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The Skinny: A farewell to hoops

Matt Romig
Yahoo Sports
POSITION HOT SEAT
ORLANDO MAGIC (C) RED HOT
1st Chair: Kelvin Cato
2nd Chair: Tony Battie
Skinny: Cato scored a season-high 17 points on Wednesday. Three nights later, he logged just six minutes as a reserve while New Jersey's Nenad Krstic abused starter Tony Battie and the rest of Orlando's front line.Head coach Chris Jent declared the starting center job up for grabs several weeks ago, so it was no surprise that Battie was given a start. Given how poorly the move worked out, however, Cato is a good bet to be back in the lineup when Orlando takes the floor Tuesday against Dallas.
INDIANA PACERS (PF) RED HOT
1st Chair: Dale Davis
2nd Chair: Austin Croshere, Greg Foster
Skinny: First came word that head coach Rick Carlisle would let matchups dictate who starts at power forward. Against tough rebounding teams, Foster would start. When crashing the boards wasn't a priority, Croshere would get the call. That news didn't sit well with Croshere owners – particularly after their guy scored 15 or more points in four straight. Well, things got worse on Thursday when Carlisle inserted Scot Pollard into the starting lineup, a move that slid Dale Davis to power forward and relegated both Foster and Croshere to the bench. As we've seen all season, Croshere needs to start to produce fantasy numbers. Carlisle stuck with this new lineup Sunday, but this remains a situation to watch.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (PG) HOT
1st Chair: Eric Snow
2nd Chair: Jeff McInnis
Skinny: McInnis reportedly took to wearing his practice jersey backwards as a sign of protest after losing his starting job to Snow. The way he is playing of late, he might as well do the same with his jersey on game nights – the warm-ups aren't coming off anyway. McInnis did not play at all on Sunday as Sasha Pavlovic inherited most of his minutes. Even Jiri Welsch is getting more minutes of late. Snow's numbers don't merit any fantasy attention, but team officials continue to say the Cavs offense runs better with him in the lineup.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (PG) HOT
1st Chair: Troy Hudson
2nd Chair: Sam Cassell
Skinny: Hudson missed all seven of his field goal attempts on Sunday, but the Timberwolves managed to hold off Sacramento for their sixth win in seven games. Cassell was impressive again, scoring 16 points with seven assists in 23 minutes. For now, head coach Kevin McHale is sticking with Hudson as the starter. Cassell is still nursing a sore hamstring. Plus, his scoring punch off the bench has been invaluable during Minnesota's recent run of success.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (PG) WARM
1st Chair: Shaun Livingston
2nd Chair: Marko Jaric
Skinny: Injuries to Bobby Simmons and Corey Maggette have temporarily put this position battle on hold. Both Jaric and Livingston are starting for now. Jaric is putting up monster numbers and Livingston is fresh off his second-career double-digit assist game. For now, Jaric is the guy to own. He'll do more things in more categories than the rookie, but keep an eye on Mike Dunleavy's distribution of minutes once Simmons returns.
We wave goodbye to the NBA this week – partially because baseball has arrived, but mostly due to the fact that the Skinny went 0-2 in head-to-head playoff matchups last week. Worse, I became what I despise in losing to arch-rival Divac Flop in my keeper league. Nobody likes a roster churner, but there I was adding and dropping players frantically trying to pull out a few category wins. Now I feel like the guy who passed out during the rose ceremony on the premier of The Bachelorette. I have nothing to show for my efforts, but at least I embarrassed myself in front of all my friends. Opening Day couldn't come quickly enough, but let's not forget the weekend that was in the NBA:

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

  • The way things are playing out on game nights, you get the feeling that head coach Byron Scott's second unit runs circles around his starting five during practices. Scott's starters combined to make just five field goals Friday as his bench led the Hornets past Houston. The next night New Orleans' reserves scored 68 points. The starters tallied only 31 in a lopsided loss to Miami. Time for an overhaul? Scott says no. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Sunday that Scott plans to stick with a lineup that consists of Speedy Claxton and J.R. Smith at guard, Bostjan Nachbar and David West in the frontcourt and Jamaal Magloire at center for the team's final 10 games. The purpose, he says, is to see how this unit performs against opposing starting fives. At 17-55, the team has little else to play for.

