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Fantasy Tips from a Man Who Played One Year and Lost

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Let me set the scene for you: A cutthroat, 10-team head-to-head league with a zero dollar buy-in, and a few team owners who had maybe never seen a quarter of NBA basketball in their entire lives. The consequence for getting swept in one of your weekly matchups was having to upload a video of you covering a pop song to the best of your abilities to Facebook for the entire world to see—a grim reality where your only prize for succeeding was not having to belt out Carly Rae Jepsen’s greatest hits and upload it to a platform all of the hot girls you went to high school with still frequent.

It was like if Bill Simmons wrote an episode of Black Mirror.

This deadly serious league was where I found myself last October after being invited to play fantasy basketball for the first time ever by my good friend Simon. To prepare for war I quickly sized up my competition on Facebook to see if any of them were actual NBA GMs. After confirming that almost none of them were, I named my team “Kawaii Leonard” and photoshopped a photo of the Spurs superstar so that he had gigantic, glimmering anime eyes to use as my team banner. I was ready to compete, and set to dominate.

In the end, though, like any before it, this past NBA season was chock-full of upsets, injuries, and Dion Waiters buzzer-beaters that rendered useless most of the research and predictions fantasy owners take the time to do.    

I fought valiantly enough—remembered to set my lineups often enough—to find myself in third place after the dust had settled. And although I didn’t win, I claimed a moral victory and came away with some bulletproof fantasy basketball tips I’m willing to pass on to you guys right now.

Establish A Team Identity Early

Most people think statistics are everything in fantasy basketball. This is a false narrative that has lead a lot of nerds down the advanced stat hole and opened their third and most annoying eye. The actual most important thing in fantasy basketball is team identity. Without a hook—fun pun name, only drafting injured centers, etc.—how will other owners in your league know that you are here to crush them for the next 19 weeks? A good way to do this is to write an introduction for yourself, explain the way you plan to play against your foes and watch them tremble through their computer screens like I did at the outset of last season.

To introduce myself: my name is Ave, I write about basketball for a new site called “PRESS Basketball.” I’m only drafting players who are friends with Drake, and I spend most days beating off Simon at 2k or in a stupor watching Shawn Kemp dunk compilations. Can’t wait to be terrible at fantasy with a new group of meme lovin’ dudes.

As you can see, I balanced humor with intimidation like a fantasy Sun Tzu. The art of war, in my case, was as simple as name dropping Shawn Kemp and posting an artist’s representation of God and his only Son, J.R. Smith. It put me on a fast track to becoming feared and respected by all nine other team owners who loved memes and were bad at fantasy sports.

You’re Gonna Do Some Really, Really Dumb Stuff—But That’s Okay.

Pobody’s Nerfect. Even basketball’s consensus “GOAT” wears baggy jeans and spends his days in casinos losing money earned from selling his overpriced sneakers to impoverished youth across the world—so when you step up to the plate and strike out, I implore you to shake it off and keep moving forward. Last year I accidentally drafted a very injured Nerlens Noel—he only played 22 games, and none in the first half of the season—and then put Jusuf Nurkic on waivers a week before he was traded to Portland so I could pick up Mo Speights. To be completely honest, those are just the two mistakes I’m not too ashamed of to admit. Keep on trucking—for every Mo Speights you make, there’s the possibility of 10 non-Mo Speights’. Everybody deserves non-Mo Speights’.

Talk Trash

Become the less-stunned looking, more outwardly cruel Mark Cuban of your fantasy league—minus the Shark Tank stuff. Send messages to opposing owners like, “Hey dude, noticed that you need some more depth at your forward spots. I suggest picking up yo mama—if she’s not too heavy.”

Being a polarizing figure to the people you’re supposed to be chummy with will only garner success and will never backfire. Emulate the likes of Pat Riley when entering trade talks with your friends: “You want my Player A for your Player B? I’m going to burn down your house, get out of my damn office you ingrate!” Scorched earth is the only policy, or else it could be you singing pop hits on Facebook next week.

