Vacations and fantasy sports don't go well together. When you're trying to get away from it all, the "all" should include things like debating the value of Tyronn Lue over Carlos Arroyo or trying the figure out why Vladimir Radmanovic can't average 18 points per game. Beach access and ocean views should be vastly more important than wireless signal strength, right? The answer, of course, is yes. Problem is – there is no deadlier phrase in fantasy sports than, "can you take care of my team while I'm gone." It's like asking Vincent Vega to take your girlfriend Mia out for a night on the town. You get what you deserve. The only reason I point any of this out is to caution that this week's installment of The Skinny was heavily influenced by heat exhaustion, blended drinks and jet lag.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- Darius Miles will be eligible to return to action Wednesday when Portland hosts Denver to begin a four-game homestand. Just how much he plays depends on exactly how sincere Mo Cheeks was when he told The Oregonian he is ready to forgive Miles for Thursday's film-room confrontation. Cheeks admitted that he was unusually critical of Miles during the film session – so one has to assume that the coach has not been happy with Miles' play of late. Darius averaged 16.6 points and 7.1 rebounds in his only 10 starts of the year, but he has been slow to regain his spot in the starting lineup after missing eight games with a knee injury. While Cheeks seems ready to forgive and forget, Miles has been less conciliatory. In a statement issued through the team, the sixth-year pro apologized to Portland fans without mentioning his coach specifically. In other words – he's sorry for getting suspended, but not sorry for letting his coach have it.
Complicating matters has been the play of Ruben Patterson. With Miles serving the first game of his two-game suspension, Patterson played a team-high 43 minutes Friday, finishing with 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals in a win against the Clippers. It was a fairly typical line for Patterson – an energy guy who plays the game with an infectious zeal that has won over Portland fans. As a starter he's averaging 16.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. Fantasy owners began to jump off the Patterson bandwagon when he scored only nine points Wednesday against Dallas, but his minutes were limited that night by foul trouble. The Miles suspension and any lingering bitterness than may carry forward will certainly be a shot in the arm for Ruben's fantasy value. Miles owners should go out and sign him now as insurance if he remains available on the waiver wire.
- Rafer Alston is one step closer to dusting off his old street-ball nickname and joining the likes of Spyda, the Professor and everyone's favorite, Half Man Half Amazing on the AND 1 street tour. Sunday the disgruntled guard was suspended for two games by the Raptors for conduct detrimental to the team. According to the Toronto Star, Alston has had repeated run-ins with coaches and teammates this season. The Toronto Star speculated Sunday that the rift between Alston and the organization may be irreparable – pointing out that most suspensions of this nature carry a one-game suspension.
Milt Palacio stepped into the starting lineup Sunday, scoring six points and adding nine assists in just his second start of the season. Alston owners have to be very nervous at this point. He was already suspended once this season and he's the owner of a long rap sheet dating back to junior college. He can score – but he also can rely too much on setting up his own shot. Head coach Sam Mitchell indicated that Alston's first order of business after his suspension will be making amends with his teammates. If he's unwilling to do so, Rafer may soon be feeling like Carlos Arroyo did while he was stuck in Jerry Sloan's doghouse in Utah.
- It's a popular move for high school coaches – a mass five-for-five substitution designed to light a fire under an underachieving starting unit. Similar motivational tactics are common in the college ranks as well. When I was a reserve forward at San Jose State University, our coach once admitted he was close to making us run liners during a timeout as yet another game slipped away in a 23-loss season. He didn't, but I wish he had. It would have been nice to break a sweat after warmups for a change. Rarely do you see coaches send a message this way in the pro ranks, but that's exactly what happened Thursday when Bulls head coach Scott Skiles benched his entire starting five for the fourth quarter against Charlotte. Jannero Pargo, Eric Piatkowski and Andres Nocioni combined to score 47 points as Chicago barely held on to beat the expansion Charlotte Bobcats.
