If you've been hanging on to an injured NBA all-star hoping to get a return on your fantasy draft investment, chances are you had a pretty good day Wednesday.
There's so much news to discuss, that we're going to dispense with our usual Dose main story format and provide you with some quick highlights of the bonanza of good health reports that Wednesday ushered in:
- When Elton Brand ruptured his Achilles' tendon in August, we thought reports of him returning in February were overly optimistic. February turned to March and then to April, but Brand finally made his season debut last night, scoring 19 points with five rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block in 26 minutes. He's been flying off the waiver wire this week with news that he would make his return Thursday. The fact that he came back a day early means that there's a small chance that Brand is still available. It's doubtful, but you should probably double check.
- Gilbert Arenas, who underwent surgery on his knee in November and last competed on November 16, made a surprise return last night after missing the previous 66 games. He only played 20 minutes, but sunk 5-of-9 from the field, including 2-of-3 from long distance, for 17 points. Chances are Agent Zero is gone from your league's waiver wires by now, but, again, it wouldn't hurt to look.
- Pau Gasol showed some rust in his return from a nine-game absence because of an ankle injury, sinking just 3-of-8 from the floor for 10 points in 32 minutes. However, he did managed seven assists, six boards, a steal and a block, while rendering Ronny Turiaf to the scrap heap. It was a great sign that Gasol was able to log that many minutes, considering coach Jackson said that he would have been happy to get anywhere from 16 to 25 minutes out of his big man. How happy are the Lakers to get Gasol back as they fight for a conference title? They went 15-4 after acquiring him, but just 5-4 while he was out. There's even less a chance that Gasol was dropped in your league, but if you're playing in a deeper league, check the wire.
- Dirk Nowitzki, out since March 23 with an ankle sprain of his own, surprised many by his return Wednesday night, helping Dallas exact some revenge on Golden State. While Nowitzki did manage a 3-pointer and a block, he sunk just 6-of-15 for 18 points and had just five rebounds in 27 minutes of action. In any league in which he's been dropped, Disco Dirk has been getting scooped up already in anticipation of his return, so chances are you're out of luck, But always, a quick look is easy enough. With Nowitzki back, Brandon Bass is now officially worthless again.
- Finally, Wednesday also brought the return of Andrei Kirilenko, who had missed a couple of games because of a calf injury. AK-47 managed just two assists and one block, but he did sink 6-of-7 from the field for 13 points with one 3-pointer and six boards in 24 minutes. In deeper leagues, Kirilenko could very well be available.
Well, now that you're done checking your league's waiver wires for the availability of that quintet of all-stars, let's peruse the remainder of Wednesday's activity…
Injury ReportBen Wallace
- While Gasol was making his return, Kobe Bryant was just doing his usual thing, scoring 14 of his 36 points in the final quarter to help the Lakers take out Portland and remain within striking distance of the Western Conference-leading Hornets. Kobe was superb, adding 13 rebounds, seven assists, four 3-pointers and three steals as LA kept its hopes alive of finishing first in the conference. Although Bryant's touches are down for the second straight season, he's stayed completely healthy this year and seems to be peaking at the right time, averaging 34.4 PPG, 8.8 RPG and 6.2 APG in the past five.
- Brandon Roy has missed the last three games with a groin strain, and not shockingly, Portland has gone 0-3 without him. In late-January, Portland was still looking fine with a 25-16 record, but the Blazers are just 13-21 since and now sit only one game over .500 in the quest for their first winning season since 2002-03. Fortunately, Roy's prognosis is looking rosier than we thought. Talk that he'll miss the rest of the season has subsided and now there's a chance the Blazers' main man will be back in action Tuesday. Wait for a weekend update before activating him, of course.
