Big Picture: Free Lee

The ever-growing "please make David Lee an NBA starter" contingent had quite a roller-coaster week. Lee was in the starting lineup last Wednesday, in place of Zach Randolph, as Isaiah Thomas unleashed this unexpectedly sensible assessment: "David is getting better and consequently, because he's getting better, you reward him with more minutes and more playing time." Of course, Z-Bo was having none of that. After the game, he said, "I haven't come off the bench in six or seven years, so I was shocked. I don't plan on coming off no bench for the rest of the season." Perhaps not coincidentally, Randolph was back in the starting lineup for the Knicks' next game, and so was Lee, this time at the expense of Eddy Curry. Curry was none-too-pleased. "It definitely bugs me. I think I'm a starter in this league. But I guess not on this team," he said. Perhaps not coincidentally, Lee was back on the bench for the Knicks' next game, with the Z-Bo/Curry Show back in full effect. As of my submitting this column, there have been no reports of a "shocked" or "perturbed" or "befuddled" Lee questioning his role with the Knicks. Sigh. Maybe next season.

Injury Report
Kenyon Martin (PF – Denver)
Although Martin is still bothered by a strained right hamstring, he is expected to be back in the lineup on Thursday, according to The Denver Post.

Tracy McGrady (GF – Houston)
McGrady is expected to be sidelined for another week to 10 days with a strained tendon in his left knee. "Normally, it's three weeks for that kind of strain," said Rockets trainer Keith Jones of the injury T-Mac originally suffered on December 20. Both Luther Head and Bonzi Wells should continue to make solid short-term options while T-Mac is sidelined.

Jamaal Tinsley (PG – Indiana)
Tinsley was shut down for "seven-to-10 days" to deal with pain in his left hamstring, according to Pacers coach Jim O'Brien, so he's likely to be out through the coming weekend. Andre Owens has started the past three games in his stead, averaging 12 points, 3 threes, and 1.3 steals in 34 minutes per game.

Tim Thomas (F – LA Clippers)
Thomas, who has missed the past four games with a sprained left knee, hopes to return to the court on Sunday, according to The Orange County Register.

Shaquille O'Neal (C – Miami)
Shaq estimated that his bruised left hip (an injury originally suffered on December 22) is at about 60 percent, according to The Miami Herald, and he's been told by team doctors to sit until he's "1,000 percent" healthy. "It's still sore. I feel it when I get ready to jump," said O'Neal. "I was ordered to stay out until it is right." Mark Blount and Earl Barron will man the middle for the Heat, with Blount having an outside shot at fantasy relevance.

Jason Williams (PG – Miami)
Williams has missed the past four games and continues to be questionable with tendinitis in his left knee. In the interim, Chris Quinn will start at PG as long as he's healthy enough to be in the lineup.

Dorell Wright (GF – Miami)
Wright sprained his left ankle on Saturday and is expected to be out around a week, according to The Miami Herald. Ricky Davis started in his stead at SF on Wednesday.

Randy Foye (G – Minnesota)
Foye has yet to play this season because of a stress reaction in his left kneecap. He's set to be re-evaluated on Monday and could be cleared to resume playing at that point, according to the Pioneer Press, as preliminary reports have been positive. "Hopefully, he'll be cleared to go," said Minnesota coach Randy Wittman. "He has no pain or anything."

Nenad Krstic (FC – New Jersey)
Krstic began participating in non-contact drills last week, with good results, according to the New York Post. "I am really happy," said Krstic. "I'm getting closer to being back for playing time." He remains on an indefinite timetable, however, adding that it was "hard to say" when he'll actually be ready to be activated.

Kevin Martin (SG – Sacramento)
Although a specific date has yet to be set, Martin says a return by the end of next week from his strained groin is "very realistic."

