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NBA Skinny: Knicker-Boxers

Matt Buser
Yahoo Sports

POSITION HOT SEAT
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (PF) RED HOT
1st Chair: Hakim Warrick
2nd Chair: Alexander Johnson
Skinny: While Warrick has been a solid offensive contributor, his defense and rebounding has been called into question by Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello. Johnson started at power forward beside Pau Gasol during the Grizzlies most recent game, due to the fact that, at 250 pounds, he provides a more physical presence on both ends of the court (Warrick weighs 220 pounds) – the Grizzlies will make every attempt to make life as easy for Gasol as possible as he gets back in to playing shape. According to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, Fratello also likes Warrick's scoring prowess with the second team now that Gasol has returned from injury. Johnson averaged 12.0 points and 6.5 rebounds in 30 minutes in the past two games, while Warrick has averaged 18.0 points and 3.5 boards in 31 minutes. Warrick stands to lose a bit of his fairly limited fantasy value if Johnson wrestles away the starting assignment from him.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS (PF) RED HOT
1st Chair: Vladimir Radmanovic
2nd Chair: Brian Cook
Skinny: Radmanovic has started the past three games in place of the injured Lamar Odom, averaging 9.5 points in 17 minutes before Sunday's 27-point outburst in the 147-141 loss to the Wizards. Cook averaged seven points in 22 minutes during the first two games that Odom missed, but played just 11 minutes and scored just five of the 289 total points on Sunday. Radmanovic and Cook have similar skill sets, in that they are perimeter-oriented forwards with marginal rebounding and defensive abilities. Radmanovic figures to see most of the starts during Odom's down-time as long as his shot is falling, but Lakers coach Phil Jackson doesn't figure to hesitate to use Cook if Radmanovic hits a cold streak.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS (C) HOT
1st Chair: Etan Thomas
2nd Chair: Brendan Haywood
Skinny: Thomas has missed the past three games with a left ankle sprain, and Haywood has done well with the opportunity to start. He's averaged 8.0 points on 75 percent shooting, 11.0 boards, and 2.0 blocks in 33 minutes per game as the Wizards have gone 3-0. Haywood was the expected starter coming in to camp this season, but Thomas won the job and a virtual platoon has resulted. If Haywood can keep up his strong play, a case could be made for him to stay on as the starter when Thomas returns, and he would be a viable option as a No.2 center in most leagues.
Well, I hope it was worth it. The sucker-punch that Carmelo Anthony threw – after which, it should be noted, he vanished to the opposite end of the court as quick as if he was on a fastbreak – has cost him a significant portion of his rep and a significant portion of the season. I'm all about sticking up for your teammates in any sport at any time, but if there's a proper way to go about it, his actions would have to be the complete opposite of it. I won't beat this into the ground, as this story will dominate the headlines for a while to come, but I couldn't let it go unsaid – way to go, Melo. Let's break down the fallout from the melee at MSG, but also cover some other happenings from the weekend in fantasy hoops.

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

As expected, penalties for Saturday's brawl between the Nuggets and Knicks were handed down on Monday, and it isn't pretty. Carmelo Anthony was suspended for 15 games, a huge blow to his fantasy owners. J.R. Smith and Nate Robinson each were suspended for 10 games, Mardy Collins for six, Jared Jeffries for four, and Jerome James and Nene Hilario for one each. Fantasy owners get Anthony back on Saturday, January 20, just under five weeks from now. Smith will be eligible to return in three weeks, on Monday, January 8, while Robinson's first game back will come on Wednesday, January 10.

As for the fantasy fallout, Earl Boykins is the one player who stands to gain the most out of the fracas. He should see plenty of playing time while Smith and Anthony are sidelined, and he becomes arguably the team's most effective scorer – 15 points, a three and a steal, and four to five assists should be in order for the next few weeks. Marcus Camby and Andre Miller will also have to step up their scoring responsibilities with close to 50 points missing from the lineup in the form of Anthony and Smith. Eduardo Najera, Yakhouba Diawara, and Reggie Evans go from role players to intricate parts of the Nuggets' rotation, as well, but don't figure to make sizeable fantasy contributions. As for the Knicks, Robinson's suspension coupled with Steve Francis' inactivity means that Stephon Marbury and Jamal Crawford are in for as much playing time as they can handle over the next few weeks. Perhaps the surplus playing time will be the jolt that Marbury, who scored 31 points on Saturday, needs to get back some of his fantasy hoops mojo that has been all but gone during this season and last. Sorting out the Knicks' rotation at the three and four will have to wait until Jeffries returns from his suspension, when his, Channing Frye's, and Quentin Richardson's roles moving forward will then be more clear.

