Court Report: Tip of the cap

All the bullet-worthy news and notes from Wednesday's slate of games.

It’s time to tip my cap to Kevin Garnett(notes) (32 minutes, 12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block), who has been an efficient producer all season long. KG is turning back the clock and posting first round value in only 32 minutes per game. Congratulations if you gambled on Garnett this season. Ray Allen(notes) (22 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists) posted a quality line despite shooting one-for-five from downtown. Nate Robinson(notes) (31 minutes, 9 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers) was quiet while filling in for Rajon Rondo(notes), who has missed the Celtics’ past three games and will likely miss the next few games. Shaquille O’Neal(notes) (27 minutes, 13 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 2 turnovers) was also effective for the C’s on Wednesday night.

Another night, another tough loss for Philly. Jrue Holiday(notes) (15 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) and Elton Brand(notes) (16 points, 12 rebounds) both had quality lines for Philadelphia while Jodie Meeks(notes) and Spencer Hawes(notes) were both non-existent. Evan Turner(notes) registered his second straight DNP-CD and should be cut universally for a hot waiver wire pickup. Deep leaguers should also keep an eye on Tony Battie(notes) (10 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks), who may be playing his way into Doug Collins’ rotation. Battie had extra motivation to play against Boston, as he spent six seasons with the club.

The Detroit Pistons have been one of the most unpredictable teams in terms of fantasy production this season, and Wednesday night was no exception. Richard Hamilton(notes) responded to his demotion to the bench with a statement game (28 minutes, 35 points, 13-20 FG, 6-10 3PT, 2 assists, 2 steals). Rip’s 35-point game represents a season high and could help to boost his trade value. Hamilton would be a better fantasy option if he were traded to another team with a more stable role, but his contract limits the number of teams that would be willing to make a move for him.

Rodney Stuckey(notes) (29 minutes, 21 points, 9-15 FG, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 1 block), Charlie Villanueva(notes) (18 points, 4 rebounds) and Tracy McGrady(notes) (17 points, 8-12 FG, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals) all had nice games for the Pistons against the Raptors on Wednesday night as well. Undoubtedly lots of managers will be flocking to the waiver to grab T-Mac after his vintage performance. However, history tells us that McGrady is an injury waiting to happen and should not be trusted. I’m not buying. Jason Maxiell(notes) dislocated his finger in the first half of the game.

Like the Pistons the Raptors remain a difficult team to predict who will produce on any given night. On Wednesday, Leandro Barbosa(notes) stepped up off the bench (21 points, 3 threes, 4 assists, 3 turnovers), while Linas Kleiza(notes) took care of business (38 minutes, 19 points, 7-11 FG, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers) in the starting lineup. Both players are not universally owned (Barbosa – 42 percent owned; Kleiza – 40 percent owned) and could make for good pickups as they’ve both strung a few decent performances together. Jose Calderon(notes) tallied 13 assists versus eight turnovers in this one, while Jerryd Bayless(notes) sat out with food poisoning and Sonny Weems(notes) missed his third game in a row with back spasms.

With Joakim Noah(notes) out for an extended period, the Chicago Bulls have become much more reliant on Carlos Boozer(notes) (30 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 turnovers), which has translated into quality production for fantasy owners. Derrick Rose(notes) (25 points, 0-6 3PT, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 3 blocks, 4 turnovers) and Boozer are developing excellent chemistry, making the Rose-Boozer combo one of the most potent one-two punches in the association. Taj Gibson(notes) only played the final 30 seconds of the game, as he missed most of the game because of the lingering effects of a concussion. The good news is that he played so expect his minutes to climb going forward.

Josh Howard(notes) scored an efficient 13 points (4-8 FG, 1-1 3PT, 4-5 FT) off the bench for the Wizards in 25 minutes, although he provided little else in terms of supporting stats. The other big news for Washington in this game was that Rashard Lewis(notes) made his debut for the Wizards (22 minutes, 8 points, 4-10 FG, 0-5 3PT, 3 rebounds, 2 turnovers). Lewis came off the bench but should work his way into the starting lineup sometime soon. Expect better numbers from Lewis than he was posting in Orlando, but a full-scale resurgence to fantasy elite status is not going to happen. Temper expectations.

