The Pittsburgh Pierogies

March 4, 2021

Note: This was published as a serialized story via email newsletter in February and March 2021, with each new chapter sent separately.

Year 1
Year 2
Year 3
Year 4
Year 5 Pt I
Year 5 Pt II
Year 5 Pt III


When I got a copy of NBA 2K21, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: take over an expansion franchise and build them into a champion, at any cost.

Not only is there a global pandemic keeping me home 23.5 hours a day, I recently joined the ranks of the unemployed, and there are only so many job applications I can do, but I’m an experienced sports video game empire builder. In MLB: The Show 20, I won a World Series with the Marlins by 2024, and by 2030, I was a three-time champion. In NCAA 14, I took over the University of Hawaii and after a rocky second season, went undefeated — never punting or kicking a field goal — until I grew weary of winning championships and Heismans 20 seasons later. This won’t be my first rodeo with the NBA 2K series, given that I put in more than 1,000 hours on NBA 2K8 to win seven straight championships with the Charlotte Bobcats, and then when I moved on to NBA 2K13, I gave myself the handicap of winning a title using only white American players, which I did with a squad led by Kevin Love and Chase Budinger.

This time around, I’m trying something different. In those other games, I hopped on the sticks and played games myself, but for this franchise I’m the president of basketball operations, with final say over personnel decisions, and letting my AI coaches and players perform on their own. Mostly, I’ll be simming games, but I’ll also watch games live when I feel like it, and maybe even record them so that you can watch my handiwork. The challenge will lie in building an organization that can win without my in-game influence.

First, I’ve got to choose my team. It makes sense for the NBA to expand by two franchises, and it’s only right one of them should be the Seattle SuperSonics, so that will be one of the new teams in my 2K universe. However, I don’t want to control a team with historical baggage. While 2K21 provides a series of pre-built franchises — like the San Diego Surf — I want full control and so have decided to create my own organization from scratch.

There are a whole bunch of cities where I could logically place a new franchise. Chicago could support a second NBA team, as could the Bay Area (for a while I thought I’d create the Oakland Whips). Kansas City had a franchise decades ago, and has an arena. There’s always Las Vegas. But those are the obvious locations.

Instead, I’m choosing Pittsburgh, which briefly had an ABA team but is otherwise pretty close to a clean slate when it comes to pro basketball. The team colors, of course, will be black and yellow, and for a team name, I want something regionally appropriate, catchy, and totally unique. I’ve settled on the Pierogies.

If you’re unaware, pierogies are the national dish of Poland and a bit of a specialty in and around Pittsburgh. They’re little boiled dumplings filled with whatever you want, and every one I’ve had is delicious. (Linguistics note: “Pierogi” is already plural, but Merriam-Webster offers “pierogies” as an alternative plural. I prefer -s team names, so that’s what I’m using. If I ever speak about a singular player on the Pierogies, I guess I’m going to refer to him as a Pierog.)

I fired up my image editor and created a P logo with stylized dumpling dimples on the curve. This will be our center-court logo, and it’ll also be on our uniforms.

Let’s talk about the court. I’ve assumed the Pierogies will play in the existing PPG Paints Arena, which can accommodate basketball and has mostly black seats. Black and yellow looks great on a darker wood, and while I was tempted to go with parquet, herringbone is classier. I generally don’t like filled-in colors on the lane, and with bold colors like black and yellow, it makes sense to let the wood be the visual star and the team colors act as accents. This will also differentiate the court from the Brooklyn Nets’ design. For the baselines, 2K21 has a cool 70s-ish font I’ve used to lay out the city and team name, and on the sidelines, I’ve used the same font to place bits of marketing-speak: Steel City and #YinzerStrong.

The uniforms are a little reminiscent of the Steelers’ bumblebee outfits, but I tried to stay away from directly referencing other Pittsburgh teams’ iconography beyond using the virtually-mandatory colors. I also wanted to avoid creating a uniform that was too close to the Pacers’ standard look, since they’re the one yellow-clad team that uses a dark-enough blue it could look close to a black-and-yellow team, and I tried to stay away from the looks of various other teams that have used black and gold.

I ended up with a mostly-yellow home uniform with a splash of white up top and black numbers. Check out the P logo on the chest as the first letter in “Pierogies”.

For the road uniform, I copied over the template and made a mostly-black uniform with yellow up top and white numbers, with the P logo leading off “Pittsburgh”.

The team needs a third look in case its main uniforms don’t provide enough contrast with the opponent. A small voice behind my left ear suggested a white alt, so our final uniform will be mostly white with black up top, yellow numbers, and “PGH” across the chest.

I’ve started the first season right now, and let me tell you: I can’t wait to tell you about everything that’s going on. 

Here’s how this will work. At the end of each season, I’ll put together a writeup, include any videos I’ve made, and share it with you.

Join Pierogies Nation and subscribe now so you catch the future missives, starting with my strategy for the expansion draft, what happened with my first rookie draft, and how the first season went.

Here we go, ‘Rogies, here we go!

2020-21: Year 1

Hiring staff, the expansion draft, my first rookie draft, and a season in which I try to be not terrible

This is the beginning. Year 1. Late summer 2020. The Pierogies need to hire a whole bunch of staffers: A CFO, head coach, assistant coach, head scout, and trainer. We can’t skimp here because these guys will determine how well our players develop, how well we keep players healthy, whether we have good information on prospects, et cetera.

I don’t care about the CFO, because that person’s function is kind of opaque, so I throw a little money at a dude who looks good and move on.

The head coach is a big decision. I want to build a team that shoots a ton of threes, because I tend to think a great defensive big man can make up for defensive deficiencies elsewhere, and if we’re going to try to save money, we can do that by targeting jump-shooting wings and spend our money (eventually) on a premium point guard and a defensive stalwart in the paint who covers up everyone else’s flaws while any offense we get from him is a bonus.

Mike D’Antoni is sitting there as a 7 Seconds-style coach, but I’m not sure how long he’ll stick around since he’s already 69 years old, so instead I go after Mike Stauffer, a fictional coach (based on this guy) who is young, has A+ ratings on offense and defense, and is a Pace and Space guy. Great! I can’t find any good Pace and Space assistants, so I get a dude who’s a Balanced style and rated B+ on offense and defense.

Somehow, I screw up my bid for a scout, so I’m stuck bidding on second-tier guys after the best ones get snapped up, so while I’ve signed everyone else to four-year contracts, I sign a mediocre scout to a two-year deal. I make sure to get the trainer bidding right, and end up with an A+ guy.

In NBA 2K21, the expansion draft is designed to give new teams shots at interesting players, but not anyone particularly great. The 30 incumbent teams each get to protect eight players from the draft, and the expansion teams do a snake draft to fill out their rosters.

The Pierogies are assigned the first pick, and the SuperSonics will pick second, then third, followed by the Pierogies fourth and fifth, and so on. Skimming the available players, I see six immediate targets.

Mitchell Robinson (C) Knicks — He was a second-round pick in 2018, and as a true seven-footer, became an instant rotation player for the Knicks. He’s my clear No. 1 choice because he’s rated higher than just about everyone else (81 OVR) and could, conceivably, serve as my defensive anchor for years to come.

Bol Bol (C) Nuggets — He’s 7-2! He shoots threes! I’d change his position to a PF if I can get him, so that Stauffer can play him as a stretch four alongside Robinson. However, that wouldn’t happen right away because Bol is a 71 OVR, but he’s got so much size and reasonably high potential that I think he’s worth grabbing with my second pick if he’s there.

Malik Beasley (SG) Timberwolves — He shoots, he plays defense, he’s got okay size, he’s a 77 OVR. Beasley is 24, so he’s a little old to expect much more development, but he was solid at the end of last season for the Wolves, so this makes him a perfect candidate to soak up minutes for an expansion franchise trying to find its footing.

Dorian Finney-Smith (PF) Mavericks — Again, not a very young guy, and not exactly cheap either since he’s signed to a $4 million deal, but he’s another player who’s a legitimate starter and does a lot of different things well.

TJ Leaf (PF) Pacers — Leaf isn’t very good. In real life, the Pacers drafted him in the first round in 2018, then this season traded him to the Thunder for peanuts, and less than a month later they waived him and he’s now a street free agent. In the game, I value his theoretical ability to stretch the floor, swing between both big spots, and perhaps develop into a useful rotation contributor.

Rudy Gay (PF) Spurs — He’s older, and expensive, with a $14 million salary, which is why the Spurs exposed him to the expansion draft, but he’s also competent and can shift to the wing, making him the kind of guy I might target later in the draft if the Sonics are also snapping up players still on their rookie deals.

Out of these initial targets, I get all of them except Gay, who the Sonics pick in the middle rounds right before I was about to select him.

After I get nine players, I start intentionally picking guys like Joakim Noah whose deals have just expired and whose rights I will renounce. This is so I have roster room to dip into the upcoming free agency period. We’re useful until we’re not. Story of my life.

For the rookie draft, I’m using the real-life 2020 class, so James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards, and LaMelo Ball are the clear top prospects. When the lottery plays out, I see the Wizards win the first pick, the Pelicans go second, the Cavaliers third, the Knicks pick fourth, Sonics have the fifth pick, and the Pierogies are sixth.

That means I’ll probably have to settle for a second-tier prospect and I hope my scout is smart enough to figure out that I don’t really care that much about maximizing value from my early second-round pick because it’s all moot if I don’t get the first-round pick right.

When the draft starts, the Wizards begin by selecting LaMelo. The Pelicans take Wiseman. The Cavs take a small forward with no real-life counterpart named Dejounte Grady. (Subsequent searching suggests this is a filler player profile the game uses for bench players on historical teams, and I suspect the game inserts these guys into every draft with an algorithm determining which of them are any good.) At this point, I’m getting excited because I’d love to have either Anthony Edwards or Obi Toppin, in that order. Toppin is older than the other prospects, but as a stretch four, I think he’ll fit Coach Stauffer’s system perfectly, and with Edwards, even though he’s not a sharpshooter he looks plenty good enough at shooting and great at everything else to make him worth the pick, even though I like Beasley quite a bit.

Welp, the Knicks take Toppin fourth, and for a moment I hope the Sonics have fallen in love with someone else, but no, they take Edwards. Looking at my scout’s work, I see that Saddiq Bey might be the best shooter available, but I don’t have enough information on him to feel comfortable picking him here. There are a bunch more traditional bigs like Onyeka Okongwu, but I feel like I did a solid job getting guys at those positions in the expansion draft, and so keep circling back to Deni Avdija, out of Israel. He’s a 6-9 wing who can play a bit of power forward. He can shoot. He looks like he can get better at perimeter defense. He’s only 19 years old. And even though my scout isn’t all that great, he’s gathered a bunch of info on Avdija and feels confident he’ll be solid.

The voice behind my left ear concurs that Avdija is the right choice, so I make him the Pierogies’ first rookie draft pick.

In the second round, I hope Malachi Flynn will be available as a high-floor point guard prospect, but alas, he’s chosen late in the first round, and since no one else looks at all appealing, I trade the pick for a future second.

With Avdija in the fold and rated out as a starting-quality rookie at SF, my attention in free agency is on spending real money for a point guard and a power forward. It can be an older power forward because I’m hopeful Bol Bol will be ready in a couple years, but I want my new point guard to be around long enough to lead us to the next level.

However, on the first day of the moratorium, I have to give Anthony Davis a courtesy max offer. When I advance to the next day, I see that he’s already accepted the Lakers’ offer to return and pair with LeBron. So much for that.

If we’re not getting Davis, my first priority is to try to get second-tier PG and PF free agents. In particular, the PG should be young enough to have some improvement left in the tank, but cheap enough that his contract would still be moveable in the next few seasons. It would be nice if the PF is also young, but I’m open to an older guy, and either way, I want their combined deals to be cheap enough that it wouldn’t preclude us from signing a big free agent if one came available. (Pittsburgh is a two-hour drive from Akron, LeBron!)

With all that in mind, I zero in on Fred VanVleet. He’s 26 years old, so right in his prime, and he’s an adroit scorer who plays good defense. I’m able to persuade him to join the Pierogies for 4/$64M.

For my power forward, no one else is offering Christian Wood a deal, so I swoop in, hoping he’s the right kind of stretch four for Coach Stauffer. After mulling for a day, he agrees to sign with the Pierogies, also for 4/$64M. Wood is 25 at the start of the season, and while he’s not an All Star, he looks like a solid starter who can still contribute if I ever turn up a star — or I can package him in a deal for a star if one presents itself — just like VanVleet.