Pau Gasol returned to the Grizzlies' lineup over the weekend, starting at center the past Friday and Saturday. Gasol totaled 15 points, five rebounds, five turnovers, and two blocks in 34 minutes during the two games. According to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, Gasol was used in four-minute stretches in each quarter of both games, and this measured approach will be followed for the foreseeable future, as the team does not want him to do too much too soon. "He didn't have a training camp," said Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello. "He's got a long way to go." While Gasol's fantasy owners are no doubt ecstatic to have him back after just over a six week layoff, they should temper their expectations. Expect Gasol to take at least a little while to regain his conditioning, his timing, and the subsequent stats that make him such a valuable fantasy contributor.
Finally, we get some updates on Peja Stojakovic and David West! But wait … these updates are only slightly less vague than normal, and are certainly more troubling. According to the Associated Press, Peja underwent back surgery on Sunday to remove a disk fragment, and he is once again on an indefinite timetable for a return. The Hornets also announced that West will undergo surgery on his right elbow, but did not give the specifics as to when the surgery would take place or how long his recovery will take. Fantasy owners will no doubt be tempted to jettison these two expected fantasy studs with this most recent news, but I'd caution you to wait just a bit longer for something concrete once West goes through surgery. If you've already waited this long, you owe it to yourself to finally get some concrete dates on which to base a decision regarding an add/drop. Surgery for Peja also means that Rasual Butler will remain a reasonable fantasy option for at least a while longer.

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Al Jefferson (PF, Boston) – It boggles the mind, but Jefferson is currently on a roster in just 45 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Let's recap some of his averages for the past seven games, which have all been starts at center for the Celtics: 16.3 points on 54 percent shooting, 11.1 boards, and 1.7 blocks. For any fantasy owner, those numbers are, in a word, helpful.

Shaun Livingston (PG, LA Clippers) – Livingston's starting spot appears to be quite secure at this point, he's putting up very nice stats as a result, and his ownership level should be much higher than the astoundingly low 25 percent that it is currently at. Over his past eight games he's averaged 13.0 points on 51 percent shooting, 4.0 rebounds, and 7.6 assists.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Kobe Bryant (SG, LA Lakers) – Bryant is on a serious roll. He's scored more than 33 points in four of his last five games, averaging 37.6 points during that stretch. Other averages over the past five games include 3.8 threes, 8.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 1.8 steals.

Ben Wallace (C, Chicago) – Wallace had an unbelievable 27 boards on Friday, and has reached double digits in six straight games. Over his past six games he's averaged 9.0 points, 16.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.7 steals, and 2.7 blocks.

Al Jefferson (PF, Boston) – Jefferson has four double-doubles in his past five games, averaging 19.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks in 36 minutes per game over that stretch.

Luther Head (G, Houston) – Head has been a serious fantasy contributor while Tracy McGrady has been sidelined with back problems. Over the past four games, Head has averaged 17.0 points on 47 percent shooting, 2.8 threes, 4.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.5 steals with 40 minutes of playing time.

Tony Allen (G, Boston) – Over the past three games, Allen has averaged 19.0 points on 54 percent shooting, 6.7 boards, 3.0 assists, and 2.0 steals. Allen scored a career-high 30 points on Saturday while playing all 48 minutes against the Nuggets.

Speedy Claxton (PG, Atlanta) – Claxton had quite a statistical outburst over the weekend. In games on Friday and Saturday, he averaged 14.5 points on 46 percent shooting, 11.0 assists, and 3.5 steals in 40 minutes of action.

Leandro Barbosa (PG, Phoenix) – Barbosa has come down from the high he started the season on, as the Suns have gotten healthy and Boris Diaw has been playing much better basketball. Over the past six games, Barbosa has averaged 11.5 points, 1.2 boards, 3.0 assists, and 0.3 steals.

Carmelo Anthony (SF, Denver); J.R. Smith (SG, Denver) – Now is the time to buy low on these two – their fantasy owners are no doubt in shock, so send out a feeler and see what happens. Barring injury, these two players' value will never be lower for the rest of the season.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League Update
82games.com holds the top spot in the standings, with Y! – Lago, HoopsKLYCE.com, and Y! – Funston within striking distance. Recent transactions included Anderson Varejao, Brendan Haywood, Tyrus Thomas, and John Salmons, among others.

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