NBA Skinny: Three’s a crowd
Adversity is nothing new. Everyone has to deal with some level of adversity at some point, so it’s how we deal with it that sets us apart. If you’re Gilbert Arenas(notes), you deal with adversity by pointing fingers at your teammates while shooting 39 percent from the field and leading the league in turnovers. While it may make him feel better personally to get something like that off his chest, it’s unlikely to do anything but handicap his team’s ability to improve. Fantasy owners always have options when it comes to facing adversity. What if they find themselves struggling to field a competitive team just a month into the action? They could give up and call it a lost season, or start making bold moves in an effort to establish a clean start. We’re reaching that point of the season where the standings get a bit less volatile from week-to-week, player ranks start to look a bit more consistent and the haves and the have-nots are becoming more established in fantasy leagues. It’s among the season’s best times to make a shrewd move or two that can help invigorate a struggling team, or make a strong team a true contender. We’ve all dealt with adversity to this point – how we deal with it will determine how the current season is ultimately defined in the standings.
Weekend Update: Need-to-know info from the past few days
• Andre Miller(notes) is once again a reserve for the Trail Blazers, an effort by Nate McMillan to “give the team back” to Brandon Roy(notes). The move came on the heels of two losses in three games and an eight game stretch that saw Roy average 16.3 points and 0.3 steals. Fantasy owners will be glad to know that Roy is ready to re-assert himself on the team, and it doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see that he’s ready to play fewer minutes alongside Miller:
“I feel like we tried it (the three-guard lineup), and you could say it worked at times, but me sacrificing hurt the team, so it should get back to me playing full-out and getting some other guys in other areas to sacrifice a little bit.”
This of course is bad news for Miller’s fantasy fortunes, as there has been quite a disparity between his numbers as a reserve (24 minutes, 7.5 points, 32% FG, 4.8 assists) and those he put up as a starter (31 minutes, 12.4 points, 44% FG, 5.1 assists). So now we’re back to questioning the logic behind the signing in the first place, as well as waiting to see how Miller deals with a demotion that cannot be viewed as temporary. He paid lip service to playing “however they want him to play” after the team’s 106-78 win over the T-Wolves on Saturday (20 minutes, 4 points, 4 assists), but he made it clear earlier in the season – but not in an Allen Iverson(notes) way – that he didn’t expect to be a reserve for this team. Stay tuned.
Martell Webster(notes) replaced Miller on Saturday and went off to the tune of 21 points, four threes and 13 boards in 31 minutes. Keep in mind that the T-Wolves are an ideal matchup these days, but in general Webster is back on the fantasy radar. In 82 career starts at small forward, he’s averaged 10.5 points, 1.5 threes, 4.0 boards and 0.9 steals-plus-blocks. Rudy Fernandez(notes) once again becomes a fringe option in standard leagues – he’ll see fewer minutes moving forward with Miller also coming off the bench. LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) has been struggling this season and, even though it has had more to do with foul trouble (4.5 per 48 minutes) than anything else, Roy noted that he’s hoping that the team going “off his pulse” will help Aldridge get untracked.
• Pau Gasol(notes) played his first two games for the Lakers over the weekend, providing a lift for the team in two resounding victories. Of course, we’re more concerned about the fantasy implications here. Gasol himself was excellent, averaging 19.5 points, 10 boards, 4.5 assists, 1.0 blocks and 92-percent foul shooting in 32 minutes. His return pushed Lamar Odom(notes) back to the bench, and his minutes and production fell precipitously in the two games (23 minutes, 6.5 points, 6.5 boards, 2.0 assists). Those of you who have Odom rostered can only hope that he can match his fantastic form as a reserve from 2008. Andrew Bynum’s(notes) expanded role (37 minutes per game, versus 29 last season) and game could make that difficult, however. Of course, Gasol’s impact on Bynum also should be monitored – he had a season-low 11 points in Gasol’s debut, but was limited by foul trouble (4 in 24 minutes). Kobe Bryant(notes) will undoubtedly continue to be excellent, but the specifics of his line could be in for an adjustment – after averaging 31 points and 2.9 assists in his first 11 games, he averaged 23.5 points and 7.5 assists in two games with Pau.