- Atlanta looks headed to the playoffs after downing Toronto in OT for its fifth straight win. It was a wacky game, but one thing is clear: if Mike Bibby is still hurting, it's not showing. He enjoyed one his finest games as a Hawk, scoring 26 points with 12 assists, six rebounds, five 3-pointers and three steals. In the past five games, Bibby is averaging 21 PPG, 7.8 APG, 3.6 RPG, 1.2 SPG and has nailed 18 treys. He's logging more minutes since arriving in Atlanta, and the numbers are rising as a result. However, this game could be protested by the Raptors. T.J. Ford sunk what appeared to be the game-winning basket at the end of regulation, but officials ruled time had expired. Replays, however, showed that the clock clearly started early. This isn't the first time that Ford and the Raptors have been burned by the Atlanta scorers, assuming it was the timekeeper and not one of the refs who started the clock early. Last year, a Ford layup was simply missed altogether. No one counted it on the scoreboard and it wound up changing the course of the game as the Raptors lost.
(back) is still out despite being cleared to play, but Daniel Gibson
did return to action Wednesday after he had come out early Sunday because of an ankle sprain. Boobie's shooting (1-for-7) suggests he's still not 100 per cent, so I expect to see Delonte West
continue to start at PG. While Gibson fight his way back, the big winner here, as I discussed last night
, may be Devin Brown
: Channing Frye
has played as many as 20 minutes in a game exactly once since February 27. Can you say bust?...Unless you're desperate for treys, Vladmir Radmanovic should probably be dumped. He managed 10 points last night for his second straight double-digit scoring effort, and he's poured in six 3-pointers in the past two games, but Radman simply offers too little in any other category to be employed for fantasy purposes…Derek Fisher
is playing through his foot injury, and while many have dropped him, you may want to wait on that decision. His minutes are back up in the past two games and he's averaged 15 PPG and shot well during this stretch…Lamar Odom
's scoring drought continued as he managed just 12 points, and he wasn't exactly pulling his weight on the glass (eight rebounds) or in the dime department (just one assist), either. He did, however, record three blocks and two steals…Jordan Farmar
is still not playing enough to justify a roster spot, but considering what he can do in limited PT (10 points and three assists in just 17 minutes), he'll be an intriguing option should Fisher's foot condition worsen…The Lakers have won 50 games 29 times and are on the cusp on securing their 55th playoff appearance in 60 years. Talk about a model organization…Travis Outlaw
is among the top wire plucks of the week and that won't stop after his 23-point, six-rebound, three-assist, one-steal, one-block performance last night…Martell Webster
, another hot Blazer pickup, also scored 23 points with some fantastic shooting (7-for-11, including 6-of-9 from downtown). He added a steal, but with news that Roy could return next week, Webster's value may be limited…Yet another Blazer who's garnered great interest in Roy's absence is Steve Blake
, and he kept it going with 12 points, 10 assists, three rebounds, two treys and a steal…Still with the Blazers, must-own PF LaMarcus Aldridge
is definitely over that ankle sprain from last week. He's recorded back-to-back double-doubles, giving him 16 on the season after he managed just six as a rookie…Talk about an all-around game -- how about J-Rich's night? He scored 31 points on 13-of-22 shooting, while adding seven assists, six rebounds, four 3-pointers, two steals and a block. Okay, so he only sunk 1-of-3 from the line, but I doubt Richardson owners will quibble over that…Stephen Jackson
has enjoyed a career year, but his shooting touch has gone AWOL at the absolute wrong time. He potted just 1-of-11 for two points last night, leaving him in a 3-for-23 skid in the past two games and 23-of-74 for the last five. This slump has Jackson down to 41 percent shooting for the year. Last season, he sunk 44.6 percent of hit shots after arriving in Golden State following the mega deal with Indy…Boston has matched the best single-season turnaround in NBA history, but that glorious feat comes with a fantasy price as Coach Rivers has said he plans on resting his Big Three down the stretch. It's time to keep an eye on some of the Celtic reserves like Leon Powe
, Tony Allen
, Glen Davis
and James Posey
