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NBA Skinny: Knocking the Knicks

Matt Buser
Yahoo Sports

POSITION HOT SEAT
TORONTO RAPTORS (5th Starter) RED HOT
1st Chair: ???
2nd Chair: Morris Peterson, Rasho Nesterovic, Fred Jones
Skinny: Two things are affecting the rotation in Toronto these days – first is Fred Jones' ineffectiveness as a starter and second is Peterson's impending return from an elbow injury. Mo Pete was less than enthused when he was replaced by Jones in the starting lineup before his injury, and he made sure to let everyone know about it. Peterson is in the final year of his contract and would be an attractive trade piece to a number of NBA teams, so he is likely to regain his starting spot once he returns, if anything as a showcase maneuver. Nothing is guaranteed, however. In the Raptors most recent game, Nesterovic rejoined the starting five for the eighth time this season, while Jorge Garbajosa moved to small forward and Anthony Parker moved to shooting guard.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS (5th Starter) HOT
1st Chair: Ruben Patterson
2nd Chair: Charlie Bell
Skinny: Charlie Villanueva is expected to return to the Bucks sometime in the next week or so, and an interesting lineup decision will be soon to follow. Charlie V will no doubt assume his starting position at power forward within short order, and either Patterson or Bell will head back to the bench. In the three most recent games for the Bucks, Bell has started at small forward with Patterson at power forward. The Bucks like the idea of having another shooter (in the form of Bell) in the lineup, but Patterson brings a defensive intensity that the Bucks have often lacked. Patterson has been starting all season, posting averages of 10.9 points on 57 percent shooting 3.9 boards, and 1.1 steals, and his fantasy value won't rise or fall much regardless of the move. Bell does stand to gain fantasy value if he remains a starter, however – he's averaged 9.2 points, 1.2 threes, and 0.8 steals as a reserve and 17.0 points, 2.0 threes, and 1.7 steals as a starter.
BOSTON CELTICS (C) WARM
1st Chair: Kendrick Perkins
2nd Chair: Al Jefferson
Skinny: Perkins has been slowed by plantar fasciitis in recent weeks, has been foul-prone, and hasn't scored more than five points in the past seven games. Jefferson has averaged 11.7 points, 6.7 boards, and 1.3 blocks over the past three games, and appears to be all the way back after an emergency appendectomy cost him seven games in mid-November. There is a chance that Jefferson bumps Perkins from the lineup soon, particularly if Perkins' plantar fasciitis gets progressively worse. It's a situation worth monitoring closely over the next few games.
"I don't [expletive deleted] know," was Isiah Thomas' summation of why the Knicks are a league-worst 1-7 at home, why the team plays a different game and lacks aggression in Madison Square Garden in front of the home crowd, why they … Hey Isiah: Do Knicks fans and fantasy enthusiasts the world over a favor already and blow up the roster. Every week we're all left to wonder if Stephon Marbury will finally turn it around, if Steve Francis might be a good play going forward, when Jamal Crawford's next 35-point game might be coming, if Quentin Richardson will be serviceable for consecutive games at any point over the rest of the season, if David Lee will flop now that he's been "blessed" with a starting role in favor of previous flop Channing Frye, if Eddy Curry … I could go on, but I'll stop now. If the one guy who put the whole mess together still doesn't know what's wrong, is there really any hope?

