News and notes from a seven-game Tuesday schedule...
• Andrew Bynum(notes) made his season debut, and as expected, looked rusty off the bench in 17 minutes of action (7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1-of-5 FG, 5-for-8 FT). His presence had little effect on Pau Gasol(notes) (16 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists) and Lamar Odom(notes) (18 points, 10 rebounds, 6-of-8 FG, 6-for-7 FT), who put up one of the best lines of the night. Both Gasol and Odom will take a small hit production-wise when Bynum works himself back to full strength, but Gasol in particular will be better for it long-term. The risk of him breaking down and getting fatigued is significantly reduced when he doesn’t have to play almost 40 minutes a game anymore.
• There were quite a lot of Lakers fans on hand at the Verizon Center on Tuesday, and they made sure to make their presence felt with numerous M-V-P chants throughout. Wizards fans came with it though, drowning them out with a sea of boos and going in on Kobe with a collection of taunts and heckles when he missed three straight free throws in the third. Little did they know what they had just started though, as Kobe calmly preceded by peeling off 12 straight points to spur a 17-2 run, capping off a 16-point third quarter. He finished with 24 points in 24 minutes, good for a point a minute, adding four threes, five rebounds, and four assists in the process. Kobe isn’t the type to send out tweets telling us he’s “been taking mental notes of everyone taking shots” at him, but you can bet he internalizes a lot it and uses it to get himself going when the going gets tough.
• John Wall(notes) missed another game, his eighth (of 23) this season, due to tendonitis in his right knee. This is all bad, considering he’s also had problems with his left foot and left knee this year.
Via Michael Lee of the Washington Post – Wall has been dealing with tendinitis since summer league, and Saunders added that the problem might not go away. "If every guy in our league sat out a week because of tendinitis, we might have to forfeit some games, because everybody has some kind of tendinitis, just the way they are," he said. "I don't think, with his situation, that he's ever going to be pain-free from that, so what we're going to do is monitor him.
It’s probably better to wait until he returns to the court, but Wall owners should explore the trade market and see what it bears. This very well could be a recurring problem moving forward.
• Quote of the night, courtesy of Ron Artest(notes) (on JaVale McGee(notes)): "I don't think he watches tape. I think he plays video games and I think he could possibly have an Atari. He could potentially become a force, if, if he wants to. But if he doesn't, he can continue to play Atari.”
• McGee led the Wizards with 12 points, nine rebounds, three steals, and two blocks, while Gilbert Arenas(notes) double-doubled for the second time (11 points, 10 assists). Nick Young(notes) poured in 21 points off the bench, but didn’t do much else (2 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 steals). He’ll continue to score in bunches as long as he gets the volume, but that might be a problem with the impending return of Josh Howard(notes).
• In what was a tightly contested affair to see which team could shoot worse (and get away with it), the 76ers prevailed, shooting 41 percent to the Nets’ 34 percent. There were a few bright spots in this one though, namely Spencer Hawes(notes) (18 points, 2 threes, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 8-for-11 FG) and Jrue Holiday(notes) (19 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds 2 threes, 7-for-7 FT). Hawes is a nice short-term add if you’re in need of a center, but I have little to no faith in his long-term prospects. When hasn’t he disappointed? One thing I have to point out though is how well he and Jodie Meeks(notes) are gelling together. They found each other on more than one occasion, whether it be on a pick-and-pop or backdoor cut to the basket. Since Meeks has entered the starting lineup, Hawes has averaged 10 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks.
• Derrick Favors(notes) recorded his second career double-double (10 points, 13 rebounds), but shot 4-of-7 from the line and didn’t do much else. In standard-sized leagues he still belongs on the wire. Travis Outlaw(notes) emerged from a four-game slumber to post the Nets’ best line (14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 threes, 2 blocks). He too belongs on the wire.
• The Bobcats absolutely dominated the Raptors inside, scoring 58 points in the paint on the way to a 52 percent team shooting performance. Four of the team’s top five lines came from their frontcourt players, with Gerald Wallace(notes) (16 points, 4 blocks, 2 steals) and Kwame Brown(notes) (10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal) leading the way. Nazr Mohammed(notes) has scored 45 points in his last three games, but his overall line was rather underwhelming on Tuesday (2-of-5 FT, 3 turnovers).
• Amir Johnson(notes) broke out of a three-game mini-slump for his fourth double-double of the season (12 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals), while Jerryd Bayless(notes) continues to stake his claim on the starting point guard job. He’s averaged 24 points and eight assists in his last two games, but until he shows some consistency (especially with Calderon back), Bayless remains a fringe option in standard formats.