Former Bull Kirk Hinrich(notes) has been playing excellent basketball (19 points, 5 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers) with Gilbert Arenas(notes) gone and John Wall(notes) injured. Hinrich and Nick Young(notes) (22 points, 3 threes, 2 steals, 1 block, 4 turnovers) have become a great starting backcourt for the young Wizards. Young’s prolific scoring over the past week or so has made him fantasy relevant, something I was skeptical would ever come to fruition. Young is strictly a four category contributor (PTS, 3PT, FG%, FT%) and provides almost nothing else, but grab him if you need a boost in the scoring department.

Former Wizard Antawn Jamison(notes) had one of his better games of the season (23 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks) against the Hawks on Wednesday but it wasn’t enough to get past the Atlanta Hawks. The Cavaliers also got useful production from their starting backcourt of Mo Williams(notes) (18 points, 11 assists, 3 turnovers) and Daniel Gibson(notes) (12 points, 2 threes, 2 assists, 3 turnovers) but failed to get much else from their other players. Anderson Varejao(notes) is clearly beat up and struggling through a variety of ailments, and his production is suffering as a result. If Cleveland continues its descent into the NBA’s cellar, Varejao becomes a good candidate to be shutdown to heal and also becomes a good candidate to be traded because AV is highly coveted by contenders and is still due a large amount of money.

Joe Johnson(notes) arguably had one of his best games of the season on Wednesday night (23 points, 9-17 FG, 3 threes, 5 rebounds, 7 assists) despite the fact that he still cannot fully extend his shooting elbow. Josh Smith(notes) (16 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists) was also solid in the starting lineup and Marvin Williams(notes) responded to his return to the starting unit with a good game (17 points, 7-11 FG, 3-6 3PT, 4 rebounds). Jamal Crawford(notes) missed his fifth game with back spasms and is really dragging down fantasy teams with his spotty production and inability to stay on the court this season. It’s not time to cut Crawford just yet, but it certainly feels like that time is rapidly approaching.

Carmelo Anthony(notes) missed Wednesday night’s game for personal reasons (death in the family; condolences to the Anthony family) and is expected to be out through Christmas. Anytime Melo is out it means more touches for the Nuggets that suit up. The result on Wednesday night was certainly positive for the Denver’s guards, with both Chauncey Billups(notes) (20 points, 7 assists, 4 turnovers) and Ty Lawson(notes) (22 points, 8-12 FG, 2-3 3PT, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers) posting useful lines in the same game. J.R. Smith(notes) was the direct beneficiary of Anthony’s absence and played extremely well (22 points, 4 threes, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers). This potential is the reason Smith gets drafted, despite the fact that he is madly inconsistent. Kenyon Martin(notes) also made his season debut for the Nuggets (8 points, 4-5 FG, rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block) after undergoing off-season knee surgery and was more effective than expected in short minutes. Martin is worth a gamble if you room on your team for a speculative add.

First of all, Manu Ginobili(notes) is so clutch and probably deserves legitimate MVP consideration at this point in the season. Gary Neal(notes) (26 minutes, 22 points, 5 threes, 2 rebounds, 3 assists) had another big game and looks like he will be money as long as George Hill(notes) is out, which is expected to be a few more games at least as he recovers from a toe injury. Neal is a good short-term pickup if you need scoring and threes. I’d much rather gamble on a guy like Neal than add a player like T-Mac, whose upside is limited. Tiago Splitter(notes) also got extended run (21 minutes, 12 points, 9 rebounds) and responded with his best game in a Spurs uniform. Keep an eye on the situation, as Splitter may (finally) be working his way into Pop’s rotation. The problem is that the Spurs have plenty of able big bodies in addition to Splitter (Tim Duncan(notes), DeJuan Blair(notes), Antonio McDyess(notes), Matt Bonner(notes)).

Oklahoma City was clearly tired after beating Charlotte on Tuesday night, which turned out to be Larry Brown’s final game as Charlotte’s head coach. Oklahoma City shot 39 percent as a team against the Knicks on Wednesday night. Serge Ibaka’s(notes) struggles continued (19 minutes, 0 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block) despite the absence of Nenad Krstic(notes) who missed his seventh straight game with a lower back strain. Krstic is expected to be active relatively soon.

