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Big Picture: Rising Sun

Matt Buser
Yahoo Sports

Could we be looking at the first G/F/C in fantasy history? Leave it to Mike D'Antoni to make it a possibility. Boris Diaw has made his only three starts of the season in the middle for the Suns' past three games, during which the team has gone 3-0 while Diaw has posted 13.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.8 assists, and 2.3 steals while shooting 61 percent in those games. Kurt Thomas has been pining to get back in the starting lineup, but D'Antoni himself has said that he won't mess with it because "it's working right now." Stay tuned – we could be looking at history in the making.

Some Random Observations

Has there been a better fantasy story than Alonzo Mourning's incredible play in Shaquille O'Neal's absence? Of course you'll be more inclined to agree if you happened to be the one who snagged him off of waivers in your league once Shaq went down. Mourning has been playing with the same intensity and aggression that were his trademarks before his kidney problems and subsequent transplant limited him over much or all of the past three seasons. In 13 games as a starter, Mourning has averaged 12.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 4.2 blocks, while shooting 58 percent from the field and playing 30 minutes per game. You have to imagine that the Heat will want to be incredibly careful with Shaq once he returns, and I'll go as far as to say that I wouldn't anticipate him seeing many more minutes than Zo once he returns, considering how well Mourning has been playing.
Tracy McGrady is back from injury – again. The return from his second stint on the inactive list sparked the Rockets to a 100-85 win over the Hawks, but the long-term prospects for McGrady still do not look good. T-Mac himself gave conflicting reports after the game – he told the Houston Chronicle that the game was "a lot of fun" but that he was "stiff and sore" and in "a little bit of pain" while he played. Maybe he is trying to make up for when he admitted that he didn't always give 100 percent when he played for the Magic, but fantasy owners would much rather have McGrady sit out for enough time to get all the way healthy than waffle between the active roster and the inactive list, all the while giving sub-par performances when active.

Yao Ming is his 19/9 usual self, but a perfect example of how far he hasn't come in taking that "next step" was during the Rockets' most recent matchup with the Phoenix Suns on November 23, for whom Diaw – all 6-foot-8 and 215 pounds of him – made his first start at center. Instead of dominating the paint as you might hope the 7-foot-6, 310-pound Yao would do, he played only 26 minutes and was held to his lowest point total of the season (8) in the 100-88 loss. McGrady's last healthy stretch lasted five games over seven days, and Houston has only two games over the next seven days. Keep your fingers crossed if you have T-Mac on your roster – the Rockets are desperate for wins, and McGrady is their only answer.

The Raptors are really, really bad. A fine example of how bad they are: last night – in the 92-66 loss to the Grizzlies, not one but two of Toronto's starters were held scoreless (Mike James and Rafael Araujo). They aren't so terrible, however, that they didn't bench Jalen Rose, who played only 12 minutes in last night's debacle. My, how the half-way decent have fallen. Rose averaged almost 22 points in the second half of the season last year, and looked to be a solid fantasy option coming into this season as the guy who would take pressure off of Chris Bosh by making some shots – that hasn't exactly happened, considering that Rose is shooting under 35 percent for the season.

Luckily for those owners who drafted Bosh, he hasn't needed that help – Bosh is averaging 21/10 while James (excluding last night), Charlie Villanueva, Jose Calderon, and Morris Peterson have been the players even remotely worth consideration on fantasy rosters from the 1-15 Raptors. Calderon has started the past two games, and Rose will likely be on another roster before he returns to a role of any significance with Toronto. Fantasy owners just need to hold out hope that Bosh keeps it up despite his supporting cast, and Raptors fans need to pray that this mess gets sorted out somehow.

Injury Report
Michael Redd (SG, Milwaukee) – Redd, who missed Tuesday's game with a quad injury suffered in practice, is expected to be back in the lineup for the Bucks' game against the Wizards on Friday.

Carmelo Anthony (SF, Denver) – Anthony's ankle sprain is considered to be relatively minor, and the Denver Post is reporting that George Karl expects Anthony to return by either Friday or Saturday's game.

Josh Howard (GF, Dallas) – Howard's ankle sprain has been labeled moderate and the Dallas Morning News is reporting that Mark Cuban intimated that he will miss "up to three weeks but no more."

Shaquille O'Neal (C, Miami) – Shaq is still a week or so away from returning, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He may return near the end of the Heat's current road trip, which runs through December 7.

Leandro Barbosa (PG, Phoenix) – Barbosa is progressing well and could be back in the lineup by the end of next week according to the Arizona Republic.

Grant Hill (SF, Orlando) – Hill should return to practice with the Magic by the end of next week and could be ready for game action before Christmas, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

DeShawn Stevenson (SG, Orlando) – An MRI of Stevenson's right knee revealed that he has floating cartilage, and the necessary surgery would likely keep him out of action for about two months according to the Orlando Sentinel. Stevenson hopes to "get through the whole year" playing with the injury, however.

Rafer Alston (PG, Houston) – Alston is doubtful for Saturday's game against the Grizzlies according to the Houston Chronicle. He could return for the Rockets' following game on Tuesday, December 7.

Shaun Livingston (PG, LA Clippers) – Livingston is scheduled to have an MRI today and, if all goes well, he could be cleared to stat practicing immediately, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Lineup Changes
Channing Frye made his third consecutive start and Nate Robinson made his first start of the season Wednesday night against the Bulls. Frye appears to be a mainstay, but it remains to be seen if Robinson (and Marbury) can make the backcourt change stick … Kendrick Perkins started in place of Mark Blount for the third consecutive game yesterday and posted his best numbers of the season. He scored 12 points, grabbed 19 boards, and blocked 2 shots in the 110-103 win over the Sixers. Perhaps Mark Blount will have to get comfortable on the bench after all … Mark D'Antoni has said that he will stick with the starting lineup of Steve Nash, Raja Bell, James Jones, Shawn Marion, and Diaw because "It's working right now." … Nick Collison has started the past two games for the Sonics at center, with Reggie Evans playing power forward, and given the Sonics' other options at center (Robert Swift, Vitaly Potapenko, Johan Petro) the move is likely to stick … Andrew Bogut is back in the starting lineup for the Bucks, and this time may be for the long haul. Joe Smith's knee is once again giving him problems, and he has said that if it does not get better soon, surgery would be the "next best thing to do." … Salim Stoudamire and Royal Ivey started the past two games for the Hawks while Tyronn Lue is recovering from a root canal. Lue will likely be ready for the Hawks' game on Friday.

Stat of the Week
Alonzo Mourning's 9 blocks (11/28 vs New York) were that much more impressive considering he played just 24 minutes in the 107-94 win over the Knicks. Zo has had less than three blocks in only four of 13 games so far this season.

Line of the Week
Rasheed Wallace (11/25 vs Washington) – 33 pts (12/28 FG, 5-6 FT), 4 treys, 11 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk, 1 to
Wallace played an incredible 56 minutes in the 120-114 loss to the Wizards and posted his best numbers of the season. Wallace is contributing across the board so far this season and trails only Marcus Camby in the rankings among centers in the Yahoo! game.

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