Daily Dose: Run Ricky Run

Aaron Bruski
Jonas Nader breaks down Thursday's five-game slate including the latest news on Pau Gasol and Ricky Rubio

Dose: Rubio and Pau go Down

Jonas Nader breaks down Thursday's five-game slate including the latest news on Pau Gasol and Ricky Rubio

We’re at the point in the season where most of our cards are on the table, but owners will be on red alert trying to find the unknown whale that alters a fantasy league.  Tobias Harris has the look of a whale that has already surfaced, but beyond that it’s slim pickings on that front.  With 11 games on the slate tonight maybe we’ll see another whale surface before long. 

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There really isn’t much to say other than it was the Dwight Howard show in his return to Orlando, and the situation couldn’t have been much better considering at least 1/3 of the arena was Lakers fans and the Magic aren’t a good basketball team.  For his part, he responded to the challenge of the evening, which was the hack-a-Dwight strategy employed by Jacque Vaughn.  Howard hit just 2-of-9 freebies to start the night but ended up going 23-of-29 from there, as Vaughn had the look of a gambler desperately chasing his initial bad bet.  He finished with a season-high 39 points, 16 boards, one steal and three blocks, which of course was supplemented by a Lakers team that gave him plenty of touches and that might be the best takeaway of the night for fans and owners alike.  The team had his back, if anything for one night, and that’s a far cry from the drama going on a few weeks back. 

Everybody else took a back seat to Howard, with Kobe Bryant scoring 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting with seven rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two threes, Steve Nash scoring 11 points with two assists, Metta World Peace scoring 14 points with two threes, Earl Clark managing just six points and four rebounds to go with a steal and block, Jodie Meeks scoring 11 points with two threes, and Antawn Jamison scoring 10 points with eight boards but no threes.  Clark, Meeks and Jamison aren’t must-own players, but each of them will have a shot at producing in the Lakers’ relatively strong schedule following their two-game set next week. 

Pau Gasol is basically practicing and running and he’s in the early stages of doing that, but at least one beat writer threw out the possibility that he returns next week.  Others said that wouldn’t be likely.  Regardless, the Lakers are probably going to make the playoffs and they need to integrate him sooner rather than later to try to get some semblance of chemistry.  I think he has a shot at returning for the 4-3-4 portion of their remaining schedule before the season’s meaningless week.  Unless I’m fighting for my life, I’m stashing him wherever I can find him. 


Tobias Harris had some folks talking about his All Star appearance next season, and while that seems very premature he sure does look like a steal for the Magic.  He scored 17 points on 7-of-17 shooting (including three treys) with 15 rebounds, one steal and three blocks in 40 minutes.  Boosting his value is the leadership role he appears to be taking with the team right off the bat, which isn’t to say he’s usurping those roles from the veterans on the squad – but instead just playing hard-nose basketball while bringing the right attitude to the game.  He shouldn’t have been on wires, but if he somehow is stop what you’re doing and grab him. 

Nikola Vucevic (six points, 11 boards, one block, 30 minutes) rolled his right ankle mid-way through last night’s game but returned quickly and played a relatively normal assortment of minutes.  It didn’t look serious and we don’t even have him on the injury report in case of next-day swelling, but we’ll keep our ear to the ground.  Jameer Nelson scored 21 points with seven assists, Arron Afflalo scored 17 points, and Maurice Harkless scored 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting (including a three) with four rebounds and two steals in 27 minutes.  Harkless hasn’t broken out like Harris but he has still been a late-round value and is worth owning in most standard formats – for his current low-end production and the chance he improves. 


Paul Pierce was given the day off and the Celtics might as well have stayed home as they got trounced by the Bobcats.  Kevin Garnett (five points, 2-of-10 FGs, two rebounds) has hit just 14-of-45 shots in his last three games and could be up for the next break, but with the low workload tonight in the blowout he might have dodged a bullet in that respect.  Still, I’m betting he’ll get at least one game off here in the next few weeks.  

Jeff Green started for Pierce but didn’t break out with 14 points and just three rebounds and a steal, Brandon Bass had a decent game with 10 points, seven boards, two steals and a block, and Jordan Crawford got some garbage time numbers with 14 points and two assists.  I’m not moving on Bass and if I owned anybody in the guard collection I wouldn’t drop them based on this stinker, even if it will be hard to do that with Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley, and Jason Terry all struggling last night.  The Celtics play four games next week so give everybody a little bit of added consideration if you’re looking for short-term plays. 


