There aren’t too many slow nights in the association anymore with the way Twitter makes every night an NFL Sunday’s worth of excitement, and Wednesday got the NBA back on track after a slow Tuesday.
The Heat/Cavs game was worth the price of admission all by itself, with Wayne Ellington making a name for himself in fantasy circles while LeBron James simply wrote his name down on a piece of paper and slid it under Dan Gilbert’s door.
Kyle Lowry got back on track, Gerald Henderson moved into the waiver wire pickup of the year discussion, and the McBob-Mullens combo picked up steam. Carmelo Anthony got back on the court, Monta Ellis survived (sort of), the Hawks went agro, and Gordon Hayward is in the midst of his annual March Madness reenactment.
The Grizzlies and Hornets both won on tip-ins at the buzzer, Bradley Beal went down, and Tim Duncan signed up for Medicare Part Destroy You. Deron Williams served up another piece of humble pie for the doubters, Jermaine O’Neal went down, and Spencer Hawes continued to stand up.
It’s the day after Big Wednesday folks with just 3.5 weeks to go. This is why you do all those pushups.
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RETURN OF THE KING
It’s fitting we talk about LeBron James first here, because right now he is running away with the MVP vote and a return to Cleveland with the Heat’s 23-game winning streak on the line is rich. All of that drama was supplemented by a scoreboard malfunction to start the game, which drew rolled eyes across the Internet, and then the Cavs jumped out to a 27-point third quarter lead. From there, James and the Heat came rolling back and even a fan storming the court wearing a T-shirt begging him to return in 2014 couldn’t stop the Flying Death Machine. He finished with 25 points, 12 boards, 10 assists, three steals, two blocks and three huge threes to keep the streak alive at 24 games.
I mentioned that Wayne Ellington and C.J. Miles would be a crapshoot in the battle to pick up Dion Waiters’ (knee) value, but I sided with Miles ultimately and at least for last night I did not choose wisely. Ellington started and scored 20 points on 7-of-17 shooting with three 3-pointers, seven rebounds, four assists and one steal in 41 minutes, while Miles scored 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting with two threes, three rebounds, five assists and no steals or blocks in just 24 minutes off the bench.
Ellington has always intrigued me since his days at North Carolina as a big shot-maker, but his career in the NBA has never really caught up. Now with plenty of freedom, I like both guys to hold standard league value with Ellington gaining a sizable edge in the beneficiary battle tonight. There was no update on Waiters’ status but both he and Kyrie Irving’s seasons are in doubt.
You can add (or keep) Shaun Livingston’s name on the standard league list, too, and he had another solid low-end night with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting, three rebounds, six assists and two steals. Aside from the Cavs’ pair of four-game weeks to end the meaningful season, you know what you’re getting with Livingston and knowing is half the battle. Tyler Zeller came to play with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting (4-of-4 FTs), 11 rebounds, one steal and one block. He needs to string a few of these together before he’s on the watch list in normal formats.
NO NICKNAME LOWRY
I mentioned yesterday how a loss to the Bobcats might prompt some change to the Raptors' all-wing attack, but that wasn’t really how things went down last night. Yes, Rudy Gay went 8-of-18 from the field for 25 points and a nice line, and DeMar DeRozan took 12 shots (making seven, including a three) but the rest of the squad actually got some looks. The problem for the Raps last night was their energy on defense and their lack of bench play, and late Dwane Casey stubbornly stuck with a small lineup that didn’t work all night.
The good news is that Kyle Lowry got back into the swing of things with 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting, seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block, and Jonas Valanciunas continued to produce with 18 points, eight rebounds, two steals, two blocks and a perfect 6-of-6 mark from the line. Amir Johnson was also productive with eight points, 10 boards, two steals and four blocks. Yes the numbers are inflated because they played the Bobcats, but the loss isn’t going to do anything to change Dwane Casey’s approach if I had to guess. Run and grab Valanciunas if he’s available as it looks like he’s ready to be turned loose.