fouled out, but with 29 points in 31 minutes, it looks like he's shaken off his recent scoring slump as he helped Cleveland end a six-game losing streak on the road…Tyson Chandler
nailed all 10 of his shots from the field en route to 20 points as the Hornets hammered woeful Miami to retain their Western Conference lead. Chandler added 10 boards for his career-best 35th double-double of the season…The Wizards got Arenas back as discussed, but they lost two key players last night as both DeShawn Stevenson
(sprained left ankle) and Antawn Jamison
(sprained right shoulder) got hurt. At this point, both could miss time, but we'll know more later today. Caron Butler
also got hurt, tweaking his wrist, but he should be fine…Yes, Memphis has one of the better offenses in the NBA, but 130 points
? Oh right, the Knicks were in town…Utah has reached 50 wins for the second straight year. The glory years have returned in Salt Lake City...Jake Voskuhl
is probably done for the year. If this is bad news for you (and you're not in Voskuhl's family), can I please join your league?...Al Thornton
, who has been a massive waiver wire darling in recent days, continues to excel. Many were worried about how Brand's return would affect the rookie, but so far, so good as Thornton had 21 points, 10 rebounds, two treys, a steal and a block last night…Andris Biedrins
was back in the starting lineup, but he still didn't play much (24 minutes) and with just seven points, eight boards and a block, is unreliable as a fantasy option right now. See how the weekend goes before deciding if you want the big Latvian active next week.Team Report
It's time to give it for the Sixers, who despite losing two straight games before beating the slumping Nets on Tuesday, have won 20 of their past 27 games. It's been an incredible turnaround for the 76ers, who were 18-30 on February 4, but have battled back to become just the sixth team in NBA history to get back over .500 after being at least a dozen games under the mark at some point earlier in that season. To put that in perspective, consider that, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 2004-05 Nets are the only other team to do that in the last 20 years.
After missing the playoffs the past two years, and sinking to just 35 wins last year (a total only reached after a 17-9 finish), the Sixers have ridden an improve defense this season to become one of the NBA's more pleasant surprises. If not for Doc Rivers and the Celtics' ridiculously amazing turnaround, Mo Cheeks would be very much in the running for coach of the year. Considering Philly didn't have the advantage of adding a Kevin Garnett
or Ray Allen
, its turnaround is pretty remarkable in comparison.
Watching the development of Louis Williams has been fun. The fact that this is his third NBA season makes it easy to forget that he's still only 21 years old. Williams keeps getting better and better as the season progresses – especially recently, with 15.4 PPG over his past five games – and is making a statement that he will soon be ready to become a starter in the NBA. He's certainly worth taking a risk on down the stretch for your fantasy team, depending on the size of your league.
Of course, Williams will be hard-pressed to overcome incumbent PG Andre Miller
, who is signed through the end of next season and is enjoying his finest NBA season, scoring wise. While his assists and rebounds have slipped (as a result, Miller has just 13 double-doubles), the extremely durable PG has parlayed a career-high 14 AFG per game and a personal-best 49.5 FG percentage into a career-high in points per game.
Team leader Andre Iguodala
has taken his offensive game to the next level. Although his rebounds and assists have slipped slightly this year, it's been a successful season for a variety of reasons. Iggy has stayed healthy this year, and while his PT is down slightly with the Sixers possessing a bit more frontcourt depth this season, he's shot the ball better this year and his perimeter game has continued to develop into an asset.Samuel Dalembert
had been slipping a bit recently, but he put up a monster line Tuesday with 15 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks and two steals. After a couple of injury-shortened seasons, Dalembert has proved extremely durable the last two years, and he's averaging a double-double for the first time in his career.
From a fantasy perspective, this young team offers little else, but at various times, rookie Thaddeus Young
has garnered interest, while vets Willie Green
and Reggie Evans
are periphery fantasy options in very deep leagues.