Josh McRoberts started over Byron Mullens because Mullens isn’t rebounding the ball, and to make matters worse for Mullens’ owners he suffered a back injury during the game and didn’t return.  I benched him in the one spot I own him still and I’ll be cutting him this weekend barring some unlikely return to prominence.  Whatever is going on in Charlotte with he and Mike Dunlap is not worth betting on if or when he gets healthy. 

McRoberts showed well in his start with 13 points, 10 rebounds, a steal, a three and a 5-of-6 shooting line, and with Mullens’ situation cloudy he’s worth an add even if he’s not a must-add player at this time.  If Mullens stays out there is a good chance he holds low-end value due to his versatility and the Bobcats’ lack of interior assets, so I wouldn’t be afraid to pull the trigger if I need a big man. 

Gerald Henderson has lucked out with the injury to Ramon Sessions and the disintegration of Mullens, and he put up a career-high 35 points on 11-of-19 shooting with a three, a block, and a 12-of-12 mark from the foul line.  The Bobcats are not likely to blow any team out for the rest of the year, let alone a playoff contender, so owners should keep this in mind when evaluating these two guys.  That said, Henderson should be owned in all formats.  Ben Gordon fits that storyline with his 17 points and three treys last night, but he’s worth a look with Sessions out. 


Bradley Beal (ankle) did not play and I get the sense he’s in the day-to-day zone rather than the week-to-week zone.  This would have seemingly left the door wide open for Trevor Ariza to keep up the good work, but he hurt his knee and didn’t play in the second half.  Trevor Booker (two points, four rebounds, 13 minutes) and Chris Singleton (tow points, four rebounds, one steal, 11 minutes) are the guys likely to mop up Ariza’s minutes if he misses time, but neither are strong speculative adds in standard leagues.  With Beal coming back sooner or later, I wouldn’t hold an inconsistent Ariza at the expense of a hot free agent.

John Wall is pushing for a big extension and picked up the slack in a big way with 27 points on 7-of-15 shooting (13-of-14 FTs, no threes), seven rebounds, 14 assists, one steal and one block, as did Emeka Okafor (18 points, 11 boards, one steal, two blocks), Nene (15 points, 10 boards), and Martell Webster (17 points, five treys, four boards, one steal, 42 minutes).  All of these guys should be owned in most formats. 


Since the last time I checked in with you guys we were trying to figure out the Kyrie Irving situation, and one way or another he is bent on killing owners down the stretch, this time with a shoulder injury.  There is no doubting the talent, but he’ll enter next season with durability question marks – which will keep him affordable on draft day.  In the meantime, Shaun Livingston (12 points, six assists) looks like a decent low-end option right now with Irving’s season in doubt. 

Dion Waiters (20 points, 5-of-13 FGs, no threes, 10-of-14 FT, six boards, three assists, one steal) looks like a must-start option the rest of the way, and Alonzo Gee (17 points, 5-of-15 FGs, four treys, two boards, three assists, one steal) could see a bump in value making him worth a look.  C.J. Miles (10 points, two threes, two steals) could also become a reliable 3-point shooter for your squad with scoring now even more of a problem in Cleveland.  Consider Wayne Ellington (12 points, one three) a poor man’s version of Miles.  Tyler Zeller (four points, three boards, no steals or blocks) and Marreese Speights (zero points, six boards) continue to cancel out what little value they have. 


Jeff Teague’s ankle injury was the buzz-kill of the night from Atlanta’s side of the line in their loss to the Heat.  He was apparently able to return but didn’t, perhaps because of the lopsided score, and finished with 12 points, three rebounds, four assists, two threes and a steal in his 24 minutes.  With the Lakers on the docket tonight, hopefully he was just being held out with that in mind, and we’ll be tracking the injury very closely.  Devin Harris (seven points, four assists, one three, one steal, 19 minutes) is the logical beneficiary and could be a sneaky pickup if there is more than meets the eye to Teague’s injury, but I’d stop short of calling him a must-add player right now. 

Anthony Tolliver was in owners’ crosshairs last night as he drew a start to matchup with the Heat’s small lineup, but failed to score on two shot attempts to go with five rebounds and a steal in 25 minutes.  He’s too hit-or-miss to be relied upon in standard formats, but if you’re in a deeper format you may choose to gamble on him if you’re in a pinch.  Zaza Pachulia (Achilles) sounds like he could be done for the year, and with the entire team struggling last night it’s possible Tolliver could bounce back when everybody is playing better.  I’d throw this box score in the garbage if you’re assessing Kyle Korver (three points, 1-of-5 FGs, one three, four boards), and Al Horford (12 points, six boards) and Josh Smith (15 points, six boards, one steal, one block) should go berserk if Teague misses time, though their efficiency will likely take a hit. 


