I'm trying not to get too excited – really, I am. The NBA rumor mill is in full swing once again, with names like Zach Randolph, Andrei Kirilenko, Jermaine O'Neal, and Richard Jefferson now being thrown around in addition to Jason Kidd, Tracy McGrady, Mike Miller, Andre Miller, Ben Wallace, Jason Williams, Larry Hughes and Sam Cassell. Big-time trades really have a way of re-invigorating the NBA and fantasy landscape – it gives us all a chance to do a fresh set of prognostications and often gives new life to a number of players' fantasy impacts. While Damon Stoudamire is certainly almost out the door in Memphis, it would be but a ripple in what could be a very active NBA trade season. I've got this overwhelming feeling that I've said something like that before …
Ray Allen (SG – Boston)
Allen missed Wednesday's game with a pinched nerve in his neck but is expected back in the lineup on Friday, according to The Boston Globe.
Luol Deng (GF – Chicago)
Deng has missed the past two games with left Achilles' tendinitis and his status for Friday remains uncertain. "He's still feeling a little discomfort," said Bulls interim coach Jim Boylan on Wednesday. "We don't play until Friday so we feel like [a] couple of days of rest will be good for him."
Anderson Varejao (FC – Cleveland)
Varejao is considered day-to-day after suffering left knee and Achilles' injuries during a hard fall on Wednesday night. Team doctors didn't find any structural damage in tests at the arena, according to The Akron Beacon Journal – the knee injury is just a bruise, but he is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Thursday to confirm that the Achilles' injury is only a sprain.
Chucky Atkins (PG – Denver)
Atkins played nine games after returning from a preseason groin strain, but now he has been sidelined with a sports hernia that could end his season. According to The Denver Post, Atkins will undergo surgery sometime next week. "My preliminary introduction to the injury was that his return will be toward the end of the season, if at all," said Nuggets coach George Karl. This news improves Anthony Carter's long-term fantasy prospects – he's averaged 8 points on 50 percent shooting, 5.7 assists, 1.6 steals, and 0.6 blocks in 22 games (19 starts) on the season. The Nuggets could also end up looking to add another PG to the roster as the trade deadline approaches.
Tracy McGrady (GF – Houston)
McGrady will be evaluated by the Rockets' medical staff on Thursday, and his availability will be determined at that point, according to the Associated Press. "I'd love to see him come back Friday, but it's really going to be up to the medical people and Tracy as far as how he works out, how he feels before we get him back on the floor," said Rockets coach Rick Adelman.
Jermaine O'Neal (FC – Indiana)
O'Neal missed his sixth game of the season on Wednesday, thanks to continued soreness in his left knee. His knee is bothering him enough right now that "he can't practice and play in games on consecutive days," according to Pacers coach Jim O'Brien. Don't expect O'Neal to get to 100 percent any time soon, if he does at all this season.
Elton Brand (FC – LA Clippers)
There hasn't been a substantial update on the Brand front since he announced last month that his talk of returning sometime in February was likely to have been overly optimistic. According to the USA Today, Brand simply confirmed when asked on Wednesday that his return isn't going to be anytime soon.
Shaquille O'Neal (C – Miami)
Shaq, who has missed the past seven games with ongoing issues with his left hip, is expected to return to the team on Sunday, with the aim of being in the lineup for their game on Wednesday. He'll remain in Los Angeles through Saturday, according to the Sun-Sentinel, receiving treatments for tissue damage in the hip. Mark Blount has started the past five games at C for the Heat, averaging 11.6 points on 59 percent shooting, 5.3 boards, and 2.6 turnovers in 30 minutes per game.
Michael Redd (GF – Milwaukee)
Redd has missed the past four games with a left thigh bruise, but Redd said "it looks good" in terms of a return to the lineup on Friday. Redd is not expected to start for at least his first game back, however. "I think he'll come off the bench and flow into it that way," said Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak.
Randy Foye (G – Minnesota)
A Monday CT scan and MRI revealed that the stress reaction in Foye's kneecap is healing well, and he was cleared by team doctors to resume practicing. He hasn't been cleared for contact drills, however, and he'll be brought along slowly. According to the Pioneer Press, the team will need to see how his knee reacts to at least a week of non-contact drills before his rehabilitation is taken up a notch. So he's at least a week away from full-scale practices, and it will likely be another few weeks of practices to get the rest of his body back into game shape – and that's a best-case scenario.