Ron Artest (SF – Sacramento)
Artest had surgery to remove bone chips in his right elbow on Wednesday and is expected to miss up to a month as he recovers. Hurry and pick up Francisco Garcia (18.9 points, 1.2 threes, 1.6 steals in his nine starts) if he's still available in your league.

Mike Bibby (PG – Sacramento)
Bibby participated in his first practice since suffering his thumb injury on Monday and continues to work towards his target return date of January 16.

Manu Ginobili (SG – San Antonio)
Ginobili is "on the right track" in regards to returning from his sprained left index finger, according to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. He's been practicing with the team this week with a brace on his left hand, but he's doubtful for Thursday night, according to the Express-News.

Kevin Durant (GF – Seattle)
Durant, who did not play on Monday because of a sprained left index finger, practiced Wednesday with "a little pain" but is expected to be in the starting lineup on Thursday, according to The Seattle Times.

Chris Wilcox (FC – Seattle)
Wilcox missed Monday's game with a sprained left knee and did not practice on Wednesday, but Sonics coach P.J. Carlesimo said it was "possible" that he'd play on Thursday night.

T.J. Ford (PG – Toronto)
Not too much of substance coming out of Toronto. According to the Toronto Sun, Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said that the club plans to pursue more professional opinions on Ford's injury, but he couldn't say when or from whom. It's fairly safe to assume that Ford isn't coming back any time in the near future.

Buzz Index – adds
Francisco Garcia (GF – Sacramento) 13,702 adds
Garcia has been starting at SF for the Kings since Ron Artest was lost to injury, averaging 20 points, 2.3 threes, 4.7 boards, 1.7 steals, and 1.7 blocks.
Upshot: Garcia should be universally owned at this point – he's looking at big minutes while Artest is out, even once Kevin Martin and Mike Bibby return. In nine starts on the season, Garcia has averaged 18.9 points, 1.2 threes, 4.3 boards, 1.6 steals, and 0.9 blocks.

Antonio Daniels (PG – Washington) 13,371 adds
Daniels returned to the starting lineup for the Wizards on Wednesday after a two-week stint on the inactive list with a knee injury, scoring 18 points in 35 minutes.
Upshot: With Gilbert Arenas out for six more weeks at the very least, Daniels is once again looking like a great fantasy option. In his 15 starts thus far on the season, he's averaged 11.5 points on 51 percent shooting, 4.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.3 steals, while making 84 percent of his free throws.

Michael Finley (GF – San Antonio) 12,141 adds Finley has been very nice for the Spurs over the past 11 games, averaging 14.6 points, 2.7 threes, and 5.1 boards in 30 minutes during that stretch.
Upshot: It's not a coincidence that this burst of offense coincides with Manu Ginobili's playing hurt and then missing games with a left finger injury. Feel free to pick up Fin-Dog, but be wary of his production taking a hit once Manu gets back to full strength.

Mike Conley (G – Memphis) 7,417 adds
Conley has been promoted to starting PG for the Grizz – he made his first start on Wednesday, totaling seven points, six boards, eight assists, and three steals in 35 minutes.
Upshot: Damon Stoudamire was inactive on Wednesday and is already asking out of Memphis, as it's clear that the 9-22 Grizzlies no longer have interest in giving the 35-year-old minutes at the expense of Conley (or Kyle Lowry). As for what to expect from the new starter: think plenty of assists, some steals, and low-volume offense, but a solid fantasy player overall.

Sean Williams (FC – New Jersey) 7,271 adds
Williams continues to start at PF for the Nets and was added to a number of fantasy teams after back-to-back games (December 28-29) in which he averaged 10 points, 10 boards, and 3.5 blocks in 34 minutes per game.
Upshot: Fantasy owners who exercise patience with Williams could be in for a payoff down the road (much like the Nets). He's averaged 9.4 points, 6.6 boards, 0.9 steals, and 2.6 blocks in 28 minutes of his nine starts, and those numbers will go up if he can get better at avoiding foul trouble (3.9 fouls in his nine starts).