The Heat won their 19th game in a row last night against the Hawks and I recently said on ESPN Hawaii that they are starting to look like the Jordan Bulls teams of the 90s.  It isn’t so much the styles of play or a value statement regarding where this Heat team ranks among the greats, but more a referendum on James, who can literally do whatever he wants on the floor now.  Their great weakness will be against any team with a dominant center, but any team with a player like James and the supporting cast he has is going to be the odds-on favorite to take it all. 

James scored just 15 points last night on 3-of-11 shooting but touched it up with seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a 9-of-12 mark from the line, and Dwyane Wade picked up his slack with 23 points, four rebounds, six assists and five steals as he continues to reward owners that looked beyond his bad start.  Chris Bosh had just three rebounds to go with his 14 points and two blocks, and Mario Chalmers showed up with 14 points, four treys, three boards, five assists, three steals and one block.  If Chalmers can keep it up he’ll be a sneaky pickup with the Heat’s 4-4-3-4 remaining schedule. 


Ryan Anderson (illness) was a surprise scratch, which left plenty of opportunities available for Greivis Vasquez (15 points, 14 assists), Eric Gordon (24 points, three treys, not much else), and Anthony Davis (17 points, 8-of-13 FGs, 11 boards, one steal, five blocks).  It’s games like this that make Davis such an intriguing fantasy asset, as he has the tools to be an elite fantasy play as long as he gets minutes, touches, and stays healthy.  Somewhere, Monty Williams answered his miniature cell phone.  The Hornets don’t have any more back-to-back games so it’s possible Gordon can be a factor down the stretch, but go sacrifice a bucket of KFC if you’re banking on that. 

One would have thought Al-Farouq Aminu would have been freed to produce with Anderson out, but he managed just two points on 1-of-4 shooting with three rebounds over 22 minutes before being benched.  It’s been his story all season, as he produces just enough to get into owners’ lineups before ultimately disappointing them.  If you can figure out that math, he’ll still have some value but owners can definitely exchange Aminu for a hot free agent.  Robin Lopez went for 15 and eight with a block, and with Anderson out owners have to take that line with a grain of salt.  I’m still not on board with owning Lopez in a standard league unless I’m totally big man desperate. 


Joe Johnson’s heel acted up and C.J. Watson started in his place, but Watson managed just four points on 1-of-5 shooting to go with four rebounds, one assist and one steal in 33 minutes.  Even if Johnson misses more time, the inconsistency Watson has shown isn’t endearing and he’s just a desperation spot-play going forward.  Andray Blatche picked up the scoring slack with 18 points on 9-of-15 shooting, five rebounds, three assists and a block in 28 minutes, and with Kris Humphries totally out of the picture he’s worth a look in deeper leagues.  P.J. Carlesimo said after the game he could use Blatche more often with Brook Lopez (26 points, five boards, one steal, three blocks). 

Deron Williams hit just 7-of-19 shots but still racked up 21 points, 13 assists, three steals and two threes.  Maybe the national criticism is getting to him and he can keep up his recent pace.  Gerald Wallace complained about late-game playing time and sort-of backed his talk up with 13 points on 3-of-9 shooting (7-of-9 FTs) with eight rebounds and two steals in 29 minutes.  He’s worth watching but he’s not a must-own player until he can improve and stay consistent. 


Tim Duncan (knee) and Kawhi Leonard (knee) were casualties of Pop, and I wouldn’t read into too much regarding these injuries being a major factor.  Spurs beat writers openly talked about this decision as one to keep the players fresh.  Even with those guys out, you can bet that Pop pulled out his remaining hair as the Spurs got walloped by the Wolves, leaving a mostly disastrous box score behind in the process.  Manu Ginobili hit just 2-of-10 shots for seven points with just one assist, Danny Green survived with 10 points, two threes and a steal, and Tiago Splitter hit 1-of-10 shots for four points, 11 boards, three assists and a steal.

