Big Picture: To the max

I like to mention the 'Maximum Games' link on fantasy team pages in roto leagues at two points during the season – at the beginning, when it makes sense to get a few games ahead of the pace to adjust for inevitable injuries, and right about now, with roughly six weeks remaining in the NBA regular season. Including Thursday, there are 41 calendar days remaining (regardless of the number of games on the specific days), and most teams have 21 or 22 games remaining on their schedule. That means you have around 19 or 20 off days for the majority of players from here on out. If you are six or eight games behind the pace at any given position, it's time to start using your bench players – judiciously, mind you – to make sure that you are looking at straight zeros in the 'Remaining' column when it's all said and done. For much of the middle of the season, you set your lineup and let it ride, adjusting for hot and cold streaks, injuries, and add/drops. Now is the time to start throwing the max games consideration into the mix as well. Don't underestimate how those few extra games played can make a difference in the standings when the final horn sounds.

Injury and Status Updates
Gerald Wallace (GF – Charlotte)
Although he has yet to return to practice, Wallace has been going through intensive individual workouts to see if exertion will trigger more post-concussion problems, according to the Charlotte Observer. If all goes well, there is a chance that he'll be back in the lineup as soon as March 12.

Tyrus Thomas (F – Chicago)
Thomas has been suspended for the Bulls' next two games (Thursday and Friday) for an unexcused absence from Wednesday's team practice.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas (C – Cleveland)
Big Z is expected to be out at least through the end of next week while he deals with pain in his lower back that has lingered for most of the season. Even if that timetable proves to be accurate, don't be shocked if his contributions are marginal leading up to the start of the NBA playoffs.

Dirk Nowitzki (PF – Dallas)
Nowitzki will not be in the lineup on Thursday as he serves a one-game suspension for his flagrant foul on Andrei Kirilenko on Monday.

Andris Biedrins (C – Golden State)
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Biedrins is hopeful that he can return to the lineup on Friday. He's felt winded in recent practices, however, and doesn't want to come back when he can only play "five minutes or 10 minutes." Added Biedrins, "I want to be in good shape, so we'll see how I feel Friday."

Chris Webber (FC – Golden State)
Webber is expected to miss the next two games because of a sore left knee, although a Monday MRI revealed no structural damage, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. C-Webb has averaged 3.9 points and 3.6 boards in 14 minutes of nine games since signing with the Warriors.

Jamaal Tinsley (PG – Indiana)
Tinsley is now paying for trying to play through his left knee pain, something he injured all the way back on Dec. 15. "I think about why I didn't shut it down a lot," said Tinsley. "But being a player, you always want to fight through things, and sometimes the best thing to do is sit down, especially after the year I was having." Tinsley added that he's "trying" to come back this season, but is still in pain and currently even walks with a slight limp, so the odds that he suits up again are somewhere between slim and none.

Jermaine O’Neal (FC – Indiana)
When discussing O'Neal's chances of a return, you make quotation marks in the air with your hands a lot. He remains "hopeful" that he'll be back "sometime" "soon" but he has said that he "absolutely" won't return unless he's "100 percent." He could be back before the end of March, but then again, he might not. Through all of this, he's been adamant that the goal of sitting now is to be back to "All-Star form" next season.

Elton Brand (FC – LA Clippers)
Although Brand has been cleared to return to full-contact practices, Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy anticipates that he won't return to game action for around a month. "It would make no sense to throw him out there when he's not in absolutely great shape because he might injure something else," said Dunleavy. "I talked to him [Wednesday] about it and explained the same thing. I don't want a pulled groin. I don't want a pulled hamstring. I don't want any of those things." While Dunleavy expects Brand to play at some point this season, he compared Brand's timetable for returning to game action to a healthy player in training camp, who gets about a month to prepare for the start of the regular season. It appears that Brand will make an appearance for the final eight to 10 games of the regular season, at best.

Andrew Bynum (C – LA Lakers)
As mentioned in Monday's Skinny, Bynum's timeframe for a return is now being called late March or early April, according to the Los Angeles Times. A straight drop isn't looking like a bad move at this point, as he's likely to see limited minutes initially, regardless of when he comes back.

Udonis Haslem (PF – Miami)
Haslem missed Wednesday's game because of a family emergency, but he expects to be back with the team for their game on Friday, according to the Associated Press.