All this means the Pierogies will enter their inaugural season with a starting lineup of Fred VanVleet at point guard, Malik Beasley at guard, Deni Avdija at small forward, Christian Wood at power forward, and Mitchell Robinson at center. Our main bench players are Dorian Finney-Smith, TJ Leaf, Mario Hezonja (signed to a one-year deal), Avery Bradley (also signed to a one-year deal), Bol Bol, and Robert Williams.

As best I can tell from perusing rosters and looking at the various power rankings, we’re projected to be better than the Thunder and Sonics. This could be bleak, but I’m hopeful the projections aren’t accounting for improvement from Avdija, Bol, or Leaf, and if I get lucky maybe Wood will be better than his ratings suggest.

Not gonna bury the lede: the projections were spot-on.

As the first weeks go by, a few things become apparent. First, VanVleet is the star of the team, but his 17 points per game is largely a function of being the best player on a bad team, and someone has to take shots.

Second, Avdija is a good player, but he’s no star. Coach Stauffer starts him most of the time, but sometimes, even when Avdija is healthy, Stauffer starts Hezonja in his place. I don’t know why, but I suspect it’s when he wants a better defensive presence on the wing.

Third, Bol Bol is an unrepentant gunner, and I love him for it. Stauffer plays him over Leaf right away, and even though Bol rarely plays more than 20 minutes a game, it seems like he takes 15 shots every time out, with five or six of them from beyond the arc. He’s the third-leading scorer on the team after VanVleet and Wood, despite playing far fewer minutes than Avdija and fewer than Hezonja.

Beasley keeps getting hurt, which thrusts Bradley into the lineup for too many minutes, and I wish Stauffer would give more of Hezonja’s minutes to Finney-Smith, but all this is marginal stuff, because while the Pierogies aren’t the worst team in the league, we’re obviously bottom five.

As I spend time with these guys, it strikes me how frustrating it must be to have been drafted to an expansion team, particularly one that you know will lose a lot of games. VanVleet and Wood obviously signed on for the opportunity to show what they can do in expanded roles, and Avdija is trying to establish himself, but for everyone else, they have to be desperately counting down the days until they can get out and on to something better.

I’ve had jobs like that, where all I did was come in the office, put my head down, do the shit I was assigned, try to avoid the assholes, and ignore anyone who tried to keep me from doing what I had to do. There are always assholes. Maybe that makes me an asshole.

I can admit I’d be the guy who wants to make sure I get my shots up if you passed me the ball, so why should I be mad at Bol for being that guy? At least in this case, I’m the boss figuring out who’s an asshole, who’s just a knucklehead, and who’s a keeper.

As the year flips to 2021, we’re losing a lot more than we’re winning. I’ve declined every crappy trade other teams offer me, but I rev up the 2K Trade Finder to start proactively seeking out trades ahead of the trade deadline. I’ll need a lot to give up VanVleet, Robinson, Avdija, or Bol — not because I think they’re untouchable but because I think they’re good enough to buoy me to respectability until my next draft picks develop and, perhaps, I lure a top free agent or two. No matter what, I’m not taking on significant future salary unless it’s for a player who truly moves the needle.

I won’t go through every single move, but I end up turning over half the roster to accumulate draft picks. By the time I’m done, I’ve ended up with one additional first-round pick next season from the Spurs, two additional unprotected first-round picks in 2022 (two drafts from now) from the Warriors and Clippers, I’ve exchanged several of my second-round picks with other teams I think are looking in dire shape, and at the same time kept intact my core of VanVleet, Robinson, Avdija, and Bol.

Among the Pierogies moving on: Bradley, Finney-Smith, and Leaf. We hardly knew ye. I do get one player in return I think is a keeper: Daniel Oturu, who in real life was the 33rd pick of the 2020 draft, and in my game was the 19th overall pick. He’s a power forward with shooting range and good interior defensive ratings I’m hoping will be a long-term rotation player with Robinson, Wood, and Bol.

As the season winds down, I check in on my scout’s progress. He hasn’t been focusing on any particular position, which is fine by me because if we find a great small forward in the draft, perhaps we can switch that guy to guard, or even resign ourselves to Avdija as a bench player. Again, no one is untouchable, and at this stage of the process, I’m focused on getting the best player available.

Unfortunately, both my scout and the mock drafts suggest none of the top prospects have separated from the pack. We don’t have the best odds for the top pick in the lottery, but if we get the top pick, I don’t know what I’m going to do because everyone looks uninspiring.

The Pittsburgh Pierogies finish their inaugural season with a 26-56 record, third-worst in the league. LeBron wins another MVP. The Brooklyn Nets win the title behind Durant and Kyrie. It must kill Kyrie to once again be the clear second-best player on a championship team.

From a player development standpoint, Bol Bol’s ratings have improved dramatically. He’s now a 77 OVR, which puts him right there with Avdija (though Bol’s a few years older). He’s not going to displace Wood anytime soon, but beyond working rotation minutes, if Robinson or Wood goes out for any period of time, I’m now confident Bol can step in and keep the team afloat.

We’ve got extra picks coming in a couple years, including, at worst, the sixth pick this offseason. We’ve got real players holding down the fort, and there’s a chance we’ll compete for relevance sooner rather than later. Year 2 is looking bright.

Here we go, ’Rogies, here we go!

2021-22: Year 2

Will the playoffs be a Pierogies Party? And a generational prospect emerges

In the Pierogies’ inaugural season, we went 26-56, finishing with the third-worst record in the league. Our lone rookie, Deni Avdija, was fine, though he didn’t exactly set the league on fire. The better news is that Fred VanVleet stepped up as a scorer and defender, and Bol Bol took a big leap forward in his development, to the point that as the second season starts I’m already thinking about how I might trade Christian Wood near the deadline in order to clear a starting spot for Bol.

First, though, we’ve got the offseason, and because I’ve got way more cap space than I know what to do with, I decide to see if any other team is willing to trade me an expensive star. Lo and behold, the Nuggets are willing to part with Jamal Murray one year after they signed him to a five-year max extension (they won’t trade me Jokic). My best player, VanVleet, is also a point guard, but because Murray’s 6-4 and both are decent defenders, Coach Stauffer might choose to start them together. The more I think about it, too, since Murray’s only 24 years old, three years younger than VanVleet, and even though he costs twice as much per season, if the Nuggets want VanVleet back in any deal I have to consider it.

And that’s precisely what the Nuggets want. However, they surprise me by asking for only the Spurs’ first-round pick this year (No. 21 overall) in addition to VanVleet. That means I can keep my high lottery pick and get a significant upgrade on my best player essentially for the price of a pick that would be a long shot to help me out much more than Murray would. So I accept the deal and make Jamal Murray the newest Pierog.

Something I haven’t touched on much so far is that in 2K21 each player has a rating for how compatible they are with the coach’s style. Since Coach Stauffer is a Pace and Space guy, and so is Mike Malone in Denver, I’m confident Murray will fit just as well as VanVleet did, and that is, indeed, the case.

I don’t have to replace any staffers, so after checking in on every other star and finding them all off the table, I proceed to the draft lottery. As I mentioned in the Year 1 recap, this year’s crop of rookies is vexing, because there’s a blob of seven guys who I think might all be worthy of the top pick, and I’m not sure what I’d do if I get that pick, because I feel pressure to get a premium talent but I don’t see anyone who’s obviously a premium talent in this draft.

I don’t get the top pick in the lottery, and actually get leapfrogged and fall to the fourth overall pick. Given the apparent talent distribution at the top of this year’s draft, this isn’t the worst thing in the world. However, I also haven’t fallen enough that the other teams might take the rest of the top tier and essentially make my pick for me. Sifting through the prospects, one player sticks out:

Sebastian Reynolds (SF) Arizona — Reynolds is a 6-8 wing who, like Avdija, can swing to the PF spot and profiles as a good shooter. No rookie is any good at perimeter defense, but if he turns out to be a good shooter I’ll live with his defense until we can train him up. I’m slightly worried about creating a positional logjam with my forwards, since Avdija and Bol will likely be ahead of any rookie, and both play SF and PF, but I temper that concern by reminding myself that if Bol keeps improving, I can trade Christian Wood and clear some minutes, so don’t worry about the position.

Everyone else in the group of seven top prospects is either a point guard who would have to sit behind Murray or share the backcourt with him, which would be less than ideal, or they’re a wing who can’t shoot all that well, which doesn’t fly with my philosophy or Coach Stauffer’s, and there’s one offensive-minded center. So, if Reynolds gets picked in the top three, we’ll be in deep trouble, because it’s unlikely any other team would be willing to trade up to our spot, and none of the other prospects fit what we’re seeking.

We go to the draft, and the Thunder use the first pick on point guard Luther Macy. The Cavaliers were the lucky lottery team that leaped up to No. 2, and they use the pick on center Ellis Ingram. I’m sweating the Sonics’ pick at No. 3, hoping they don’t take Reynolds.

They don’t, instead choosing point guard Alexey Carr. I snap up Reynolds. Pending what happens in free agency, I’ll see if he can play any guard, because that might be his best chance at gaining minutes with Avdija blocking him at the other wing spot.

In free agency, I don’t see any pure wings that are worth spending big dollars to get, and instead I focus on finding depth pieces. My notable signings, filling out my rotation, are Patrick Beverley, who comes aboard for 1/$14M, Willie Cauley-Stein, who joins for 1/$4.75, Austin Rivers, who accepts a 1/$4M deal, and Danny Green, who gets the minimum.

I want Beverley pretty badly because in addition to being able to play both guard spots, shoot decently well, and defend like a maniac, he has a pretty impressive set of 2K badges, which, combined with his service time, means he can act as a mentor for another player on the Pierogies, helping that player get better at certain skills. I assign Beverley to mentor Avdija and improve his defense.

Cauley-Stein should be a good fourth big man, able to run the floor, receive lobs, and protect the rim better than most guys available at his price. Rivers has an all-around game similar to Beverley’s, only he’s not as good a defender, and only slightly better on offense, due to his playmaking ability. He’ll add to our guard depth behind Murray, Beasley, and Beverley. Green can play both wing spots, but I’m not counting on him for much.

The big free agency news is that the Clippers have lost both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. George decamps for a big deal with Orlando, and Kawhi signs with... Toronto!

On the eve of the season’s start, I check on Reynolds. I’m not sure if he’s decent or terrible. As a 74 OVR to start, he rates behind all my aforementioned rotation players save for Green. I check his Pace and Space compatibility and it’s not good. Even though we have him rated as an A three-point shooter, the game seems to think he’s ill-suited for Coach Stauffer’s system. At some point, I’m going to have to figure out how to better discern which players fit which system, especially since it would be helpful in finding trade targets on other teams.

No matter, though. This is the lineup we have, and we’re rolling with it.

Starters: Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, Deni Avdija, Christian Wood, Mitchell Robinson

Bench rotation players: Bol Bol, Patrick Beverley, Austin Rivers, Sebastian Reynolds, Willie Cauley-Stein, Danny Green, Daniel Oturu

Through the first few weeks of the season, Murray proves to be a clear and obvious upgrade on VanVleet. He puts up a few games scoring 30+ points, and is averaging 24 points per game early on. Beverley has taken to his bench role and is playing pretty big minutes, ostensibly both alongside and in relief of Murray. Reynolds isn’t doing anything of note, but Avdija and Bol have picked up right where they left off last season, with Avdija averaging about 10 points per game with reasonably efficient shooting and Bol averaging 12 points per game with, frankly, a ludicrous usage rate.

The bottom line, though, is that we’re clearly an improved club. Through the first 25 games, we’re 12-13, which is about half the number of wins we got all of last season, and I’m choosing to see the upside even in our losses. For example, in January (the second month of the season), we lose to Giannis and the Bucks by 2 and the Awesome Harden/Very Good Westbrook Rockets by 3. Meanwhile, we blow out the middling Grizzlies, Hornets, and Pacers, plus the very bad Sonics, and notch a statement win against the Lillard/McCollum Blazers.

At this point, before making any major roster moves, I check out what our scout is saying about the upcoming draft class, and I nearly fall off the couch. There’s an 18-year-old one-and-done center playing for the University of Virginia that the prospect rankings have pegged as the consensus number one pick. My scout says he’s good at everything. He can protect the rim, pass, shoot threes, play inside. He’s 7-foot-1. But best of all, his name is DICK WALL.

I swear to fucking God, I did not edit this guy. This perfectly-named creature is the result of a database of forenames and surnames matching up more or less at random. It was late at night — around 2:00 am — when I discovered Dick Wall, and the voice behind my ear wouldn’t shut up about him: “Anything it takes. Just get him. Trade anyone you have. Pay in picks and players — it doesn’t matter. You’re never getting another shot at a player like this again.” What if the name is a trap, and he’s merely a pretty good player with a great name? “Dick Wall is the man. Trust.”