Ramon Sessions can bend his injured knee but he can’t rotate it, and while he can ride a stationary bike he can’t yet workout in the pool. It doesn’t look like he will return before the end of his 2-4 week timeline and his season is seriously in doubt. This leaves the door wide open for Gerald Henderson, who continued to storm right through it with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and two blocks. Kemba Walker hit just 4-of-14 shots but flirted with a triple-double scoring 14 points with seven rebounds, eight assists and four steals. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist fizzled out again with two points, five rebounds and no steals or blocks in 20 minutes. Maybe the Bobcats will turn him loose and he’ll be a defensive monster, but the odds say it’s just not in the cards at this point, which is too bad for the No. 2 overall pick.
Brendan Haywood did not play due to a sore left ankle, which in reality isn’t that big of a deal, but it takes away yet another available body for Mike Dunlap to spell Josh McRoberts and Byron Mullens with. The duo played great together once again last night, with McRoberts posting 12 points, 12 rebounds and three assists and Mullens putting up 25 points on 7-of-11 shooting with three treys, five rebounds, two steals, three blocks and an 8-of-12 aberration from the foul line. I mentioned yesterday that we’d cross the Mullens bridge when we got there, and we definitely got there last night. Perhaps injuries slowed him down and caused part of the inconsistency, or maybe he’s just an inconsistent player. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle from a fantasy perspective, and with this type of upside he’s worth grabbing once again – even if we’ll have a hard time trusting him.
Nikola Vucevic bummed owners out by turning up with the flu, and with the Knicks playing small the Magic started Moe Harkless at center and brought E’Twaun Moore into the starting lineup. This randomness got the best of Jameer Nelson (four points, 1-of-9 FGs, three assists, 24 minutes) and Arron Afflalo (six points, 2-of-7 FGs, 29 minutes). Jacque Vaughn seemingly came into the game with a plan to alternate Nelson and Beno Udrih (13 points, eight assists, 24 minutes) every other quarter, and that is something we’ll surely be watching going forward. I doubt that arrangement continues, but if there is an injury or something nagging at Nelson it might explain why coach is all of a sudden messing with his veteran’s minutes, other than the obvious reason that Nelson sucked last night.
Tobias Harris (14 points, 7-of-10 FGs, five boards, five turnovers) and Harkless (11 points, six boards, three steals, one three) had mixed nights under strange circumstances, and Kyle O’Quinn (12 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, 25 minutes) and Andrew Nicholson (14 points, three boards, 18 minutes) got some extra attention in a loosely contested game. O’Quinn needs an injury to Vucevic to have any appeal, and cleaning up the Magic side Al Harrington’s (knee) season was officially cast in doubt yesterday.
Carmelo Anthony returned to action last night after getting his knee drained and delivered a much-needed win, scoring 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting with a full line in the process. He logged 33 minutes and this was about as good of a return-game as owners could have hoped for. Now the trick will be back-to-back games, which come up right away with action on both Friday and Saturday. Still, so far so good.
Iman Shumpert re-injured the left knee he had surgery on in the offseason and heard a “pop,” and will be evaluated on Thursday. I can’t imagine he gets rushed back into action and it opens up a few more minutes for the wing slots. Pablo Prigioni started and scored six points on 2-of-2 shooting (both threes) with four rebounds and five assists, and with Shumpert looking to miss some time he’s worth a look in 16-20 team leagues.
J.R. Smith (22 points, seven boards, two threes, 8-of-16 FGs) gets some breathing room, and Jason Kidd (five points, one trey, two boards, five assists, three steals, 24 minutes) looks like a solid pickup. Kidd’s wrist should be fine and he’ll be called upon to play a significant role down the stretch as long as he’s healthy, which may include a return to the starting lineup. Whether it’s off the bench or not, his value should remain the same.
GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS
Monta Ellis’ X-rays on his left (non-shooting) wrist returned negative and he played last night, which was the good news, but the bad news was that he hit just 2-of-14 shots for five points and not much else in 40 minutes. With the bad shooting line and low activity numbers (one rebound, one assist, no steals) it’s well within owners’ bounds to wonder if he’ll miss time, but until that is announced he needs to be in lineups at this time. Just go drool over the game log if you need a reason why.
Brandon Jennings is a near lock to pick up Ellis’ slack if there is any slack to be had, and he posted a tidy 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting with three treys, five assists and one steal. I called J.J. Redick a speculative add yesterday for the chance Monta struggles, and he backed me up with 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting, two treys, three boards, six assists, a steal and a perfect four freebies. He’ll be a 3-point specialist when the backcourt is at full strength, but as you can see when that’s not the case he gets interesting once again.
Ersan Ilyasova (back) and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (toe) did not play last night, as expected, and all owners can do is cross their fingers and hope Ilyasova plays on Friday. That unclogged the pipes for Larry Sanders (19 points, 14 boards, one steal, four blocks) and Mike Dunleavy (10 points, seven boards, three assists, two threes, 28 minutes. As for Dunleavy, let’s let him do it again before we go talking about an add, unless we get longer-term bad news on Ilyasova. Samuel Dalembert did not deliver in another start, scoring two points on 1-of-7 shooting with seven rebounds and no steals or blocks in his 18 minutes. Similarly to Dunleavy, he needs injury help to have any sustained value other than as a low-end spot-start.
The Hawks held serve at home against the Bucks last night and any question marks about Jeff Teague’s ankle evaporated in a 27-point, 11-assist effort. He hit 11-of-19 shots (including four treys) with a steal and a block, and he has been a top-50 play over the past month or so. Devin Harris got on the board with 15 points, six assists, two steals and a three, and is worth a look if you’re in a pinch but that’s about it. Al Horford (26 points, 15 boards, two steals, two blocks) and Josh Smith (12 points, 16 boards, six assists, one steal, one block) were not deterred by the Bucks’ twin towers, and Kyle Korver kept his consecutive 3-pointers streak alive with a trio of them for nine points, seven boards and a block.
NOWHERE ELSE TO GO
Complaining about Scott Brooks is so last year but the Thunder beat writers and bloggers have finally had enough, as Brooks continues to play Derek Fisher for no discernible reason. Kendrick Perkins gets a night off from me (not really) after pulling down 16 rebounds in one of the few matchups in which he can excel versus the Grizzlies. It’s sort of gut-wrenching to know that the Thunder are wasting championships by the years. You can bet on it – Perkins and Fisher will be the demise of this team in the playoffs once again, which will put three consecutive playoff snafus on Brooks’ resume.
The main reason the Thunder lost last night, however, was 7-of-25 shooting from Russell Westbrook and 11-of-28 shooting from Kevin Durant with just a combined six assists. Serge Ibaka dealt with the same cut over his eye throughout the game and finished with just two points on 1-of-4 shooting, six rebounds, one steal and two blocks. By not developing an offense that integrates Kevin Martin (17 points, 6-of-13 FGs) and Ibaka more consistently, the Thunder don't have a fallback option when their studs aren’t producing.
BUILT TO COVER
Still, it speaks to how good the Thunder are when they play that poorly and come within a last-second Marc Gasol tip-in to lose by one point. The Grizzlies are built to cover the Thunder well with Mike Conley (24 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block) a good fit on Westbrook, and Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince being two serviceable bodies to throw at Durant. Gasol went for 14 and 15 and Zach Randolph went for 15 and 18 but had seven turnovers and hit just 6-of-23 shots. Jerryd Bayless scored 20 points with four triples and forced overtime with one of them, but the only thing he has going for him in standard formats is the Grizzlies’ rockin’ 4-4-3 schedule. There’s just too much inconsistency coming off the bench.