Dorell Wright (GF – Miami)
Wright will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery Monday to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Expect Ricky Davis to play a lot of minutes down the stretch, particularly if Dwyane Wade shuts it down at some point.

Michael Redd (GF – Milwaukee)
Redd left Wednesday's game early after an accidental head-butt left him needing six stitches. He's day-to-day at this point, but isn't likely to miss Friday's game.

Mo Williams (PG – Milwaukee)
Williams missed Wednesday's game with an abdominal strain and is currently listed as day-to-day. Fantasy owners can only hope that it doesn't turn into a KG-like stretch of missed games.

David West (PF – New Orleans)
West was a late scratch Wednesday due to a sore left ankle – he rolled it Monday night, but stayed in the game, then missed a Tuesday practice and the Wednesday shootaround, according to the Associated Press. He's likely to be a game-time decision once again on Friday.

Zach Randolph (PF – New York)
Randolph was a late scratch because of his bruised right foot Wednesday after declaring himself ready to play during the team's shootaround Wednesday morning, according to the New York Times. He's day-to-day at this point.

Andrea Bargnani (FC – Toronto)
Bargnani left Wednesday's game after taking an elbow to the head and subsequently hitting his head on the floor. He remained on the floor for a few minutes and suffered from blurry vision for about 30 seconds, according to the Toronto Star. Initial X-rays were negative, but he's scheduled to be re-evaluated in Toronto on Thursday.

Chris Bosh (FC – Toronto)
Bosh remains out indefinitely with a sore right knee that has made little or no progress since last week, according to the Toronto Sun. "I think it's too early to pinpoint a return date," said Bosh. "I'm still waiting for it to start progressing. It's the same old."

Andrei Kirilenko (F – Utah)
AK remains sidelined after a flagrant foul by Dirk Nowitzki on Monday. "I feel like my leg went one way, my body the other way, and I feel like very sharp pain in the groin," said Kirilenko. He's already been ruled out for Friday, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, and he's currently walking with the help of a crutch, although X-rays showed no structural damage.

Caron Butler (SF – Washington)
There are no official updates to Butler's status, but the Washington Post is reporting that a source close to Butler said that he is feeling better and hopes to be cleared to test his hip in practice at some point in the next two weeks.

Gilbert Arenas (PG – Washington)
Arenas practiced for the first time since his Nov. 21 knee surgery on Tuesday. According to the Washington Post, he said his knee felt fine and he wasn't as tired after practicing as he thought he would be. While this is a very positive step for Arenas, he remains on an indefinite timetable and will remain cautious. "It's not, 'Hey, my knee feels good so I'm going to go out and play tomorrow,' " said Arenas. "It's not going to be one of those deals."

Buzz Index – Adds
Travis Diener (G – Indiana) 12,293 adds
Diener continues to start for the injured Jamaal Tinsley, who appears more and more likely to be done for the season as the days and weeks pass. In eight games since the All-Star break, Diener has averaged 11.4 points, 1.3 threes, 6.5 assists (versus just 1.1 turnovers), and 0.8 steals, while making 90 percent of his free throws.
Upshot: The Ronald Murray signing was a pretty good hint that the Pacers don't expect Tinsley back. While Murray is set to back up both guard spots, he could affect Diener's minutes at least slightly, although it's unlikely that Diener will dip below 30 on average over the season's final six weeks.

Beno Udrih (PG – Sacramento) 10,750 adds
Udrih's ownership numbers are now much closer to universal thanks to 20-plus points in four of the past five games. His averages during those five games include 22.6 points on 56 percent shooting, 3.8 boards, 5.8 assists and 1.2 steals.
Upshot: Udrih's numbers in his 41 starts on the season are a very useful 14.6 points on 47 percent shooting, 1.1 threes, 3.6 boards, 5.1 assists and 1.2 steals. If those don't play in your league, you should think about expanding the number of teams and/or starting roster positions next season.