Nenad Krstic (FC – New Jersey)
Krstic is moving at a snail's pace in his current rehab, thanks to his previous setbacks. Although he's been participating in non-contract drills since before the first of the year, Krstic is merely "hopeful" that he'll be a full participant in practices sometime during the month of January.
Steve Nash (PG – Phoenix)
Nash left Wednesday's game in the third quarter because of the flu and will not be in the lineup on Thursday, according to The Arizona Republic. He received an IV at a Phoenix hospital Wednesday night and, although he's somewhat improved, was told by Suns head trainer Aaron Nelson to stay home on Thursday.
Grant Hill (GF – Phoenix)
Hill is expected to miss two to three weeks after undergoing an appendectomy on Wednesday night. Boris Diaw started at SF for the Suns on Wednesday (eight points, six rebounds, and seven assists in 41 minutes) and should see significant run while Hill is sidelined.
Kevin Martin (SG – Sacramento)
Martin (groin) went full speed in practice on Wednesday and even "took a couple of hard falls" without incident, according to Kings coach Reggie Theus, but he's not expected back in the lineup until Monday. "I think the team's medical staff is being cautious," added Theus. "They set a timeframe, and that's what they are working with."
Mike Bibby (PG – Sacramento)
Bibby (thumb) has been going full speed in recent practices, but has said that his return date remains firm as January 16, no matter how healthy he looks in the preceding days, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Chris Wilcox (FC – Seattle)
Wilcox, who has missed the past three games with a dislocated right pinkie finger, is expected to be a game-time decision on Saturday, according to The News Tribune
T.J. Ford (PG – Toronto)
The good news is that Ford has been cleared to resume basketball-related activities, with Raptors officials saying that it is looking "highly favourable for a full recovery and a return to basketball" for the injured PG. The bad news is that it's a complete unknown as to how this latest update will translate to an actual return to the court. According to the Toronto Star, he's going to continue his rehab away from the team in his hometown of Houston, with (still) no timetable for a return.
Andrei Kirilenko (F – Utah)
According to the Deseret Morning News, Kirilenko is doubtful for Thursday's matchup with the Suns. As of Wednesday, his aching lower back was bad enough that he had problems sitting for a long time. "It just locks me," said Kirilenko. "A little something's still there."
Buzz Index – adds
Joe Smith (PF – Chicago) 17,662 adds
Smith has been downright huge over the past five games, averaging 18.8 points on 49 percent shooting, 8.6 boards, and 2 blocks in 31 minutes per game.
Upshot: Smith is clearly feeling it right now, but it's ludicrous to expect him to maintain anywhere near these types of numbers. He's averaged 12.8 points, 6 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks in 25 minutes during his 18 starts – right in line with his career averages – and those types of numbers will likely win out in the end. In a nutshell, don't get too comfortable with 20/10 nights from the 32-year-old Smith.
Rashad McCants (G – Minnesota) 16,737 adds
McCants has blown up during the past three games, averaging 27.3 points on 58 percent shooting, 2.3 threes, 5.7 boards, and 3 assists in 31 minutes per game.
Upshot: McCants took advantage of two very good matchups (MIA, DEN) and had averaged just 5 points on 32 percent shooting in 20 minutes in the three games prior to the productive trio. I can't blame you for picking up McCants, but don't be surprised if another cold spell is just around the corner.
Mike Conley (G – Memphis) 13,033 adds
Conley has now made four starts for the Grizzlies, averaging 9.8 points, 4.5 boards, 6.3 assists, and 2 steals in 36 minutes per game.
Upshot: Damon Stoudamire is on his way out of town, so the only way Conley doesn't continue to start is if he is injured. Expectations shouldn't differ much from what we've already seen – not much offense, but help in assists, steals, and boards.
Nate Robinson (G – New York) 10,919 adds
Robinson has been taking advantage of consistent playing time, averaging 16.9 points on 49 percent shooting, 2.6 threes, 3.9 rebounds, and 3 assists in 31 minutes over the past nine games.