I’m great at identifying talent in other people. The hard part is brushing aside the bullshit we use to fill in the blanks when we come across someone we don’t know well and only counting the attributes that matter, but the most important step is acknowledging that our initial judgments are full of that bullshit. Too many people see the bullshit they want to see and think that’s what a person is, and then they get frustrated when it turns out the person is something other than the bullshit the viewer brought, themselves.

I’ve only had one job where my boss set aside the bullshit. I didn’t ever have to talk to her because she always anticipated what I’d need to get my work done, and so we could leave each other alone. Really, she didn’t talk to me the last three of the four months I worked for her, and I produced as well as could be expected. All my other bosses have been the total opposite, getting on me for this and that, because they were bringing their bullshit to the relationship instead of just focusing on what I actually did for them.

All that’s to say there are other decent prospects, definitely better than last year’s crop, but Dick Wall can do the things I want a big man to do (he also has the kind of name you have to say the whole thing, like Brett Favre, or Samuel L. Jackson). Given how many picks I own, I may get the top pick in the lottery, so I don’t want to do anything rash, but the voice behind my ear is convincing that if the ping pong balls don’t go my way I should try to put together a package to get the top pick this year. We’ll address that in the offseason.

In the present, I think our lack of top-end talent is still holding us back. Through the trade deadline, we’re just below .500 and can't seem to break even. I think we’re going to make some trades for the future, but we’re still going to try to sneak into the playoffs. The first tough decision is what to do with Beverley, who’s not in our long-term plans, but he’s certainly helping us now with mentoring Avdija and filling in admirably when Murray was out for a few games due to injury, let alone playing well off the bench when everyone is healthy. I figure that because all of our moves last year and this year have resulted in three first-round picks this offseason (including our own), and no one’s offering a good young player in exchange, our best move is to ride out the season with Beverley and take whatever improvements he can lend Avdija.

The next decision has to do with our frontcourt, which is a mess. Robinson is a starter and playing big minutes, but for whatever reason, he’s unhappy and therefore not playing as well as he could. He’s also a restricted free agent in the offseason. Maybe the mediocrity is wearing on him. Maybe he’s mad that he’s not a primary option with Murray and, increasingly, Bol soaking up the shots. Maybe he thinks the Pierogies are a bunch of assholes and he’s putting his head down, doing the minimum, and counting the hours. I look around for a deal, but can’t find one that nets us picks without giving up another player of value. Robinson’s staying.

Wood, meanwhile, has regressed. He gets hurt three or four times in the first half of the season, Bol is outscoring him in fewer minutes with better efficiency and greater volume, and Coach Stauffer has even taken to starting Bol over a healthy Wood in some matchups. Wood’s ratings haven’t dropped, however, and with Cauley-Stein injured ahead of the deadline I decide to keep Wood around. As soon as I decide that, Wood gets hurt again, mooting any plans I may have had to try and move him anyway.

The first good news is that Daniel Oturu is playing much better than I anticipated. I knew he fit in Coach Stauffer’s system, but I expected the reserve power forward to mostly ride the pine this year. Wood’s, Cauley-Stein’s, and, to a lesser extent, Bol’s inability to stay healthy have opened the door for Oturu to show he can be a rotation player. While it’ll create a bit of a roster crunch in the frontcourt when everyone’s healthy, if we’re going to make a playoff push, we’ll need another big so that Avdija isn’t playing too many minutes there over the coming days. I end up trading the guy we got in the second round this year, a guard whose name I don’t remember because he was terrible, and a far future second-rounder, to reacquire Robert Williams, who had signed a two-year deal with the Timberwolves, but was buried deep on their depth chart.

And that’s pretty much it on the trade front for this year. Murray is a big improvement on VanVleet, Beverley has been a great addition to the second unit, and the bottom of our rotation is improved, but while the Pierogies are clearly better than we were last year, and we still have a shot at the playoffs, this squad needs a more dramatic improvement before we can start sniffing at the league’s top tier. (I dare to dream of adding Dick Wall.)

The second half of the season plays out just like the first half. Murray is a scoring machine, but none of the other starters really step up, and it’s not like our bench unit is particularly talented, though Beverley is great. Reynolds is who we thought he was: an above-average shooter who doesn’t do anything else of note — I’m worried I drafted Jason Kapono with the fourth pick overall. Cauley-Stein gets healthy again and does what he does. Bol and Wood split the starts at power forward, and Bol continues to outplay his well-paid counterpart.

Through the end of April, we’re 32-32 and in 8th place in the East, but Murray gets hurt and misses games, then Beverley gets hurt in his first game replacing him in the starting lineup, and though Rivers performs better than I expected, we drop back into the lottery. Murray and Beverley come back in time to make a run at the playoffs in the final stretch, but it’s never really in the cards and we finish the season out of the playoffs with a 42-40 record, two games behind the Pistons. We’re the last team out.

DeAngelo Russell(!!!) wins the MVP with a monster season for the Wolves, scoring 31.1 points per game with 9.0 assists on .529/.488/.838 shooting. And then in the playoffs, he, Karl-Anthony Towns, and the Timberwolves blitz the field to win the title, including a 4-1 dismantling of the Bucks in the Finals.

Looking ahead to next season, Dick Wall is the big prize of the offseason, and I’m going to focus everything I have on getting him. Like I said at the beginning of all this, I will go to any lengths to make the Pierogies into champions, and Dick Wall looks like the kind of player who’s worth trading anything to get.

Here we go, ’Rogies, here we go!

2022-23: Year 3

Jamal Murray is a star, but can the Pierogies find another one?

In their second season, the Pittsburgh Pierogies made a big leap to respectability, nearly sneaking into the playoffs on the strength of Jamal Murray’s offensive prowess. Perhaps we would have made it into the postseason had Coach Tim Stauffer switched from Christian Wood to Bol Bol sooner, or had Deni Avdija made greater strides in his development, or had Wood and Mitchell Robinson not stagnated, or had fourth-overall pick Sebastian Reynolds been any good at all.

In any event, it’s a new season, and the Pierogies are still in great position, having accumulated three — count ‘em! — three first-round picks in this draft: Our own lottery pick, the Warriors’ lottery(!) selection, and the Clippers’ pick. There’s a consensus top choice who would fit our team (see: any team) perfectly, a center with the glorious name of DICK WALL. Our starting center, Mitchell Robinson, is a restricted free agent this year who I expect to get a big offer, and while we’ve got a ton of cap flexibility, I’m not sure signing Robinson is in our best interests, especially if we can turn our picks stockpile into Dick Wall.

But first, we have to sign a new scout. I botched the process last time and got a mediocre scout. Looking at the stats for last year’s rookies, Reynolds’s fast track to busting out doesn’t look like the scout’s fault, because everyone in that draft looks bad, but moving forward, we shouldn’t be skimping on player acquisition. So I let the old guy go and bring on a guy with an A rating.

At the league meetings, we have a rule change! Now, instead of seeding by conference, the eight best teams from each conference will be seeded 1-16 for the playoffs. This is good.

Now it’s time for the lottery... LOL I didn’t realize the Warriors had been so bad, and they end up with the No. 4 selection, which means the Pierogies have the 4th, 16th, and 23rd overall picks! The Bulls win the lottery and are in prime position to pick Dick Wall. However, this is good news for me because they still have Wendell Carter to play center, and he’s pretty good in this universe, which might make them more amenable to a trade offer.

But before seeking an offer, I need to handle another part of the roster. Christian Wood was one of my first two big free agent acquisitions, and while Fred VanVleet was very good and got traded in exchange for a big upgrade in Jamal Murray, Wood stagnated in his second season, while Bol Bol looks ready to handle the starting power forward slot.

So I put out feelers on a deal for Wood, and the Phoenix Suns, who made it to the Western Conference Finals last year but fell to the Timberwolves, offer me their first-round pick this year for him. Wood has 2/$32M left on his contract, so I happily make this deal and clear the way for Bol to start at power forward and Daniel Oturu to get more minutes off the bench.

That gives me four first-round picks this season, plus multiple future picks with which I can try to pry Dick Wall away from the Bulls. I wasn’t really keeping track of how many picks I had, (and I realize I haven’t fully listed out every trade I’ve made), but as of now, I have six first-round picks two seasons from now, too.

My initial offer is Sebastian Reynolds, my disappointing No. 4 overall pick from a year ago, plus the No. 4 pick this year and the Suns’ pick at No. 30, which the Bulls refuse outright. But I’ve got such a bounty of picks that I’m comfortable sending a boatload to Chicago if it means I get a shot at Dick Wall, because he’s far and away the best prospect in this class, grades out significantly better than James Wiseman did two seasons ago, and even if I do send a king’s ransom to the Bulls, I’ll still have enough picks to maintain my roster moving forward.

After negotiating through a bunch of permutations, I get Marc Eversley to agree to a blockbuster deal: Chicago sends me the No. 1 overall pick in exchange for the Nos. 4, 16, 23, and 30 this year, the TrailBlazers’ first-rounder in 2026, and Reynolds.

I accept, and after the initial excitement I have a brief moment of trepidation when I fear that my scouts and the game’s draft experts are wrong about Dick Wall and I’ve just traded away a huge advantage for nothing. The voice behind my ear tells me, “Don’t be a pussy. We got a generational prospect.”

At the draft, I select Dick Wall and immediately pause the proceedings to check his ratings. My God, he’s an 84 OVR, which, for context, puts him right there with Murray for OVR value, and he’s 19 years old. I told you I was a great judge of talent! The scouting industry had him pegged just right: He’s already above average for a big man at every offensive skill, and he’s a plus defender. He needs work on his basketball IQ, but that’s true of all rookies. Best of all, we have his potential rated as an A+.

Dick Wall is amazing, and I have him.

I’m still on a high about my top pick when the first of my two second-round choices comes up. I pick Sagana Christopher, a defensive specialist guard from Nigeria. A few picks later, my second turn in the round comes up, and I use it on a Hungarian small forward named Itsi Dsida who’ll be a Euro-stash guy. He’s a shooter, and I get high praise in the draft analysis, which says Dsida was long projected as a first-round pick, and the Pierogies may have gotten a steal with this one. Feels good to be praised for once!

In free agency, 33-year-old Kevin Durant, just a season removed from winning it all with the Nets, is testing the market. I check on him, but don’t bother offering a contract because I see he’s already at 100% agreement to return to the Nets on a 3/$134M deal with a player option in the fourth year. The SuperSonics(!) have offered him a 4/$183M deal with a no-trade clause, and he’s rejected it in favor of the Nets. Ouch.

Among the other top unrestricted free agents, they’re either guys I don’t want to offer big contracts or they don’t fit the Pierogies at all, so I focus on signing lower-tier guys who can fill out the rotation. I get Norm Powell to play on the wing, and Donte DiVincenzo signs out of restricted free agency as a combo guard who can run some point. But I still don’t feel comfortable with DiVincenzo as the only other point guard after Murray, so I snap up Reggie Jackson and Alex Caruso. Willie Cauley-Stein comes back on a slightly higher deal than I’d have liked, but he was by far the best available option among the remaining big men.

I still have a couple roster slots to fill, and I decide to offer veteran wings who can provide some mentorship to the younger players. I end up getting Joe Ingles and Kyle Korver on minimum deals. Ingles will mentor Avdija to improve his defense, and I have Korver mentor Dick Wall to improve his perimeter shooting. If we actually rely on Ingles or Korver for anything important on the court, that means something has gone wrong.

The big free agency surprise is Trae Young moving on from the Hawks to sign with the Knicks. Atlanta responds by picking up Markelle Fultz, but it’s a big downgrade and they’ve got to be concerned about how things are going to go without their franchise cornerstone. Mitchell Robinson signs with the Celtics, giving them the deepest roster in the league.

Here’s our rotation heading into the season.

Starters: Jamal Murray, Donte DiVincenzo, Deni Avdija, Bol Bol, DICK WALL

Bench: Norm Powell, Daniel Oturu, Willie Cauley-Stein, Reggie Jackson, Alex Caruso, Sagana Christopher, Joe Ingles, Kyle Korver

In the first month, the Pierogies go 6-6. I also watch the Christmas Day game when we handily beat the lowly Thunder. In the live game, the Pittsburgh size advantage is striking, given that we’re starting 7-1 Dick Wall at center, 7-2 Bol Bol at power forward, and 6-9 Deni Avdija at small forward.