Pargo, who averaged 13.5 points in 13 games with the Bulls last season, scored 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting after missing his previous 12 field goal attempts. While Skiles' move didn't backfire against Charlotte, his starting unit didn't exactly play with a sense of urgency while blowing a late lead against Boston two nights later. Shooting guard Kirk Hinrich came out particularly flat. After scoring in double-figures for 25 consecutive games, Hinrich was held to single digits Thursday and Saturday. He's shooting just 34 percent from the field in his past seven starts. Thankfully, he continues to fill up the stat sheet in other ways. This will be an interesting situation to keep an eye on. Few teams are hotter than the Bulls, but Skiles has been disappointed with their defensive effort of late. Further lineup shakeups could have a positive impact on the fantasy values of the likes of Nocioni or Tyson Chandler, who ranks 6th in the NBA in rebounds per 48 minutes (16.0).
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Earl Boykins, PG, Den
Boykins played an average of 31.5 minutes in George Karl's first two games as head coach of the Denver Nuggets. Karl seems to like using Boykins and Andre Miller in the same backcourt, a pairing that would help extend Earl's minutes. In Denver's past eight games, Boykins is averaging 15.9 points and 5.0 assists.
- Andre Iguodala, SF, Phi
Iguodala isn't scoring with any kind of consistency, but lately he's doing just enough to remain on the fantasy radar. In January, he's averaging 7.1 rebounds per game and he's been a steal machine of late – 16 thefts in his past eight starts.
- Primoz Brezec, C, Cha
While rookie Emeka Okafor appears to have hit a bump in the road, Brezec is just finding another gear. He recorded back-to-back double-doubles during the weekend, starting with 17 points and 12 rebounds Saturday against Toronto and closing the weekend with 15 and 10 in a loss to the Lakers. It was Brezec's third double-double in five games.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Stromile Swift, FC, Mem – In six games as a starter, Swift is averaging 12.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. He'll get at least one more week's worth of starts as Pau Gasol recovers from a foot injury.
Marquis Daniels, G, Dal – The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday that Daniels' ankle is feeling better now than it has at any time since he sprained it last summer. He averaged 20.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists in the last 11 games of 2003-04, but he's been hobbled all season, keeping him out 15 games and limiting his productivity when he's played.
Andres Nocioni, SF, Chi – Nocioni has made 41.2 percent of his three-point attempts in January. Chicago head coach Scott Skiles told the Chicago Sun-Times that he may try Nocioni some at shooting guard in an effort to find him more minutes.
Kareem Rush, SG, Char – Rush has made at least one trey in 10 straight games. He topped 20 points twice during the weekend and is averaging 16.5 field goal attempts in his past six starts.
Jim Jackson, SG, Pho – Providing the exact service Phoenix traded for, Jackson has come off the bench to make 13 of 23 attempts from beyond the arc in five games with the Suns.
Tony Allen, G, Bos – They love this guy in Boston, and fantasy owners are slowly taking note as well. Recently inserted into the starting lineup, Allen scored 17 points and added four steals, four rebounds and three assists in a loss to Phoenix Friday.
Dan Dickau, PG, NO – Dickau's averages of 16.0 points, 6.6 assists and 1.5 steals as a starter compare favorably with some of the best fantasy point guards.
Raul Lopez, PG, Utah – With Keith McLeod on the IL, Lopez stepped into the starting lineup and made a splash with a 20-point, 11-assist outburst against Seattle. He followed that up with 14 points and nine assists Saturday in a loss at Minnesota.
Chris Kaman, C, LAC – Chris Wilcox averaged 12 points and nearly 30 minutes as a starter earlier this season. His minutes had steadily declined before a leg injury forced him to the IL in early January, but you have to figure that his recent activation will cut into Kaman's productivity.
Emeka Okafor, C, Cha – Hitting the rookie wall? After a string of 23 consecutive games in double-figures, Okafor has been held to single digits in five of his past 11 starts. Though he's still averaging a double-double in January, his scoring is down from 18.1 in December to 13.3 this month.
Matt Harpring, GF, Utah – Harpring returned to the bench when Andrei Kirilenko rejoined the starting linup. He averaged just 8.6 points as a reserve compared to 15.3 when a member of the starting five.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
5 Number of 20-rebound games Erick Dampier recorded after Jan. 10 last season for the Warriors. He had only one prior to that date, giving Damp's current owners hope that Saturday's 26-rebound performance was a sign of things to come.