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InsideHoops [Fantasy Basketball]

Fantasy Basketball Season Prep





/ Nov. 1, 2004

The Answerman is the first and only alternative Fantasy Basketball and Romance advise columnist on the web. He is here at to answer all your questions (or at least the interesting ones).

I'm sneaking in one last article before the season. Weíll get back to the overflowing INBOX (my apologies if I havenít responded to your e-mail) in a couple of weeks.

Issue 1: Preparing your drafted team for the season

Fantasy teams are a lot like regular teams before the season starts. Along with the excitement of making a run for a title, there is anxiety that the team that you put time, effort and consideration into just wonít work. Personally, I run countless numbers to ensure victories, but players are not robots, they get injured, have off-nights, get thrown out of games, etc. - and sometimes the numbers just donít add up.

Here are some ways to handle it:

1) Do not overreact to anything that happens in the first week. For that matter, donít overreact to anything that happens in the first month. Players need to find their rhythm. Coaches need to find their rotation. Defenses need to establish themselves.

Itís the same thing in Fantasy leagues. You have to find your rotation and rhythm. For the first month, just watch, make minor interior adjustments, and continue preparing.

2) Set small attainable goals. When Jim Fassel took over coaching the NY Giants, he was handed a team in relative shambles. One method he used to focus the team was to break the season down in 4ths. He forced the players to focus on four games at a time. If they went 1-3 in the first 4th, theyíd try to go 2-2 in the 2nd, and maybe improve to 3-1 in the 3rd. It simplified the season, and gave them small attainable goals so they wouldnít be discouraged by early losses. The Giants won their division title that year.

You can do the same thing with your fantasy team. We all want to win the championship but itís a long road with a lot of bumps. Set a small attainable goal for the first month. In a roto league, strive to be top 4 or so in 5 categories, and no lower than 7 in any other. If at the end of the month, you havenít achieved that goal, make adjustments and trades to get you there. If you made that goal, set another for the 2nd month. The whole time, trying to build.

3) No trades until the end of the first month. I donít care if they are offering Duncan for Madsen - well in that case you have to do it but otherwise - no trades until the end of the first month. Unless it's a true no-brainer.

4) Scout other teams. Real teams scout other teams. They watch tape. They sketch their plays. To prepare for their NCAA Finals, Magic Johnson pretended to be Larry Bird in practice, running the Indiana offense with the 2nd unit, so the rest of the first unit could prepare defensively.

Yet, somehow fantasy league owners only watch their own team. This boggles my mind. Watch your opponents. Learn about their teams and players as well as your own. Itíll make it easier to trade with them - learning their needs, and knowing enough about their players to fill your needs - and to topple them - by exploiting their weaknesses - when the time comes.

5) Play around with your starters/bench in the first month. NBA team minute distributions will vary in the first month of the season. The first month is still a little like pre-season. Coaches want to see how players will react to the real NBA. Lineups donít get tightened until a losing streak or January, whichever comes first.

Similarly, you have to know your players, what they do, and how their stats work together. This is specifically true in 8 or 10-category leagues, where you cannot possibly figure out how everyoneís FT%, FG% and 3pt% mesh. Give everyone a chance to play and watch the team. Youíll figure out your best lineup for given situations eventually.

Wins, Losses, and Category Placement mean very little in the first month. If it means sacrificing a win or a category to see how a bench player does, it's worth it in the long run.

Issue II: NBA Coaches hate Fantasy Leaguers

On the front page, there was an interview with Coach Jeff Van Gundy. He was asked about Steve Francis and responded: "He had a very good year despite what the fantasy league experts stats-wise want to say."

Excuse us, Coach, for following stats and not tracking hustle/team play. Coaches don't want players who seek stats. They want team ball. They want guys who play in the offense regardless of their individual stats. In short, everything fantasy leaguers despise.

Fantasy leaguers want guys who play 40+ minutes a night, take every shot, give up their defensive assignment to block shots or get steals, or donít defend at all just so they can get position for a rebound.