New York’s starters got a bit of extra rest in this one in the fourth quarter, as they had the game in hand in the final period of play based on a strong second quarter. Role players Ronny Turiaf(notes) (22 minutes, 11 points) and Landry Fields(notes) (14 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, turnovers) both contributed in this one. There have been a number of rumors surrounding Turiaf, who is a coveted backup big man in the league.

Al Jefferson(notes) made his triumphant return to Minnesota and had a beastly game (23 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal, 7 blocks, 3 turnovers). Utah’s entire frontline got into the action in this one with Andrei Kirilenko(notes) (16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers) and Paul Millsap(notes) (23 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 3 turnovers) both ending up with productive games. Both players also came up with some extremely clutch play in the fourth quarter. Mehmet Okur(notes) registered another DNP with his sprained ankle and is not likely to be a consistent fantasy producer at any point this season as recovers from a major injury and faces stiff competition for PT from Millsap and Jefferson.

Kevin Love(notes) had a big double-double (25 points, 19 rebounds, 4 turnovers) against his former teammate while Michael Beasley(notes) (24 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks) also stitched together a double-double of his own. Martell Webster(notes) had another useful fantasy line (16 points, 2 threes, 4 turnovers) despite making some poor decisions down the stretch that may have cost his team a chance at stealing this one from the Jazz. Luke Ridnour(notes) was also effective (16 points 5 assists) and played 33 minutes compared to Jonny Flynn’s(notes) 15 minutes. Ridnour remains the point guard to own in Minnesota until further notice.

Devin Harris(notes) had another solid game (21 points, 8 assists) but, as always, remains an injury risk. New arrival Sasha Vujacic(notes) (25 minutes, 12 points, 2 threes, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 turnovers) had another quality game, while Jordan Farmar(notes) only saw 20 minutes of action. Deep leaguers take note, as Vujacic appears to be the more valuable of the two guards off New Jersey’s bench and may even supplant Stephen Graham(notes) in New Jersey’s starting lineup. Troy Murphy(notes) got 16 minutes of playing time and tallied two points and seven rebounds in that time span. At this point, the best thing Murphy owners can hope for is a trade to a better environment.

Emeka Okafor(notes) (21 points 10 rebounds) has been beasting lately and has registered three straight double-doubles for the New Orleans Hornets. Chris Paul(notes) shook off the criticism surrounding his recent play and responded with a quality line (12 points, 14 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover). Marcus Thornton(notes) (19 minutes, 18 points, 7-10 FG, 4-5 3PT, 3 rebounds, 2 turnovers) stayed hot in this one and appears to be forcing Monty Williams to give him more minutes with his play on the court. Most importantly, the Hornets got the win and Thornton provided a much-needed offensive punch off the bench. Thornton looks like he might have played his way into a steady role going forward with his recent strong play.

Kyle Lowry(notes) started (31 minutes, 5 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers), while Aaron Brooks(notes) (17 minutes, 7 points, 2 threes, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 turnovers) came off the bench. Rick Adelman is not playing Lowry and Brooks together, meaning that the any minutes gained by Brooks will be at Lowry’s expense. Some fantasy managers would prefer that Lowry keeps his starting job, but what is really important for fantasy purposes is that one player wins the position battle and one player loses. One of the most feared fantasy situations is an even split in a position battle, which makes both players unrosterable. Shane Battier(notes) also had one of his best games of the season (13 points, 3 threes, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 2 turnovers). Battier provides so many positive stats relative to his negatives stats, a fact that makes him the anti-Eddy Curry(notes).

Blake Griffin(notes) posted another monster line (24 points, 18 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers) and has pretty much sealed the deal on the Rookie of the Year award and likely the dunk contest as well. Frontcourt mate DeAndre Jordan(notes) (14 points, 5-7 FG, 13 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers) also posted a solid line in this one, although he has been somewhat disappointing in Kaman’s absence. Jordan has all the physical tools to be an absolute beast in terms of boards and blocks so the potential is certainly there as long as Chris Kaman(notes) is out. Kaman has missed 20 out of the Clippers’ last 22 games with an injured ankle and is expected to miss at least another couple of weeks as he attempts to get healthy.

Ike Diogu(notes), who was signed by the Clippers earlier in the day, scored eight points and grabbed three rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench Wednesday night. Diogu sat out the entire 2009-10 season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee and makes an interesting deep league prospect if he can stay healthy and work his way into Los Angeles’ rotation.

Photos via Getty Images

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