NBA Basketball Column: The Daily Dose
Dose: Train Wreck Tuesday
Fantasy owners are probably in the same boat as the players they own – tired and ready for a few days off to step back and look at their game. There will be 12 games tonight and then the usual light Thursday night, and then we’ll be smack in the middle of All Star weekend with the trade deadline the following week. If you haven’t checked out our Trade Deadline Kickoff or Adam Levitan’s top-10 trade candidates, put them on your required reading list. We’ll have more of that as we go here, and this week is the time that owners should try to plot out the rest of their season without the distraction of nightly games. Believe it or not we’ll be 3/4s of the way through the season here shortly, so owners looking to make an impact need to speak now or forever hold their peace.
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DEAD TO ME
Andre Iguodala (neck) and Danilo Gallinari (sinus infection) were both late scratches for last night’s game, and both will have a shot to play in tonight’s game against the Nets by the most recent reports. Wilson Chandler (hip) did not play and one has to think his status for tonight’s game is in jeopardy as the team probably wants to get him as much rest as possible. JaVale McGee aggravated his left tibia injury and he sounds like a guy that will rest tonight. Kosta Koufos (eight points, 10 boards, two steals, one block, 20 minutes) will get a slight boost if McGee can’t go.
Anthony Randolph could have scored 100 points and thrown a Steve Nebraska 81-pitch perfect game on the same night and I still would have lit the box score on fire after rolling up dog poo with it. Needless to say since he only scored 16 points with a full stat line I’ll still be pretending that he doesn’t exist. Jordan Hamilton doesn’t deserve the theatrics, but the sentiment is the same after he put up seven points, five boards, two steals, and two blocks. Ty Lawson predictably scored 29 points with nine assists and three steals with Iguodala out, and Corey Brewer (nine points) could not take advantage of the open minutes.
THE JONAS BROTHER
Rudy Gay (17 points, 6-of-14 FGs, four rebounds, three assists, three steals, 25 minutes) struggled in the second half last night and dealt with some foul trouble, but he continued to make Bryan Colangelo look good with another game-winner last night. Owners can’t expect him to post the gaudy early numbers, but this doesn’t feel like a sell-high moment, even if eventually Kyle Lowry (4-of-10 FGs, 11 points, 10 assists) might start shooting ball more than he has been recently. DeMar DeRozan kept his foot on the gas with 22 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block, and I’d expect some of his touches to also migrate toward Lowry over the long-term.
A stash favorite of mine, Jonas Valanciunas has been getting positive marks lately and while nobody will write home about his eight points, eight boards, and two steals, he played 32 minutes and is still worth owning standard formats. Andrea Bargnani returned from his one-game absence due to the flu and had just four points and one rebound in 18 minutes. If you own him you’ve come this far and you’ll probably want to just stash him and see what happens at the trade deadline. If you absolutely have to drop him, I’d understand, as there are a number of ways he could spin sideways for owners.
SOUTH BEACH FEVER
The Blazers started off strong but fizzled in a loss to the Heat, but Damian Lillard still managed to show his dominance with 33 points on 10-of-18 shooting, though he only managed one rebound and three assists in the rest of his line. J.J. Hickson (13 minutes, five points, zero rebounds) was benched against the Heat’s quicker lineup, though admittedly one has to wonder if he got a case of South Beach fever. It’s not like his backups profile any better. Regardless, owners should just dust themselves off and hope for a bounce back tonight against the Hornets.
Nicolas Batum hit just 2-of-5 shots for five points, two rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and five turnovers in 39 minutes. The All Star break can’t come soon enough and owners should be rooting for him to take a game off on either side of it, just so he can get himself right. LaMarcus Aldridge added 29 points with just five boards and no steals or blocks in the loss.
LeBron James became the first NBA player to score 30 points and hit more than 60 percent of his shots in six straight games, finishing with 30 points, six rebounds, nine assists, three steals, two blocks, and a three on 11-of-15 shooting. Many of us have been screaming for him to develop a post-game, and that’s exactly what’s at the root of his separation from the pack. He has total control of his game at every spot on the floor. Good luck with that everyone. Dwyane Wade added 24 points, nine boards, seven assists, a steal, and two blocks, and Chris Bosh scored 32 points on 13-of-16 shooting with 11 rebounds and two steals in an easy win over the Blazers.
The Kings were coming off a powerful, fan-inspired weekend full of wins as they went into Memphis, where they have struggled mightily. They were looking great with Isaiah Thomas metering out the touches until Keith Smart happened. He turned to Aaron Brooks, who wasn’t awful but it screwed with the rhythm of the team and put another bad defender on the floor. The Kings eventually lost when Smart went with Brooks for the whole fourth quarter, and that resulted in a night of Dr. A and I talking about whether Smart or Lindsay Hunter is the worst coach in the NBA right now. I think Smart is one of the worst coaches in NBA history, and we both agree that these guys are setting standards for awfulness. The crazy thing is that there are actually people near the team that don’t understand that Thomas needed to be given the keys to the team last year. It’s mind boggling.
