I seriously doubt that I'm the only one who thinks that the NBA's All-Star break couldn't be coming at a better time. Injuries have really started piling up over the past few weeks, and we've got significant numbers of players looking to come back fresh immediately, or soon, after what will be at least four days off (February 15-18) for the festivities. Is there anything more frustrating than being left helpless and hapless by a team full of injured players? If you gleaned anything from last season's tidal wave of DNP's, it was probably that wishing it away isn't going to help. Just do the best with what you got – even small victories can be won with an otherwise "lost" fantasy team. Enjoy the short week and the All-Star break.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
• The big conundrum currently facing one owner in every fantasy league in existence is what to do with Jose Calderon now that T.J. Ford has returned to the court. Calderon has been a top-10 player since Ford went down with a neck injury, averaging 14.4 points on 55 percent shooting, 1.4 threes, 3.5 boards, 9.9 assists (versus just 1.9 turnovers), and 1.3 steals over the past 27 games, while making 92 percent of his free throws. Now that Ford is back, what should fantasy owners do? The first order of business is setting expectations. Expect Calderon to average fewer than the 37 minutes he's been in the lineup as a starter thus far, but also expect him to produce at the same level on a per-minute basis. With that in mind, his per-30 minute averages on the season are 11.7 points, 1 three, 8.4 assists, and 1 steal. Not too shabby, eh? If you think Ford will take away more time than that, then shave those numbers down a bit. Still, you are looking at very good production from a player that you likely got on the cheap, so you continue to come out ahead either way.
If your team is loaded in assists and you need help elsewhere, then it's worth thinking about a trade – but what you're going to find out is that most of your league mates are re-assessing Calderon's fantasy impact as we speak, as well. He's on my roster in the Friends and Family League, and it's unlikely that I'll try to move him, as he'll continue to be my best source of assists. I do need a boost in scoring, though, so potential trade targets would be among the likes of Gerald Wallace, Carmelo Anthony, Michael Redd, Antawn Jamison and Kevin Martin. Obviously those aren't all realistic in 1-for-1's, but Calderon doesn't deserve less than top-40 treatment, even with Ford back in the mix, so he can anchor a package deal. Don't sell yourself short if you do decide to trade what is one of the most efficient lines in the game, but as with any transaction, don't be afraid to pull the trigger if it makes sense for your team from a long-term perspective.
Of course, Ford is the reason that we are discussing this in the first place. He's averaged 4.3 points on 33 percent shooting, 7.7 assists, and 1 steal in 17 minutes in three games since his return, including seven points and 13 assists in just 22 minutes versus the Timberwolves on Sunday (Calderon had 15 points, two treys, and 10 assists in 26 minutes). Ford will certainly be given every opportunity to play a prominent role in the Raptors rotation, but it's unlikely that he regains his starting PG spot for at least this season. But he'll be averaging 25-plus minutes in short order, barring injury, and maintaining his current season averages of 12.6 points, 6.9 assists, and 1.2 steals is within reason. His shot has been off, but his speed and quickness are right there and he's had no problems creating looks for his teammates from the outset. Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker could see their minutes affected slightly, as the Raptors will employ a Calderon/Ford backcourt with some regularity, but neither stands to lose significant playing time. The Raptors, as a whole, only stand to gain from Ford's return, as he'll improve the team's offense any time he's on the court.