TURN OFF THE MUSIC
It’s funny reading the tweets of Rockets beat writers calling out Al Jefferson’s defense as something disastrous only to read the normally reliable Utah beat say Jefferson had a great defensive second half. Full disclosure – I have not watched the tape of this contest so I can’t say what happened, but what is certain is that the Jazz piled up another loss and it was Paul Millsap (16 points, 6-of-10 FGs, four rebounds, two steals, one block, 25 minutes) and Mo Williams (four points, 2-of-7 FGs, six assists, 24 minutes) that were benched down the stretch. Ty Corbin is at odds with his team right now and he is attached at the hip with Jefferson, who played 43 minutes and scored 18 points on 9-of-19 shooting with 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and no blocks.
The unit of Jefferson, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks and Derrick Favors went on a 32-point tear in the fourth quarter while holding the Rockets without a field goal for seven minutes, so there is some truth to the idea that Jefferson did his part. The real story in Utah though is the near-full breakout of Hayward, who scored 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting with eight rebounds, three treys, two assists and a steal in 42 minutes. To be truthful, I didn’t know exactly how Hayward would make it happen down the stretch, and the trade deadline was a buzz-kill, but my faith that the Jazz would eventually figure out what they had held the day. Finally.
Favors isn’t encroaching on Millsap’s territory just yet but could be if things persist, and he posted another low-minute defensive special with a steal and three blocks to go with five points and three rebounds in 23 ticks. Going back to Mo Williams, I'd caution owners to be patient and consider that he’s still on the comeback trail. Dropping him could be a mistake if anything because your competition will have access to a potential mid-round value.
The Rockets staked out a small cushion in the No. 7 seed with their win last night, with nothing earth-shattering to report on the fantasy front. James Harden (29 points, 5-of-14 FGs, 17-of-18 FTs) says his foot is no longer limiting him, Jeremy Lin (24 points, 9-of-13 FGs, six assists) took off, Omer Asik went for nine and 12 with a block, and Chandler Parson is slowly picking up the pace with a 10-point, eight-rebound effort devoid of threes.
The Celtics got Kevin Garnett (flu) back last night and things returned to normal, except for the loss to the Hornets in New Orleans last night. Garnett did well to score 10 points on 9-of-16 shooting with six rebounds, three assists and three steals, and Paul Pierce was solid with 28 points, five assists and a nicely situated stat line. Jeff Green returned to his wobbly role off the bench, scoring 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting (including a three) with two rebounds, one steal, two blocks and a perfect four free throws in 27 minutes. I expect his production to look a lot like it did before the ‘Jeff Green game,’ but on an aging roster I’m guessing he’ll get the Garden chanting at least one more time.
The real problem for the Celtics last night was their guard play, as Courtney Lee scored just five points on 2-of-3 shooting with two steals and not much else, and Avery Bradley hit just 2-of-10 shots for five points to go with five rebounds, four assists, five steals and one block. Both guards have standard league value right now and similar upside to Green in that they’re young and locked into their roles.
Kevin Garnett version 2.0 aka Anthony Davis was iffy coming into last night’s game due to an illness, and he outreached his predecessor to put in the game-winning tip with seconds left. He finished with just nine points on 4-of-7 shooting, eight rebounds, one steal and two blocks, and I’m hoping he goes undervalued in next year’s drafts after a quiet season. He’s going to be a beast. Ryan Anderson scored 21 points with five boards, two threes and a 9-of-11 mark from the line, and Eric Gordon (knee) played 31 minutes on his way to 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting with not much else. I have never really bought into Robin Lopez and his four points, four rebounds and one block are a much-too-familiar sight.
THE GOOD OLD YOU
Deron Williams returned to his hometown in Dallas, which has been a mild storyline given Mark Cuban’s comments downplaying what they didn’t get in D-Will. Since being eviscerated on the Internet by just about everybody, including yours truly, he has been playing angry and punched the Mavs in the gut with 31 points on 13-of-25 shooting with three treys and six assists. Good for him. I like the old, pre-trade D-Will.