Stephen Jackson did well in his start for Leonard with 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting with three treys, five boards, a steal and a block.  He’d need an unlikely bad report on Leonard to be worth consideration in most formats.  Matt Bonner drew the start for Duncan and didn’t do anything with it, scoring two points on 1-of-4 shooting with six boards in 19 minutes, while Boris Diaw posted a boring six points, four rebounds and four steals with a 3-of-11 mark from the field.  

Cory Joseph continues to start and he wasn’t a ghost last night like previous games, scoring 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting (including a three) with two rebounds, three assists and a block in 26 minutes, while Nando De Colo got some extra run with the game out of hand and finished with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting, four rebounds, two assists and a three in 20 minutes.  Patrick Mills scored eight points on 2-of-7 shooting with two threes, six assists and a steal, and none of the point guard crew is on the radar outside of Joseph in very deep formats.  Gary Neal played seven minutes and put up goose eggs across the board. 


Andrei Kirilenko (quad) and Nikola Pekovic were ruled out for last night’s game early in the day, and then ruled out for tonight’s game right around the time games tipped off.  Whether or not they can go for their two remaining games this week is anybody’s guess, as the Wolves aren’t playing for anything and at the same time if we take the injury report at its word these guys were close. 

This has left Ricky Rubio free to do his thing and that meant the first triple-double of his career.  He scored 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting with 13 rebounds, 12 assists, a block and a three.  Yowza.  Rubio won’t be this good going forward, obviously, but with the team’s core hurting he’s the guy they’re going to lean on so owners have to be thrilled. 

Alexey Shved tossed me a bone even though I’ve long dropped him across the board, scoring 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting with three treys, three boards, seven assists, one steal and one block in 30 minutes off the bench.  I mentioned within the past week or two that we’d eventually learn why he had been struggling so bad – whether it was his ankle, hitting the rookie wall, or something else – and that something else was a bout of pouting that Rick Adelman addressed with him prior to the game.  Maybe it was the kick-in-the-pants he needed and he should be on owners’ radars, even if one good game isn’t enough to justify an add in most standard formats.  If we’re guessing, Chase Budinger (knee) is going to return around the end of March, and J.J. Barea (17 points, five treys, five boards, five assists) has been a much better asset than Shved lately.

 If you took a flier on Mickael Gelabale (five points, five boards, one block, one three, 26 minutes) in a deeper league you were likely disappointed, but I wouldn’t use a blowout situation as the tipping point for a decision, especially with guys banged up. 


Shawn Marion (calf) did not play and the Mavs still pulled out a win on the road in Milwaukee, as the obvious beneficiary Vince Carter led the way with 23 points, four treys, three boards and three assists.  Hot again, he’s worth owning in standard leagues with any more missed time for Marion being a cherry on top. 

Darren Collison’s disappearing act continued as he played just 17 minutes off the bench, scoring eight points on 2-of-8 shooting with no assists.  Starter Mike James logged 31 minutes and scored 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting with six rebounds, seven assists and a three which puts him in the standard league conversation, but he’s not in the clear with Collison more likely to bounce back than not.  Collison did miss some time with an eye injury tonight, but it’s not clear whether that or James’ effectiveness was the cause for his low minutes, and it was likely the latter. 

Jae Crowder had that game everybody was hoping for during the preseason, scoring 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting with eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and two threes over 36 minutes at his old home floor from his Marquette days.  Since Marion doesn’t sound like he’ll be out much longer, we’ll need to see Crowder do it again before giving him much consideration after an invisible year.  O.J. Mayo’s ankle injury didn’t seem to impact him though his 14 points, three assists, two threes and a steal aren’t great signs of usage.  I wouldn’t worry about him in general, though.  Dirk Nowitzki went for 19 and 11 with a full line and has been solid for owners dealing with the early season absence. 


Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (turf toe) did not play, which gave Mike Dunleavy plenty of minutes as he scored 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting with four treys, six boards, and a steal.  Mike D has plenty of upside if he can get hot, but there are threats to his playing time with or without Mbah a Moute around so he’s not a must-add player just yet.  Larry Sanders (13 points, 12 boards, one steal, four blocks) and Ersan Ilyasova (seven points, 3-of-9 FGs, one three, three boards, three steals) returned to action, and in the case of Ilyasova he might have been limited playing just 23 minutes on a slow night. 

Brandon Jennings (four points, 2-of-7 FGs, five rebounds, five assists, zero steals) watched Monta Ellis score 32 points on 12-of-24 shooting with nine assists, two steals and two threes, so at least there is some narrative to explain his cold night.  J.J. Redick’s 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting in 31 minutes certainly didn’t help, as Jennings was limited to just 27 minutes on the floor.  It will probably be a bumpy ride for Jennings for the rest of the year, but as we’ve seen lately he’s one game away from a monster so owners shouldn’t panic too much.   