As for the game Thomas had 11 points, three assists, and a steal, Tyreke Evans scored 20 points with seven rebounds and three assists, DeMarcus Cousins scored 23 points with seven rebounds, four assists, and five steals, John Salmons got 30 developmental minutes en route to two points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block, Jason Thompson scored 15 points with six boards and a steal, and Marcus Thornton scored 15 points on 4-of-12 shooting with three treys and a steal. Thompson looks to be back to his original form before Smart started messing with him, and the same is true of Thornton. As long as Smart doesn’t go back to his Achilles’ heel of a point guard rotation, then there is a chance the Kings start to settle in with more clear roles – but as we saw tonight the goodwill created this weekend was all but erased when Smart couldn’t get out of his own way.
Mike Conley has been a bit of a ghost in fantasy leagues this month, but he feasted on poor Kings rotations and the like on his way to 22 points on 6-of-12 shooting (2-of-4 3PTs, 8-of-8 FTs) with seven assists, one steal, and one block. With Rudy Gay out he profiles to finish the season strong. Tony Allen took advantage of the Kings’ lax defense with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block. With Gay out of town he profiles a bit better than he did before, but he’s still fighting to stay owned in standard 12-team formats. Give him a look, but keep expectations in check.
Marc Gasol went for 24 and 12 with two assists and a block, and Zach Randolph went for 13 and nine. Jerryd Bayless has regressed back to the real mean of his value curve, scoring six points on 2-of-7 shooting with three assists in 24 minutes. He’ll likely average numbers between tonight’s outing and some of his bigger outings last week.
NO MORE MR. NICE GUY
The Thunder played on edge last night and left Energy Solutions Arena with a loss, as Kevin Durant (33 points, six rebounds, five assists, four steals, three treys) ended up mocking the Jazz fans after the game. He threw a cheap shoulder into Alec Burks defending on a fast break and got a Flagrant-1 foul after he didn’t get a few calls on the offensive side, and for now I like this ornery version of KD. Russell Westbrook had seven turnovers to go with his 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting and five assists, and Serge Ibaka had 10 points and seven blocks but just three rebounds. Kevin Martin (flu) returned to action and had just six points and no threes. I’m not reading much into anybody’s performances tonight.
Randy Foye left the game with a quad injury but returned and finished with 11 points, two assists, and two threes in 23 minutes. He should be able to play tonight but so close to the All Star break owners should be paying close attention. Paul Millsap scored 18 points with 10 rebounds, six assists, and two steals, Al Jefferson scored 23 points with a full line, and Derrick Favors scored 15 points with just three boards and a block in 22 minutes off the bench. If one of the bigs gets traded, the remaining guys along with Enes Kanter will all be hot commodities.
SUN SETTING ON PHOENIX
As mentioned, the Suns are making the Kings look like a beacon of basketball wisdom. Alvin Gentry was having problems with everybody and Lindsay Hunter looks to be picking right up where Gentry left off, as nobody is happy, nobody has a clear role, and Michael Beasley is being forced into action. According to some sources, one of the reasons for Gentry’s firing was that he wouldn’t play B-Easy. Nobody is producing, and it’s yet another case of an NBA coach and/or management getting in its own way, as Goran Dragic (seven points, six assists), Jared Dudley (10 points, five boards, two steals), Marcin Gortat (four points, seven rebounds, one steal , 21 minutes) and Luis Scola (15 points, 11 boards, four steals) are all relatively proven NBA players and they’re nowhere near consistency.
P.J. Tucker (13 points, four rebounds, five assists, one steal, two blocks) is getting heavy minutes and despite tonight’s solid numbers I haven’t seen anything to justify the heavy run, while Jermaine O’Neal (12 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, one steal, five blocks) has been used as a primary option when healthy. The only problem is that O’Neal is only healthy in spurts, and it gets at Gortat when O’Neal’s number is called and his isn’t. Shannon Brown (four minutes) tweaked an ankle and did not finish the game but he’s as much a problem to the offense as anybody with his poor basketball IQ and inability to pass. If I were coaching I’d see to it that Dragic, Dudley, Scola, and Gortat got the bulk of the team’s touches, with everybody else filling in the gaps, but then again I didn’t sign Beasley to a big money deal so I don’t understand the pressures to play the guy.
LAKERS EKE OUT HOME WIN VERSUS SUNS
Kobe Bryant is cracking me up and the Lakers’ train wreck is more fodder for talk shows than it is real basketball talk these days. Kobe decided he wasn’t going to shoot last night, finishing with four points on 1-of-8 shooting with five rebounds, nine assists, one steal, one block, and eight turnovers. He’s clearly trying to make a point about his teammates, and may be forcing them to become more assertive, but at the end of the day it’s all comedy. The Lakers are such a mess that they’re taking to Kobe experiments against road kill like the Suns, who they almost lost to.