Brook Lopez kept up his studly ways with a season-high 38 points on 15-of-22 shooting, 11 rebounds, one steal and two blocks, while Joe Johnson scored nine points on 4-of-12 shooting with five assists in a dud of an effort. Reggie Evans grabbed 22 rebounds and if you’re trying to make up ground in that category in a Roto league now is the time to grab him. The Nets finish out the year with a 3-3-4 slate.
The Mavs are a team with no identity right now and by virtue of that they’re going to be inconsistent as a unit, and after last night’s loss they fell 3.5 games behind the No. 8 Lakers in the West. With just 14 games to go, they need to go on a serious run to make any hay in the middle of the barn. O.J. Mayo (nine points, five rebounds, six assists, no threes) has been borderline benchable lately, and while it would be easy to pin that on Dirk Nowitzki’s presence I’ve noticed a lack of assertion mixed with a lack of focus by the Mavs to get him the ball.
Dirk took just 10 shots last night (making eight) for 16 points, six boards and a block, but when Mike James and Darren Collison are combining for 19 looks and Chris Kaman shoots 12 times (making seven) there’s just too much them and not enough Mayo. Chances are Mayo will bounce back, but it’s also possible we’re not hearing about his old ankle injury or there is some other issue in the locker room. I’ll be rolling him out there while keeping an ear to the ground.
Shawn Marion (calf) was active but never had a shot of playing and is targeting a return in Friday’s game, which could further clutter matters but it could also return things to some level of normalcy. Vince Carter (eight points, 3-of-9 FGs) hasn’t really taken advantage of his absence, but that’s always a hot streak in waiting. Hopefully you can guess right if you take the plunge. Backup Darren Collison (eight points, three assists, 20 minutes) got bested by starter Mike James (12 points, four treys, seven assists, 27 minutes), and both guys are borderline 12-team values right now with enough risk to keep them on benches or the wire. I’m still selling all of the Mavs’ big men in normal formats.
You guys probably think I hate the Warriors with how much I bag on them, but understand that’s the fan in me seeing long-term problems for the franchise as it’s currently constructed and a lack of reality permeating throughout the organization. Everything is ‘better’ than it really is around Oracle, and the proclamation that their win over a decimated Hornets squad was “validating” by team-leader Stephen Curry was the most recent exhibit.
Going into the Spurs’ house where they had lost 28 straight and a chance to expose the older squad without their point guard Tony Parker, they laid an egg with the normal culprits of bad defense and interior play being their undoing. David Lee hit just 4-of-17 shots for 10 points to go with 12 boards, two steals and one block, while Curry (24 points, 8-of-20 FGs, four threes, three assists) and Klay Thompson (nine points, 3-of-8 FGs) were bothered into mediocre nights.
I love them to death and will root like crazy in the playoffs, but claiming you have a defensive focus and coaching by narrative are different than going out there and getting it done. The sooner the Warriors realize they don’t have the winning formula and move on from their big financial commitments to it, the better off the suddenly strong ownership group will be in building a champion. Godspeed!
Tony Parker (ankle) could play on Friday according to Gregg Popovich, which of course needs to be taken with appropriate caution even if it seems reasonable that he goes. In his place Manu Ginobili (16 points, seven assists) and Nando De Colo (10 points, two assists, two steals, 25 minutes) did their thing, but Ginobili is the only ball-handler worth touching with a ten-foot pole. Tim Duncan (25 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, one steal, four blocks) and Tiago Splitter (17 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block) predictably picked apart the Warriors’ interior defense in the easy win. Splitter has some sneaky value with a 3-4-3 upcoming schedule during bingo hour at the old folks’ home.
