TODAY IN KOBE
Kobe Bryant backed up his 48-point effort from Tuesday with another 40 points on Wednesday, and also added eight rebounds, four assists, a steal, a block, and a three. He looks Kobe-er than ever, dominating the ball and attacking defenses ferociously, all the while knowing that one hit could send his wrist to a very bad place. I’ve been leading the sell-high charge around here, and admittedly losing the battle with each big night. To pile on this currently failed position of mine, an interesting report emerged in the wee hours last night indicating that Kobe says his wrist is healing.
I don’t know how much I believe him with wrist doctors everywhere suggesting he’s off his rocker for not getting surgery, but admittedly nobody other than Kobe and his own doctors know how bad the situation is in the first place. He could be playing it up or playing it down, and beat writer Kevin Ding’s report illustrates Kobe’s unwillingness to consider the idea that he’s hurt or limited. As an analyst I have to give credibility to the report, and tell you guys to lay back on the sell-high front. Perhaps dipping only a round or a round-and-a-half under his current late-first round value in 8-cat leagues makes sense. He is playing like he doesn’t care about late-season rest and his explosiveness is there. If there is anybody that can run the engine hard at 200,000 miles it’s Kobe. I just wonder how much of his conversation with Ding is denial, and if the danger is best avoided through some good ol’ fashion risk management.
THE EYE IN THE SKY DON’T LIE
Serge Ibaka is not just being railroaded by Scott Brooks, he’s being railroaded by the local media it seems, who reported last night that he had been beat defensively on four straight possessions. This, of course, is the purported rationale for not feeding him minutes. I’m sure it’s hard to see the action in real-time and at court level, versus watching the tape on Synergy like I have been doing with critical situations like the Ibaka one. Looking back at all of his defensive possessions, I could have nitpicked a few things here and there, but he did nothing to warrant less than a ‘C’ grade and often times he performed as well as anybody could have in the league.
Nevertheless, owners have right to be frustrated with Ibaka in general, though he’s still providing seventh round value in 9-cat leagues and ninth round value in 8-cat leagues. One can’t just drop a player with that ‘floor,’ in particular when his best days are clearly ahead of him. As I’ve written a bunch, Brooks is trying to get Ibaka to buy into the Brooks Way, which is a nebulous mix of quote-unquote “earning it.”
On the other side of Brooks’ scale of justice is Nick Collison, who is the on-court example of how he wants guys to play and the one stealing Ibaka’s minutes (along with below-average Nazr Mohammed and overrated Kendrick Perkins). Collison is a fine player and adds a pick-and-roll element to the offensive game-plan, but Brooks is insane for not developing a player in Ibaka that averaged nearly FIVE blocks per game against Denver in last year’s playoffs. The physical specimen with a feathery 18-foot jumper has elite-level upside at his position, and could be a difference-maker defending the bigs of Los Angeles and Dallas in the playoffs. He needs to be on the floor learning the finer points of the game, but it’s anybody’s guess when that will happen in full. My guess is that it comes toward the latter part of the season, with slow gains throughout the year. But if Brooks decides he wants to go to war with Collison, he’ll do it at his own peril – and the basketball media will give him a pass. After all, how could a guy they voted Coach of the Year be a bad coach?
THE SCARLET LETTER
Josh Howard has been gaining buzz all year long and looks like the guy that we remember from Dallas, and of course his ever-present injury risk is going to be his Scarlet Letter all year long. His knee tendinitis flared up “a little” last night and the quad injury surely is still lurking. But when he’s on the floor he’s dynamite, unlike last year when the explosion simply wasn’t there. Howard scored 18 points with two threes, four rebounds, two assists, and a steal in 34 minutes against the Lakers last night. More importantly, he brings to the table the ability to beat his man one-on-one, and most people around the league think he’ll pick up a starting job at either SG or SF as long as he’s healthy. The hope is that he replaces Raja Bell, which would in theory help free up Gordon Hayward’s less-explosive game and be a win-win for owners. Adding Howard is a fine move in my opinion, as long as you know you’ll have to pitch him back to the wire the next time he gets hurt.
THE CHANDLER PARSONS PROJECT
Chandler Parsons (eight points, six boards, four assists, three steals, and a block) also didn’t jump out in the box score, though that’s certainly a line that helped owners, but he is still the talk of Rockets beat writers. His tip-in dunk was quickly flung around the Internet and reporters are eager to tell us all about how smart Parsons is, in particular late when he was trusted to inbound the ball with the game on the line. With Chase Budinger (zero points, 13 minutes) face-planting and Parsons playing the part, he should be owned in all 12-team leagues.
Samuel Dalembert didn’t jump out on the stat sheet last night, scoring six points with five rebounds and three blocks in just 22 minutes. The thing that did jump out was beat writer Jonathan Feigen saying he was “dominating” down low. That’s the type of talk that can keep owners patient, even though it goes without saying that he should be playing a full load at some point. The move here is to ‘hold,’ for now, and I’d even get behind a conservative buy low offer.
IT’S ELEMENTARY, WATSON
Devin Harris has really struggled and Earl Watson has created the appearance, real or not, of a position battle, but Watson left last night’s game in the fourth quarter with a knee injury and it appears that he’ll miss some time. I’ve received more ‘should I cut Harris’ questions than I thought could be possible this early this year, and despite the 1-of-7 shooting for three points and five assists, the play here is still to hold in 12-team leagues. And even in 10-team leagues, the prospects of Watson being out suggest that owners should cross their fingers and hope Harris gets his act together.
MarShon Brooks ankle doesn’t appear to be a concern, but he may have created a smidge of doubt with owners after scoring just 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting with two rebounds, three assists, and a 3-pointer in a middling 30 minutes. Jordan Farmar came out of nowhere with a season-high 26 points with six treys, three assists, and two steals, and is the primary reason for Brooks’ slow night (not to mention Anthony Morrow’s 23 points and five treys). Farmar has clashed with Avery Johnson and certainly earned more time in the rotation, but translated to Avery’s world that means ‘probably’ or better yet, ‘possibly.’ Overall, Brooks’ owners need to try to remember that he’s a rookie and is bound to have off-nights, but his scoring is a necessity for the Nets to keep from getting blown out every night. Morrow should have already been added in 12-team leagues, and if he hasn’t been go ahead and pick him up. When he’s hot he’s hot.
Lamar Odom is a mess. He played just 15 minutes and scored only six points with two rebounds, two assists, and a block. First came the stories about his lack of conditioning, but as time has gone on it has been obvious that the problem is mental with him. We know that Rick Carlisle has pointed out his flaws recently, too, but the real dope came from Chris Mannix of SI.com in a short piece outlining Odom’s troubles last night. Guess what? He’s pouting. Yes, a shock, but one also has to wonder what his reality TV wife and the associated circus are doing to him.
Many owners have moved on, but I’ll offer this – if the switch is turned off it can just as easily be turned on. I find it hard to believe that he deteriorated so much physically that he can’t be effective. After all, he was ready to run with Kobe and crew on another championship run. A normal Odom has mid-round upside and Dallas isn’t exactly stocked in the frontcourt outside of Dirk Nowitzki and an aging Shawn Marion. It may help to think of Odom as questionable to return with a severe case of the Mondays.