Buzz Index – drops
Nazr Mohammed (C – Charlotte) 15,431 drops
Just when Mohammed was shaping up to be a solid fantasy starter, he was removed from the starting lineup – he's averaged 6 points, 5.3 boards, and 0.3 blocks in 20 minutes over the past three games as a reserve.
Lowdown: Well, we can't blame Nazr this time – he averaged 14.4 points, 11.8 boards, 1.2 steals, and 1.6 blocks in five starts before Bobcats coach Sam Vincent shook up the starting five. His reasoning was that Emeka Okafor struggles on defense when he's pulled away from the basket, and playing PF does exactly that. Sadly, it's hard to imagine that Nazr will see much more than 20 minutes over the rest of the season, barring an Okafor injury.

Roger Mason (PG – Washington) 7,923 drops
Antonio Daniels' return pushed Mason back to the bench, and he had just four points in 16 minutes on Wednesday.
Lowdown: Mason was effective as a starter, averaging 14.2 points, 2.4 threes, 3.6 assists, and 1 steal in 36 minutes of five games. His fantasy value is close to nil with a healthy Daniels, however.

Carlos Delfino (SG – Toronto) 7,797 drops
While Delfino had his first double-double of the season on December 22 (10 points, 11 rebounds), he's been largely unproductive for much of the past month, averaging 6.5 points on 33 percent shooting and 0.9 threes over the past 11 games.
Lowdown: The fact that Delfino is still owned in more than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues surprises me, given his game log – don't wait any longer for the high-volume threes to make another appearance.

Anthony Johnson (PG – Atlanta) 7,052 drops
The 34-year-old Johnson has been showing his age in recent games, averaging 6.8 points and 3.8 assists in 29 minutes over the past four games.
Lowdown: Just when it looked like Johnson was going to settle in as the Hawks' starting PG, he's gone on this streak of low-production games. Feel free to drop him if there is something better on waivers – thinking that we were in for a consistent 12/6 from Johnson was a pipe-dream, and Acie Law still figures largely in the team's plans.

Rashad McCants (G – Minnesota) 6,986 drops
McCants has posted three straight lackluster lines, averaging 5 points on 26 percent shooting in 20 minutes per game.
Lowdown: At his best, McCants is a low-efficiency source of points and threes. When he's at anything but his best, he's of little help to fantasy teams, thanks to low percentages and minimal supporting stats. If you don't need the threes, find a better across-the-board contributor. If you do need the threes, try your hardest to find another way to get them.

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 (as of 1/3)

TOP 10 (Worst)

GP

MPG

POS

NEG

RATIO

Eddy Curry

29

27.4

36

62

0.58:1

Zach Randolph

27

32.7

75

82

0.91:1

Reggie Evans

32

26.1

59

53

1.11:1

Shaquille O'Neal

29

28.4

106

86

1.23:1

Tyson Chandler

31

34.2

82

64

1.28:1

Mikki Moore

30

28.2

53

39

1.36:1

Kevin Durant

30

33.0

127

92

1.38:1

Corey Maggette

25

34.6

101

73

1.38:1

Rashad McCants

27

26.8

86

62

1.39:1

Drew Gooden

32

32.8

82

58

1.41:1

BOTTOM 10 (Best)

GP

MPG

POS

NEG

RATIO

Jose Calderon

32

28.6

288

44

6.55:1

Ben Wallace

28

32.5

148

27

5.48:1

Marcus Camby

29

34.4

229

42

5.45:1

Chris Paul

30

37.5

396

79

5.01:1

Rajon Rondo

29

31.8

211

45

4.69:1

Shawn Marion

31

36.9

174

38

4.58:1

Ronnie Brewer

34

29.7

152

36

4.22:1

Chauncey Billups

30

33.3

273

65

4.20:1

Jason Williams

25

31.8

170

41

4.15:1

Michael Finley

29

26.6

66

16

4.13:1

GP = games played
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

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