1. Goodbye Chris Wesseling and Rotoworld
My friend, Rotoworld alumni, husband to Lakisha and father to Lincoln, Chris Wesseling passed away on Friday and it hurts. He did incredible work at Rotoworld and with Gregg Rosenthal on the 'Around the NFL' podcast and I’m shocked and saddened by his loss to cancer at age 46. RIP, Wess.
As for saying goodbye to Rotoworld, where do I begin? My buddy, John Dishinger, told me one day in 1999 or so that he had found a fantasy sports website that I needed to check out. “Rotoworld.com, dude.” I immediately checked it out and became entranced. I started visiting Rotoworld every day and hitting the refresh button, just like so many of you have done over the years. It was all the work of Matthew Pouliot back then, as he was doing NFL, MLB and NBA news 24 hours a day all by himself. I still have no idea how he did it, but it was long before Twitter. Anyway, some guy named Matthew Berry was also writing a column for Rotoworld back then, as well. He was known as the “Talented Mr. Roto” and I loved reading his columns.
As I continued to read Rotoworld and watch Rick Kamla host NBA TV’s nightly fantasy hoops show at 1 a.m. I suddenly had the insane idea that I might be able to make fantasy basketball my career, since it was already my passion. I emailed Pouliot incessantly and became a regular caller on Kamla’s TV show. And once Pouliot gave me the go ahead to start posting some fantasy news blurbs on Rotoworld (free of charge) and writing a column (also for free), I had to come up with a cool nickname, right? Berry was the ‘Talented Mr. Roto’ after all.
So I spoke to my best fantasy hoops buddy in Indy, Kelin Mark, and told him that I needed a nickname to write under for Rotoworld. I’m not sure if I threw it out or if he did, but we came up with ‘Dr. A’. An obvious tribute to Dr. J, the great Julius Erving, with a take on my last name of Alexander. And no, I was not a real doctor, by any stretch.
‘Ask Dr. A’ was the first column I posted on Rotoworld and the emails started rolling in. Soon after, I got a call from Rick Wolf, asking me if I could write an NBA Draft Guide for Rotoworld. Of course I said ‘yes’, even though I had no idea what I was doing or where to even start. To make a long story short, I started writing the column, working blurbs a couple nights a week, and wrote an NBA Draft Guide (with the help of John Grabhorn’s computer and data-entry skills), and I was eventually getting about $100 a week. At this point, I was employee No. 10 on the Rotoworld roster, which is still crazy for me to think about right now.
I was also still working at my real job as a customer service team leader in the mutual fund industry, which required me waking up at 6 a.m. after blurbing and chatting on Kamla’s show at 1:30 a.m. on most nights. My real boss at the time was not amused and didn’t seem to enjoy any of it. She pulled me into her office one day and said “I don’t know what fantasy sports are, nor do I care to know what they are, but you need to stop doing them at work. Oh, and your pants are a little too baggy.” Little did she know that the G.M. of the company (L.G.) was coming to my desk every single day to put in his golf, football and baseball picks, and he was also one of my closest confidantes and golfing buddies. I also wrote various draft guides for my own personal use when I was at work on Saturdays and ‘fantasy football’ would soon become an incredibly popular term.
After an inspiring weekend trip to Nashville to see a Sebadoh show in May of 2004, my wife and I quit our jobs in Indy, moved to the mountains of Georgia and I started doing anything and everything for Rotoworld. Arena League Football? I’m a savant. Golf? I got you. Basketball? I’m from Indiana, duh. I also wrote an open letter to rock stars and set up several "rock and roll leagues" with some of my indie rock heroes, including Stephen Malkmus, Bob Nastanovich, Brian Rosenworcel, Ben Bridwell, Andy Hull, Doug Martsch, Bo Koster and Janet Weiss, among others.
We had lived in Georgia for about a year and a half when I got a call in 2006 that Rotoworld had been bought by NBC Sports. I was told that I would have to meet on the phone with an NBC Sports executive to negotiate my new contract. And since I basically hadn’t really been paid before, I had no idea what I was doing. I remember giving a nerve wracking, emotional speech about my passion for sports writing and hoops, which must have worked. So here we are today.
I’ve worked with studs like my first boss, Rick Cordella, Pouliot and NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal. I’ve gotten career advice from Berry and my ex-roommate Kamla, been hired and almost not re-hired by Wolf, and have worked for cool bosses like Ed Williams and Brett Vandermark for about 20 years now. And most of my success is probably tied directly to the encouragement and persistence of Dishinger and Kelin back in the day. Dish was also the first person I heard from this morning about the site’s name change.
The current Rotoworld/NBC Sports EDGE.com hoops team of Ryan Knaus, Jonas Nader, Jared Johnson, Raphielle Johnson, Matt Ellentuck and Sandeep Chandok is awesome. My podcast co-host and eventual golfing buddy, Matt Stroup, is hilarious and has become a close friend over the past 15 years. And we wouldn’t be where we are without the outstanding work of Aaron Bruski and Mike Gallagher over the years. I don’t know what else to say.
And so here we are today, with Rotoworld in the rearview mirror and NBC Sports EDGE on the road ahead. The same Draft Guides, Season Tools, DFS Tools and Betting Tools are in place. The free blurbs aren’t going to change, as they’ll still be packed with information and a few typos here and there, and plenty of incredible information for sports fans, fantasy players and gamblers on our shiny new website. But we’ll also be more equipped to help you make bets, set lineups and make all of us some money as a result of the website name change and the incredible backing by NBC Sports. And honestly, I’m just honored to be a part of it. I turned my passion into a job with an incredible company and have never looked back. And never will.
2. The Pelicans’ Josh Hart exploded on Tuesday night with a season-high 20 points, a career-high 17 rebounds, three assists, a steal, two blocks and three 3-pointers in 40 minutes. I have no idea how or why this happened, but the Edge Optimizer tool told me to put Hart in my DFS lineup last night. And it worked out pretty nicely. Hart is quietly averaging 8.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.3 3-pointers off the Pelicans bench this season, meaning he might have some value in deeper fantasy leagues.
3. Danuel House might be worth a look in your league after putting in a productive 34 minutes of work on Tuesday. He hit just 4-of-13 shots and 1-of-7 3-pointers, but still finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals, while also hitting 4-of-4 free throws. Oddly, House has scored either 12 or 13 points in five of his last six games and is averaging 11 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.2 3-pointers in his six February games for the Rockets.
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4. De’Aaron Fox has been going crazy lately, hitting at least 30 points in four of his last six games and posting averages of 35 points, 5.0 rebounds, 8.5 assists and 2.5 3-pointers over his last two. He cut off his hair, looks like a new man and is on fire right now. Some ranking systems don’t love his game and he’s showing up as just an eighth-round fantasy value on Basketballmonster.com, but I think he’s more valuable than that. His poor free throw shooting (71.3 %) is holding him back and he jumps up to fifth-round value if you take out that category. I don’t know why, but I seem to have a thing for basketball players who can’t hit freebies.
5. Cole Anthony hurt his shoulder last night and didn’t play in the second half. Some dude named Frank Mason, who the Magic signed just last week, started the second half and finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists and a 3-pointer on 4-of-10 shooting in 33 minutes. As someone who rosters Anthony in a ton of leagues you can bet that I’ll be taking a close look at Mason if Anthony is going to miss time.
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Peace out, Rotoworld.