We go on a winning streak in January and enter February at 17-11 for the season, in position to make a run at the playoffs. We cool off a bit, and I stop simming games to take stock. We’re 23-17, Murray leads the team with 21 points per game, and Bol Bol is doing his high-volume thing and averaging 19.8 points per game, himself, with 8.7 rebounds. For his part, Dick Wall is averaging 15.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game as a rookie big man. Everything about his game is encouraging, but the most encouraging thing might be his 3.7 offensive rebounds per game. For reference, in the real-life 2019-20 NBA season, Hassan Whiteside led the league with the most total offensive rebounds, and his rate came out to 3.9 per game.

We’re in the thick of the playoff race and seemingly in better position than last season when we have a disappointing March. Murray gets hurt again, Bol gets hurt, and with DiVincenzo and Powell in the backcourt and Oturu and Dick Wall as the bigs, we’re able to keep our heads above water, but the injuries also mean Ingles and Korver are getting significant burn, which is bad news. By month’s end and the trade deadline, we’re 29-27 and barely holding on to playoff position.

I can’t help but get mad at Bol. He’s got a ton of talent, and great length, which helps on both ends of the floor, but he can’t stay healthy and he takes more shots than anyone else on the team, including Murray, who should be the guy taking the most shots. It reminds me of a former co-worker who kept trying to do other people’s work. He’d send Slack messages asking people if he could help them, and while a few of them took him up on the offers, I never let him help me because I got the sense he was only looking out for himself, horning in on projects that other people were clearly better-suited to handle. I also wondered how he could have so much time to “help” other people because, ostensibly, he had his own full-time job with its own set of responsibilities, yet kept trying to get credit for other people’s work. But I digress. Bol Bol has got to get in his lane and pick his spots more carefully.

I look around the league and realize that I could use the draft picks to get an impact rental at power forward or wing, which would give us much better odds at making the playoffs, but no one that’s available would really move the needle on our championship odds. So we stand pat at the deadline in the hope our guys will pull it together and claw their way back into the final playoff slots.

Amid all the uncertainty, there’s some good news: Dick Wall makes the All Star team as a reserve! He’s leading all rookies in points, rebounds, and assists per game, and his OVR rating has now equaled Murray’s.

We have a mediocre April and on May 1st are on a four-game losing streak with a record of 33-35. With 14 games left, we’re in 10th place in the East and have a lot of work to do to catch up with the Wizards, who are holding on to the 8 seed with a 34-32 record. It’s not out of the question we’ll make the playoffs, but it’s unlikely.

And then we go 5-9 the rest of the way, just missing the playoffs for the second straight year. While our record falls from 42-40 a year ago to 38-44 this year, I think we’re a better team. Murray appears to have plateaued, albeit at a high level. Plus, Dick Wall is already one of the top players in the league, and I can’t wait to build around him. We have two legitimate stars, and now we need to figure out how to support them.

Big news for the Pierogies at season’s end: As expected, Dick Wall wins the Rookie of the Year Award, finishing with 14.9 points per game, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. Dick Wall!

Luka Doncic wins the MVP with 33.0 points per game, 10.8 rebounds, and 8.7 assists.

In the revamped playoffs format, the Boston Celtics are the top seed with a 67-15 record. They roll through their side of the bracket, winning three straight series 4-1 to make the Finals. There, they face the Phoenix Suns, who are led by scoring champion Devin Booker. Phoenix is the No. 2 seed, and while they sweep their first-round series, they need seven games to beat LeBron, the Brow, and the Lakers, and then another seven games to beat Giannis and the Bucks in order to get their place in the Finals.

There, in a rematch of the 1976 Finals, the Suns prevail, finishing off the Celtics with a 114-112 game in which Booker drops 40 points.

This season qualifies as a disappointment for the Pierogies, because I expected us to make the playoffs, but Jamal Murray and Dick Wall are a formidable duo, so the future’s looking bright. We’ll have to make some tough decisions next year, perhaps most notably with Bol Bol, but that’s okay because even if we lose him Daniel Oturu has been a great bench player for us and could probably step in effectively (with the added bonus that he’s no gunner).

Everything is still on track for a championship sooner rather than later — I can feel it. I’ve built a team that’s poised to take a big leap, and there’s no doubt in my mind the Celtics, Suns, Lakers, and Timberwolves — everyone else — are underestimating me.

For the next season, I’m hunkering in and blocking out all distractions. Phone off. WiFi off. Shades down. Can’t take any chances. It’s the Pierogies’ time. It’s my time.

2023-24: Year 4

The Pierogies make their boldest moves yet, and a new era dawns in Pittsburgh

I checked my Steam stats, and I’ve put about 150 hours into playing 2K21 so far, which seems on the low side, even if I’m mostly just doing management and occasionally watching some games. Anyway, the voice behind my ear keeps pointing out out that as long as no one is hiring this is the best thing I’ve got going.

Let’s get to the Pierogies. First, the thumbnail of last season has to begin with drafting Dick Wall, a 7-1 big man with an otherworldly all-around game. He was an All Star, obvious Rookie of the Year, and is probably our best player already as a 20-year-old. For the second straight season, we finished just out of the playoff picture, but Dick Wall doesn’t even have to get better to make us a playoff favorite; with one or two good additions to our core, we’ll be there.

We can go any number of ways to upgrade the team around him. He was the first overall pick, so he’s not exactly cheap, but he’s a huge bargain for the next few years, so we should spend money now, while we still can, and convert our draft capital into present-day help.

First, I make a change on the coaching staff. Head Coach Tim Stauffer runs a Pace and Space system, and he’s great, so he’s not going anywhere, but our assistant, while solid on offense and defense, is a Balanced system guy. I look around the available coaches for another Pace and Space guy, and find the perfect replacement: Vince Carter! Vinsanity isn’t quite as good a defensive coach as the other guy, but I’m hoping the harmonious philosophies help. I have no idea what effect the assistant coach has, but surely it means something, and I also have it in the back of my mind that Stauffer might leave someday so I’d like to have a Pace and Space guy already on staff, just in case. We don’t change any other staffers.

Let’s get to the draft. After all our trades, we’ve got the 15th pick, 21st, and the 32nd, all in the first round (and remember: four first-round picks next year, too). Nobody who’s going to be around by the time our picks come around look like a sleeper, so I decide to focus on either drafting someone who can provide depth over the course of his rookie deal or a high-upside Euro-stash guy.

At the 15th pick, we get lucky. One of the players my scout had identified as a top-six guy is available. Small forward Mac Rollins, from Xavier, is a 6-8 shooter who profiles a lot like Avdija, so I pick him on the theory he might be good enough to replace Avdija next year for a lot less money.

When the 21st pick comes around, I see a depth candidate: Dean White III, a 7-1 senior center out of North Carolina. Dick Wall is the present and the future, but I’m hoping White plays solid rotation minutes right away alongside Oturu.

At the 32nd pick, I’ve got three or four options for guys at various positions who look vaguely okay, but I keep coming back to Roman Popov, a Ukrainian small forward who’s going to stay in Europe for at least another season. He’s a shoot-first (maybe shoot-only) wing, so it’ll be good to let him sit for a year before seeing what he can do in the NBA.

Rollins comes in as a 75, and the other two are both rated in the low 70s OVR, so, really, we’re just hoping they develop over time.

Before going into free agency, I take another look at my returning players. Dick Wall is an 87 OVR beast, but Jamal Murray is actually down to an 82 OVR. I don’t understand how this is working, but maybe he doesn’t like that we haven’t made the playoffs in his two seasons? Maybe he’s mad that he might not be the lead option anymore? Or maybe he just doesn’t buy in to my vision for the Pierogies? In any event, I’m starting the season annoyed with my starting point guard, and it’s pissing me off that key guys — first Mitchell Robinson, now Murray — aren’t fully on board with my program.

Among the other guys definitely coming back, Deni Avdija is going into his fourth season and hasn’t blown up, but he’s hardly a stiff, and I like how well he fits on the squad as a shooter and wing defender.

Daniel Oturu hasn’t started much, but he’s a power forward rated in the high 70s OVR now, he can defend inside, and he can shoot a bit. If we can’t retain Bol Bol, or can’t add a premium big man in free agency, Oturu should be a good stopgap, with potential for more.

Small forward Itsi Dsida has decided to come over from Europe, and he looks like a decent wing reserve.

Finally, Sagana Christopher, our other second-round pick last year, barely played at all and, while he can defend on the perimeter, he can’t shoot or anything else at an NBA level, so I’m planning to renounce his rights and move on.

I’ve got enough cap room to explore signing a premium free agent, perhaps at guard, but James Harden looks most interested in re-signing with the Rockets, and Russell Westbrook doesn’t fit our system. I look at the power forwards, but the best options look like Blake Griffin on a short deal (which might do bad things to our defense), or re-signing Bol Bol. Everyone else is a restricted free agent likely to re-sign with their original team, or doesn’t fit our team for the price they’re expecting.

So I focus on the next tier of guards and find an intriguing possible fit in Nickeil Alexander-Walker. He’s not particularly great at anything, but he’s a strong two-way guard who can shoot and play point as his secondary position. He’s a restricted free agent, so I’ve got to find the right balance on paying more than the Pelicans will while not paying so much it will hamper my ability to sign truly premium players in the future. I offer him a 3/$62M deal, he accepts, and the Pelicans choose to let him go. Alexander-Walker will be the best shooting guard we’ve had, should be a great complement to Murray, and Coach Stauffer may even choose to play him at point if Murray misses any games.

For everyone else, I’m going to aim for one-year deals in order to maintain flexibility moving forward, including Bol Bol. After waiting a few days in free agency to let other teams spend some of their money, Bol gets a multi-year offer from the Clippers and I bid him adieu. That fucker will regret bouncing on the Pierogies.

The next day, we bring back Willie Cauley-Stein on a 1/$5M deal to be a reserve big. But I’m also not totally comfortable handing the starting power forward job to Oturu, so I also sign Aaron Gordon to a 1/$15M deal. Gordon can play a little small forward, and I like that he’s defense-first and a rim runner, which should go well alongside Dick Wall’s game.

I get Derrick White to join for a 1/$11.15M contract to be Alexander-Walker’s backup, and perhaps Murray’s, too. I don’t like that I’ve only got combo guards as my point guard backups, but I feel trapped because the only players left available are premium guys like Westbrook or bargain-bin options. I go through a bunch of permutations by charting about 20 different players I could sign for the roster spot, then set up a decision tree to support me through the process. And in the end, I still overpay for Jordan Bone, getting him on a 1/$3.1M deal.

With that experience in the rearview, I pivot, figuring that as long as I’ve got Bone as a last-resort point guard, I can go all-in on the combo guard strategy and bring back Donte DiVinczeno on a 1/$17M deal, which is a raise over his salary last year. Though he started regularly for us then, he’s projected to be a reserve this year, but Coach Stauffer saw fit to play him at point quite a bit, too, so I’ll gladly welcome him back.

With these deals, I’m approaching the cap threshold, so I really want a minimum small forward to fill out the roster. Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot can shoot a little and defend a little, so he’ll do at this spot. He’s a likely DNP-CD behind Dsida most nights, so I’m not expecting anything from him.

That concludes free agency. The big moves: Westbrook leaves the Rockets to sign a short deal with the Jazz(!!!!!!!!!!!). The Rockets respond by offering Ja Morant a max deal in restricted free agency, and for some reason the Grizzlies don’t match it. Houston then re-signs Harden to a max deal, giving them a very weird backcourt. Meanwhile, the Sonics sign Blake Griffin to a 1/$18M deal. Also, I notice 38-year-old Lamarcus Aldridge has signed for the MLE with the Bulls.

I leave free agency, but at the start of Summer League, I take another spin through my roster to see what kind of upgrades might be possible and discover that the Kings are interested in trading for Jamal Murray. Not only that, they’re willing to trade De’Aaron Fox for Murray and a 2026 second-round pick. Fox is three years younger than Murray, four points better in OVR, and while he plays a different style, he’s a scoring point guard who can get to the bucket and has a good enough outside game he can still pour it in when the lane is closed off. He’s also a solid defender, so even though he’s a free agent after this season, my team is good enough that this kind of deal is well worth the risk he’ll leave for nothing.

I’m going to make this trade, but I don’t complete it right away, because I want to see what else might be possible. When I get to the Pelicans, I see they’re willing to trade James Wiseman, though they’re also asking for Murray and want a first-round pick to go with him.

