This is no time to lose focus. You've come this far, it would be a shame to let a little thing like an NCAA Tournament bracket derail your progress. Remember (and this is reminder No. 134 for you head-to-head owners), there are only two full weeks of matchups remaining before the fantasy basketball playoffs begin. If there was ever a time to micro-manage, this is it. A lot of bubble teams learned first-hand just how important a single win or loss can be. The same holds true in the race for the sixth seed in fantasy NBA leagues. One category can make or break a season.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- Generally, the term "that's a layup" refers to something easy – like tapping in a six-inch putt or parallel parking your Mini Cooper where there's room for a Winnebago. Leave it to Sacramento to turn a layup into heartbreak with the playoffs just around the corner. There hasn't been confirmation one way or the other whether Brad Miller made his casual finger-roll Saturday as he participated in a light workout while rehabbing a pesky injured calf. What has been confirmed through tests, however, is that the star center has a broken fibula and will likely miss the remainder of the regular season. This no doubt leaves a huge void in many fantasy lineups. Miller, one of the best passing big men in the game, has established himself as a Top 5 fantasy center since arriving in Sacramento.
The first thing for Miller owners to do, of course, is scan the wire for the availability of Brian Skinner. The journeyman averaged just above 10 points and seven rebounds two seasons ago with Milwaukee, but was struggling for minutes with the Sixers before arriving in the Chris Webber trade. He's undersized for sure, but the Kings will ask him to eat up minutes at center down the stretch. In nine games with Sacramento, he's averaging nearly nine rebounds and, more importantly, 2.5 blocks per game. Other fallback options are Memphis' Lorenzen Wright, Brendan Haywood of Washington or perhaps Portland's Theo Ratliff (if available). None will match Miller's productivity, but you have to turn somewhere. Sacramento forwards Kenny Thomas and Darius Songaila will each be asked to play more minutes and are natural upgrades in the wake of Miller's break.
- If Marko Jaric was to spontaneously combust the next time he takes the floor for the Los Angeles Clippers, the story probably wouldn't make the front page of the Los Angeles Times sports section. When it comes to the Clippers backcourt, such maladies are commonplace – almost routine. The latest blow came Sunday when Jaric returned to action after missing 12 games with a foot injury. His comeback lasted just 72 seconds. If you blinked, you missed it – along with the elbow from a Chicago player that sent him back to the sidelines with a hip pointer. The team has listed him as questionable for Wednesday but there is speculation that he may miss a week of action.
At this point, playing drums for Spinal Tap is a safer profession than running point for the Clips. Jaric is embarking on his third setback of the season. Rookie Shaun Livingston has missed all but 13 games this season with various ailments. Above the fray, at least until now, has been Rick Brunson. He doesn't score much, but a season-best 8.5 assist per game average in March will help Jaric owners stay afloat in the helpers category. Other widely available options at point are Jason Hart, Sebastian Telfair and Keith McLeod.
- Donyell Marshall needed just 28 minutes Sunday to tie an NBA record with 12 three-pointers in Toronto's win against Philadelphia. Nineteen of his 22 field goal attempts were from beyond the arc. Marshall finished with 38 points and 10 rebounds to record his third consecutive double-double. "Too little, too late," many fantasy owners will say, but truth is Marshall has improved his numbers steadily since January. He isn't quite the Donyell of last season yet, but 15 points, eight rebounds a steal and a block isn't too shabby, and that's what fantasy owners are getting these days out of Marshall.
The improved play couldn't come at a better time. Matt Bonner is actually getting slightly more playing time off the bench than Marshall in March. Since he's a guy who fits into the team's 2005-06 plans, there is pressure within the organization to play him more. These aren't charity minutes, either. Bonner is shooting almost 65 percent from the floor while averaging 11.9 points and four rebounds in March. Marshall's breakthrough game won't deter Bonner's progress, but it may have earned Donyell another stay of execution. Fantasy owners should keep an eye on the distribution of bench minutes as the season winds down.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Darius Miles, GF, Por
Here's the rundown in Portland: Nick Van Exel has essentially quit. It is rumored that Ruben Patterson is being quarantined on the injured list so he won't blast management in the papers. Damon Stoudamire is nursing a sore hamstring. Zach Randolph may be joining Van Exel in Derek Bell-mode. Could Miles actually be a steadying presence? Well, of course not. But what he can be, at least in the short term, is productive. He nearly recorded a triple-double Saturday – settling for eight points, nine rebounds, eight assists and three steals in a win against Memphis.
- Antonio McDyess, PF, Det
Now that he's injury-free, the Pistons are developing a healthy appreciation of McDyess' skills as a power forward. Entering play Sunday, he was averaging 12.7 points, 5.7 boards and 1.3 blocks per game in March. Pistons head coach Larry Brown told the Detroit News that he's looking for ways to get Antonio more playing time. Ben Wallace is hobbled a bit by a bone spur in his foot, so Brown might just have the reason he's been looking for to bump up McDyess' court time. The coach says he'd average 20 points and 10 boards if given starters minutes. That's probably an exaggeration, but the nine-year veteran is begging to resemble the player who put up those very numbers in 1998 with Denver.
- Lorenzen Wright, C, Mem
Wright spiced up an otherwise miserable performance by the Grizzlies Saturday with 21 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks against a Portland frontline that has been rather imposing of late. Wright's season-high as of Feb. 26 was 19 points. Since then he's topped 20 points three times and has two double-doubles. Forward Pau Gasol is expected to miss at least 2-3 more weeks and Stromile Swift can't jump off his injured ankle, so Wright should maintain his current value for the foreseeable future.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Tyronn Lue, PG, Atl – Head coach Mike Woodson issued a challenge and Lue has stepped up to answer it. Wins are still hard to come by, but Atlanta's point guard is averaging 20.4 points and 4.8 assists in the past five games.
Hedo Turkoglu, GF, Orl – Hedo was back on the bench Sunday after starting three games in place of an injured Grant Hill, but that didn't stop him from topping the 20-point mark for the third straight game.
J.R. Smith, SG, NO – Despite shooting just 25 percent from three-point range, Smith is enjoying his best scoring month of the season. The rookie is averaging 16 points and three assists per game in March.
Marquis Daniels, GF, Dal – The banged-up Mavs are leaning heavily on Daniels for minutes lately. He's averaging right around 15 points, five boards and two assists in his past six games.
Eddie Jones, SG, Mia – Jones is putting up season-best numbers in FG percentage (.483), three-point accuracy (.424) and rebounding (5.7) in March to go along with a 14.0 scoring average.
Jamal Crawford, SG, NY – While Crawford extols the virtues of patience and getting his teammates involved, his fantasy owners long for the days of quick-triggered jump shots and alley-oops to himself. He scored five points Sunday – failing to reach double-figures for the fourth time in five games.
Marko Jaric, PG, LAC – Jaric's comeback from a stress fracture lasted just 72 seconds Sunday. He did not score before leaving the game with a hip pointer.
Marcus Camby, C, Den – Still running unopposed with Nene on the IL, but he's always in jeopardy of losing his job to injury. Camby strained his hamstring Saturday and was unable to play Sunday as a result.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
21.4 Reggie Miller's scoring average since Jermaine O'Neal was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Miller barely registers in the hustle categories, but for owners looking for scoring and three-point punch, Miller is a viable option at this point.