Prepare To Sing Pop Hits On Facebook

Look, I know this is a very specific league stipulation that might not be popular yet, but it could happen to you. The anxiety I felt going into the Sunday night of a weeklong matchup being down 7–1 was tantamount to what I imagine going down 3–1 in the NBA Finals feels like. I urge you to be prepared for the worst possible outcome and live with it. Figure out which of Adele’s songs you have the range for, or if Taylor Swift has a song where she mostly talks instead of sings. You have got to get your mind and body ready to become an accidental viral hit if things break bad for you. I practiced my scales every night for weeks, toned my diaphragm and re-read lyrics until I could recite them in the mirror with almost no tears. I was equipped for whatever was going to be thrown at me… A miracle of our league last year, though, is that nobody was ever swept—nobody ever had to be vulnerable to the masses and weird out former classmates they hadn’t spoken to in years. So prepare, and hold out hope that the same fate befalls you.

Pay Attention For Three Months

In all likelihood, unless your friends are jobless or character’s from FX’s The League, there will come a time when they start to lose their focus in fantasy basketball. Finals need to be studied for, Christmas time is spent with family, significant others want a break from NBA basketball twice a week to watch The Bachelor and Grey’s Anatomy or to make you go to dinner with her parents that don’t like you. So wait them out—if you can keep your team strong and together for 2–3 months you’ll soon see other squads start dropping off of the face of the earth. An owner I won’t name from last year benched Harden by accident for long enough that it took him out of contention because he was busy with school. Another—me—forgot to set his lineup almost every Monday night for the entirety of February because it was cold out. Wait those losers out, and show them what five minutes of daily attention to Yahoo’s fantasy app can do.

Avery is a standup comedian and writer based in Calgary, Alberta. He first turned to writing after losing his jump shot in a tragic accident involving not playing basketball for six straight summers. His op-ed pieces about the NBA's most polarizing figures have been a reliable source of sighs, scoffs and subtweets. Avery has a passion for character issues, ill-advised fadeaways, throwback jerseys and any basketball player who keeps his chains on during pregame shoot-around.

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Editorial

Something Out of Nothing

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It’s March 2016, and I’m driving with Alan Shane Lewis to Montreal to meet with Marc Griffin and Phil Boileau. We’re meeting to speak about this exciting new idea I pitched to them. We were tired of spinning the wheels on our own individual internet shows, and I told them that it was time we stopped waiting for a network and became the network.

We spoke that weekend about creating a community of content creators that all loved ball and came together to make unique content with unique voices – voices we felt were never heard in the mainstream. This community was the base of Press and we’d continue to push forward from that spot. We spoke about some amazing show ideas, article ideas, social media plan. It was truly an exciting time, and still one of the best weekends of my life.

Two years later and that group is a lot smaller, and that idea is Press Basketball.

It caught fire at the beginning and we had people joining our bright shiny new plaything left, right, and center. It was exciting, but now I kind of realize that a lot of it was just that we were that “bright shiny new thing”.

We ended up with a lot of Press Basketball “members” but when I stepped back and looked at what was happening… it wasn’t what I’d imagined. The fire burned out. The idea was gone. We had just become another thing trying to stay alive, waiting for some deus ex machina to show up with money and make everything okay.

I’ve gone through most of my life making something out of nothing. It’s never easy, but when it happens it’s always worth it… ALWAYS. Press made me feel alive at a point. It was literally all I could think about, and while it still is on my mind, it doesn’t make me feel alive. This hurts more than I can ever explain.

Changes are coming my friends. We’re not laying down and dying, and if we do it’s not going to be like this.

The core of Press will be setting fire to a lot over the next few weeks and I personally can’t wait for this to start. From the ashes something new will rise (I watched a lot of XMEN growing up).

Stay tuned, because it’s not over.

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Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers

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Lonzo Ball is the new face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. The new savior. The Big Baller Brand is now here to stay and LaVar Ball’s family’s future is set. But is that enough?

Lonzo Ball is a great kid and athlete who knows his talent will take him to another level. The major question mark that remains is whether or not he will take the Lakers there as well. He has the platform and skillset to do so, but with that comes the added pressure from the city and league to basically become part of the next version of Kobe and Shaq. It’s too strainful for a young kid—a rookie—to achieve.  

Magic Johnson, the recently named President of Basketball of Operations for the Lakers, is taking an aggressive approach to get this team back into playoff contention his first year in. One of his first moves was sending D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick. Brook Lopez is definitely an upgrade at center, but has a couple of years already under his belt.   