Mike Conley took his top-30 value into last night’s win over the Blazers and gave a quintessential Conley performance with just 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting (no threes), four rebounds, four steals and a career-high 15 assists.  He disappears at times in the scoring column and his assist totals are never that great, but he quietly gets it done for owners on most nights. 

Zach Randolph returned from his ankle injury and went for 19 and 10, Ed Davis did not disappear with Z-Bo back as he put up 14 points with nine rebounds, one steal and two blocks, and Marc Gasol scored 20 points with just two rebounds to go with five assists, one steal and two blocks.  The Grizzlies have a great 4-4-4-3 schedule going forward, and it’s possible that the team is finally confident enough in Davis to throw him on the floor.  He played all three frontcourt positions and could be an interesting wrinkle for the team if he can become a nightly producer.  As for an add, he’s not a must-add player but I can’t see passing him up if I need a big man with that schedule.  Ditto for Jerryd Bayless (five points, 1-of-7 FGs, six assists) in deeper formats despite last night’s struggles. 


The Blazers are one of the most predictable boxes in the league and last night didn’t stray too far from the norm.  Damian Lillard went for 27 and seven with three treys and a perfect eight free throw attempts, and Nicolas Batum’s wrist injury continued to linger as he went hitless on five field goal attempts but still managed 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks to go with his four points from the charity stripe.  Once again, the shooting wrist injury strikes but owners can still hang their hats on the rest of his production.  I'll knock on wood as I write this (famous last words), but if the Blazers fall far out of playoff contention then a shutdown can't be ruled out of the equation.  On the other hand, they have no depth at all and hopefully they'll just ride Batum as long as he's not a risk of further injury.

J.J. Hickson was quiet with eight and nine to go with two steals, and LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t show any signs of an ankle injury going for 28 and 10 with a steal and four blocks.  Eric Maynor was quiet with 11 points, four boards, one assist and one steal in 26 minutes off the bench, and some variation of that production should be the realistic expectation of owners looking to pick him up for the upcoming five-game week. 


MIL @ WAS:  Luc Richard Mbah a Moute’s status will add or subtract 24 minutes from the rotation, and we’ll be watching to see how Ersan Ilyasova reacts after returning last night from his knee issue.  Trevor Ariza’s status will keep owners on the watch for a deep league beneficiary, but chances are the starters will enjoy more touches and safer outlooks. 

MIA @ PHI:  The Heat will come out firing as they look to extend their winning streak to 20 games, and the Sixers could bring out their A-game in response.  Nick Young (ankle) is questionable and a potential return could slow the rolls of Damien Wilkins and Dorell Wright.  Maybe Spencer Hawes can put up some big numbers against the weaker Heat interior.  Owners may want to put Mario Chalmers on their short list of players to watch tonight given the Heat’s favorable schedule.

MIN @ IND:  Danny Granger (knee) will miss the next three games which puts him out through the weekend.  The Pacers have four games next week but I still wouldn’t use him, and he’s a drop candidate not knowing what he’ll give owners if he can return.  Aside from the normal concerns about a situation like this, you can add the fact that the Pacers would obviously prefer to work him in sooner rather than later to avoid playoff chemistry issues.  The Wolves will have a tough run coming off the back-to-back against a stout Indy defense. 

TOR @ BOS:  Rudy Gay (back) is a game-time decision for tonight but beat writer Mike Ganter’s comment “Lots of doctors talking to each other and nothing to report” when talking about Gay and Andrea Bargnani (elbow) was odd.  I wish I had some better context, especially when earlier in the day a report was floated that Gay could be shut down if his injury persists. 

For what it’s worth I thought the ‘shutdown’ report was sort of hypothetical, and I’m going to wait and pass judgment on Gay’s situation if we get another red-flag type report, but I won’t wait to pass judgment on Bargnani.  Sure, maybe he comes back, but it sounds like Dwane Casey is finally ready to stop being tough on his rookie big man Jonas Valanciunas.  I get it that coaches don’t like to loosen the leash during the developmental stage, but it’s costing the team games if you’re to believe the local beat writers that call JV one of the team’s top players right now. 