Coaches donít always instantly report injuries to the newswires. They split time between players, bench guys for no apparent reason, donít give uber-talented rookies the minutes/shots they need to be effective, and they mess around with their line-ups. Its quite maddening.

The most recent example is Coach OíBrien of the Philadelphia 76ers. He was an albatross for fantasy leaguers since his days in Boston. Sure, he made Pierce and Walker first-rounders, but didnít give us anything after that.

Now he has benched block-machine Sam Dalembert in favor of marginal starter Marc Jackson. They will be splitting minutes, so neither of them will be worth much.

Iíve received multiple e-mails on the Dalembert subject. My advice to you all: When coaches do the anti-fantasy league thing, listen to the reported reasoning.

The report is that Dalembert did not understand Coach OíBrienís defensive scheme. Marc Jackson may follow the scheme but he will be marginally effective, as he always is. Basketball is not brain surgery. Dalembert will pick the scheme up eventually and, as he did last year, block his way into minutes.

This is different from last year when Coach Van Gundy made it perfectly clear that he was taking the ball out of Francisí hands in favor of Yao Ming. Marc Jackson is not Yao. This is not a change in philosphy, it's only a move to prove to the younger players the importance of team defense.

This anti-fantasy maneuver is short term, even if it requires Jacksonís annual season ending injury to get Dalembert the minutes he needs.

Until that time, my fellow fantasy leaguers, the war with coaches is on. Coach OíBrien won this battle - but weíre still standing.

Issue 3: Can men and women really be friends?

This is a question that came from "Hoopshead" knowing that I like to pepper my columns with romance advice.

Itís a dumb question - of course they can be friends. As long as one of the two doesnít want to or cannot have sex with the other, friendship is easy. The more important question is, "How can a man turn a friendship into sex?"

Friends with Benefits: It's usually a suggestion by the girl to just be friends but fool around (or whatever she calls it). Sounds great. No pressure, no relationship and, of course, the "benefits."

Be aware - itís a trick. She asks for it so that she can start a relationship without you knowing. If she asks for it, as long as you know itís a trick, why not? I do recommend, to my male readers, to avoid being the person who brings it up.

Talking to Mutual Friends: The safest way to make the transfer is to say to enough mutual friends that you are interested. Hopefully word gets back to her and she gives a go-ahead for you to approach. Its very Jr. High. And is it masculine? Absolutely not. Will she respect you? Probably not. Can it work? Yes. Will you have to wait a very long time for sex? Absolutely.

Asking Her Out: It's direct. She will respect it. Best of all youíll catch her by surprise. Girls love surprises. Call her up, make some brief small talk and ask, "Do you want to go out?" No big movie seduction scene or "Your eyes are so beautiful" - just a simple question. She will ask "Like on a date?" You have to be perfectly cool "Sure, you available this weekend? Weíll have dinner, itíll be fun."

Hereís something no one ever taught you - Girls will never say "no" to a date. It's rude. They may make up an excuse but they will not say no. Different girls say different things:

Cool girl: "Sure, what time are you coming?" There is an excellent chance that she sees this a night out with a friend. Expect a talk over dinner like "Iím not interested, you know, that way" - nevertheless, your foot is in the door. Youíll have to do some good work on the date.

Disinterested girl: "This weekend is no good, Iíll call you after my schedule settles". Cut and run. Sheís giving you a polite way out. Donít expect the phone call, donít sit there rattling off dates or talking her into it. It's over.

Interested girl: "This weekend is bad for me" but she adds, "can we do it during the week?" Now it's a game. Girls play games when they are interested. You have to play the same "Unavailable Game" by saying, "This week sucks, my only open day is Thursday." This could go on for half-an-hour. Be loose and easy-going the whole time. Eventually you will have to cave because you are the one who called. You'll lose that power struggle, but you are still winning because you made the first aggresive move.

Thatís all for now. Enjoy the opening of the NBA season. Good luck with your teams. Take it easy. Next week: "Knee-Jerk Overreactions to the First Week". If you have any questions ask the

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