ONE DOOR SHUTS
Owners grimaced as Bradley Beal (six points, five rebounds, four turnovers, 19 minutes) re-injured his left ankle and went down in a heap. He got up and walked quickly back to the locker room after rolling the ankle and did not return. The Wizards didn’t take X-rays after the game but his status going forward is officially in doubt, and it’s hard to see the cellar dwellers rushing him back to action. Naturally, this opens the door a bit wider for Trevor Ariza (14 points, six rebounds, three treys, 34 minutes) and Martell Webster (13 points, three treys, 29 minutes). We’re not hearing about Ariza’s knee right now so owners can be cautiously optimistic about his rest-of-season value. The Wizards close out the meaningful year with a 4-4-3 slate and that gives everybody a boost, too.
Emeka Okafor did not play last night due to illness, and A.J. Price missed his fifth straight game due to a groin injury. That meant Kevin Seraphin got dusted off and put into the game, scoring 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting with five rebounds and two blocks. With Okafor likely to return soon, it’s still officially time to watch Seraphin, who apparently gained a lot of confidence over the offseason. The efficient version is what we’re looking for. Garrett Temple has been a beneficiary of Price’s absence with some deep league value, but that came crashing to a halt when he went scoreless on four shot attempts to go with an otherwise recognizable three rebounds, three assists and two steals over 28 minutes.
Jermaine O’Neal (12 points, 3-of-11 FGs, six rebounds, no steals or blocks, 33 minutes) just hasn’t looked right since returning to action, and he left last night’s game with a lower left leg injury without returning. He looked dejected sitting on the bench, as if he was realizing that he just played his last minute of professional basketball, but keep in mind I’m not a mind reader and he could have been thinking about the ending to Lost. He said after the game, "It's been bothering me the last couple of days” which didn’t exactly sound like a guy whose season would be lost, so there is that. It just goes with the territory for O’Neal, who can be dropped for a hot free agent but with no real competition for minutes he could be back and producing at some point. With a 3-3-3 schedule upcoming, the whole Suns squad is getting the worst of things right now, so keep that in mind when you’re taking out the trash.
That said Wes Johnson has been a small bright spot and kept it up with 18 points on 8-of-18 shooting, two threes, four boards and a steal in 38 minutes. His role seems to be secured, though it’s worth noting that Shannon Brown got unglued from the bench and quickly scored four points with a steal in nine minutes.
If Brown gets out of the doghouse, it could get even uglier in Phoenix. Jared Dudley (illness) played eight minutes, and he’s in the same exact boat as Brown but to a lesser extent. Markieff Morris (11 minutes) started but was benched along with Michael Beasley (eight minutes), while Luis Scola tickled owners with 11 points, five rebounds, one steal and one block’s worth of fool’s gold. Ditto P.J. Tucker (10 points, 10 boards). Lindsey Hunter had Tom Chambers poking at him in the post-game coverage, which isn’t the greatest sign for the home squad.
As many of you probably predicted, the Clippers came home from their loss to the Kings on Tuesday with a vengeance, rattling off a 29-point win against the struggling Sixers. Jrue Holiday got the Chris Paul treatment and finished with just two points on 1-of-8 shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and three steals, but it was Spencer Hawes that was the talk of the town despite the blowout loss. Hawes has been absolutely on fire lately, and posted another gem with 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting, seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals, four blocks, a three and a 5-of-6 mark from the line. How long he can keep it up is anybody’s guess, but he is a must-own and must-start player until he cools down. Who’d have thought we’d be staring at a top-20 value over the past two weeks?
Evan Turner continued to underwhelm with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting, two threes, two boards and three assists. The threes were nice but he needs big popcorn numbers to make up for his poor peripherals. Based on production that wouldn’t pan out in 16-18 team formats over the last two weeks, it's tempting to consider a drop and I wouldn't hold anybody's feet to the fire if they did. But with a 4-3-4 schedule coming up he’s not dead money just yet. Dorell Wright managed just eight points on 3-of-5 shooting (including two threes), two rebounds and one assist in 23 minutes off the bench. Nick Young played just nine minutes and Wright's role doesn’t appear threatened, though that could change pending the big loss.