My wheels start turning. I check Dick Wall to see what would happen if I switch him to power forward, and it turns out he jumps to a 92 OVR. Now I’m really interested in Wiseman, who’s an 88 OVR as a defense-first center. I get cracking on working out a trade with New Orleans that doesn’t involve Murray or the second-round pick that Sacramento wants, and finally, we reach agreement. Here are the full results of the moves, in two separate deals:

Pierogies get: De’Aaron Fox, James Wiseman

Kings get: Jamal Murray, ‘26 2nd round (Suns swap worst with Pierogies)

Pelicans get: Daniel Oturu, $5.03M trade exception, ‘24 1st round (Kings), ‘24 1st round (Warriors), ‘24 1st round (Clippers), ‘24 1st round (Rockets).

That’s a lot to pay, but I had a lot of picks stockpiled, and now I have a Big Three of Dick Wall, Fox, and Wiseman, plus Alexander-Walker and Avdija as solid two-way players on the wings, and a bevy of veteran reserves.

The upshot is that in the preseason power rankings, I’m listed as high as fourth, behind the Lakers, Bucks, and Celtics. All my starters are rated at least an 80 OVR, and my only real weakness is that Dick Wall is a mediocre perimeter defender, but he’s so good at everything else I’m not too worried.

I assign Gordon to mentor Wall to boost his defense, and because I have an open roster spot, I figure I may as well fill it, so sign small forward Raul Delgado to a two-way G-League contract. He’s only there in case of emergency.

Let’s see what this team can do.

The ‘Rogies start slowly, going 6-5 in December. While we lose to the Bucks twice (and neither game was close), we also beat the Celtics on opening night, which is encouraging.

In January, things pick up. In a stretch that starts with the last two games of December, we win nine of 10, the only loss a beatdown at the hand of the Sonics. By month’s end, the Pierogies are 16-9 and rolling. Dick Wall is putting up the same great numbers he averaged last season (roughly 15/11/5 on efficient shooting), and while Fox isn’t quite matching Murray’s scoring, he’s still leading the team at 19.1 points and 6.6 assists per game. Alexander-Walker averages 15.3 points and Avdija averages 13.3 points per game, which is great, but Wiseman is a revelation, averaging 15.0 points and 11.8 rebounds per game to go with 2.6 blocks.

On the bench, Mac Rollins is struggling a bit, shooting under 40% from the field, but fellow rookie Itsi Dsida has been getting steady minutes and is hitting a lot more threes than I expected.

February starts tough, with three close losses to the Clippers, Hornets, and Celtics, but the Pierogies rebound to end the month better than we ended January, with a 24-15 record. The high point is a 135-99 statement win over the Nets, who still have both Durant and Irving.

Wiseman’s scoring has dropped off slightly, but going into March he’s our third-leading scorer behind Fox and Dick Wall, and he’s increased his rebounding so that now he’s sporting a 14/12 average line.

That month, the Pierogies blast off, losing only three games. One matchup early in the month exemplifies what’s been working. In a 108-95 win over the Magic, Fox scores 31 to lead the way, while Dick Wall puts up a ho-hum 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists, Avdija scores 15, and Alexander-Walker scores 12. Itsi Dsida pops off for 13 points in only 17 minutes, too. But Wiseman is the non-scoring star. Even though he struggles from the field and ends with only 6 points, he also pulls down 20 rebounds, including 14(!) on the offensive glass. That’s winning basketball.

The most impressive game of the month comes in the middle of it all, when we blow out the Bucks, 121-66, and no individual Pierog scores more than 19 points. The Bucks are at full strength, but we utterly shut down Giannis, Middleton, and Collin Sexton, holding the entire Milwaukee team to 18 points or fewer in each quarter.

We’re riding high with a 37-18 record, which puts us behind only the 76ers in the East. In the West, the Sonics are also on a tear, and actually lead the league with 40 wins already, powered by Anthony Edwards and a resurgent Griffin.

We’re doing so well that at the trade deadline near the end of March, I’m not sure if there are any deals worth making, but Avdija suffers an injury that will cause him to miss a couple weeks, so I start looking for a replacement. The Hornets are willing to trade our old draft target, Saddiq Bey, so we make a deal, sending Charlotte Dean White III and Euro-stash prospect Roman Popov (our two first-round picks from this season), plus the Suns’ first-round pick in 2025.

Bey is pretty great at both ends of the floor — not a star, but maybe better than Avdija. I don’t expect him to be more than our third or fourth option, but he was scoring 17 points per game for Charlotte. So while this looks like a haul for a rental who can test the market at the end of the season, White and Popov don’t look like future stars, and I think Bey gives a huge boost to our odds of winning a championship this year.

That move leaves us a little thin in the frontcourt, so I trade Jordan Bone and the Warriors’ 2024 second-round pick to the Grizzlies for center Warren Smith and Memphis’s 2027 second-rounder. Smith is a recent draftee who has been playing regular backup minutes for the Grizz, and I expect him to essentially replicate White’s production.

Finally, I make a third deal to complete my roster shuffling. Reasoning that because Avdija will be back soon enough, that makes Luwawu-Cabarrot our fourth small forward, and thus expendable, so I trade him to the Mavericks, along with the Bucks’ 2025 second-rounder, for Jerian Grant, who will bolster our point guard depth.

The All-Star break at the start of April comes at a perfect time, because Fox gets hurt, but only misses two games. Pittsburgh lands two All Stars: Dick Wall and Wiseman are both reserves and play sparingly in the exhibition.

It also turns out to have been a good idea to trade for Bey because Avdija gets hurt again as soon as he returns, this time messing up his hip badly enough he’s expected to miss 6-8 weeks, which would put his return near the first round of the playoffs.

Nothing can stop the Pierogies, it seems, because we lose only three games for the month. We’re now 46-21 with 15 games to play. The 76ers are the only team ahead of us in the East, at 51-17. The Celtics are just behind us at 45-21, and then there’s a big gap to the Bucks at 38-30. I have to watch the West, too, because the top eight teams from each conference make the playoffs, but seeding is 1-16. In that race, the Timberwolves and Sonics are battling it out for the top spot, both with better records than me.

We start May with a six-game winning streak before losing a heartbreaker to the Cavs, 110-109. We bounce back with two more wins, but suffer a tough 96-89 loss to the Pacers. Three easy wins later, we have only two games left, and I check the standings.

The Celtics are streaking and the Sixers are choking. Somehow, with two games to play, the Celtics are two wins ahead of me, and the Sixers have dropped behind both of us. In the West, the Sonics have faded a little, and the Timberwolves will finish ahead of them, but behind the Celtics and Pierogies.

We need to win our last two games to have a chance at the top seed, but it isn’t to be. We lose to the Bucks in our penultimate game of the season, then lose to the Heat in our final game. With those two defeats, we finish 57-25, but that’s still the second-best record in the league, so I get the second seed in the playoffs, and our first-round opponent will be the 15th-seeded Kawhi-led Toronto Raptors (remember he re-signed with them after two seasons in L.A.).

Giannis wins the MVP. The Bulls have the Rookie of the Year, an amazing Greek point guard named Dimitris Alexandris who averaged 25 points per game. The Greek national team might be kind of bonkers.

I grab a boxed red wine off the shelf, because it’s time for the Pierogies Playoff Party.

For Game 1, the first NBA playoff game in Pittsburgh history, everyone is healthy enough to play. Avdija is still bothered by his injury, however, and Bey starts at small forward. As a reminder, I’m simming almost all of these games, and I’m planning to record any particularly interesting playoff games for you to watch in their entirety. This one’s being simmed. Here we go, ‘Rogies, here we go!

Well, shit. The Raptors run away with it in the second half and win, 115-97. Nobody on the Pierogies scores more than 20 points, and Kawhi drops 36 points on 25 shots from the field to wrest the home-court advantage away from us.

In Game 2, Leonard again goes off, scoring 30 points on 21 shots, but this time Fox scores 33, Dick Wall has a monster game with 22 points and 17 boards, while Wiseman adds 14 points and 15 rebounds to help the Pierogies win, 120-113. Also, backup big Warren Smith goes a perfect 7-7 from the field, scoring 15 points in only 19 minutes.

For Game 3 in Toronto, Bey is still in the starting lineup, but I feel like Avdija will probably be starting soon. Both struggle in this one, shooting a combined 3-16 from the field and 1-11 from three-point range, but the Pierogies still win, 104-98, because Wiseman decides to be the best player on the floor, putting up 30 points and 16 rebounds.

The Raptors even it up in Game 4, 110-88. Avdija scores 17 off the bench, but without much help at all, as the offense appears to have stalled in this game. Dick Wall comes up with 16 points and 7 rebounds, and Wiseman has 9 points with 12 rebounds, but Fox plays 28 minutes and only produces 7 points and 5 assists on 3-9 shooting. Even then, Alexander-Walker has, perhaps, the worst game, with 5 points on 2-12 shooting, including 0-8 from three. It’s tempered by 7 rebounds and 6 assists, but what makes this particularly tough is after the game I see he’s hurt his shoulder. It’s likely not enough to keep him from playing in Game 5, but he probably won’t start.

Back in Pittsburgh for Game 5, I see DiVincenzo in the starting lineup in place of Alexander-Walker. With Bey starting on the other wing instead of a healthy Avdija, I suspect Coach Stauffer has simply figured that’s the better matchup. I also decide to shake things up and switch the Pierogies to their white alts for this one.

I’m going to find which Pierogies “fans” sold their lower-bowl seats to Raptors fans for a playoff game, and I’m going to ban them from the arena. Either you’re with us all the way, or you’re against us.

Anyway, the good guys send those visitors home early, absolutely crushing Toronto, 128-87. Dick Wall balls out with 23 points, 12 boards, and 7 assists. Wiseman gives us 15 points and 13 rebounds (and even shoots 3-3 from beyond the arc!). Avdija comes off the bench to lead the team with 14 rebounds, which is great even though he didn’t shoot well. Fox struggles yet again, but DiVincenzo and Alexander-Walker both play well, covering up our starting point’s stinker. On the other side, Kawhi gets his with 21 points on 14 shots, and Malik Beasley is efficient on low volume, but everyone else struggles.

For some reason, Nick Nurse only plays eight guys, even though it was a 19-point game at halftime, a 23-point game at the end of the third quarter, and we blow the doors off in the fourth, winning that period, 42-24. And despite the tight rotation and dire straits, starting power forward Myles Turner somehow plays a cromulent 28 minutes, taking only 2 shots and grabbing 5 rebounds. I cackle out loud at that and almost spill my wine.

This sets up a potential clincher for Game 6, in Toronto. It’s a special day for Pierogies Nation, because I recorded the game so you, too, may bask in the glory of Dick Wall. Here we go...








Pierogies win, 80-70. An ugly win is still a win, and we’re on to the second round. If you’re going to get caught up in a slog, it helps to have a couple dominant big men like Dick Wall and James Wiseman. Fox leads in points, with 24, but Dick Wall puts up 15 points and 18 rebounds, while Wiseman is just as big, with 10 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 big blocks. I don’t think I could have handled a Game 7 against Kawhi, knowing Malik Beasley could get hot, too.

Next up: the 10-seed Houston Rockets, led by a crazy offensive backcourt of James Harden and Ja Morant. They also have Nikola Vucevic in the middle, so they’re no pushovers. They just dispatched the 7-seed Spurs, but I’m confident we have the horses to keep up on offense and intimidate them into mistakes.

Ahead of Game 1, I see that Bey is pretty much the ensconced starter at small forward, now, with Avdija coming off the bench. When I watched Game 6 of the Raptors series, I saw Coach Stauffer was using Avdija at power forward with Aaron Gordon at the wing much of the time. Perhaps that was in reaction to Kawhi, but Avdija isn’t exactly a slouch of a defender, and I think he’d put more pressure on opponents’ defense as a wing. But that’s Coach Stauffer’s decision to make. DiVincenzo is still starting at guard with Alexander-Walker coming off the bench.

And we get blown out, 138-110. It’s a two-point game at halftime, but then Houston’s offense goes into overdrive. Fox scores 27, but somehow garners 0 assists(?!?!?!?!) while Dick Wall nearly gets the trip-dub with 13/11/9. Harden scores 17, Morant gets held to 11, but Vucevic shivs us with 35 points, including going 6-7 from distance. Not good times.

But we also lost Game 1 last series. I’m intrigued to see Avdija back in the starting lineup, and I’m counting on a bounceback in Game 2... until we lose, 100-97. This is very nearly one of the all-time great comebacks. After three quarters the Rockets are up 93-69, and then the Pierogies storm back by holding them to only 7 points total in the fourth quarter. But it’s not enough, and now we’ve lost two home games and have to go to Houston needing to win at least one just to stay alive.

My main thought is Fox can’t keep shooting 3-13 from the field. My team is built around Dick Wall and Wiseman locking down the paint and providing solid — not necessarily spectacular — scoring from the big positions, two of the other guys playing competently on both ends of the floor and at least one guy from among the wings and point guard taking on the scorer’s burden. When I got him, I thought Fox could be that guy plus a defensive upgrade on Jamal Murray, but if he isn’t, I’m left hoping someone else steps up in a way they’re not really built to do.

