There were only two games in the Association last night, so after a few speedy recaps I've added an injury report that includes the latest casualties of the NBA’s injury bug – Eric Bledsoe (torn meniscus) and Jrue Holiday (stress fracture in his tibia). The injury report replaces the ‘individual matchup’ data I had promised to provide, which focuses on the best/worst defenders at a given position. If you want that information you can just send me a request with your email address via Direct Message on Twitter: @Knaus_RW.
We start with Thursday's first game, in which the Knicks surprisingly earned a three-game win streak by defeating the visiting Heat, 102-92. Just as surprising as the final score is the fact that New York pulled out the victory without Tyson Chandler (illness...day-to-day), Pablo Prigioni (toe...out 1-2 more weeks) and Beno Udrih (inflamed knee...day-to-day). They also didn't have J.R. Smith but that wasn't injury-related. Mike Woodson has always been fond of J.R., but on Thursday he slapped him with a DNP-CD that left Smith questioning his future with the Knicks even though they just re-signed him to a sizeable contract this summer.
Woodson may have reached his breaking point due to Smith's most recent shoelace-related antics, his historically awful shooting, the steadily improving play of Iman Shumpert, or some combination of those factors. When I say 'historically awful' I'm not being hyperbolic. Smith is taking 12.0 shots per game this season but he's making only 34.8 percent of those attempts, numbers which haven't been seen since Slater Martin did it during the 1957-58 season with the St. Louis Hawks.
It's doubtful that the Knicks will be able to trade Smith and he's shown zero signs of shaking his slump, so I have no reservations about leaving him on the waiver wire in all formats. As mentioned, Iman Shumpert's game has come around lately and he's worth owning in all leagues with January averages of 15.8 points, 3.4 triples, 6.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.8 steals and just 1.0 turnovers in 34 minutes per game.
The Knicks also got surprisingly effective performances from Raymond Felton (13 points, season-high 14 assists), Andrea Bargnani (19 points on 9-of-13 FGs) and Amare Stoudemire (14 points, season-high 11 rebounds). Amare is best left unowned in standard leagues, and part of his big night was due to Chandler's absence, but anyone needing a PG should give Felton a long look. His next injury could be right around the corner but he played 38 minutes vs. Miami, and as the Knicks' unquestioned starting PG he has middle-round upside.
The Heat lost despite shooting 54.4 percent from the field. They were cold from beyond the arc (7-of-21) and hurt themselves at the FT line (11-of-21), they were out-rebounded 43-32, they only forced 10 turnovers, and they were basically just outplayed on the road in New York. Dwyane Wade looked good while scoring 23 points on 11-of-15 shooting and there's a chance that he'll be in uniform on Friday, but as usual we're unlikely to get the final word until just before tip-off. What a pleasure it is to own D-Wade in fantasy leagues, eh?
Mario Chalmers sat out again with a sore Achilles and he's questionable to face Brooklyn on Friday, but I'll be very surprised if he's in uniform since the Heat don't play again until Wednesday. Norris Cole scored 12 points with two 3-pointers, two assists and one steal in 35 minutes as Miami's starter vs. the Knicks, continuing his pattern of subdued production with Chalmers on the sidelines.
Thursday's second game was played in Denver, where the surging Nuggets defeated the Thunder, 101-88, for their fourth consecutive victory. This winning streak comes on the heels of an eight-game losing streak, and coincides with Ty Lawson's return to health, Randy Foye's return to the starting lineup, and Kenneth Faried's morphing back into the Manimal (he barely missed his third straight double-double vs. OKC).
Lawson was slowed by injuries for much of December but his buy-low window may have slammed shut with Thursday's game, in which he posted 16 points, two 3-pointers, seven rebounds, 14 assists, three steals and just one turnover, while working over Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher all night. His backcourt mate Randy Foye was also impressive, pouring in a team-high 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 6-of-9 from downtown. I've never been a big proponent of Foye in fantasy leagues, as he does little beyond making 3s, but when he's this hot there's no case to be made against him. Just plug him into your lineups until he cools off.
