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NBA Skinny: Another One Gone

Matt Buser
Yahoo Sports

POSITION HOT SEAT
SEATTLE SUPERSONICS (PG, SF, C) RED HOT
1st Chair: TBD
2nd Chair: Earl Watson/Luke Ridnour, Mickael Gelabale/Damien Wilkins, Nick Collison/Danny Fortson
Skinny: Sonics coach Bob Hill completely revamped his starting lineup on Saturday in an effort to spark a team that had lost 11 of its past 14 games, mostly attributed to slow starts. The result was a 108-104 loss to the Warriors, as Watson, Gelabale, and Collison replaced Ridnour, Wilkins, and Fortson as starters. Despite the loss, Hill liked what he saw. "You have to think that it worked. We certainly played a terrific game and got off to a great start." Ridnour has historically chafed at the idea of even sharing time, let alone coming off of the bench, but didn't say much when questioned about his new role. "That's [Hill's] decision," said Ridnour, who finished with seven points and five assists in 22 minutes. "I am going to be professional about it and just play. We just need to get a win." Watson, who finished with eight points and 11 assists in 35 minutes, was enthused about the change. "It's always important to start," said Watson. "Any positive is important. Whether I play two minutes more than I played last night is important to me." Naturally, it is unknown if Hill will stick with his current configuration or if more changes are in order, and it certainly bears monitoring on a nightly basis – the fantasy values of Watson, Ridnour, Damien Wilkins, and Collison all stand to gain or lose value based on their anticipated roles.
MIAMI HEAT (SF) RED HOT
1st Chair: Jason Kapono
2nd Chair: Dorell Wright
Skinny: Kapono had been starting at shooting guard while Dwyane Wade missed four games with a wrist injury, but he slid over to small forward in favor of Wright when Wade returned on Sunday. "Basically, Jason is playing better," Heat interim coach Ron Rothstein said. "We're just going to see what happens." Kapono has scored in double figures in eight of nine games, and in his four most recent starts has averaged 15.8 points on 57 percent shooting and 2.8 threes. Meanwhile, over his past six games, Wright has averaged 13.0 points on 55 percent shooting, 6.2 boards, 1.5 steals, and 1.7 blocks, so fantasy owners may beg to differ with Rothstein's take. This may just be an attempt to spark a team that has lost five of six games, averaging 83.4 points per game during that stretch – whatever the reasoning, fantasy owners should expect a slight dip in Wright's production in the short-term, but it remains to be seen if Kapono can hold on to his new starting gig.
NEW YORK KNICKS (5th Starter) HOT
1st Chair: Jamal Crawford, Jared Jeffries
2nd Chair: Quentin Richardson
Skinny: Richardson has been sidelined by back spasms for the past 11 games, but is nearing a return. Meanwhile, during those 11 games, Crawford has averaged 20.6 points, 2.2 threes, 5.4 assists, and 1.4 steals. That doesn't mean that his starting position is safe, however. Richardson, who started at small forward while Jared Jeffries missed the start of the season due to injury, could replace Crawford as the starter once he returns. Much like David Lee, Knicks coach Isaiah Thomas could view Crawford as someone he simply likes better playing with the second unit. There is also a chance that Q-Rich reclaims his former starting position from Jeffries – although a Thomas favorite, Jeffries has averaged just 6.7 points on 44 percent shooting and 6.2 boards in his nine starts thus far.
Keep your chins up, kids! We're only a month away from the All-Star break! I expected to find myself searching out the dates for All-Star break in early January simply because I hoped for a few days respite from my fantasy teams. The injuries are mounting, the underachievers are … well, underachieving, and it seems like every day that there are games to be played, we're in line for some bad news. Try as we might, we can't help but let it get to us a bit. I've talked to a few fantasy footballers and baseballers who are trying hoops for the first time – many have said that it's one and done for them because they can't deal with this volume of injuries and the impact on their fantasy team. I keep trying to tell them – this has not been a typical season, and it's already one that nobody will soon forget. For those of you still keeping up the good fight with me, read on:

WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days

Another one bites the dust. Bucks' guard Michael Redd is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with a patellar tendon strain in his left knee according to the Associated Press. Redd is averaging a career-high 27.7 points through 33 games this season, shooting 46 percent from the floor and 84 percent from the foul line, while also averaging 2.0 threes and 1.3 steals. It's another huge blow for fantasy owners and an NBA franchise. As a result of the injury, Charlie Bell, who has been starting at small forward, will likely move to shooting guard while Ruben Patterson, who had been bumped from the starting lineup a few weeks ago, will likely return as the starting small forward. Bell and Mo Williams should see significant bumps in their fantasy value, as Redd was averaging nearly 20 shots per game. That said, every healthy player on the Bucks' roster should see an uptick as they try to make up for the loss of Redd.

Speaking of the health of other Bucks' players, Charlie Villanueva got second and third opinions from doctors in New York late last week, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, as he tries to address his nagging shoulder issues. Villanueva has battled injuries all season, been inactive for 13 of the Bucks' past 25 games, and played more than 30 minutes in just five games all season thanks to elbow and shoulder problems. Surgery to deal with tendonitis in his right shoulder could be an option, and a decision will be made as to which course of action to pursue will be decided on Monday or Tuesday, according to Villanueva's agent. Fantasy owners who have been waiting for good news on Charlie V are likely setting themselves up for disappointment. If you've waited this long, however, hold out a few more days for some definitive news one way or another before you cut him loose. Meanwhile, Brian Skinner should remain a reasonable fantasy option, as he's averaged 5.9 points, 6.8 boards, and 1.6 blocks in 11 starts at power forward – those aren't gaudy numbers, but he's a viable option in deeper leagues given his center eligibility and that he's more than likely to remain in the starting lineup indefinitely.