Bargnani is probably already viewed as an expiring deal for next year and it’s not necessary to market him on the court if he’s not at 100 percent.  If anything, the Raps can sell that Bargnani was banged up and try to write off this past year that way.  Alan Anderson is the primary beneficiary of any Gay absence, but in terms of pure value I think guys like Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, and Valanciunas might actually gain more with nearly 20 shot attempts per game freed up. 

Look for the Celtics to bounce back after their awful showing against the Bobcats. 

LAL @ ATL:  The Lakers don’t have much time to celebrate Dwight Howard’s big win and if Jeff Teague can’t play this one could get ugly, even with the Lakers a rough team to bet heavy on.  Look for the Hawks’ big guns to bounce back after their poor showing last night. 

PHO @ HOU:  Omer Asik suffered a “mild” groin injury in yesterday’s practice and we have him questionable for tonight until a report can clear things up.  James Harden (foot) practiced and is expected to play tonight.  Jermaine O’Neal is questionable but it seems reasonable that he plays, so owners will want to keep a close eye on both he and Hamed Haddadi.  With a nice outing tonight Haddadi could crawl up into recommended add status.  The rest of the roster outside of Goran Dragic is a total mess, which of course means plenty of fantasy attention as owners try to find the next great pickup.  Marcus Morris and Luis Scola were the leaders on that front on Monday, but as usual all of that could change. 

UTA @ OKC:  Paul Millsap (knee) was listed early on Tuesday as a game-time decision tonight, which isn’t the greatest news for his chance of playing but it’s not a death knell for his status, either.  Derrick Favors is startable regardless, even after his slow night on Monday, and Enes Kanter is worth a look if you need a big man but on a busy night you’ll probably have better options in a standard league if Millsap plays.  Owners will also be keying in on Gordon Hayward to see if the Jazz give him the rock or go with the Al Jefferson morphine drip. 

CHI @ SAC:  Derrick Rose was quoted yesterday by the local paper and it’s almost a disservice to relay the specifics other than to say he’s a total crapshoot.  I managed to hold him through the weekend in one league and the main saving grace is his 4-3-4-4 schedule to finish things up, but I’m pretty much at the end of my rope.  We’ll see.  Kirk Hinrich, Richard Hamilton, and Taj Gibson are all out, giving Marco Belinelli another clear shot at a productive night.  DeMarcus Cousins came out firing to media with no remorse for his head shot on Mike Dunleavy, who may or may not have done something dirty to DMC, and if he got a second game I wouldn’t be surprised because of the intent and because his elbow went to the back of the head.  If he got a third game I’d be surprised but I wouldn’t bet my house against it.  Precedent.  Otherwise, we’ll all be looking to see if Keith Smart can continue to put the cherry on top of his wonderful year employing hockey rotations for the Kings. 

DET @ GSW:  There wasn’t any news on the Brandon Knight front, so we’re still sitting on news indicating he has a “significant” ankle sprain and that’s about it.  He sounds week-to-week rather than day-to-day, so owners will want to keep a close eye on Rodney Stuckey and even consider a speculative add.  Stuckey has been awful this year but the Pistons may be forced to run the offense through him, a point of contention for the combo guard this season.  Then again, he could go cold and we’ll be watching to see if Will Bynum can accumulate any deep league value.  Jason Maxiell (ankle) was doubtful for Monday’s game and is questionable for tonight, leaving a window for Jonas Jerebko to step into.  If he can reproduce his decent outing from Monday then we’ll talk.  Andre Drummond is about as questionable for this season as Derrick Rose it seems, and just like Rose I can’t see him missing the entire season.  Unfortunately, that’s all the crystal ball has right now. 

NYK @ DEN:  This is a big game for Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith as they return to Denver for the first time.  My sense is that Melo is going to play through pain, and the Knicks are going to use the evaluation after tonight’s game as the measuring stick to see what their plan is going forward.  It is what it is.  Owners just have to cross their fingers and hope he can gut it out.  Working in owners’ favor is that the Knicks have a lot to gain by maintaining the No. 2 seed in a tight bunch at the top of the East.  Look for Denver to come out and play a spirited game for their coach and organization, which was held hostage in what seems like eons ago. 

MEM @ LAC:  There’s nothing like a Grizzlies/Clippers matchup to whet the appetite, with the Zach Randolph/Blake Griffin show as the main course.  Jamal Crawford (ankle) is expected to play while Eric Bledsoe (calf) is iffy and Caron Butler (elbow) is out.  Matt Barnes has a nice window here though nothing will come easy against one of the league’s better defenses. 

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