Quincy Miller started at SF in place of Wilson Chandler, who is day-to-day with a strained hip, but Miller only had nine points and two rebounds in 20 minutes of action. The more intriguing result was Evan Fournier's 19 points, four 3-pointers, four rebounds and one steal off the bench, and his line could have been much bigger if he wasn't limited to 18 minutes due to foul trouble. Here are some numbers worth stashing away -- on a per-36-minute basis, Fournier has career averages of 15.6 points, 1.9 threes, 3.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals. His upside is dented by reports which indicate Andre Miller could soon rejoin the Nuggets' rotation, as Denver has been unable to find a suitable trade for their veteran PG.
On the Thunder side of the ledger, however, a variety of disappointing performances resulted in a lopsided defeat, their fourth loss in the past six games. Reggie Jackson shot 5-of-12 from the field to finish with 13 points, five assists and four turnovers in 26 minutes. He joined Derek Fisher (12 points) and Kevin Durant (30 points) as the only Thunder players in double-digits, and none of OKC's starters played in the fourth quarter. Although Durant led all scorers and made a living at the FT line (15-of-16), he missed 12 of his final 13 field goals and it was clear that OKC's engine was running out of gas. It's not a significant concern for fantasy owners, but the Thunder need to figure out ways to ease KD's burden in Westbrook's absence, or they'll risk wearing him out by the time the playoffs arrive.
Jeremy Lamb logged 36 minutes off the bench but wound up hurting fantasy owners with three points on 1-of-12 shooting. He's now shooting an abysmal 30.0 percent from the field in five January games, but owners can take heart in the fact that his averages have been higher across the board in January (including playing time), with the glaring exception of scoring-related categories. The second-year swingman is a career 43.2 percent shooter and he gets a huge chunk of his attempts from downtown, so the occasional slump can be expected.
Follow me on Twitter @Knaus_RW for game news, injury updates, random stats and more.
Jrue Holiday will be 'out indefinitely' with a stress fracture in his right tibia, the Pelicans announced on Friday. He's the latest casualty in a league-wide injury epidemic which has claimed over 1/3 of the NBA's starting PGs. Brian Roberts should immediately step into a bigger role and deserves a close look for any owners in need of a PG. He may not hand out pure-PG levels of assists and doesn't get many steals, but should offer enough points, 3s and dimes for temporary value. And although his per-36 numbers and what I've seen of him on the court make me view him more as a 'scoring PG', he did average double-digit dimes in a handful of starts last year. Eric Gordon (whom to nobody's surprise the Pelicans are actively trying to trade) will also have the ball in his hands more often, and Tyreke Evans' ability to manage the offense becomes even more critical in the wake of Holiday's diagnosis. If only Adam Silver could hit 'Pause' on the season for a few weeks...
Eric Bledsoe dominated injury news on Thursday, unfortunately, as the Suns determined that he'll need surgery on his right knee. He was originally out with a 'sprain' but now the diagnosis is a torn lateral meniscus. We won't know the extent of the injury until the surgery takes place, so owners should simply hang onto him while we await an update and a timetable for his return. Gerald Green needs to be owned in his absence, however long that might be, while Goran Dragic also gets a default boost as the Suns' go-to guard. (UPDATE: Bledsoe had surgery on Friday and the Suns were exceedingly vague about his timetable, saying that he'll "pursue a possible return to action during the second half of this NBA season." That's not encouraging for fantasy owners but there isn't a 'yes' or 'no' answer as to whether you should cut him outright...the decision hinges largely upon your team's position, league size and settings).
UPDATE: Gordon Hayward (hip) is a game-time decision on Friday.
Tony Allen is out 1-2 weeks with a small fracture in his hand and/or a Grade-2 sprain in his wrist. Both injuries are to his non-shooting hand.
Shawn Marion will sit out Friday's game with rib and shoulder injuries. He's day-to-day.
Deron Williams' balky ankles will keep him out Friday and Saturday, and there's a growing sentiment that he'll also sit out Wednesday's game in London. It makes sense, as the Nets have multiple days off before and after their trip overseas.