• Updating a few long-term injuries: Gilbert Arenas is scheduled to begin practicing with the Wizards after the All-Star break. "We're still thinking an in-general area of March 1 as a loose sort of date," said Washington coach Eddie Jordan. "We'll see where he is and get a really good feel for it, but that's all I really know." The team will remain cautious with Arenas, according to The Washington Times, who has done some set-shooting but no running on the court as of yet … When Elton Brand was cleared for extensive running and jumping exercises two weeks ago, his goal was to return to practice sometime around the All-Star break and then to the team's lineup in the following weeks. There haven't been any updates out of Clippers' camp recently, but we still know that the 16-32 Clippers aren't going to risk anything in the long-term. "What we've said all along is that we are not going to try to push our guys in any way to come back," said Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy in late January. "Our main thing is to be as sure as we can be about their health." … The Lakers have had no reason thus far to change the initial eight-week timetable for Andrew Bynum's return from a left knee bone bruise and kneecap dislocation, according to the Los Angeles Times. "As far as the swelling goes, it looks more normal," said Lakers spokesman John Black this past Friday. "He's definitely not running or jogging, but he's continuing treatment." Barring any setbacks, Bynum will return sometime during the week of March 9, with roughly five weeks of games remaining in the regular season – he'd be available for 15-plus games in a best-case scenario, but there are plenty of reasons to temper expectations significantly: he won't be 100 percent immediately, the Lakers wouldn't be foolish enough to ask him to really push it before the playoffs, and Pau Gasol as the team's starting C will allow them to ease him back into the lineup.
Other injury updates: Kevin Garnett remains on an indefinite timetable – it is certain that he will be out through the All-Star break, however, as he has been replaced by Rasheed Wallace on the East's roster … The Wizards are hopeful that Caron Butler will play in at least one game before the All-Star break but "will just have to wait and see," according to Wizards coach Eddie Jordan. Butler did light work on Sunday but did not participate in the team's shootaround … Gerald Wallace has shut himself down through the All-Star break, opting to rest his strained right foot instead of trying to play through the pain … Ben Gordon is scheduled to have an MRI on his right wrist on Monday – don't be surprised if he shuts it down for a bit … Kirk Hinrich has missed three games with bruised ribs but plans on being back in the lineup on Tuesday, according to the Chicago Tribune … Zydrunas Ilgauskas will be a game-time decision on Monday after leaving Sunday's game with back spasms … Mo Williams is likely to be back in the lineup on Monday after missing Saturday's game with the flu … Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is "very confident" that Tony Parker will return to the Spurs' lineup "right after" the All-Star break … Tyson Chandler has missed the past two games with the flu, but he's likely to be back in the lineup on Tuesday when the Hornets take on his former team, the Bulls … Shaquille O'Neal practiced with the Suns for the first time on Sunday, and the timing for his debut with the team will be determined after two more workouts (Monday and Tuesday), according to The Arizona Republic. He could play as soon as Wednesday, but he could also end up staying inactive until after the All-Star break … It's unlikely that Udonis Haslem will be available immediately following the All-Star break, according to the Palm Beach Post, as he's still dealing with his left high-ankle sprain … Jamaal Tinsley hopes to return from a sore left knee immediately following the All-Star break, but it's uncertain if that will be a reality. A Friday MRI revealed "some inflammation" in the knee, according to Tinsley.
Lineup changes/position battles: Andray Blatche has been proving his versatility lately, averaging 15 points on 51 percent shooting, 10.7 boards, 1.5 steals, and 2 blocks in six starts at SF in place of Caron Butler … The 76ers like what they've seen from Thaddeous Young in recent games, even if he's a bit undersized (6-foot-8, 220 pounds) as a starting PF. Over the past six games, Young has averaged 12.8 points on 61 percent shooting and 6.3 boards in 31 minutes per game … Meet your new Rockets' starting PF, Luis Scola, who has averaged 11.9 points on 60 percent shooting and 5.4 boards in 26 minutes over the past seven games, all starts … Jamaal Tinsley's injury means that Travis Diener will continue to start for at least a few more games. In his eight starts, he's averaged 10.8 points on 37 percent shooting, 1.8 threes, 5.9 assists, and 1 steal in 30 minutes per game.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Mike Conley (G – Memphis)
Conley's return to the lineup from a chest injury should also coincide with his percentage owned figure going back above 50 percent. He scored 16 points in 33 minutes on Saturday and will be asked to score a bit more now that Pau Gasol is no longer on the team. He hasn't been a world-beater as a starter, averaging 10.7 points, 0.6 threes, 3.1 boards, 5.3 assists, and 1.1 steals in 14 games, but those numbers are good enough to put him in H-2-H rotations and on roto benches.