Matt Carroll (GF – Charlotte) 10,070 adds
Jared Dudley (GF – Charlotte) 8,796 adds
The combination of Gerald Wallace's concussion and the release of Jeff McInnis has opened up significant playing time for Carroll and Dudley. Carroll has averaged 15.4 points, 2.4 threes, 6.2 boards and 1.8 steals in 37 minutes over the past five games, including four starts. Dudley has two double-doubles in the past four games and has averaged 12.5 points on 63 percent shooting, 9.5 boards, 1.8 steals and 0.8 blocks in 35 minutes during that stretch.
Upshot: Amazingly, recent reports put G-Wall's target return date at March 12, so it appears that the Bobcats are throwing caution to the wind when it comes to the potential for him to re-injure himself down the stretch. Carroll and Dudley are great short-term plays in the interim, and could hold their value if Wallace's cranium isn't a huge fan of full-contact practices.

Luis Scola (FC – Houston) 7,938 adds
Scola has averaged 15 points on 66 percent shooting, 7 boards and 1.3 steals in four games since Yao Ming was lost for the season.
Upshot: Those numbers would be even better if he had averaged more than 27 minutes, but three of the four games were blowout wins. He's a great pickup in any format.

Buzz Index – Drops
Tyrus Thomas (F – Chicago) 10,975 drops
It's been a rough week for Thomas. He was replaced in the starting lineup two games ago, had zero points and four fouls in nine minutes on Tuesday, and has been suspended by the team for two games for missing Wednesday's practice.
Lowdown: It appears that we're going to have to wait a bit longer for Thomas' breakout, which at this point has lost at least a bit of its inevitability. His freakish athleticism has yet to trump his maddening inconsistency, but granted he is only 21-years-old. You may have heard this before, but how good would this guy look in a Bulls uniform?

Josh Boone (FC – New Jersey) 6,497 drops
Boone has had some poor games lately, averaging 6 points and 5 boards in 23 minutes over the past three.
Lowdown: He's mostly been the victim of the matchups, as two of those games were against Tim Duncan and the Spurs and the other was against Memphis' small lineup. His averages since the All-Star break are still pretty good – 8.9 points on 60 percent shooting, 8.1 boards and 1.1 blocks in 27 minutes per game. He's obviously not someone you can plug in every night, but take a look at his game log and you'll see good numbers more often than not.

Mike Conley (G – Memphis) 6,288 drops
Conley's play has been a roller coaster in recent weeks. After putting together a string of solid games in late February, he's averaged just 4 points on 26 percent shooting, and 1.5 assists in 19 minutes over his past four games.
Lowdown: Conley's middling averages in 25 starts now stand at 9.5 points on 43 percent shooting, 0.5 threes, 2.3 boards, 4.6 assists and 1.2 steals in 28 minutes per game. Unless you are in a deep league, there is likely to be a more reliable option on waivers. Kyle Lowry has posted 16.3 points on 51 percent shooting, 4.8 assists, and 1.8 steals in 30 minutes over the past four games. If he supplants the struggling Conley as the starter, he’s worth a pickup.

Tim Thomas (F – LA Clippers) 6,194 drops
Thomas hit waivers while missing the past three games due to a groin injury. He's averaged 13.4 points, 1.5 threes, 5.6 boards and 3 assists in his 42 starts on the season.
Lowdown: Fantasy owners, particularly in H2H leagues, have little patience for injured players at this point of the season, and for good reason. He'll get a look once he's back in the lineup, but his inefficiency counteracts his positives for the most part as it is.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas (C – Cleveland) 5,710 drops
Ilgauskas is expected to miss "at least" two weeks because of lingering pain in his lower back.
Lowdown: Cutting Big Z at this point makes sense if you are fighting for a playoff spot in a H2H league or otherwise have the chance to pick up a reliable replacement off the wire. Unless the Cavs start losing bunches of games, there's a decent chance that Ilgauskas isn't pressed back into much action before the NBA playoffs begin, as he's been dealing with the pain for most of the season.

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.


TOP 10 (Worst)







Eddy Curry







Zach Randolph







Shaquille O'Neal







Andres Nocioni







Jeff Green







Drew Gooden







Rashad McCants







Corey Maggette







Carmelo Anthony







Yao Ming







BOTTOM 10 (Best)







Jose Calderon







Marcus Camby







Chris Paul







Jason Williams







Ben Wallace







Jamario Moon







Chauncey Billups







Dorell Wright







Shawn Marion







Rasheed Wallace







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
DIFF = difference in ratio since previous update

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