Lopez will provide a much needed veteran presence with a great IQ for the game at his position. The only downfall is that a couple of years under his belt doesn’t really transfer to great experience, but simply wasted miles on his body. He isn’t as quick as he used to be and doesn’t even rank in the top 10 centers in the league. In fact, Bleacher Report had him last season at exactly 15 out of the top 30 centers in the NBA. While he is has improved by adding the three-point range to his arsenal, there is no doubt that he is nearly past his prime, and although he can still contribute on a nightly basis, who knows how much and what effect it will have with Lonzo Ball running the point.  

Ball has great court vision that has been often compared to that of LeBron James. Combined with his passing skills, he is a true PG with tremendous upside in the backcourt. With that being said, he will only reach a certain extent. His full potential is years from being maximized and people are buying into it early on. In fact, the pressure for him to lift a sub .500 team to the playoffs for the first time in five years is daunting. 

These are Lonzo Ball’s stats during his rookie—and only—year at UCLA: 

  • 14.6 Points
  • 7.6 Assists
  • 6.0  Rebounds
  • 1.8 Steals
  • 0.8 Blocks
  • 55.1 FG%
  • 41.2 3P%

He did a tremendous job maintaining that statline and even added a triple-double in the NBA Summer League, earning him the Summer League MVP.  

Don’t get me wrong, Ball seems ready for the challenge and is definitely a one-of-a-kind talent mirroring that of Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, but he is not an All-Star or MVP—at least, not yet. These way-too-early predictions that he is the Lakers’ new savior are farfetched. He has yet to face the elite NBA offensive threats and superstars that have been at it for 10-plus years. Defensively speaking he will not be able to keep up. Not in his first year. He still needs NBA experience and a more rounded roster to be able to reach the playoffs.  

He is off to a good start, but being named NBA Summer League MVP doesn’t necessarily mean a spectacular season is coming as some think it does. Especially if you consider the previous Summer League MVP winners.

Year Nat. Player Pos. Team
2012 Damian Lillard (co-MVPs) PG Portland Trail Blazers
Josh Selby (co-MVPs) PG Memphis Grizzlies
2013 Jonas Valančiūnas C Toronto Raptors
2014 Glen Rice Jr. SG Washington Wizards
2015 Kyle Anderson SF San Antonio Spurs
2016 Tyus Jones PG Minnesota Timberwolves
2017 Lonzo Ball PG Los Angeles Lakers

With the exceptions of Damian Lillard in 2012 and Jonas Valanciunas in 2013, the past five Summer League MVP winners have gone on to produce very mediocre NBA careers. All I’m saying is, don’t read too much into NBA Summer League. It’s the pre-preseason that no one really watches or cares about.  

The NBA season is nearing—exactly a month away—and my somewhat harsh criticism of Lonzo Ball isn’t too cruel. I am just not ready to jump on the Ball bandwagon following LaVar’s prophecies of his son being the Lakers prodigal son. He won’t be. Again, at least not yet. He needs to earn his spot and the transition will surprise him his first year in. It will hit him hard, but, despite my concerns, eventually Lonzo Ball will become a future NBA All-Star and a daring NBA point guard.  

Not yet though, and until then all we can do is prepare for his official NBA debut. Until then, we can enjoy and bask in his newly released rap single paying tribute to his little brother LaMelo Ball.  

If the NBA doesn’t end up being his calling in life, at least he has a back up career in mind.

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MELO-dy Cool

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Carmelo Anthony has been traded away from the New York Knickerbockers to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

You probably knew this before you laid eyes on these words.

It honestly doesn’t matter much who the Thunder traded away for “Melo” and who the Knicks received, because they weren’t anywhere near Melo’s overall value. But, it matters that Melo himself is gone and away from New York City, and for all his accolades, he honestly had a major part to play in his exodus.

Melo altogether is a player that both outplayed and underplayed his own potential. No one that saw him at Oak Hill Academy as a high schooler could for-sure say that he’d be a superstar, and everyone that saw him at Syracuse University might say he was a can’t-miss by then.