That’s my broad mindset going into Game 3. This team had the second-best record in the N-B-goddamn-A, so I know they’re good enough to win this series, even down 2-0 with both losses at home.

Game 3 is in Houston. And the Pierogies lose, 114-104. Fox, Wiseman, and Dick Wall are fine, if unspectacular, but the Rockets’ bench is just a little more productive than mine. I won’t give up on my guys, but I know it’s just a matter of time before the season ends in disappointment.

I think about watching and recording Game 4, but that’d just be delaying the inevitable by another hour, so I sim the game and watch in horror as the Rockets run out to a big lead and never look back. It’s a 151-117 beatdown, and we’ve been swept out of the playoffs. What a disaster.

I throw my controller across the room and get lucky it doesn’t break. I don’t really care if it had broken something else, and it’s not like there’s anything here of any value, but without the controller, continuing with the franchise would’ve been a lot harder, and I don’t want to contemplate that. I’m building something important, something valuable, and even though this is a setback, the Pierogies are still on the verge of something big that’ll make everyone take notice. It’s only a matter of time.

The Memphis Grizzlies win an improbable championship as the 8-seed, surviving a seven-game first-round war against the Bucks, knocking off the top-seeded Celtics in seven games in the second round, taking out Anthony Edwards, Blake Griffin, and the Sonics in the semifinal, and then crushing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the 6-seed Thunder in the Finals, 4-1. Of course, Darius Garland wins Finals MVP, yet the team with the second-best record in the league can’t get one fucking win in the second round.

This offseason is going to be interesting. I’ve got decisions to make on Coach Stauffer, Fox, Wiseman, Avdija, and Bey.

I don’t feel like cheering, but this was unquestionably a successful season, and with Dick Wall onboard, my championship window is now wide open. Go ’Rogies.

2024-25: Year 5

You would do the same thing

Last season, Dick Wall, De’Aaron Fox, and James Wiseman were a formidable big three, powering the Pierogies to the second-best record in the NBA at 57-25. Unfortunately, the season ended in fiasco when James Harden, Ja Morant, and the Houston Rockets swept us out of the playoffs in the second round.

This offseason, I have some big decisions to make, though if these assholes know what’s up they’ll stick with me. Dick Wall is still on his rookie deal, which is the best contract in the league because he’s already a superstar. However, Fox, Wiseman, in-season addition Saadiq Bey, and the first-ever Pierogies draft pick Deni Avdija are all either restricted or unrestricted free agents. Moreover, head coach Tim Stauffer is a potential free agent, which could present a problem because he’s one of the top Pace and Space coaches, this team is built for Pace and Space, and I’m not inclined to hand the reins to assistant coach Vince Carter.

The new season is off to a good start because I’m able to re-sign Stauffer to another four-year deal, so we’re not changing our system.

I gathered a bunch of draft assets in the first couple years precisely for the moment when I could push in all the chips and trade for guys like Dick Wall and then Wiseman. But even after sending a boatload of picks to the Bulls and Pelicans for those guys, I’ve still got two picks in the first round this season, the 16th and 30th selections.

Last year, I picked a potential starting wing in Mac Rollins, a solid backup big in Dean White III, and a Euro-stash wing in Roman Popov. I ended up trading White and Popov to get Bey, who ended up starting for us in the playoffs, and I think if I can sign him to a multiyear deal, I will, because he’s a slightly better version of Avdija, only he doesn’t swing to power forward. If Bey won’t re-sign, then I’ll turn back to Avdija and all the other options on the market. All that’s to say I’m confident I can bring back last year’s juggernaut in the prime of their careers, and I’m looking forward to grinding the rest of the league under my heel. So in the draft, at these spots, I’m looking for guys who might develop into depth contributors behind my stars.

At the 16th pick, I select Slovenian center Luka Pavic. He’s a Euro-stash for another season, which makes me rub my hands in glee. He’s already 22, which means I’ll have him for his prime years on a rookie-scale deal. Perfect.

With the 30th pick, nobody looks all that interesting, and I try to sell the pick for a future first or a second that’s just a few picks later, but no one’s biting, so I end up picking point guard Edwin Meeks, out of UC San Diego. The big attraction with this guy is he’s only 19, and he’s a huge point guard at 6-5, which could come in handy if I can develop him into a depth guy. This year, he’s going to ride the pine, and if he still sucks in a couple years he’s cheap enough I can toss him aside no problem.

In the free agency moratorium period, I’m determined to lock up Fox and Wiseman. So I back up the Brinks truck for both. Fox agrees to a 5/$163M deal with a player option on the fifth year, and Wiseman agrees to sign for 4/$134M with the fourth year a player option. The Pierogies’ big three is intact, and the rest of the league is on notice. I also get our forever backup Willie Cauley-Stein to re-sign for a 1/$2.65M deal.

My starting lineup is almost complete. Right now, we have Fox and last year’s big free agent signing Nickeil Alexander-Walker at the guards, and Dick Wall with James Wiseman as the bigs. Avdija has had injury trouble the past couple seasons, and he wants more money than I want to give him, so I’ve renounced him to clear out a $17M cap hold. Some other team can be suckers and sign him to play a bigger role than he deserves.

Saadiq Bey is a restricted free agent, so I decide to let him figure out his market and hope I can get him on the qualifying offer. In the interim, I sign Austin Rivers to a minimum deal to be a backup combo guard, understanding that I kind of have to wait on Bey, but pretty soon afterward, he agrees to a 3/$65.65 offer sheet from the Lakers (who are apparently moving on from LeBron). I’m matching that, no problem, making Bey my starting small forward, and I’m glad his deal is short enough that I might be able to ride it out and then hand the job to Rollins, or maybe even Itsi Dsida, if he develops faster.

I’m in no hurry to fill out the rest of the roster, because I’m cap-confined enough that most of the valuable dudes are off the table. Thinking I’ll need another reserve guard, I sign Vince Bradley to a 2/$11.27M deal, with the second year a team option. He’s been a disappointment since he was drafted with the 15th pick of the 2021 draft (remember that was the one bereft of talent, and we got Sebastian Reynolds fourth overall that year), but as a 3-and-D guy, he fits our second unit.

For the last roster spots, I think about getting veteran mentors who can also contribute in limited minutes. Al Horford signs for the minimum, as does Patrick Beverley, returning for another run with the Pierogies.

Here are our key players:

Starters: De’Aaron Fox, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Saadiq Bey, Dick Wall, James Wiseman

Reserves: Austin Rivers, Patrick Beverley, Vince Bradley, Itsi Dsida, Mac Rollins, Willie Cauley-Stein, Warren Smith, Al Horford, Edwin Meeks, Luka Pavic (Europe)

The big free agent moves are that the Lakers lose both LeBron, who signs for 1/$43.52M with Chicago, and Anthony Davis, who goes to Dallas to team with Luka Doncic on a 3/$137M deal (with a player option for the fourth year), replacing Kristaps Porzingis, who goes to the L.A. Clippers for 4/$150M. Avdija signs with the Lakers, who are also rolling with Dejounte Murray as the new faces of the franchise.

Before any games are played, the power rankings are high on the Pierogies, putting us at No. 1. But in the NBA, nothing’s given and everything’s earned. I want to steamroll the rest of the league. Let’s do this.

And the season starts on a sour note, with five straight losses. The Bucks and Mavericks are good, but we also lose to the perpetually-mediocre Hornets and Wizards. We bounce back to blow out the Spurs and 76ers, but by month’s end, we’re 4-8. Yikes.

New year, new Pierogies, right? Maybe. At the start of January, we go on a five-game winning streak that includes back-to-back triple doubles from Dick Wall against the Thunder and Celtics, 26/18/10 and 21/18/10, respectively. But just when I think we’re turning a corner, we go 3-7 in the back half of the month.

This team is 12-16 after losing only 25 games all last season, and I know why: Fox has fallen off dramatically in the first year of his big deal. Dick Wall is as great as ever, and Wiseman is improving upon his numbers from last year, but at this point, Fox is averaging only 12 points per game after averaging 18 per game last season. That’s... not superstar production. It’s barely “acceptable starter” production. Is his deal already an albatross? Am I fucked?

In February, the guys respond with an emphatic “No!” In the entire month, they lose only two games, by a total of nine points. It’s a softer stretch of the schedule, but I still see statement wins over the Suns, 116-94, and Nets, 122-108. Also, Dick Wall wins Eastern Conference Player of the Month, and he’s listed as a top-five MVP candidate thanks to averaging 19/14/5 for the season. Wiseman has also launched himself into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation, leading the league in blocks per game, but also averaging 16/12. I’ve basically got two walking double doubles in my frontcourt, which makes the Fox situation so goddamn frustrating.

Fox’s numbers have recovered somewhat, but I’m spooked by his dropoff. Yes, Dick Wall and Wiseman are scoring, but if Fox isn’t pulling his weight, I’m dreading the next four seasons of this.

As we work through March, we keep rolling, winning four of the first six, but I can’t deal with Fox anymore and start looking to bail. Yeah, I just signed him to a big deal, but $32M per year should get me more than Raymond Felton with a faster 40-time.

In mid-March, knowing the trade deadline is approaching, I look around for deals for Fox, and as it turns out, the Rockets are amenable to a trade. They’ve collapsed and are near the bottom of the standings. While they’re unwilling to move Harden, they’re open to talk about a deal centered on Fox for Ja Morant. I’ll have to give up more than just Fox because Morant is a better player, and he’s also signed to a slightly friendlier deal, and he’s younger. After a bunch of negotiations, we finally strike a deal, and I trade Fox, Dsida (who has been a bit of an ill fit in our system and is behind Rollins on the depth chart anyway), and the Pacers’ first-round pick next season (2025) for Morant.

With Morant running the offense, we keep winning, and at the trade deadline, I think I’ll just do some cursory searching. But the little voice behind my ear hisses, “You’ve already lost almost as many games as all of last year. Improve or die.” So I trawl through every team, checking to see if any premium wings are available.

When I get to the Nets, I’m stopped in my tracks, because they’re willing to trade me Kevin Durant. He’s no longer World Destroyer KD, but he’s still a top-five wing. I know that if I can get him, I’ll have a monster offensive team. The only problem is the Nets want Morant, which would leave me starting either Beverley or Rivers at point guard, which would be less than ideal.

I pocket that deal and go looking for a point guard. The Bulls have also collapsed, even though they have last year’s Rookie of the Year, Dimitris Alexandris, at point and they added LeBron. I consider seeing what it would take to get LeBron and make him my point guard, but he’s 39, has declined considerably, and has fit questions, so I don’t pursue that path. However, I’m surprised to see Chicago is amenable to trading Alexandris, and they’re not really asking much: I actually own their 2025 first-round pick (with top-three protection), and they want it back. It’s going to be a high pick because Chicago is so bad, but it probably is more valuable to them than me.

Alexandris is already 24, and he’s dropped from 25 points per game as a rookie to 20 points per game this year, but it’s unlikely I’m getting an equal player with that draft pick. I work out a deal where they’ll trade me Alexandris for the Chicago pick and Vince Bradley, who’s been a disappointment and fallen behind Beverley, Rivers, and Rollins in the guard rotation.

I make the Nets deal first, then the Bulls deal. In total, here’s how they work out:

Pierogies get: Kevin Durant, Dimitris Alexandris, Nets first-round pick in 2028

Nets get: Ja Morant, Saadiq Bey

Bulls get: Vince Bradley, Bulls first-round pick in 2025

This is a win-now move, for sure, but I’ve also converted Fox and Bey’s multi-year deals into a rookie-scale deal for a star point guard and Durant’s expensive-but-short-term contract — he also has a $50M player option for next season. Where previously we had only about $12 million in cap room projected for next offseason, now we have about $67M if Durant declines his option and about $17M if he exercises it. With a Dick Wall extension coming up, that flexibility could be a big deal.

We’ve sent out enough players I have to sign someone else to fill out the roster, so I get Sir’Dominic Porter as an emergency backup wing on a 10-day deal, thinking I’ll re-evaluate at the end of the 10 days. Eventually, we just sign him for the rest of the season. I also sign 3-and-D wing Reggie Wade.

Then we hit some injury trouble. Dick Wall will miss the All Star Game with a minor ankle thing, but Cauley-Stein and Horford are also hurt. I’ve got an extra roster spot, so I pick up Steven Adams off the scrap pile as a temporary fill-in.