Juan Carlos Navarro (G – Memphis)
Navarro will start more often than not moving forward, as the Grizzlies will go small on most nights, and his offensive potential makes him a solid choice for fantasy owners in need of some scoring and threes. He's struggled since the Gasol trade but has been effective overall, putting up 14.2 points on 40 percent shooting, 2.5 threes, 4.3 boards, 3.2 assists, and 0.8 steals in 17 starts.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Peja Stojakovic (GF – New Orleans) – Peja has been looking more and more like a draft-day bargain (80.6 Average Draft Position) as the season has progressed. Over his past eight games, he's averaged 22 points on 54 percent shooting, 4.3 threes, 5.4 boards, and 1 steal.
Corey Maggette (GF – LA Clippers) – A four-game bout with the flu interrupted what has been a very productive stretch for Maggette. In the past nine games that he's played, he's averaged 27.4 points on 59 percent shooting, 6.3 boards, and 1.8 steals, while making 89 percent of his free throws.
Dorell Wright (GF – Miami) – Wright has been playing well enough recently to at least raise his short-term stock. He's averaged 13.5 points on 50 percent shooting, 7.7 boards, 0.8 steals, and 0.8 blocks in 35 minutes over the past six games, but it remains to be seen how much playing time he'll lose once Udonis Haslem returns to the lineup. Of course, Haslem could also be dealt at the trading deadline …
Darko Milicic (FC – Memphis) – Darko has taken advantage of his excess playing time since the Gasol trade, averaging 11 points on 48 percent shooting, 10.6 boards, and 2.4 blocks in 34 minutes over the past five games.
Vladimir Radmanovic (PF – LA Lakers) – Space Cadet has suddenly found himself in the starting lineup for the Lakers, and has averaged 12.2 points on 54 percent shooting, 2.2 threes, 4 boards, and 1.2 steals in 29 minutes per game over the past five games.
Antonio Daniels (PG – Washington) – Daniels is looking like he's done helping fantasy teams at this point. He's been dealing with a problematic ankle for weeks, averaged just 7.8 points and 3 assists over the past five games that he has played, and is that much closer to becoming a reserve with Gilbert Arenas' return looming.
Ricky Davis (GF – Miami) – Davis' struggles with Miami's second unit have been titanic – over the past 13 games, he's averaged 8.5 points on 35 percent shooting, 3.4 boards, 2.4 assists, 0.7 steals, and 2.3 turnovers. Somehow, Davis remains on a roster in more than 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Francisco Garcia (GF – Sacramento) – Garcia was looking less and less like a viable fantasy option even before a back injury sidelined him through the All-Star break. In nine games prior to the injury, all as a reserve, he averaged 6.9 points, 2.5 boards, 1.3 assists, and 0.3 steals in 18 minutes per game.
Joe Johnson (G – Atlanta) – Johnson's game has been in a "funk" for much of the season, but it's reached "serious funk" level in recent weeks. He's seen a drop in his scoring (from 25 to 20.8) and his shooting percentage (41 percent) has fallen significantly from last season, including just 15.9 points on 36 percent shooting over the past 10 games. Curiously, Johnson's currently shooting 86 percent from the foul line, easily a career-high and up 11 points from last season (75 percent)
Yahoo! Friends and Family League Update
Things are a bit tighter at the top, as I'm 2.5 points behind FBC-Jonathan Tom, but overall the standings have kept their familiar look. This week's transactions included Larry Hughes, Damon Stoudamire, Joel Przybilla, Kyle Korver, Jarrett Jack, Thabo Sefolosha, Sam Cassell, and Charlie Villanueva, among others.