• Elton Brand(notes) has been ridiculously productive since Marreese Speights(notes) was lost to injury, and nobody should be calling it a coincidence. While logging 38 minutes per game, Brand has averaged 19.7 points on 52-percent shooting, 10.3 boards, 2.7 steals, and 3.7 blocks. What’s been particularly notable is that he’s been getting the fourth-quarter run at center in a small lineup that went to Speights early in the season – evidence here, here and here. Now we have to hope that Eddie Jordan makes the connection between game situations, personnel and production here. After all, he was considering Rodney Carney(notes) over Brand in the starting lineup after Speights went down. Even if Brand is more “productive” than “ridiculously productive” in the near future, his recent utilization and numbers are clearly great news for his fantasy owners.
• Mike Dunleavy is close to a return to the Pacers’ lineup, but not quite as close as was originally reported. Reports on Sunday were that he would be back on the active roster on Wednesday, but he’ll need more practice time with the team before he’ll be put back into game action. Jim O’Brien had this to say on the matter:
“He has not practiced enough full court that we’re comfortable just throwing him out there. When he feels like he’s in NBA shape, then he’ll be back.”
Troy Murphy(notes) returned for the Pacers for the past two games after missing over two weeks with a back injury, averaging 9.5 points and 9.0 boards in 23 minutes. The impending decisions regarding the team’s rotations are a nice problem for Pacers fans and a problem-problem for fantasy owners. The team has gone with a small lineup – starting Danny Granger(notes) at power forward and Dahntay Jones(notes) at small forward – for the past eight games, winning the first five before going on a three-game losing streak. Murphy has to be considered a lock to return to the starting five. When you consider how well Jones has played and how much Brandon Rush(notes) has struggled with his shot (35% FG, 28% 3PT in November), Rush is the obvious choice to hit the bench. Dunleavy figures to settle in as the team’s sixth man when he’s healthy, as his playing time/status will be closely monitored for the duration of the season. Jones should be able to retain much of his current fantasy value, although it’s reasonable to expect him to play a few less than the 37 minutes he’s averaged in his eight starts.
Injury/status quick-hitters: Chris Paul’s(notes) injured right ankle no longer requires a walking boot, but he remains on an indefinite timetable. … Brook Lopez(notes) is day-to-day after spraining his right ankle in practice on Monday. … Caron Butler(notes) did not practice on Monday because of a sore right foot, will undergo an MRI, and is questionable for Tuesday’s game. He’s played through pain for the past two weeks, but Flip Saunders said that it’s reached the point of being “unbearable.” … Eric Gordon(notes) participated in most of the Clippers’ practice on Sunday and is targeting Wednesday for a return to the lineup. … Michael Redd(notes) went through contact drills on Sunday without incident and will come off the bench for the Bucks on Monday. … Tyreke Evans’(notes) sprained finger is still sore, but he plans on being in the lineup on Monday night. … Tracy McGrady(notes) will have his sore back examined on Monday. He was originally scheduled to practice and have an MRI on his knee to determine his level of readiness for a return to the active roster.
For a rundown of the best available players in your league and a complete injury wrap, see the Week 5 Dashboard.
HoopsKLYCE.com continues to fend off all challengers for the top spot in the standings, although things are tightening up – there are four teams within 4.5 points of Klyce’s total. My team has not fared well to this point, but I’m counting on Rashard Lewis(notes), Troy Murphy and Jose Calderon(notes) to help me make up some ground. Recent transactions included Toney Douglas(notes), J.J. Hickson(notes), Rasheed Wallace(notes), Brad Miller(notes), Jared Dudley(notes), Chuck Hayes(notes) and Ramon Sessions(notes), among others.