And he didn’t miss on most of what he’s teased, he’s delivered in a lot of ways; but, the reason why he didn’t work out in New York was because he was selfish to a fault in the key places that required compromise.

Do you remember how he got to Kings County in the first place? He forced a trade to the Knicks from his then-Denver Nuggets, a team that was teasing with talent abundant, but not unlike today, stuck in the mighty Western Conference. With title contenders like the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers at that time of the NBA, the 2010–2011 season, the Nuggets just weren’t going to make the noise they wanted to make. Melo was a free agent-to-be at the completion of that season, and it was likely that he’d leave. His time with the Nuggets, a very successful time, had run its course. The change was coming, and he was catalyst to the change he wanted to see in his world. Nothing wrong with that.

The problem was that Melo didn’t want to wait for New York. He wanted New York then and there, and it didn’t matter how it was going to happen.

It didn’t matter that the Knicks weren’t in a position to compete for a title during that season, something he long wanted to bring to New York upon his eventual arrival.

It didn’t matter that the Knicks would have to gut their team’s best assets in a trade for the Brooklyn-born, Baltimore-raised native. It didn’t matter that if he waited until the season was over, he could be playing with a young and promising Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov (a revelation upon his arrival to the States from Russia), amongst others.

It didn’t matter that the Knicks would have to sacrifice draft picks for him, instead of keeping them upon signing later.

It didn’t matter to Melo.

And so, when he arrived in New York, in early 2011, he received the adulation and praise of a prodigal son. Sure, the team lost some valuable talent and depth, but surely Melo would will the Knicks into wild success — just like he did in Denver, right?

And sure enough, after he rebuked the Linsanity of 2012 when Jeremy Lin became an overnight NBA superstar and balked at the prospect of Lin’s resigning, he gained some success.

The 2012–2013 season saw Melo as the closest thing to being an MVP candidate that anyone had ever seen from him as a professional in an 82-game season, but not before being totally indifferent to former head coach Mike D’Antoni’s wishes for him to play more at power forward to stretch the offensive side of the ball for the Knicks and the defenses of the opposing league teams. D’Antoni quit before the end of the 2011–2012 season, because of Melo’s loathsome resistance to D’Antoni and the coach’s embrace of Lin.

A big aspect of Melo’s failure to bring glory to Manhattan was his resistance to doing what has made him a legend in USA Basketball. Having won multiple gold medals as a stretch-four shooter, that he refused to embrace that positioning as an NBA pro limited the ability of his teams to win.

As a four, Melo, who had gained grown-man weight from natural maturity and strength and conditioning, didn’t have to be the cavity in his team’s defense as he struggled as a man-to-man defender. Moving from his formerly-natural small forward slot could allow him to defend more ably and allow someone more fleet of foot to stop the dominant wings that Melo often matched up against. Becoming something different and better in a new place would’ve allowed him the opportunity to be greater than anyone had known him to be in an NBA uniform.

But, he refused and rebuked such a change.

And one last thing: Injuries and front office politics aside, Melo was loyal to the Knicks organization through and through. But, he had a choice to go.

So, to recap, Melo forced a trade to New York that gutted the talent of the roster, and then he refused to change to a position that would behoove him and the team in the journey to championship gain.

Well, he also had a chance to leave for greener pastures and become a Chicago Bull, where he could experience more success with a front office committed to his development and surrounding talent. He didn’t want to do that, and that’s fair. New York was home, but if he was going to win in New York, seeing as to how being the way that he’d always been wasn’t helping — that is shoot-first, ask questions and defend later — why return to The Big Apple if you aren’t going to change?

He saw what being a score-only wing was giving his teams — it gave his teams very little success for the vast majority of 14 years. Sure, his Nuggets and Knicks made the playoffs (not so much New York) much of the time, but he said he wasn’t playing for that.

In the end, Melo and the Knicks not working out could be seen before he even became a Knick, when Melo stomped his way out of Denver to play immediately for New York when it would’ve behooved him to stay put for two more months.

Championship or bust, they say.

He couldn’t really compromise too well for the chip, it appears.

In the end, Carmelo Anthony — despite years of league-leading jersey sales, runway appearances, and bright lights on the New York City streets with LaLa — was a big, fat, shining, New York bust.

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Editorial3 months ago

Something Out of Nothing

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