Fantasy owners would argue that last point. Scott may have personnel evaluation in mind, but rotisserie managers have a stretch run to attend to. So what has all this tinkering done to player values? The only slam-dunk starters right now are Smith and Magloire. Smith averaged 16.8 points per game starting alongside Dan Dickau in March. In two games with Claxton in the lineup, he's been held to four and five points. He's too gifted a scorer to keep that trend going. Magloire has also struggled in the revamped lineup, but as a 12/9 guy, he's a No. 2 center at worst. Claxton scored 18 points on Saturday and is a need-based add, particularly for managers looking for a late push in the steals department. West and Nachbar wouldn't even merit a roster spot in a Southwest Division-only league. More on Scott's lineup changes below in the Market Movers section.

  • Just how long fantasy owners will have to do without the services of Chicago center Eddy Curry remained a mystery as of Sunday evening. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the team will reveal more about Curry's condition and their treatment plan on Monday. The center has missed Chicago's last three games after experiencing an irregular heartbeat on March 30. Reports say that doctors are closely monitoring how Curry responds to medication. Projecting a length of absence for Eddy before team doctors release a statement would be irresponsible speculation, but for fantasy owners in the midst of a playoff run, it doesn't hurt to prepare for an extended recovery period.

Power forward Othella Harrington is the most obvious upgrade if Curry is sidelined for a week or more. He has started three straight for the Bulls, averaging 17 points and six rebounds in three Chicago wins. Back on March 19, he scored 24 points as the team won to touch off a nine-game win streak. Equally effective of late has been Tyson Chandler. Playing starter's minutes off the bench, the power forward is piling up rebounds at an absurd 12.2 per game rate in his past 11 games. He's owned in roughly 75 percent of Yahoo! leagues, so it's worth a look to see if he's unclaimed in yours. Finally, keep an eye on Andres Nocioni. The Skinny has been waiting for him to deliver all season, and Luol Deng's recent injury woes have given him a chance to prove he belongs in the regular rotation. In his past two starts, he has filled up the hustle board nicely with averages of 13 points, 7.5 boards, 4.5 assists and 0.5 steals.

  • Of course, it wouldn't be a weekend update without a report on some injury woes. According to the Providence Journal, Celtics forward Antoine Walker will miss the rest of this week with a bone bruise in his left knee. This is, of course, crippling news for fantasy owners who have enjoyed his return to Boston. Head coach Doc Rivers was rumored to be considering Kendrick Perkins as a replacement in the starting lineup, but he went with Mark Blount instead. He had been hesitant to change Blount's role, since the former starter had responded favorably to coming off the bench.

Obviously, this is a wait-and-see game for Walker owners. You won't find his type of production on the waiver wire, so the best you can hope for is a speedy return. Blount pulled down nine rebounds to go along with six points Sunday. That's not much production, but given increased minutes he could once again fill a No. 2 center position with efficiency. The bench roles played by Ricky Davis and Al Jefferson should be magnified with Walker out of action.

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues

  • Sebastian Telfair, PG, Por
    The Skinny clanked an uncontested layup last week by adding Telfair to the stock falling list. Turns out, Portland's flirtation with returning to a veteran lineup was just that. Plus, injuries have caught up with the team again, so Telfair is back as a key weapon in the Blazers attack. After last week's column, Telfair recorded games of 17, 18 and 16 points, averaging 7.3 assists in the process. He'll continue to play 35-plus minutes per night and has favorable matchups against Golden State and Sacramento on the horizon.
  • Mickael Pietrus, GF, GS
    A short list of 2005-06 NBA sixth man of the year favorites would have to include Golden State's top reserve during their impressive run of eight wins in nine games. In the Warriors past six, Pietrus has come off the bench to average 16 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals, all while shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor. After a tough matchup against Houston, Golden State closes the week with games against Phoenix and Portland, two teams not exactly known for putting the clamps down on opposing scorers.
  • Damien Wilkins, SF, Sea
    First the bad news: Rashard Lewis is expected to miss at least another week with a bone bruise in his right foot. The Seattle Times went as far as using the "I" word in declaring him out indefinitely. Lewis owners may be in a panic, but Wilkins' emergence has been fun to watch. This undrafted rookie played 20 or more minutes for the first time in his career on March 24. He scored 21 points that night and one week later tallied 17 in his first career start. In a six-game stretch before Sunday, he shot 54 percent from the field. That included 9-of-18 shooting from three-point range. Flip Murray will continue to steal some of Wilkins' minutes, but if this kid can get comfortable filling in for Lewis, he'll be a guy to keep an eye on down the stretch.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Marko Jaric, PG, LAC – Jaric had a big weekend for the Clips, thanks in large part to injuries suffered by Corey Maggette and Bobby Simmons. He scored 24 points on Friday and followed with 14 points and nine assists in Sunday's win.