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

Tracy McGrady left in the second quarter of Saturday's game with a concussion, suffering the injury on an inadvertent elbow from teammate Dikembe Mutombo. T-Mac was diagnosed with a Grade 1, or mild, concussion, and he spent Sunday relaxing at home. According to the Houston Chronicle, McGrady will be re-evaluated on Monday and his status for the Rockets' next game, on Tuesday versus Golden state, is unknown at this point.
Josh Childress' injury woes could be going from bad to worse. He did not travel with the team to Portland over the weekend, instead remaining in Atlanta to get another opinion on his foot injury. What was originally thought to be a strain has now been diagnosed as a hairline fracture, an injury that could sideline him for an additional four weeks. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Childress has been wearing the obligatory "protective boot" and he will rejoin the team in Seattle on Tuesday, likely with an updated status report on his foot.
Other injury news and updates from the weekend: Hornets coach Byron Scott has declared Peja Stojakovic our for at least the next three games, according to The Oklahoman, as he is still limited by back spasms. "He was able to push it a little [in practice on Sunday]," said Scott, "but I don't want him to push it too much." Rasual Butler will continue to start in Peja's stead … Jason Richardson did not join the Warriors on their current two-game road trip, as he is dealing with soreness in his surgically repaired left knee. Richardson has played just 29 combined minutes and scored eight points over the past two games. Monta Ellis, Mickael Pietrus, and Matt Barnes figure to be the recipients of surplus playing time … Wally Szczerbiak sprained his left ankle on Friday, and said "it swelled up real good" after the game. According to the Boston Herald, the ankle is feeling "much better" as of Monday, but as a precaution he will not play on Monday night at Chicago. Delonte West will likely make his third start of the season in Wally's place.
Blazers coach Nate McMillan has made some lineup changes in Portland in the hopes of shifting the team's focus from offense to defense. Ime Udoka has moved from small forward to shooting guard, the struggling Martell Webster has gone from starting shooting guard to the bench, and the emerging Travis Outlaw has moved into the starting lineup at small forward. Outlaw suddenly becomes an even more intriguing fantasy player with the prospects of more playing time on the horizon. Outlaw was in foul trouble early and struggled with his shot in his first start on Sunday, finishing with eight points in 24 minutes, but added a steal and a block. In 17 games as a reserve this season, Outlaw averaged 10.5 points on 48 percent shooting, 4.1 rebounds, 0.9 steals, and 1.3 blocks, with season-highs of 22 points, 15 boards, three steals, and six blocks. Once he adjusts to his new role, Outlaw could be a great cheap source of defensive stats, supplemented by the occasional offensive outburst.
Changes in the Minnesota rotation were in order in an effort to spark the team's offense and get Mike James more opportunities to shoot the ball. In the T-Wolves' 95-84 win over the floundering 76ers on Sunday, James and Randy Foye shared the court more than they had for much of the season. "That's something that we wanted to do, get those two together," said Minnesota coach Dwane Casey. "Get Mike off the ball where he can spot up. He's a shooter." And instead of a rotation that attempts to make James, Ricky Davis, Marko Jaric, Troy Hudson, and Foye all equally happy, things could tighten up in an effort to establish continuity. James, Davis, and Foye would see the lion's share of the frontcourt minutes in that scenario going forward – something that fantasy owners have been pining for all season, as James is playing nearly nine fewer minutes per game this season than during his breakout 2005-06 campaign. Keep an eye on the box scores over the next few games as this situation develops.

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Devin Harris (PG, Dallas) – After starting the season slow, Harris has quietly been putting together consistent and good production in recent weeks. He's scored in double-figures in eight of the last nine games, and his averages over that stretch have been 12.6 points on 56 percent shooting, 3.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 1.2 steals.

Charlie Bell (G, Milwaukee) – Bell has been in the starting lineup for the Bucks during the past three games, a move that could stick if Bobby Simmons needs to have season-ending surgery on his right foot – he's certainly worth a look on speculation. Over the past three games, Bell has averaged 17.0 points, 2.0 threes, 3.3 assists, and 1.7 steals.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Amare Stoudemire (FC, Phoenix) Stoudemire has been firing on all cylinders and easing a lot of fantasy owners' minds with his recent play. Over the past four games, he's averaged 22.3 points on 67 percent shooting, 11.8 boards, 1.5 steals, 2.3 blocks, and has made 84 percent of 32 free throws.

Michael Redd (GF, Milwaukee) Redd continues his assault on opposing defenses. Over his past five games, he's averaged 32.4 points on 49 percent shooting, 2.0 threes, 5.2 boards, and 2.0 steals.

Andres Nocioni (SF, Chicago) Nocioni has really taken to his starting role and has been on a tear. Over his past seven games, Nocioni has averaged 21.9 points on 50 percent shooting, 2.9 threes, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.0 steal.

Josh Howard (GF, Dallas) Howard is finally healthy after a sprained ankle caused him to miss eight games in mid-November. He's averaged 21.7 points on 55 percent shooting, 2.7 threes, 6.7 boards, and 1.3 blocks over his past three starts.

Al Harrington (FC, Indiana) Harrington's return to small forward has led to a new-found penchant for the three-ball. In his past four games, Harrington has made 14 of 21 threes (67 percent) en route to 22.8 points per contest.

Andrea Bargnani (F, Toronto) Bargnani has made the most of a recent uptick in playing time. He's played at least 23 minutes in eight straight games, and during those games averaged 12.0 points on 44 percent shooting, 1.1 threes, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.0 block. Bargnani has also made his last 19 consecutive free throw attempts.

Emeka Okafor (FC, Charlotte) Okafor has been struggling of late, particularly relative to his unreal start. Over his past four games, he's averaged 7.8 points on 38 percent shooting, 7.8 boards, 2.3 turnovers, and 1.8 blocks.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim (FC, Sacramento) Brad Miller has returned from injury and Abdur-Rahim's production has taken the subsequent hit. Over the past three games, SAR has averaged 8.3 points and 3.0 boards with 21 minutes of playing time.

Fred Jones (GF, Toronto) Jones never really got it going as a starter for the Raptors and has found his way back to the bench. Over his past five games, he's averaged a measly 3.4 points on 16 percent shooting.

Yahoo! Friends and Family League Update
82games.com has leapfrogged HoopsKLYCE.com for the top spot in the standings, while the Yahoo! contingent now has five members in the standings from three through eight. This week's transactions included Eddie Jones, Brent Barry, Luke Walton, Shaun Livingston, and a Brad Miller/Shane Battier trade, among others.

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