him not to play, right?
The Thunder were led by Dennis Schroder’s 21-7-6 line on a night when Chris Paul sat out to mourn the passing of Kobe, while Danilo Gallinari returned from his thumb injury for 14 points, five boards, six dimes and two 3-pointers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander racked up another double-double with 16 points and 11 boards, and Steven Adams was able to log 24 minutes for a 9-5-4 line as he plays on a tender ankle.
Cavaliers 115, Pistons 100 – In a game I couldn’t imagine watching, Collin Sexton scored 23 points with five assists, Kevin Love had 20 points, seven boards and six triples, and Tristan Thompson added 17 points and 11 rebounds in a rare win. Cedi Osman and Darius Garland were quiet as starters, while Alfonzo McKinnie got hot and scored 15 off the bench, and Larry Nance had 10 points, five boards, three assists, a steal and two blocks, also off the bench. Every time we get excited about Nance he falls back to earth, but Love will eventually be traded. McKinnie’s an afterthought, while we all need to keep an eye on Kevin Porter Jr., who had nine points in 16 minutes in his return from a knee injury. He tweaked an ankle last night and is on a minutes watch, so just keep him on your radar for now.
The Pistons had a balanced attack as everyone in their 10-man rotation contributed, while no one really killed it. Derrick Rose was out with a sore right knee, but Reggie Jackson was quiet in his stead with 16 points and two assists. I was hoping for a lot more. Andre Drummond filled up the stat sheet with 15 points, eight boards, four assists, three steals and two blocks, and Svi Mykhailiuk hit three 3-pointers for 13 points and not much else. Sekou Doumbouya and Christian Wood continue to be intriguing fantasy possibilities, but also continue to struggle for consistency, while Langston Galloway (11 points, three 3-pointers) remains a deep-league option for those in need of threes. Wood is still a hold in my opinion and Doumbouya should be kept on your radar, but they’ve both been pretty unreliable thus far. That’s going to change once Love is moved. Hopefully you moved Rose when things were going well, as this could be the beginning of knee problems that could dog him for the rest of the season. Then again, he could come back strong after getting some rest. I just don’t trust him. Detroit has three more games this week and plays four times next week, making Svi and Jackson worth a look.
Heat 113, Magic 92 – The Heat got a 20-10-10 triple-double from Bam Adebayo as his dream season continues. It was his third triple-double of the season. Duncan Robinson scored 21 with six 3-pointers and Jimmy Butler played through his ankle injury and had 19 points and seven dimes in the win. Tyler Herro had 13 points and two 3-pointers in the start and Goran Dragic added 14 points, five assists and four 3-pointers off the bench. Kelly Olynyk cooled off with eight points and three boards and Derrick Jones Jr. was quiet with eight points and an empty stat line. Olynyk was coming off two solid games, but last night was a reminder of his inconsistency that makes him tough to roster. I wish the Heat would start him over Meyers Leonard, but they don’t. Robinson has quietly scored in double figures in eight straight games and is averaging 12 points, 3.5 boards and 3.5 3-pointers in January, making him worth owning if you need 3-pointers.
The Magic had an off game and were led by 13 points, 12 boards, a steal, a block and two 3-pointers from Nikola Vucevic, while Aaron Gordon also had 13 points with seven rebounds, a block and a 3-pointer. Markelle Fultz had a nice line of 12 points, four rebounds, seven assists and two steals, and Evan Fournier hit just 3-of-13 shots for a 3-pointer and nine points. Michael Carter-Williams fell back to earth with nine points and nothing else, and Terrence Ross hit 4-of-14 shots and three 3-pointers to score 11. They should bounce back on Saturday when they’ll host the Heat in a rematch.
Bulls 110, Spurs 109 – All five Bulls starters (Thaddeus Young, Luke Kornet, Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Tomas Satoransky) scored in double digits in the one-point win, although none of them managed a double-double. Young, Kornet and Dunn were all close, LaVine led the way with 23 points (14 in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning free throws), and Sato had 13 points and six assists in the win. Denzell Valentine got hot for 16 points and four 3-pointers in 19 minutes, and Coby White had 11 points and six rebounds off the bench, but I’m not excited about either of them. Young and Kornet are both worth a close look right now with Lauri Markkanen (hip) and Wendell Carter Jr. (ankle) on the shelf, but both have been inconsistent. The Bulls play three more times this week if you want to grab one of them.
The Spurs were led by DeMar DeRozan’s 36 points, 10 rebounds and three assists and Patty Mills exploded with 25 points, six 3-pointers and two steals off the bench. Jakob Poeltl came through with 16 points, 13 boards and three blocks in a start for LaMarcus Aldridge (thumb) and was a sneaky DFS play last night, although his 2-of-8 free throw shooting likely cost the Spurs a win. Meanwhile, Dejounte Murray and Bryn Forbes were invisible, combining to hit just 2-of-9 shots for four points in the loss. Mills has blown up a few times this season but is just too inconsistent to use in most leagues. Murray has generally been worth holding but hasn’t had more than four assists in any of his last six games and is averaging just 8.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals in the month of January. You might be able to find a better option off your wire. Gregg Popovich makes it tough to own any Spur not named DeRozan or Aldridge on most nights.
Lakers-Clippers game postponed – Tuesday night’s Lakers-Clippers game has been (rightfully so) postponed due to the death of Kobe and the game will be made up at a later date. This week could very well determine a lot of fantasy outcomes as Chris Paul, James Harden, Clint Capela, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will all play fewer games than we expected. The Rockets have a four-game week, so Harden, Capela and Westbrook still have a shot at a three-game week, while the Lakers and Clippers have seen their schedule reduced to a two-game week. Additionally, if the Lakers-Clippers game is rescheduled smack in the middle of the fantasy playoffs, the implications could be massive with an extra game for LeBron, AD, Kawhi and George. It sounds like the two most likely dates for a reschedule are Feb. 19 or April 10, which are basically the two dates the Staples Center and both teams are available. If the reschedule happens on Feb. 19, the Clippers’ two-game week becomes a three-gamer, and the Lakers’ three-game week becomes a four-game affair. If the game is scheduled for April 10, both teams would play four times instead of three in many league’s championship week. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.