Dick Wall returns just a few games after the All Star break, but even without him, the Pierogies stay above water. We go 8-5 in April, and near the end of the month, when Cauley-Stein gets healthy, I waive Adams and sign Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to be a defensive presence with the bench unit. We’re 42-27, which isn’t as dominating as last season, but Durant and Alexandris have stepped in without missing a beat. Those two scoring machines appear to be a good match with the do-everything brilliance of Dick Wall, Wiseman’s defensive anchor, and Alexander-Walker’s steady excellence at the other guard spot is just gravy. This is a championship-caliber team.

We only lose two more games the rest of the way and finish 53-29, good for the fourth-best record in the NBA. Our disastrous opening week is long forgotten.

Giannis wins another MVP, his second straight. He’s now won four MVPs, going back-to-back twice. Dick Wall is an All-NBA First Team selection, and he makes the All-Defensive First Team. Wiseman is named to the All-Defensive Second Team. The Clippers are the top seed, just a couple years after losing both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to free agency. Their top scorers? Bol Bol and Jamal Murray, both outscoring their big free agent signing, Porzingis. Well, damn. 

My first-round matchup will be against the 13-seed Boston Celtics. Though they lost Jaylen Brown in free agency, Kemba is still dangerous, Jayson Tatum is a star, and Mitchell Robinson is one of the few bigs in the league who can cause problems for Wiseman. This won’t be easy.

Year 5: The Playoffs

The Pierogies are the 4-seed, but I think we're better than that

The Pierogies are the 4-seed, facing the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2025 NBA playoffs. I don’t give a fuck about tradition or pride or history or whatever. We may be only five years old, but I’ve built the better team. Unlike Danny Ainge, I actually turn my picks into championship talent. Game 1 is in Pittsburgh. 

We have a shootout between Tatum and Durant. Tatum finishes with 43 points on 27 shots, while Durant drops 37 on 20 shots, but the Pierogies prevail in overtime, 136-132. Alexander-Walker also puts up 30 points, and nearly-forgotten backup big Warren Smith has an 18/12 double double in 28 minutes while Wiseman struggles with foul trouble, fouling out after only 19 minutes. Dick Wall, of course, goes for 10/14/5.

I want to stomp on the Celtics’ throats.

But in Game 2, despite starting the second half up 15 and the fourth quarter up 10, the Pierogies lose 107-105. Tatum is on fire, scoring 37, and while the Pierogies’ leading scorer is Alexandris with 22, Mac Rollins is next with 19 off the bench, and there are only four guys scoring in double figures. That’s not good enough, and it’s pissing me off how last year we lost playoff home games, and we’re continuing that trend this year. It’s going to catch up with us. I make a note to meet with Coach Stauffer about how he plans to resolve this.

In Game 3 in Boston, Dick Wall breaks out of his mini-slump with a 19/11/6 line, and Durant scores 22. We even hold Tatum to just 16 points, but the Celtics still come out on top, 103-97, in a game that wasn’t really that close, as we’re down 19 at the half.

Down 2-1 in the series, I’m anxious about Game 4, but the guys come up with a monster defensive performance, winning 119-86. It’s over early, as we win the first quarter 40-26 and extend the lead in the second quarter to go into the locker rooms up by 18. I like Alexandris scoring 26 and Durant scoring 20 on 15 shots, but Dick Wall is the star of the game with 19 points and 18 rebounds. Tatum scores 35 points, but needs 31 shots to do it, and no other Celtic scores more than 11 points.

Back in Pittsburgh, Game 5 is more of the same, a 111-84 Pierogies victory. Dick Wall has fully awakened, putting up a 23/13/6 line, and Alexandris continues to lead in scoring with 23 points. Tatum is just flailing at this point, scoring 22, but needing 24 shots to get there.

I watched and recorded Game 6.








I get the win, 93-65. Boston just kind of rolls over and dies in this one, and Wiseman asserts himself from the start.

However, I’m still frustrated. This series never should have gone past five games, and worse, we keep losing in front of our home fans. I consider dropping in to shootaround or practice, just to let the guys know I’m watching, but eventually think better of it. Better to save that move for later.

Next up, we have the defending champions, the 12-seed Memphis Grizzlies, who have dynamic scorers all over the place, including Darius Garland, Jaren Jackson, Jr., Wendell Carter, and a rookie sharpshooter named Evan Howard. I’m not concerned about their bigs, because Dick Wall and Wiseman match up well against everyone, and they don’t appear to have anyone who can slow down Durant, but I’m a little worried about their array of guards, like Garland and Kendrick Nunn, who may give fits to Alexandris, who is just an average defender. He’s too important on offense to take away his minutes in favor of better defenders like Beverley and Rivers, so he’s going to have to step up somehow in order to stay ahead of the Grizz.

I sim Game 1 and start thinking that maybe I should be more worried about Dick Wall and Wiseman’s defense, because Jackson drops 32, Garland scores 26, and Howard contributes 23 to help Memphis to a 142-126 win. I get 27/11 from Dick Wall, and 23 from Durant, but it’s just too big an ask to keep up with an opponent scoring 142 fucking points.

Game 2 is more like it, a 115-95 Pierogies win that could have been bigger, if not for Alexandris bruising his back and scoring only 12 points on 17 shots. For the Grizzlies, Garland scores 23 and Carter 22, but Jackson goes 2-15 from the field and 1-9 from three.

Game 3 in Memphis is back-and-forth and tied going into the final period, but the Pierogies run ahead in the fourth to win, 116-104. It’s vintage Durant, scoring 29 points on only 17 shots, in 29 minutes. Jackson gets 27 points, but everyone else is held in check.

If we can win Game 4, we’ll be headed back to Pittsburgh for a closeout game. Unfortunately, Darius Garland has himself a night with 41 points, and the Grizzlies blow us out in the second half to win 141-110. Warren Smith has a 14/14 double double, but Dick Wall shits the bed with only 6 points and 7 rebounds, while Alexandris’s back issue is officially freaking me out — he only scores 11 points, and if this is what he’s capable of doing until he heals, I’m in bad shape.

In Game 5, back at home, series tied 2-2, the Pierogies put on a clinic, winning 114-84. It’s a full team effort, with six different Pierogies scoring in double figures, but Warren Smith is the star of the game, coming off the bench to put up a 16/13 line. Alexandris continues to struggle, shooting 5-16 from the field, but everything else works well enough it doesn’t matter.

With a chance to close out the Grizzlies, I watched and recorded Game 6.







I lose, 93-85. The Pierogies don’t score a field goal for the last 2:48 of the game. Durant scores 18, but he should be shooting more. Alexandris scores 17, but shoots 5-18 and I would’ve liked him off the floor in crunch time except that Beverley is putrid offensively. At least Dick Wall kills it with a 15/14 line on 6-7 shooting from the field.

Game 7, at home, against the defending champs, is making me sick. We should have taken these guys down long ago, but Garland and Jackson have been so good, I’m stalking around my office, dreading this game. The voice behind my ear says to project a little goddamn confidence for once in your life. Get down to your seat, straighten your shoulders, and face destiny.

Here goes...







It’s another low-scoring brawl, but this time, I survive and advance with a 93-87 win. Dick Wall does his usual 16/10 double double thing, and Alexandris gives a gutty performance, scoring 20 on 12 shots despite his sore back.

My reward is facing the 16-seed Miami Heat. They’re led by Jaylen Brown, with Bam Adebayo as the second-best player and Jimmy Butler still hanging on as an above-average complementary starter. They knocked off the top-seeded Clippers in six games, and then took down the Embiid-Simmons 76ers in six, so even though they’re the lowest seed in the playoff tournament, they’re dangerous. My guys have been through two battles just to get here, but even so, I expect to kick the Heat’s asses.

In Game 1, they do not kick the Heat’s asses. Instead, Durant gets held to 7 points, Alexandris continues to struggle, scoring only 10 points on 14 shots, and the Heat squeak out a road win, 95-92. My bigs feast: Dick Wall and Wiseman each go for 15 points on reasonably efficient shooting, while Warren Smith continues to play a volume game off the bench, leading the team with 17 points on 12 shots in only 20 minutes. Nobody on Miami scores out of their mind or anything like that. Brown leads them with 24 points on 13 shots, which is great, but everyone else is just kind of there. It feels like a massive letdown for Pittsburgh.

Again, we keep losing home playoff games, which necessarily forces us into long series, and that feels like it’s going to catch up to us. It’s like how back in high school, there were the kids who played sports, took AP classes, and went to parties, and they could do it because they were 16 years old and invincible. Then when we started working, there were the 21-year-olds who worked full shifts, then went out with their friends until midnight, and came in to work at 7:00 am the next day none the worse for wear because they were 21 years old and invincible. Then some people started having kids, and they tried to work a full shift, take care of their kids, and go out with their friends, only they found out that doesn’t work so well when you’re 35 and haven’t slept eight straight hours in 20 years, and of course they chose their kids, leaving the rest of us with only work and no friends. A few guys I knew tried to keep going out, but there wasn’t anyone I liked enough to make it a regular thing anyway. I always preferred helping Master Chief to victory over the Covenant, or building the Marlins into an MLB dynasty. It always catches up to you. But not me, yet.

Let’s get it in Game 2.

It’s another close one, but this time my guys storm back in the fourth quarter to snatch a 112-110 win. They’re down 13 going into the final frame and still come out on top. Alexandris and Durant lead in scoring, as they’ll probably have to from here on out if we’re going to win this thing, and while Dick Wall is a bit down with only 7 points, he still has 9 boards and a team-high 9 assists.

While a win is a win, it’s a bad sign that Miami is playing us so close on our home floor, and I’m cracking my knuckles constantly as I look over the two teams ahead of Game 3 in Miami.

It goes poorly.

The Heat go up by 19 at the half and cruise to a 110-99 win. Durant has a great game, scoring 25 on 15 shots, Alexandris looks to be at full strength in scoring 20, and Dick Wall has a 12/13 game. But those top three guys just don’t get enough support from the rest of the squad. In particular, Rollins shoots 2-12 from the field, and Wiseman scores only 8 points on 13 shots. It’d be hard to win any game with guys bricking like that, but Brown also scores 37 for Miami, and Adebayo pulls down 20 rebounds.

We have to win three of four now, with two of those games on the road. Check that. We have to win three in a row now because Miami wins Game 4, 128-122. Dick Wall does his part with a 19/13 performance, Durant gets 20, Alexandris gets 19, and Wiseman shoots 7-8 on his way to a 19-point game. But on a night when the Pierogies’ offense is humming, they can’t get any stops. Brown scores 28. Butler scores 22. And Darius Bazley has the best line of them all, scoring 23 on 6-7 shooting, plus 11-13 from the foul line.

I have a talk with Coach Stauffer about what the hell is going on, bringing him into my office and asking him why we’ve been pushed to the brink by an inferior team the year after another inferior team swept us out of the playoffs. He says nothing. I ask him who’s going to be accountable. Do we have a breach? Have the Heat infiltrated our organization? What is he going to do about it? He doesn’t say anything.

I’m not going in the locker room, because even though I’ve got a young team there are still vets like Durant and Horford and Beverley who I’m sure will light a fire under everyone’s asses. They know how fleeting NBA glory is and the precious value of a shot at a title. This could be their last chance.

Game 5 of the NBA semifinal is in Pittsburgh. The Minnesota Timberwolves — champions three years ago with the same top duo of D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns — have swept the other semifinal and await the winner of this series.







This game is over early, with the Pierogies scoring 85 points in the first half, powered by Durant’s three-point shooting. We play even in the second half for a 145-112 win.

I’m proud of the guys for coming out and stomping the Heat in historic fashion. Wiseman scores 27 and grabs 19 boards in 28 minutes. Alexandris scores 13 and adds 11 assists in only 19 minutes. But Durant absolutely goes off, scoring 32 points in only 17 minutes of play, thanks to 9-10 shooting from distance. Maybe Jaylen Brown got taken down by Pittsburgh nightlife. Maybe this was a trap game with Miami looking forward to going home and closing things out then.

Game 6 in Miami is going to be crazy. Let’s do this.







Dick Wall is a golden god and I will countenance no shit-talking about this man for the rest of my days. He puts up a 26/21 line in leading the Pierogies to a 112-101 road win. Time and again, Dick Wall gets the ball and bullies Darius Bazley or whichever poor Heat player is forced to deal with him. Yes, things get a little hairy near the end, but we got Durant, the greatest isolation scorer in NBA history, to handle situations like this, and he comes through with some huge possessions. If we win this thing, adding him and Alexandris is going down as the ballsiest set of midseason trades in league history.