Steve Nash scored 10 points with eight assists, Dwight Howard went for 19 and 18 with a steal and two blocks, Metta World Peace continued to shoot poorly with 17 points on 6-of-16 FGs with eight rebounds, four steals, and one block, Earl Clark (foot) played and finished with 11 points, four rebounds, three steals, and one trey, and Antawn Jamison scored 19 points with 10 rebounds, two threes and a block in 33 minutes off the bench.
Jamison should be owned in all formats even if he doesn’t project to be consistent. If you want to sell Dwight Howard and his shoulder/drama concerns high, this is probably your best moment. Clark should be held through the break as his foot gets a nice break, and both he and Jamison should get the run of the yard for the second half of the year.
Pau Gasol won’t need surgery on his torn plantar fascia, but his 6-8 week minimum timetable isn’t changing and how the Lakers season goes will dictate a lot of that timetable in my opinion.
ROCKETS DOLE OUT THE LICKS IN OAKLAND
The Rockets went into Golden State looking for blood after the Warriors whined up a storm following Houston’s dismantling of them last week. James Harden played through a sore left knee and then rolled his ankle badly during the game, but after leaving for a brief moment he returned and finished with 27 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals. He hit just 7-of-22 shots (2-of-8 3PTs, 11-of-11 FTs) and was clearly hobbled, and there are conflicting reports about his status for tonight’s game. If I had to bet I’d say he won’t go, but anything is possible with the All Star break looming. Jeremy Lin went for 14 and 10 against his old team, Omer Asik went for 13 and 15, Chandler Parsons scored 21 points with eight rebounds, nine assists, one steal, one block, and three treys, Carlos Delfino scored 10 points with two threes, a steal, and a block, and Patrick Patterson put up his typically mediocre 12 points, two rebounds, and one block. Nothing to see here, other than a team making early season hype about the Warriors look silly.
SUCKING UP TO MY WARRIORS NOT COOL ANYMORE
This is why I would not get hyped. The Warriors lost their fifth game in a row last night and this was a statement game against a team in the Rockets that the Warriors got all hot and bothered against last week. The problem is that the Warriors suck defensively and they’re too busy as an organization patting themselves on the back to realize they have significant problems on the side of the court where championships are won.
David Lee (12 points, 3-of-10 FGs, 12 rebounds, four assists, one block) is a below average player on nights in which he isn’t going for 20, 10, and five, and in a real analytical world that includes defense he’d have never made the All Star ballot let alone the team. He’s that bad. Andrew Bogut (six points, 12 rebounds, four assists, one block, 27 minutes) wasn’t much better on that side of the floor, but he decided to take his teammates to task for their bad defensive play – and that ridiculousness is sure to go over well when everybody looks at Bogut getting his hat handed to him on tape.
Stephen Curry (27 points, five rebounds, six assists) and Klay Thompson (22 points, 9-of-21 FGs, one steal, one block, one three) are great offensive players, but together they are a sieve on defense and no amount of Jarrett Jack (22 points, five assists, four threes, shoulder injury) leadership or Draymond Green (nine points, two steals, one block, 17 minutes) grit is going to change that.
Carl Landry (two points, four rebounds, 20 minutes) can help in the sense that he’s not a total zero on the defensive end of the floor, and he doesn’t shy from contact the way Lee does, but he isn’t clogging the lane. I’d like to think Bogut can regain some standing on the defensive side of the floor, but he looks slow, soft, and unsure where he should be standing. Some guys get by on their physical talents and when that goes they’re stuck. Bogut is creeping dangerously into that territory, injury or not.
LARRY SANDERS UPDATE
The second opinion that Larry Sanders got on his back was precautionary according to mysterious, oft-accurate beat writer Gery Woelfel. Sam Amick also reported a week ago that the injury wasn’t serious, though that didn’t account for the new reality that Sanders is still in pain. Second opinions are always huge red flags but the timing of the All Star break and the fact that back injuries often require specialists are mitigating factors here. Sanders doesn’t sound like he’ll be playing tonight, and while owners shouldn’t panic they should be watching the news closely. I wouldn’t discount any more than a round of his value in a sell-now deal, and owners willing to gamble have a small window here to try to poach him from a panicky owner.