So it turns out that David West was never actually injured after all. No doubt fantasy owners who have seen him miss 26 of the Hornets' 33 games are under the impression that their eyes are fooling them, but it turns out that West's elbow "injury" was actually a condition called synovitis that caused inflamed tissue to build up in the joint since he was a child, according to The Times-Picayune. "It's not an injury," said Hornets trainer Terry Kofler, who, interestingly enough, had never even heard of the condition until West was diagnosed just before his December 20 surgery, over a month after he missed his first game. "This is created from his own body. We looked at everything, but no trauma produced it." The nebulous circumstances surrounding his non-recovery from what appeared to be a minor setback now comes into clearer focus – while the team tried anti-inflammatory injections and medication for weeks while fantasy owners wondered what the deal was, the only way to deal with synovitis is surgery to remove the inflamed tissue, which was eventually done. "They said, hopefully, it won't flare back up again because it took 25 years to get to the point where it was," said West, who has been participating in conditioning drills during the past two weeks. For West, his fantasy owners, and the Hornets, there now appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. "There's still a little swelling, but I'm getting there," said West. Hornets general manager Jeff Bower said, "We've seen clear progress, and I feel better about it every day. He's getting closer to his return."
Just a friendly reminder that Monday's contest versus Milwaukee marks the final game of J.R. Smith's suspension, and he will return to the lineup on Wednesday. Nate Robinson served the final game of his suspension this past Friday, and will return to the Knicks' lineup on Wednesday, as well. Carmelo Anthony still has six games of his suspension remaining, and he will be eligible to return in two weeks, on Monday, January 22.

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Tony Allen (G, Boston) – Allen has been a starter for just over a month now, and his production warrants ownership in significantly more than the 37 percent of Yahoo! leagues in which you will currently find him on a roster. In his 17 starts, he's averaged 16.2 points on 52 percent shooting, 5.7 boards, 2.1 steals, and 0.7 blocks.

Rasual Butler (GF, New Orleans/Oklahoma City) – Butler is in a situation that is similar to Allen's. He's been a starter for almost six weeks, and his production during that time should have him on rosters in more than 36 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Butler has averaged 15.4 points, 2.1 threes, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.0 steal in 19 games as a starter.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Tony Allen (G, Boston) Allen has scored at least 20 points in six consecutive games and emerged as a big-time fantasy contributor, with averages of 21.3 points on 55 percent shooting, 6.2 boards, 2.8 assists, and 3.0 steals during that stretch.

Mark Blount (FC, Minnesota) Blount has quietly re-emerged as a solid option at center, playing his best in recent weeks. He's scored at least 15 points in seven of the past eight games, averaging 18.4 points on 61 percent shooting and 7.1 boards during those games.

Mike Bibby (PG, Sacramento) Bibby appears to have turned the corner in regards to his woeful shooting percentage. He reached a low point in a six-game stretch in mid-December in which he made just 31 percent of his field goal attempts. Over the past six games, however, he's made 54 of 103 field goals, a 52-percent clip.

Dikembe Mutombo (C, Houston) Mutombo was averaging 1.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks when Yao Ming was lost to injury. In his seven starts since then, the 40-year-old Mutombo has averaged 5.0 points on 60 percent shooting, 12.0 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 26 minutes per game.

Damon Stoudamire (PG, Memphis) Stoudamire could gain a new lease on his fantasy life in the Grizzlies' new offense. In three January games, Stoudamire has averaged 16.0 points on 65 percent shooting, 2.3 threes, 9.7 assists, and 1.7 steals in just 25 minutes per game.

Matt Carroll (SG, Charlotte) Carroll has taken advantage of surplus playing time that has come as a result of injuries to Brevin Knight and Gerald Wallace. Over the past four games, Carroll has averaged 21.8 points on 49 percent shooting, 4.3 threes, and 1.0 steal with 34 minutes of playing time.

Joe Johnson (G, Atlanta) Johnson's numbers have taken quite a hit since he returned from a calf injury in mid-December. Over the past nine games, he's averaged 19.9 points on 43 percent shooting, 1.3 threes, 2.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists, and the Hawks have lost eight of nine.

Erick Dampier (C, Dallas) Don't tease us, Damp! Dampier has cooled significantly after a strong, nearly two-month stretch to start the season. Over the past seven games, Dampier has averaged 3.7 points on 30 percent shooting and 5.7 boards in 24 minutes per game.

Cuttino Mobley (SG, LA Clippers) Mobley has been battling injury and inconsistency and was moved to the bench in the Clippers' most recent game. Over his past seven games, Mobley has averaged 10.0 points on 33 percent shooting.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League Update
The names at the top of the standings remain unchanged, with HoopsKLYCE.com, 82games.com, and Y! – Lago leading the way. This week's transactions included Ryan Gomes, Dorell Wright, Jose Calderon, Jason Kapono, and Donyell Marshall, among others.