I'M TALKIN BOUT VENTING
The Clippers’ side of the box suffered from the blowout win, but don’t tell that to Chris Paul after he hit 8-of-10 shots for 19 points with six rebounds, nine assists, five steals and two triples. Caron Butler scored 14 points with six rebounds and Matt Barnes was quiet with six points, four rebounds, a steal and a block in just 22 minutes. Those two will switch production positions when the games get normal. Since Eric Bledsoe (calf) doesn’t have a timetable for return and it doesn’t sound like he’s returning anytime soon, and Chauncey Billups (groin) is trending toward being a non-factor in the Clippers’ rotation, I wouldn’t give up on Barnes right now. I’d at least try to keep him through the upcoming four-game week and see how things go from there with a pair of three-gamers after that.
NEWS AND NOTES
Mike D’Antoni expects Pau Gasol (foot) to make his return on Friday night. He’ll get to show his stuff and owners will have a good idea of what they want to do in the upcoming four-game week. Kobe Bryant (ankle) is also expected to play and owners may have some consternation about using him but I don’t see how you can bench the Mamba unless you’re stacked. Steve Blake turned up sick yesterday and his status for Friday’s game is suddenly in doubt. Give Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison small bumps if he cannot go.
Andre Drummond (back) will not be tested over the next few days, but rather he will meet with strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander to come up with a game plan. I covered this yesterday, calling him a very stashable player but not a must-stash guy. The Pistons finish out the meaningful year with a 3-4-2 schedule, and that four-game week is essentially what you’re hoping for.
David West’s status for Friday’s game is “up in the air” due to a back injury that kept him from walking on Tuesday, and Frank Vogel said that he wouldn’t have been able to play if it were a playoff game. That’s pretty damning news for a tough guy like West. Tyler Hansbrough’s short-term appeal is growing after a solid double-double on Tuesday. Vogel changed his tune and said that he hopes to have Danny Granger (knee) for the playoffs, and that should end any discussion about stashing him in most formats at least for now.
THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
POR @ CHI: We don’t have LaMarcus Aldridge on the injury report, but similarly to Nicolas Batum’s wrist owners will want to watch his knee as they continue to play out their playoff hopes. Otherwise, the only real unknown is whether gambling deep league owners will get anything out of Eric Maynor during this five-game week. There was a now daily ‘nobody knows what Derrick Rose is going to do’ update from Tom Thibodeau yesterday. The Bulls go 3-4-4 on the schedule after this week. Good luck. Taj Gibson (knee) expects to play tonight, while Kirk Hinrich (foot) is “close” to a return. I can’t see downgrading Nate Robinson too much until Hinrich proves he can stay on the court, though a threat certainly exists.
PHI @ DEN: Ty Lawson popped up on the injury report with a heel strain/contusion and he is a game-time decision for tonight. It’s unclear if it’s related to his prior Achilles’ injury but for what it’s worth he said he felt better today. Give surging Andre Miller a slight bump in your evaluations. Wilson Chandler’s left (non-shooting) shoulder X-ray revealed a first degree AC joint separation and he is listed as day-to-day. With a 3-3-3 schedule after this week I don’t think there’s enough to hang onto here to hold in standard formats. A back-to-back in Denver’s altitude after getting their hats handed to them is a scary formula for the Sixers, but there’s always a chance of pride kicking in when nobody expects it.
MIN @ SAC: Nikola Pekovic is getting his conditioning in order and Andrei Kirilenko is on a minute limit, so expectations should be kept in check for both guys. Chase Budinger (knee) practiced yesterday and said he felt good afterward, but acknowledged that he would have soreness all year. That isn’t exactly a recipe for big minutes, but owners should get ready to subtract 10-20 minutes from the rotation, nonetheless. Tomorrow the city of Sacramento will release their arena term sheet and that should have the natives pumped up and ready to go at Sleep Train, and we’ll all stay tuned to see what timeshare the Smart money has invested in.