DERRICK ROSE UPDATE
There seems to be a war brewing in Chicago over Derrick Rose’s return from knee surgery. On one hand, national writers have been getting interviews over local guys and laying the foundation for a return on or after March 1. The local guys are being shut out, prompting Chicago Tribune columnist David Haugh and his colleagues to start floating the idea that Rose’s marketing team is holding him out longer than he should be. It’s all very interesting, but the idea for stashers of Rose has always been the same. Only do it if you can afford to do it and be ready for anything, because whoever it is – the team, the player, or his handlers – they’re all going to play it safe.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
ATL @ ORL: The Spurs expressed some degree of interest in Josh Smith, but not enough to change the dynamics of his situation. They would, however, represent one of those depth-driven scenarios I wrote about in our Trade Deadline kickoff that would be damaging to his value. The Spurs have no shortage of producers to cut into his value. Will rookies Andrew Nicholson and Mo Harkless stay on the fantasy radar? I have Nicholson stashed in one 12-team league, and if he can survive the next few weeks he profiles well in the season’s last month.
SA @ CLE: Byron Scott took up for Tyler Zeller yesterday, but one has to wonder how long the rookie’s leash will be if he keeps struggling. Stephen Jackson has been out for a personal issue and is questionable for tonight, as is Tiago Splitter after he rolled his ankle in Monday’s game (he finished it out). Tim Duncan (knee) and Manu Ginobili (hamstring) are both questionable and I’d call them doubtful until the next report. Kyrie Irving (ankle) could be moved from the injury report in advance of tonight’s game and I wouldn’t have a problem with it. We moved him there as a precaution but he was dunking and taking extra 3-point shooting practice so it would be a shock if he didn’t play tonight.
CHA @ IND: We might get to see Danny Granger’s debut tonight, and owners may want to look at other options on a busy 12-game night even if he does go. David West (eye) is expected to play but as is the case with many injuries right now owners should check back for updates. Will the Byron Mullens experience continue against a tough Indy backcourt? He’s been playing with a mean streak lately and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mike Dunlap specifically tried to hammer home the message that he needs to play more down low.
TOR @ NY: Tyson Chandler (ankle) is expected to play tonight, but at this time of the year nothing is a lock. I’ll also be watching Jason Kidd to see if he can put up another Kidd-like line. Especially if Iman Shumpert continues to struggle, Kidd could carve out a few weeks of value on the other side of the All Star break.
DEN @ BKY: GM Billy King said that Deron Williams lacks explosion this year, and also that he took Clubber Lang a bit too lightly. We have him marked as sidelined so keep an eye out for his status.
CHI @ BOS: Joakim Noah says his plantar fasciitis is bothering him but there is no indication that he won’t play tonight. Noah loves himself some KG but at this time of year owners should be watching for last second DNPs. Kirk Hinrich (elbow) didn’t even travel with the team so it will be the Nate Robinson show again. Leandro Barbosa is out for the year with a torn ACL, which gives a handful of minutes to Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley and Jason Terry.
WAS @ DET: Bradley Beal said his shooting wrist felt a lot better, and after his big Monday he should be owned in all formats, even if I’ll be watching to see what happens when Jordan Crawford gets out of the doghouse. The Piston to watch is Charlie Villanueva, who fizzled after a big post-Andre Drummond injury performance. That down game was just one game, and while I’m generally not high on Villanueva the player owners should be ready to move if he puts up another big line. Somebody has to play in that third big man role for the Pistons.
PHI @ MIL: Andrew Bynum said yesterday that he didn’t know if the pain in his knee was due to a setback or general discomfort. Suhweet. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him sit out the whole year and he’s all-but certain not to play in February. Monta Ellis missed practice on Tuesday after a fender bender but we haven’t heard anything to suggest he won’t go tonight.
UTA @ MIN: Nikola Pekovic walked with trainers to the locker room after Monday’s game and Rick Adelman thought he may have been hit in the head. Nobody is treating this like a serious issue but I figured I’d throw it out there as something to watch for. Gordon Hayward (shoulder) will be held out through the All Star break, which isn’t surprising, and it sounds like he’s healing just fine. I’m adding/holding through the trade deadline. Mo Williams will have the pin removed from his shooting thumb today and will begin rehabbing, and in short I’ll say that if your situation can handle a player that won’t likely be productive until mid-March in a best case scenario then feel free to give him a look. The worst case is that he gets on the floor in April and shares the backcourt with a new acquisition at PG.
POR @ NO: Eric Gordon (back, knee) should be ready to return tonight, and if he can put up a big line then owners should already have their sell-now offers ready to go. Look for Anthony Davis to be assertive after getting benched the last time out. Monty Williams is giving the kid tough love, or his ankle is hurt more than he’s letting on – it’s one or the other – and Davis spent some extra time practicing yesterday. Williams tends to reward that sort of thing.
HOU @ LAC: Caron Butler is hopeful to play tonight, but said his back didn’t feel any better yesterday than it did when he hurt it on Monday. It sure sounds like another day off would make sense, and Matt Barnes would be a safe play in that event. Chauncey Billups is in the same boat, but his back issue doesn’t sound as bad as Butler’s.
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