Patrick Beverley (fractured hand) is hoping to beat his original timetable and he could be back in late January.
Chandler Parsons is bothered by a sore and tight hamstring, a sore knee, and a new injury to his calf, leaving him very iffy to play on Friday. (UPDATE: He's now officially listed as 'doubtful'.)
John Jenkins remains out indefinitely with leg and back pain stemming from nerve damage.
Rajon Rondo (ACL surgery) remains without a return date, and it looks like owners will have to wait until February to see him in uniform. There was some buzz about Rondo possibly doing a rehab stint with the Celtics’ D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, but thus far nothing has come of it. As someone who lives in the Claws’ home town of Portland, Maine, I’m really hoping that it happens.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist practiced this week and the Bobcats hope to activate him for Tuesday’s game, on Jan. 14.
Joakim Noah was sick during Thursday’s practice but Tom Thibodeau said he’ll be ‘fine’ for Friday’s game. (UPDATE: Joakim is indeed ready to go.)
Mike Dunleavy hyperextended his elbow during the Bulls’ last game but he practiced Thursday and there’s been no indication that he might sit out.
Carlos Boozer was also able to practice on his sore knee, and he’ll be in uniform vs. the Bucks unless he suffers a setback. (UPDATE: Boozer confirmed that he's ready to go.)
Jarrett Jack (back spasms) is expected to be in uniform on Friday, returning the Cavaliers’ backcourt to full health. The Cavs are just two games behind the Nets for the East’s eighth playoff seed, and with Luol Deng in the fold I won’t be surprised if they make the cut.
The Nuggets simply haven’t been giving updates for JaVale McGee (leg) and Danilo Gallinari (knee). Both guys remain ‘out indefinitely’.
Greg Smith (knee) could return on Friday but he’s been unable to stay healthy this season and doesn’t have fantasy value while Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones are healthy.
Lance Stephenson bruised his knee this week but the injury isn’t serious and he’ll be in uniform vs. the Wizards on Friday.
Chris Paul’s diagnosis with a Grade-3 sprained shoulder remains the same – he was ruled out “up to six weeks” on Jan. 5, so a return in early- to mid-February can be expected.
J.J. Redick (wrist) is probable to play on Friday, while Reggie Bullock (ankle) also expects to be in the lineup. Redick should be owned in all 12-team and 10-team leagues.
For the Lakers, Xavier Henry (knee) could return within a week, Jordan Farmar (hamstring) is out at least three more weeks, and both Steve Blake (elbow) and Steve Nash (nerves) are probably closer to a month away. Blake had been targeting a January return, but now he’ll be re-evaluated on February 1. Kobe Bryant (left knee) has been riding a stationary bike and remains out until at least early February.
Marc Gasol (sprained MCL) has been cleared for ‘light work’ but he’s still not practicing and has no firm return date.
Ersan Ilyasova is day-to-day after missing the past few practices with a ‘sore right hand’, just the latest injury in his disappointing season.
John Henson (ankle) was able to practice on Thursday, fortunately, and he’s questionable to return from his high-ankle sprain vs. Chicago on Friday.
Ryan Anderson (neck) remains out indefinitely with a herniated disc. There’s really no way to know how long he’ll need to recover, but for sanity’s sake his fantasy owners should consider him ‘week-to-week’ while hoping for a speedy recovery.
Russell Westbrook (knee surgery) has been doing some light workouts and said that he’s not putting any stock in OKC’s original timetable for his return. Still, a return in January seems unlikely considering he’s already had multiple surgeries and the last thing anyone wants is yet another setback.
Manu Ginobili (hamstring) is hopeful to return on Sunday.
Carl Landry (hip) went through some 3-on-3 scrimmages recently but reportedly he’s still “a few weeks away” from playing.
Nikola Vucevic (concussion) is out for the remainder of Orlando’s road trip. He’s back in Florida resting and is likely to miss around a week. He’ll need to pass the league’s concussion testing before being cleared.
Arnett Moultrie (ankle) hopes to make his season debut on Wednesday. The Sixers can certainly use frontcourt help but Moultrie is best left alone in standard fantasy leagues.