Aaron Bruski

The Daily Dose

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Dose: C.J.'s Milestone

Thursday, March 17, 2011

There are nights when the fantasy landscape changes in sudden and severe bursts, and usually a busy 11-game slate on Hump Day is enough to move the cheese all the way into a different maze.

Wednesday was not that night. Sure, there was a 40-point scoring night from C.J. Miles, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul went nuts, John Kuester is still coaching, Keith Smart might not be for long, and the Heat lost and the recently re-installed sky at American Airlines Arena fell in Miami once again.

I ain't gonna lie. It was sort of a snoozer.

But that's probably the perfect backdrop for what has been fantasy basketball's biggest season to date. We've had the biggest trade deadline in league history, an information revolution at owners' fingertips, and storylines that only David Stern could preside over.

Meanwhile, your rabid scouring for news heading into the fantasy playoffs still holds the Rotoworld site hostage, with only Chase Utley cracking the basketball dominated top-10 searches over the past week – and baseball's Opening Day just a fortnight away.

So why not let the pot simmer a bit before the top blows off?

Teams are jockeying for playoff positioning, resting their guys, trying new things at the last moment, playing for ping pong balls, limping across the finish line, finding out who they are, and in some places the NBA Cares more about the champagne room than they do the locker room. Fair or not, sometimes fantasy fortunes swing when the league's best player plays it safe, or when a guy goes fishing with Kenny and Chuck in March.

I played (and won) a big money contest in football that uses Week 17 to decide who goes to the finals, and while that is an extreme example, basketball is no different than any other sport in which fantasy titles are decided by guys like C.J. Miles, Jordan Crawford, Andray Blatche, Marcus Thornton, and Steve Nash's pelvis.

Now is not the time in which the best player or team wins. Now is the time that the most diligent owner wins.

If you're competing and keeping up with the Joneses, you're tired. So are your opponents. The NCAA Tournament starts today and it's St. Patrick's Day. There are only three games tonight. I can't think of three better reasons to grab the green war paint and scratch a day off the calendar.

But now is not that time. You're either in your playoffs or close, and your labor of love is either going to kiss you back or backhand you – and it's your choice whether or not you show up with bells on or get your bell rung. So maybe a somewhat slow Wednesday night is what everybody needed before the eye of the storm passes. Just don't let Wednesday night fool you, we're just getting started around here.

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Aaron Bruski

C.J.'s Milestone

C.J. Miles set a Jazz record for scoring in a regulation game last night, dropping a career-high 40 points on 14-of-18 shooting (including six treys) with four rebounds and two assists, immediately after Ty Corbin named him the starting shooting guard going forward. Before last night's extravaganza, he had averaged 19.0 points, 5.7 boards, 2.5 assists, 1.8 threes, and 1.5 steals in six starts this season – and with the state of Andrei Kirilenko's back, Raja Bell's toe injury and general ineffectiveness, Paul Millsap's knee, Devin Harris' ever-present injury risk, and the lack of depth in Utah – Miles should have been owned before last night's eruption.

Chances are if you're reading this for the first time, he is long gone, but if not he should be owned in all leagues going forward.Update: It was previously reported by multiple sources that he set a Jazz record, but the Mailman Karl Malone owns the Jazz record with a 61-point game in which he hit 21-of-26 field goals and 19-of-23 free throws. Thanks to Geoff Buchan for pointing that out.

The Smart Money is on Curry

Tim Kawakami is a lightning rod for criticism in the Bay Area, but as a long-time Warriors fan, he is a sort-of cult hero among us poor souls that really dig in and follow the Ws. Among the 101 problems the franchise has, he has been all over the problem with having Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry starting in the same backcourt, whereas some Warriors fans are simply happy to have two guys that make amazing plays nightly. Now some of the shine has been stripped this season from Curry, whose choir boy image heading into the NBA was enhanced by a Cinderella-like run in the NCAA Tourney, a well-liked NBA player for a dad, and a mom that got more air time in the stands than Dick Vitale did on the court in his name-making tourney run.

This season, he has been pouty and his defensive liabilities have been on an island for all to see, and Keith Smart has spelled (read: punished) Curry with Acie Law, who almost played his way out of the league before this year. To Law's credit, he has been serviceable in his time on the court, but you can't take a franchise player off the court without raising eyebrows. Last night, after he played an increasingly-normal 32 minutes with just 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting with five assists and nothing else – Kawakami tweeted that 'one of the many reasons that Smart won't be coaching the Warriors next season, this thing with Steph Curry will be No. 1 or 2.'

Now Curry has been an elite, albeit frustrating, fantasy play all season long. But this situation bears watching, and could come to a head at any time. Smart could read the writing on the wall and fall in line, or he could dig a trench. My guess is that it will be the former, but wouldn't it be a kicker if it was the latter.

On a side note, I named my NBC March Madness NCAA bracket 'Stephen Curry's Mom' – because she's clearly good luck, and you can also enter and compete against the rest of America for some awesome prizes here.

Boston Brick Wall

The Celtics turned away the Pacers last night, which in of itself isn't news, but we saw the first signs of the Celtics' fantasy engine stalling at the worst possible time. Specifically, Rajon Rondo's owners should be concerned after Kevin Garnett declared that Rondo was playing hurt, and he scored no points on two shot attempts with no rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and one block. He tweaked his ankle on Monday, and has stubbornly played through a number of injuries this season, and the Celtics are among the most conservative teams in the league when it comes to injuries. Rondo should be considered a medium-to-high shutdown risk for at least a few games prior to 'dead-week,' though he'll probably demand to play through his ailments.

We also saw the first signs of minute reductions for the Big Three in Boston, with Ray Allen playing 27 minutes on his way to 12 points, three boards, and two threes, Paul Pierce playing 28 minutes with 20 points and a full stat line, and Kevin Garnett playing 25 minutes with 10 points, four rebounds, and a block. Meanwhile, Jeff Green played 27 minutes and scored 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting with three rebounds, no assists, three blocks, and a three, and Glen Davis scored nine points with nine rebounds and a block in 28 minutes. Of the two, I'm more interested in owning Big Baby since his role is more established and needed going forward for the Celtics, but I wouldn't rule out Green for some serviceable lines like this, either. As for the Big Three + Rondo, there's not a lot that owners can do down the stretch, and their schedule is among the best, but my advice is to not bury your head down the stretch and auto-start them.

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Aaron Bruski has covered hoops for Rotoworld since 2008 and has competed in national fantasy sports competitions for nearly two decades. You can also find his work over at ProBasketballTalk, where he received critical acclaim for his in-depth reporting of the Kings' relocation saga. Hit him on Twitter at Aaronbruski.
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