Travis Best, PG, NJ – Best played 35 minutes Saturday (12 points, 5 steals) and is the favorite to replace Jacque Vaughn in New Jersey's starting lineup. Vaughn broke his foot and is out for the year. Rodney Buford is another candidate to inherit the role.

Chris Wilcox, C, LAC – Subbing for an injured Chris Kaman, Wilcox scored 22 points to go with two blocked shots and two steals on Sunday. Wilcox has spent the majority of the season in head coach Mike Dunleavy's doghouse, but he did average 14 points and seven rebounds in November, again while Kaman was hurt.

Pat Garrity, F, Orl – With Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson out, Garrity is getting his share of minutes and three-point looks. He has attempted 17 from beyond the arc in Orlando's past four games and will be asked to pick up the scoring slack if Grant Hill's shin injury forces him to miss any additional games.

Nenad Krstic, C, NJ – Krstic scored 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting on Saturday. In New Jersey's past eight games, he's averaging 16 points and seven rebounds.

Matt Carroll, SG, Cha – Gerald Wallace has struggled of late, but Carroll has come off the bench to pick up the scoring slack. In his past two games, the journeyman has averaged 18.5 points on 12-of-22 shooting.

Mehmet Okur, C, Utah – The loss of Carlos Boozer means a regular starting gig for Okur. In Utah's past three games, he's averaging a little more than 20 points and 10 rebounds on 59 percent shooting.

Nene Hilario, C, Den – Head coach George Karl has started Nene alongside Marcus Camby in Denver's past three games. In his past two starts, Nene is averaging 13.5 points, 6.5 boards and two blocks.

Josh Childress, F, Atl – In two April games, Childress has averaged 24.5 points, 4.5 boards, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals. With Al Harrington hobbled, the rookie will be asked to shoulder the load in the team's final 10 games.

P.J. Brown, PF, NO – After starting 70 games, Brown is now making the most of 24 minutes a night off the bench. He managed 21 points Saturday, but his rebound numbers have sagged as a reserve.

Al Harrington, SF, Atl – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution speculated last week that Harrington may shut down before the end of the season to rest his sore right knee. That hasn't happened yet, but the forward made just five of 23 field goal attempts over the weekend as the Hawks dropped two to run their losing streak to 12 games.

Keith Van Horn, SF, Dal – His level of play hasn't dipped, but Van Horn must now share bench scoring duties with the recently activated Jerry Stackhouse. After hoisting 10 or more shots in seven straight games, Van Horn has been limited to single-digit attempts in three of four.

Jamal Crawford, PG, NY – Shooting just 32 percent in his past six games, Crawford has been a frequent occupant in head coach Herb Williams' doghouse of late.

DeShawn Stevenson, SG, Orl – Once Grant Hill returns to the lineup, head coach Chris Jent plans to return Stevenson to a reserve role. The move is designed to bolster Orlando's scoring punch off the bench (it's not a demotion), but his minutes will likely suffer as a result. Stacy Augmon will start for the Magic.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
16.0 Shots per game taken in March by Jalen Rose, who shot a season-low 40.4 percent for the month. Rose has publicly accused point guard Rafer Alston of selfish play recently.