Upshot: Robinson's fantasy potential is no secret – he will remain a solid option as long as Mardy Collins and Fred Jones remain inactive, or until Knicks coach Isiah Thomas decides to adjust his role on another one of his whims.
Rafer Alston (PG – Houston) 7,286 adds
Alston has been the one to pick up the slack during Tracy McGrady's absence, averaging 18.1 points on 47 percent shooting, 2.4 threes, 3.3 boards, 6 assists, and 1.3 steals in 41 minutes over the past seven games.
Upshot: Don't get used to it. Alston is a career 39 percent shooter, inconsistency is the trademark of his game, and T-Mac will be back sooner than later. Alston owners should be frantically shopping him around their leagues as we speak.
Buzz Index – drops
Bonzi Wells (SG – Houston) 8,205 drops
Wells has averaged 6.3 points and 2 rebounds in 18 minutes over the past three games; he averaged 15.4 points, 7.8 boards, 1.6 steals, and 1 block in 32 minutes during the first five games that Tracy McGrady missed due to injury.
Lowdown: Despite the 15-plus points, Wells shot just 36 percent in those five games. He has been losing playing time to a combination of Luther Head, Luis Scola, and Aaron Brooks, and he's a marginal fantasy option without 30-plus minutes.
Keith Bogans (GF – Orlando) 7,346 drops
Bogans has been slowed by an ankle injury and averaged just 5 points on 37 percent shooting in 20 minutes over the past four games.
Lowdown: He's still managed to average 1.3 threes in those games, but there are probably a number of one-dimensional contributors in 3PTM currently sitting on waivers in your league. There is a chance that Maurice Evans will use this opportunity to seize the starting SG spot from Bogans, which would render him essentially useless in fantasy.
Michael Finley (GF – San Antonio) 7,300 drops
Finley was a high-volume drop after his 1-for-10 shooting performance on January 6, which also coincided with Manu Ginobili's return after five games on the inactive list.
Lowdown: Finley had 14 points and three treys in 41 minutes in his next game – it's not just a coincidence that he wasn't dropped too many times in the days before or after his off night. Finley should continue to see around 30 minutes per game and remain useful in fantasy while Brent Barry remains sidelined. Once Barry returns, his impact is likely to take a bit of a hit.
Damien Wilkins (GF – Seattle) 6,758 drops
The decline continues – over the past nine games, Wilkins has averaged 5.3 points on 34 percent shooting in 19 minutes per game.
Lowdown: This is a bit of a delayed reaction, as Wilkins hasn't been useful in fantasy since late November – he's averaged 6.1 points on 33 percent shooting over the past 16 games. He actually saw more than 30 minutes of action for the first time in a month on Wednesday (13 points in 31 minutes), but that will be the exception and not the rule unless Jeff Green plays his way out of the starting lineup and/or Wally Szczerbiak's ankles start to give him issues.
Yi Jianlian (PF – Milwaukee) 6,753 drops
Yi's rookie season continues to have its ups and downs – over the past five games, he's averaged 7 points on 33 percent shooting in 26 minutes per game.
Lowdown: He's also managed 6.2 boards, 1.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks in those games, however, so he hasn't exactly been useless. If you were expecting consistency on offense, you were looking in the wrong place to begin with. It's doubtful that the Bucks are going to pull him from the starting five any time soon, so he should continue to be a good – not great – fantasy option overall.
Eddy Curry Line Update
the Eddy Curry Line was originally established to put a spotlight on how truly anemic Curry's overall fantasy line is. It can be used to help establish which players are among the best and worst, in terms of efficiency of production, for fantasy basketball. The standard: a player must average more turnovers than assists, steals, and blocks combined – in order to qualify, a player must have appeared in at least half of his team's games and averaged at least 25 minutes of playing time.
EDDY CURRY LINE – BEST AND WORST (seasons since 1999-2000)
TOP 20 (Worst)
BOTTOM 20 (Best)
GP = games played
YR = year in which the player produced the stats MPG = minutes played per game
POS = positive stats accumulated to-date (assists + steals + blocks)
NEG = turnovers to-date
RATIO = amount of positive stats per turnover