Gregg Popovich made a late move to get rest and recuperation for Tim Duncan and Tony Parker on Tuesday, replacing them with Corey Joseph and Kawhi Leonard in the starting five for the 137-97 drubbing by the new-look Trail Blazers. Popovich ended up resting anyone fitting the combination of veteran/regular - DeJuan Blair (20 minutes), Richard Jefferson (19), Gary Neal (18), and Matt Bonner (6) all saw limited action. Leonard (43), Joseph (37), James Anderson (35), Eric Dawson (32), and Danny Green (31) saw the big minutes, but there is nothing to be read into anyone's numbers from this one.
Nothing, that is, from the Spurs' standpoint. It so happens that Jamal Crawford was making his first start as the new point guard for the Blazers, and the reduced competition paved the way for one of his best games of the season (30 minutes, 20 points, 6-8 FG, 5-7 3PT, 8 assists, 1 turnover). While you don't want to overstate the value of the stats themselves (outside of the fantasy realm), the near-flawless execution was the best possible way for Crawford to be initiated as the starter and for the Blazers to enter the All-Star break, considering how much upheaval has surrounded the team lately. Nate McMillan was able to get all 13 of his active players in the game, and even Raymond Felton got in some productive action in his first game as a reserve (21 minutes, 16 points, 6-11 FG, 4-8 3PT, 4 assists, 1 turnover). As Phan and I discussed in Roto Arcade Live on Tuesday night, there weren't many reasons to think Crawford was going to lose his starting gig any time soon before Tuesday's performance, considering the leash that Felton was given before the move was made and the team's remaining options (Elliot Williams, Nolan Smith). The good vibes from this blowout only reinforce Crawford in his new role.
• The Kings are 0-3 with Isaiah Thomas as a starter, but it's certainly been a success from a fantasy standpoint. Thomas played 36 minutes on Tuesday and turned in an excellent line, scoring 24 points with excellent percentages (7-14 FG, 5-5 FT) and adding five threes and five assists. Keith Smart gave his three-guard look huge minutes (Marcus Thornton 42, Tyreke Evans 42) and will stick to a tight rotation - go get Thomas if he's still out there in your leagues (42% owned). We'll see if the Thomas-led Kings can get their first win on Wednesday at Washington - this new lineup concedes defense in the hopes to win on the offensive side of the ball, much like the Wizards.
• George Karl is concerned enough about Nene Hilario's battles with injury this season that he's questioning if he'll be at full strength at any point this season:
"His conditioning, being out this long, how we keep him in shape and how we get him to be a 35-minute player might not happen. We might just have to rotate and play the big guys. It's actually been pretty fluid the past few games."
Nene is averaging 31 minutes when he plays this season, so perhaps this isn't a huge knock to begin with, but it most certainly qualifies as a sobering take. If Karl doesn't have faith that Nene can see major minutes, then the opportunity won't present itself in the first place. The fallout is tough to call here, given that the Nuggets are dealing with a numbers of injuries and Karl remains tough to predict. Kenneth Faried has been playing himself into a rotation spot lately, and could be moving ahead of Chris Andersen, but there won't be many minutes available when everyone is healthy. Assuming full health, this is the five through three: Timofey Mozgov/Kosta Koufos (combined 25 minute at center), Nene (30 minutes between power forward and center), Danilo Gallinari (32 minutes at small forward), Al Harrington (25 minutes at power forward), and Wilson Chandler (25 minutes between small forward and power forward) leave nothing but a few scraps for Faried, Andersen, and Corey Brewer. Gallinari is expected to return shortly after the All-Star break, while Chandler could be free to re-sign with the team within a week.
• Status updates: Joe Johnson is out Wednesday and out of the All-Star game because of left knee tendinitis. An MRI revealed no structural damage and he'll be re-evaluated on February 29, in advance of the Hawks' matchup with the Warriors .. Celtics on Wednesday: Kevin Garnett (personal) will return, but both Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) and Chris Wilcox (groin) are out, meaning big minutes for Greg Stiemsma and JaJuan Johnson .. Ty Lawson (ankle) is day-to-day and we've yet to hear a specific update for Wednesday .. Nets on Wednesday: Kris Humphries (calf) is out, Brook Lopez is expected to play around 24 minutes .. Bucks on Wednesday: Drew Gooden (wrist) and Stephen Jackson (hamstring) are out .. Thunder on Wednesday: James Harden (ankle) is a game-time decision, Nick Collison (quad) is out .. Nikola Pekovic (ankle) intends to play but will be a game-time decision on Wednesday .. Magic on Wednesday: Jason Richardson (chest) is out, Hedo Turkoglu (illness) is questionable .. Ekpe Udoh will remain a reserve for the Warriors but figures to see the lion's share of the minutes at center .. Zach Randolph is expected to partake in full-contact practices immediately following the All-Star break.
• Scanning the Buzz Index leaders: The love/hate relationship with Kawhi Leonard continues. He went off on Tuesday (43 minutes, 24 points, 2 threes, 10 boards, 5 steals) because nobody else played. He entered the game having averaged 5 points on 44-percent shooting and 3.7 boards in 10 February games, albeit with some useful defensive numbers (1.2 steals, 0.5 blocks) in 21 minutes .. Prediction: Gustavo Ayon posts a pretty solid line against the Cavs on Wednesday .. One thing not many of us factored into Grevis Vasquez's long-term fantasy potential: Marco Belinelli playing well. Belinelli has averaged 15 points on 46-percent shooting, 2.3 threes, and 1.1 steals in 32 minutes over his past eight games, so the squeeze will be on Vasquez if that continues with Jarrett Jack on full strength. Vasquez averages in 24 minutes on the season include 8.3 points, 4.8 assists, and 1.2 steals, and neither Belinelli (production) nor Jack (health) is a sure thing, so he remains a solid deep-league option .. There aren't many good reasons to not hold Ramon Sessions at least through the All-Star break, to see if a trade to the Lakers materializes .. Marcus Camby's production is waning and the Blazers just signed Joel Pryzybilla, so he can come off plenty of standard-league rosters (62% owned).