• History has a way of repeating itself, but I can’t see what we saw out of the Pistons on Tuesday ever happening again this season. Not only did they blow out the Hawks by 23 points with a 39-point fourth quarter, but they did so on the heels of Charlie Villanueva(notes) and Tracy McGrady(notes), who combined for 39 points and 17 rebounds. It was their first win against a team with a winning record in 13 attempts this season. Greg Monroe(notes) got his second career start, replacing Jason Maxiell(notes) at the 4, but got into early foul trouble and finished with five points and seven boards in 20 minutes.
• The Rockets got big contributions from the trio of Kyle Lowry(notes) (12 points, 9 assists, 3 steals, 2 threes), Luis Scola(notes) (23 points, 10 rebounds), and Chuck Hayes(notes) (11 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks) to carry them to a convincing 13-point win against the Kings. After a miserable November (5-9), the Rockets have begun to right the ship this month, winning five of their last seven.
• In typical Paul Westphal fashion, Luther Head(notes) and Donte Greene(notes) got the starts ahead of Francisco Garcia(notes) and Omri Casspi(notes), who ended up posting better lines anyways. Greene and Head posted two of the team’s three worst lines of the night. DeMarcus Cousins(notes) led the way with 17 points and seven rebounds, while Beno Udrih(notes) posted a solid but unspectacular line (10 points, 6 assists, 3 steals). Carl Landry(notes) added 17 points, five rebounds, and three blocks off the bench, but put a sizable dent in owners’ free-throw percentages with a 5-of-9 effort.
• The Orlando Magic are not a legitimate championship contender, and they proved it on Tuesday with a performance that sorely lacked two elements: defense and mental toughness. The Magic cowered into a corner late in the fourth when they were up against it. They played 42 minutes of basketball and mailed it in for the last six. J.J. Redick(notes) got extended run with Mickael Pietrus(notes) (knee) and Quentin Richardson(notes) (elbow) out, and did his best to keep the Magic afloat with a career-high 29 points on 9-of-12 shooting (6-for-9 from three). Redick’s growth since entering the league has been staggering. He’s evolved from purely a spot up shooter to a perfectly capable scorer. Vince Carter(notes) added 18 points, but it took him 15 shots to get there.
• Carmelo Anthony(notes) posted his second straight double-double and fifth of the season, finishing with 35 points and 11 rebounds. It came at a hefty price though (6 turnovers, 7-of-11 FT). Arron Afflalo(notes) had the most efficient overall line for the Nuggets with 15 points, four rebounds, four assists, and three treys on 6-of-10 shooting.
• The last matchup of the day proved to be a battle of guards (Warriors) vs. big men (T-Wolves). Monta Ellis(notes) and Reggie Williams(notes) totaled 60 points and seven treys, between the two of them, while Darko Milicic(notes) and Kevin Love(notes) finished with a combined 38 points and 25 rebounds. Keep in mind that this is the Warriors, who give up career-highs to opposing players routinely, so keep your expectations for Darko in check (and realistic). This doesn’t change the fact that he hasn’t been much more than a blocks specialist as of late.
• Tuesday’s top performers (per-game value): Charlie Villanueva (+1.20), J.J. Redick (+1.11), Tracy McGrady (+0.84), Lamar Odom (+0.75), Spencer Hawes (+0.69)
• Twitterverse Roundup: There was a dubious report Tuesday night from Lionel Bienvenu of the Denver Channel that Carmelo Anthony had been traded to the Nets. When push came to shove and Mr. Welcome had to show his cards for all of us to see, all he had was speculation, and speculation that had previously been outlined earlier in the day. The takeaway here is that these reports should not be taken at face value and treated as fact, unless they come from one of the trusted sources around the league with a proven track record. No one does it better than Yahoo!’s own Adrian Wojnarowski, and chances are that if Woj doesn’t have the scoop, local media outlets like the Denver Channel don’t either. Woj is the best in the business at what he does for a reason. So in closing, Melo is still a Denver Nugget, and the holdup here is still his reluctance to agree to an extend-and-trade with any team other than the Knicks.
• I’d like to once again thank Tom Lorenzo for coming on this week’s Tuesday chat in what was, by sheer volume, our most successful one yet. For those wondering about the 15-20 minute delay in getting your question(s) answered – it’s because we don’t actually start the Q&A segment until 20-25 minutes in. We first dealt with the fallout from Monday's three-team trade and then hit on some other relevant topics. From there we have to play a game of catch up, where we can only field about two questions every minute until we hit the rapid fire portion. We got to about 200 questions total, but that still accounted for less than half of all the questions we received. If we didn’t get to your question this week, then be sure to join us next Tuesday.
Follow Justin on Twitter @jphanned
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