Reggie Wade starts this game at guard for us because Nickeil Alexander-Walker has a twisted ankle, which doesn’t keep him out of the game, but pushes him to the bench. It’s an interesting choice by Coach Stauffer, because Mac Rollins is a more talented offensive player and significantly taller, but Stauffer is vindicated by Wade’s performance. With all the offensive talent around him, he doesn’t have to be a key scorer — though he does score 13 on 11 shots — and I see him acting as a facilitator much of the time, letting Alexandris play off the ball. Better still, Wade’s one of the main guys guarding Jimmy Butler, who totally shits the bed and shoots only 2-14 from the field.

Game 7 is back in Pittsburgh. I call up Micky Arison and leave him a message, telling him he’s a fuckface whose cruises suck and his season is over.







I’m headed to the Finals after a 138-94 win wraps up an epic series comeback. The Pierogies were down three games to one, and we smoked the Heat in the two games in Miami. Game 7 is tied at the end of the first period, but from my courtside seat I can hear Coach Stauffer telling the guys that despite the score we have them on the ropes, and so of course they go out and run away with it in the final three quarters.

Dimitris Alexandris can’t be stopped. He scores 27 points on 12 shots and adds 13 assists. Somehow, he gets three blocks, too. Not to be outdone on that end of the floor, Dick Wall gets 5 blocks to go with his 22 points and 11 rebounds. Jimmy Butler might be washed; he shoots 1-10 in Game 7.

We’re headed straight to Minneapolis from here. The guys may be sleeping on their plane, but my flight is gonna be lit.

2024-25: The Finals

Showdown with Minnesota

Dick Wall just led the Pierogies to the NBA Finals

I’m taking no chances in the Finals. I tell Coach Stauffer all our practices will have extra security, and that if there’s any player he thinks needs extra protection, I’ll assign someone to shadow him. Can’t trust Minnesotans at a time like this. Everyone knows those sneaky fuckers would put laxative on a room service pizza or something.

The Timberwolves are the 2-seed and the Pierogies are the 4-seed, so they get the home court advantage. They also have former MVP D’Angelo Russell alongside Karl-Anthony Towns. They’ve won a title and want more. But while those guys will be a handful, I feel like our firepower will be just too much for them. They’re starting 6-6 Grant Williams at power forward. Is he really gonna stop Dick Wall? Fuck no! The only way anyone can stop Kevin Durant is if we don’t get him the ball. And D’Angelo and KAT aren’t exactly defensive-minded players, so this is shaping up to be an extended shootout.

I go back through all the Minnesota box scores to try and glean some insights into how Coach Stauffer might defend this scoring juggernaut, and while he doesn’t have to listen to me I shoot off a 12-point memo with a bunch of ideas. The big one is I keep thinking that Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Patrick Beverley, and Reggie Wade should guard Russell in waves, and Alexandris — a great scorer, but iffy defender — should stick with Landry Shamet and the Wolves’ assortment of lesser off-guards. Otherwise, there isn’t much to do except hope my guys are ready for battle.

Game 1 is in Minneapolis. Prince and The Replacements are overrated.







YES. The Pierogies have yanked home court advantage with a Game 1 victory, 134-119. The Wolves simply can’t stop our offense, with Alexandris scoring 24 (albeit on 23 shots), Durant scoring 23 (albeit on 21 shots), and the rest of the squad scoring at much better efficiency, led by Alexander-Walker’s 17 on 7 shots. Dick Wall and James Wiseman remain the Pierogies’ anchors with lines of 14/10 and 15/17, respectively, but I’m also happy to see Mac Rollins getting involved with 17 points.

On the other side, Russell goes off for 39 points and Towns gts 22, but both are averaging something like 27 points per game this year, so that counts as containing Towns, and though Russell torches Alexandris, he can keep doing that so long as we make life tough on Towns, Shamet, and Josh Green.

In my postgame meeting with Coach Stauffer, I tell him we are the Persians at Thermopylae. The Wolves may have Russell and Towns in their primes, but Dick Wall is an MVP candidate, and, besides, we have Alexandris, Wiseman, Kevin Fucking Durant, and a superior bench, so even if they put up a fight, we should be able to overwhelm them unless Russell and Towns play 48 minutes, and in that case we should be able to wear them down. He hears me out, but I can tell he’s not fully on board with what I’m saying, so I lay it out for him that I can accept we might not sweep, but after the midseason additions I made, this team is a winner, and if we can’t win with the overwhelming forces I’ve assembled, then I must conclude it was the coach’s strategy that failed.

I’m jacked for Game 2. Let’s go back to Pittsburgh with a 2-0 lead.







We lose, 136-130. That final score is deceiving, however, because while we get it to within four points late in the game, realistically we’re sucking wind just trying to keep up with the Timberwolves’ scoring onslaught. We kill them on the offensive boards, 21-7, and take 28 more shots, but that’s all canceled out by their big free throw advantage — 26 attempts to 12 — and their shooting 13-19 from three while we shoot 5-21.

I love Dick Wall finally getting aggressive and putting up 29 and 11 on only 15 shots. But Russell and Towns destroy us in this game. The Persians might have suffered deaths at Thermopylae just as we can’t keep those guys from scoring entirely, but the Persians didn’t walk up to the Greeks weaponless and let them chop off their hands. In this game, we let Russell score 43 and Towns score 31 on combined 28-35 shooting from the field. Plus they get another 16 points from the line.

It’s just two games, but I’m already sick and tired of watching the Russell-Towns pick-and-roll with nobody guarding the lane. I’m tired of watching Alexandris flailing after Russell off the ball so that he gets it in position to attack the basket or shoot with impunity. I want Coach Stauffer to do something, anything, about this and make it so someone like Grant Williams has to be the one to beat us.

Thankfully, Game 3 is back at PPG Paints Arena, where Pierogies Nation will be out in droves to see us stick it to those Minnesotan bastards. When I get to my courtside seats, I order a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue, because I’m in an optimistic mood. Let’s do this.







Fuck you, Stauffer. You ruined this. We lose, 145-138, and that only looks kind of decent because we make some noise in the fourth quarter, but really we get beaten down in the second and third quarters.

You know that Dick Wall is a monster, and I’m pissed on his behalf that his 35/17 effort goes to waste because my fucking coach can’t make a goddamn adjustment. Don’t even feel like talking about anyone else on the Pierogies because the only thing that matters is Russell scores 52 points and dishes 18 assists.

Sometime in the third quarter, I find myself staring at Coach Stauffer and trying to burrow into his mind, John Malkovich style, to get him to bench Alexandris for Beverley, or maybe just switch coverages so that Alexander-Walker guards Russell and Alexandris guards Green or Shamet. Something. Anything other than watching poor Alexandris get put through the spin cycle over and over. Hell, I’d accept a 2-3 zone with Dick Wall and Durant on Wiseman’s wings. Or do like the Heat and put Alexandris and Dick Wall on Wiseman’s wings — because they’re not as good in man coverage — and have a killer long-armed duo of Durant and Alexander-Walker up top.

Whatever. I’m done giving Stauffer memos that he’s just going to ignore. We’re now down 2-1 in the Finals, and in all three contests D’Angelo Russell has skinned us alive. The voice behind my ear’s trying to plead patience, but I see what I see and Stauffer is on thin ice. He’d better figure this shit out or else.

Game 4 is in Pittsburgh. I’m doing all I can not to run out on the court and tackle Russell myself.







I’m not on speaking terms with Coach Stauffer, anymore. Just one season after signing him to a big extension, I’m seriously considering if I should fire him and find someone new to bring me to the pinnacle, because while the Pierogies’ offense keeps on keeping on, the defense is atrocious yet again, and we lose our third straight game, our second Finals home game, 139-121.

How many times can we take a first quarter lead and then fritter it away to a barrage of Russell-Towns pick-and-rolls? It’s bad enough when Russell shoots 16-24 for 41 points, and Towns shoots 13-17 for 30 points, but when Green shoots 8-11 for 22 and Miles Bridges is 4-6 for 13 that’s a systemic issue.

I leave my seat at halftime and don’t return, going to a tunnel under the arena, and there I find a small room with bare white walls, a couch, and a silent screen where I lock the door and watch the game unfold. I think about how far I’ve come, from... from... well, from when I started this team with Mitchell Robinson, and Bol Bol, and TJ Leaf, and Dorian Finney-Smith, and Malik Beasley, and Fred VanVleet, and Christian Wood, and how it’s my resourcefulness, my insight, my effort that’s brought the great city of Pittsburgh to the precipice of a championship. I brought you Dick Wall. I brought you Dimitris Alexandris. I brought you Kevin Durant.

I’m not the failure. Stauffer’s fucking it up. Everything else is going to hell, but I made something great and I want you to see it, really see my greatness.

I look up and the next thing I know Game 5 is starting in Minneapolis. I’m in a small room, only now I’m lying in a disheveled bed with an old laptop displaying the game. There’s a half-full pint glass on the floor, and I don’t know what the brown liquid inside it is. A sliver of sunlight plays across a grey clock radio. It’s 10:53 am.







132-107, Pierogies. We’re still in it.

Game 6 is in Pittsburgh, I guess.







We lose. The Timberwolves are champions. The last two minutes of regulation is bananas. Blocks, steals, huge offensive rebounds. Karl-Anthony Towns getting pulled with less than a minute to play. It’s as dramatic a basketball game I’ve ever seen.

Video game basketball.

I look at my clock radio. It’s 3:17 pm. When’s the last time I left this room? My apartment?

Russell averaged 40 points per game in the Finals, so of course he’s the Finals MVP. This offseason, I  can find out if Durant will opt to play for the Pierogies or test free agency again. I’ll also have a chance to sign Dick Wall to an extension. No matter what, this team is built to compete for a title again.

Or... I look around for a mask and my keys.


I like playing video games, especially sports games. During the pandemic, I’ve played a ton of NCAA Football 14 and College Hoops 2K8 on PS3, and in my more feral days (more than a decade ago) I played something like 800 hours of NBA 2K8. However, as much as I like the feeling of accomplishment that comes from mastering these games, I’ve developed a cynicism about what video game accomplishment usually represents, and how that relates to whatever value a game may hold.

When I discovered Ricky O’Donnell’s Western Illinois Leathernecks dynasty, I started watching it in the same mode as I would watch, say, curling on television, enjoying the Twitch streams for their novelty, but with an ironic remove. The thing about it, though, is that the more I watched Ricky, I recognized that watching his recruiting process and the games his fictional basketball teams played were fine and good, but the real nourishment was in the chat (and later, subreddit and Discord server). As with “real-life” sports fandom, watching video games makes the most sense when we participate socially, and I love that Ricky has built a deeply positive participatory culture around his streams.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but all this has made me reflect a lot on my frame of mind when I played Halo, or NCAA Football 08, or Out of the Park Baseball, and this fictional story is the result.

Yes, it’s fiction, but fiction to a point. I really did get NBA 2K21 at the end of 2020, I really did create the Pittsburgh Pierogies as an expansion franchise, I really have been playing the way I described in the story, trying to win a championship, and about 99% of what I described in-game actually happened in my save — Dick Wall really did appear out of the ether as a superstar-in-waiting. But, to be completely clear, I created a fictional narrator to try and work through some ideas about games and fandom.

I don’t know for sure if this’ll work cross-platform, but I’ve uploaded the Pierogies franchise to the 2K servers at the end of the 2025 season so you can pick it up from here, if you like. You can also download the Pierogies uniforms and court, et cetera. For what it’s worth, I played on my PC, occasionally with a controller hooked up (some functions are actually impossible without a controller). I did tweak the sliders a little bit during the course of the franchise, but only the gameplay sliders, not any of the progression or AI logic sliders, which I set according to the 2K SimWorld recommendations from the start.

I’ve also uploaded all of the screenshots I took to keep track of the series to a Google Drive folder. All of the videos are on YouTube and linked in the emails, and I’m going to leave them unlisted.

Thank you to Ricky O’Donnell and all the good people in Neck Nation. #LFG. #DaddysHome. Thank you to Rick for editorial guidance and encouraging me to share Dick Wall with the world. Thank you to Ben for letting me play his copies of NCAA Football and Madden and GTA way back when. Thank you to Zach for taking me to my first NBA game, Celtics at Sonics. And of course, thank you to Jessica for putting up with my many hours of recording video game basketball and then writing about it. Someday, hopefully, we’ll get back to attending games live. Finally, thank you for reading this little storytelling experiment.

This is probably the end of my Pierogies story, but now you can continue it, if you feel moved. If you do, I’d love to know how it turns out. You can reach me at, on Twitter @29_sunset, and if essays about sports, politics, sports, pop culture, more sports, and the intersections of them all is your thing, please consider subscribing to my newsletter at


-- David