It was good to see the Hornets return to New Orleans and, at least for a night, lose the /Oklahoma City from their moniker. It's been pretty easy to forget the Herculean effort that is still needed in that area because it no longer dominates the headlines as it did when, and immediately after, Hurricane Katrina rolled through. The fact that they were able to hold the first pro sporting event since the devastation is a testament to hard work and dedication of the people of New Orleans.
Some Random Observations
It's decision time for Emeka Okafor's fantasy owners. The second-year power forward is still only able to walk on his right ankle – he can't yet cut or run on it despite the fact that his sprain was at this point ten weeks ago. There is no timeline for his return, and there is a definite chance that Okafor will not return this season, although when asked he said, "I'm aiming for it." That's the same ambiguity that has surrounded his injury since he went on the IL. It appears that his contributions for the rest of the season will be somewhere between little and none. If you have the extra roster spot and can continue to ride out an indefinite period of uncertainty, then by all means do so. However, if you are at the point where adding an active player could make or break your place in the standings, cutting ties with Okafor now appears to be a logical move.
Jamaal Tinsley is finally back for the Pacers – he sat out six weeks with a right elbow injury before playing nine minutes on Tuesday versus the Knicks. He won't be rushed back in the least bit, having already sat out 32 of the Pacers 58 games to this point in the season, but he will knock Anthony Johnson's value down a bit from its recent peak. Don't expect Tinsley to unseat Johnson as the starter any time soon, but the Pacers will surely make an effort to work Tinsley into their rotation with the playoffs on their minds. Johnson, Tinsley, and Sarunas Jasikevicius will all see time at the point for the stretch run, and as a result no one in particular will be of immense value as a fantasy player. Johnson is likely to be the best of the bunch, but his value won't be much better than marginal.
LeBron James didn't lead the Cavaliers in points scored in the 106-99 win over the Raptors on Tuesday – it was the first time he had not since January 20, a span of 24 games. Ronald Murray led the Cavs with 24 points on 8 of 16 shooting, and is asserting himself in the offense now that he has a firm grasp on the starting role – over the past six games, Murray has averaged over 42 minutes per game. His offensive numbers have been sporadic, however – he's made less than 25 percent of his shots in two games and more than 50 percent in another two. Overall, he's put up 14.3 points on 33 percent shooting, 2.5 boards, 3.3 assists, and 1.7 steals. Those are fairly modest numbers overall, and if he continues to shoot at that pace it will be difficult to find space for him in fantasy lineups.
Don't be surprised if Wally Szczerbiak's minutes (and subsequent numbers) take a hit in the coming weeks – his left knee continues to give him issues, in particular in the fourth quarter of games. Celtics coach Doc Rivers is trying to implement a plan that would keep Szczerbiak under 35 minutes every night, and 32 if possible, according to The Providence Journal. Close contests have led to them meeting that 35-minute goal just once in the past seven games, however. The team hopes to limit his minutes in the first half, so that he is strong for the final period, where his knee has been tight and "starts locking" according to Szczerbiak. The pain in his knee became a real issue right before the All-Star break, and his splits tell a bit of the story – his numbers are down since the break (15.9 points on 45 percent shooting, 3.8 boards) as compared to before (19.4 points on 49 percent shooting, 4.7 boards).
Josh Childress (GF, Atlanta) – Childress has missed two games since spraining his ankle on March 3. He is considered day-to-day and will likely be a game-time decision for the Hawks' next game on Saturday versus the Bulls.
Delonte West (G, Boston) – West, battling a groin strain, will "hopefully" miss only one more game and be able to return to action on Sunday – his status will remain unclear until the weekend, however. Orien Greene has been in the starting lineup during West's absence.
Kenyon Martin (PF, Denver) – Martin is expected to play Thursday when the Nuggets travel to Philadelphia, according to the Denver Post.
Grant Hill (SF, Orlando) – Hill was inactive for Monday's game versus Utah because he felt discomfort in his lower abdominal area during the morning shoot-around according to the Orlando Sentinel. He will likely be a game-time decision for the Magic's next game on Friday versus Cleveland. If Hill cannot go, Hedo Turkoglu will once again get the start.
Steve Nash (PG, Phoenix) – Nash received treatment on Tuesday for an ankle sprain that is not considered serious, according to the East Valley Tribune. He skipped practice Wednesday and according to Suns coach Mike D'Antoni is "probable" for Thursday's matchup with the Spurs – D'Antoni added that he would let Nash himself make the decision as to whether or not he will play.
Amare Stoudemire (FC, Phoenix) – Stoudemire has experienced inflammation in his right knee (not his surgically repaired left knee) this past week, according to The Arizona Republic, possibly related to a calf strain that he suffered previously, but it is not something that is considered serious. Stoudemire participated in his first full-court 5-on-5 activity yesterday, and said he is a little stiff right now. Wednesday "wasn't really a full day of busting out" however, and the real test will come once he starts to become fully involved in team practices.
Joel Przybilla (C, Portland) – Przybilla will miss at least another week because of tendonitis in his right knee, according to The Oregonian. Theo Ratliff was back in the lineup on Tuesday after missing 10 games with a sprained ankle and should see the lion's share of the minutes (with Brian Skinner coming off the bench) until Przybilla is able to return.
Nick Collison (FC, Seattle) – Collison will be out at least four weeks with a partial tear of the plantar fascia in his left foot. Chris Wilcox started in his place on Wednesday against the Grizzlies, scoring eight points and grabbing eight boards in 27 minutes, and will be a major benefactor during Collison's down-time. If Wilcox is currently available in your league, now would be a good time to go get him.
Stat of the Week
Ryan Gomes' 29 points (3/8 versus Philadelphia) on Wednesday night were a career-high, besting his previous high of 27 that he scored … the night before. The more playing time he gets, the tougher it becomes to rationalize taking it away so that fellow youngster Al Jefferson can get on the court. In 12 games as a starter, Gomes has averaged 15.1 points on 61 percent shooting and 8.7 boards in just over 38 minutes of playing time. The Celtics had lost six straight games before Gomes' first start and, perhaps by coincidence (or perhaps thanks to Paul Pierce), have won eight of the 12 games since.
Line of the Week
Pau Gasol (3/8 at Seattle)
21 points (8-12 FG, 5-7 FT), 12 rebounds, 12 assists, 4 steals, 3 blocks, 3 turnovers
Gasol didn't go on a scoring barrage but he registered his first career triple-double and a career-high for assists in the 99-74 win over the Sonics on Wednesday. Combine the triple-double and his stellar defensive numbers with his quality-over-quantity approach on offense, and you have an easy choice for this week's winner.
Others with consideration: Paul Pierce (3/8), Jason Richardson (3/7), Allen Iverson (3/3)