THE BUNK BEDS WERE A TERRIBLE IDEA
Russell Westbrook scored a season-high 36 points on 14-of-26 shooting and single-handedly kept the Thunder in the game against the lowly Wizards. He added five rebounds, seven assists, and a steal, and is climbing his way back to his draft day ADP after a slow start. Serge Ibaka got 32 minutes of action, scoring six points with 10 rebounds, a steal, and two more blocks. He is providing seventh and ninth round value in 9- and 8-cat leagues, respectively, and if there’s any silver lining it’s that things can’t get much worse. James Harden is developing a problem on the road, shooting 37.7 percent from the field with noticeably worse stats up and down the sheet. Maybe he’s forced to bunk with Brooks. That’s all I got.
Andray Blatche (shoulder) returned to the starting lineup and has even been floating around waiver wires, which is a reflection of how serious his injury appeared on the outside last week. Fast-forward to last night and Blatche looked great with 12 points, 10 boards, four assists, two steals, a block, and a 3-pointer. If you dropped him you’ve got to be feeling pretty sick today. John Wall still isn’t shooting the ball well, as he hit just 6-of-17 shots last night, but he was otherwise great with 25 points (13-of-14 from the foul line), seven boards, and eight assists. Wall averaged 41 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from 3-point distance last season, and a week or so ago I implored owners to buy low on the precocious No. 1 overall pick. Let's say it again because of the bankable chance his shooting improves from his now 37.6 percent mark. Add to that expected improvement the fact that he has missed seven 3-point shots this season and hasn’t made one yet. Like I said then, something has to give.
The best news is that the Wizards got a win, though, and more of that is needed for owners of Nick Young, Jordan Crawford, and JaVale McGee, who obviously will perform better nightly if their team isn’t such a laughing stock. Young hit just 6-of-17 shots, but finished with 24 points and five treys, while backup Crawford showed up with 18 points on 4-of-10 shooting with six rebounds and a 3-pointer. The win means the current configuration is bound to continue, with Young being the must-own player in 12-team leagues and Crawford being the upside guy you may want to stash on your bench (non-turnover formats only right now). McGee didn’t have any immediate negative reaction following his showboating dunk on Monday, scoring seven points with 11 boards, two steals, and a block. I wasn’t worried and you shouldn’t be either. He’s a mess, but he’s a hot mess that owners should put up with (like most hot messes are).
PUNT, PASS, AND KICK SOME ASS
Dwight Howard turned in a monstrous effort with 24 points, a season-high 25 rebounds, three blocks, and a steal. He even hit 6-of-10 free throws, but if you’re punting those you have a top-3 player. Von Wafer scored 15 points with three triples, but he’ll be buried once Jason Richardson (knee) returns. Jameer Nelson was awful and hit just 2-of-16 shots for four points with five assists and three boards, and I wouldn’t blame owners for dropping him. He belongs on a roster desperate for PG assistance and that’s about it these days.
THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES
The Kings came through with their “big” lineup change on Wednesday, which included sticking Jason Thompson in the starting lineup for J.J. Hickson. Thompson scored nine points with 10 boards with two steals in 26 minutes, while Hickson played just 10 minutes with six points and five boards. Thompson has played well lately and is being rewarded, and if you’re desperate for a short-term big man in a deeper league he could be worth a look. Just know that when Chuck Hayes returns he’s likely to return to his starting role with about 30 minutes per game, as the Kings desperately need veteran leadership on the court.
DeMarcus Cousins continued to put up numbers in defiance of his old coach, grabbing a career-high 19 rebounds (12 offensive) with 13 points and a block. The Kings rallied back late, and they can look no further than this year’s Mr. Irrelevant Isaiah Thomas to thank. His eight points and one assist aren’t going to show it, but he brings court vision to the table and that alone makes the Kings offense look palatable. With Tyreke Evans (eight points, seven rebounds, six assists, 3-of-14 FGs), Marcus Thornton (17 points, 5-of-17 FGs), Cousins (5-of-14 FGs), and John Salmons (six points, 2-of-7 FGs) playing the ugly brand of basketball anybody could have predicted – they need to make a change.
But they won’t. Because the front office and coach are too afraid to put their young crew on the bench, the Kings will continue to look like a JV basketball team indefinitely. Thomas could help that, and so could frozen-out Jimmer Fredette, because they’re willing distributors on a team full of sticky-fingers, but it’s going to take a losing binge that will knock them out of playoff contention for that to happen. Until then, if you own any of the aforementioned chuckers be ready for inconsistency and low field goal percentages all year long.
FOUR QUARTERS OF FURY
1ST QUARTER: Mike Brown said he wants to reduce Kobe Bryant’s minutes, and while much of the focus has been on his wrist in my sell-high calls, a portion of the recommendation comes from the reality that he can’t keep up his current pace. Everybody around the team knows it, and the only one that doesn’t is the guy most important to the Lakers’ postseason run. Josh Howard (quad) is not expected to play Thursday … he’s just a guy to watch. Scott Skiles talked about benching Stephen Jackson on Tuesday, and of course S-Jax was thrilled … which is right on par with what I wrote about yesterday. Derrick Favors (ankle) returned to practice on Wednesday, but I’d guess that Paul Millsap has another night of worry-free play even if Favors goes as it looks like he will. Dwyane Wade (ankle) didn’t practice yesterday, and he’ll be day-to-day until he plays, with plenty of updates. Marvin Williams played just 21 minutes coming off his ankle injury, but scored 12 points with eight rebounds … with Al Horford out of the picture I’m all for jumping the gun on a semi-speculative add in 12-team leagues here.
2nd QUARTER: Marreese Speights backed up Monday’s nice outing with just four points on 2-of-7 shooting with eight rebounds in 23 minutes. He’s not a consistent player so owners shouldn’t expect a consistent result. Vince Carter returned to Dallas to see the team physician for the ‘pop’ he heard in his foot … Rick Carlisle said Lamar Odom might get more minutes as a result, and Delonte West is worth a short-term look while Carter is out … Odom looked like he was pulled after some lazy defense on Blake Griffin at the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter but that’s just a hunch … Odom scored five points on 1-of-4 shooting with seven boards, one assist, and one steal, and Carlisle’s quote bought him 1-2 more games with me to stink up the joint. Hedo Turkoglu (back) was a surprise scratch last night, highlighting why he should be viewed as a declining asset regardless of how well he plays. Jason Richardson (knee) also missed last night’s game and while his earliest return date is Friday, it’s a bit unsettling for owners that there’s no timetable for his return. Don’t panic, but put your ear to the ground.
3rd QUARTER: Stephen Curry (ankle) may be targeting a Monday return, so hopefully owners can get a solid update before weekly lineup deadlines … Monta Ellis returned to action after taking a shot to the face on Tuesday and promptly scored 30 points. James Johnson (ankle) started last night and proceeded to do what he does, hitting just 1-of-7 shots for four points, two rebounds, and a steal in 25 minutes … Rasual Butler and Linas Kleiza combined for just 4-of-13 shooting, while Gary Forbes was the best of the bunch with a season-high 18 points on 5-of-6 shooting in just 19 minutes … while Johnson is starting he’s worth a look in 12-team, 8/9 cat formats but he’s on the shortest of leashes. Andrea Bargnani (calf) did not play last night but he could return on Friday or Sunday … Amir Johnson is apparently banged up everywhere but he tends to play through that sort of thing … it’s not a bad idea though to test his market value while there’s not a red cross next to his name. Corey Brewer was not able to take advantage of Rudy Fernandez’s absence due to his Achilles’ injury, scoring six points in 17 minutes … in the words of Apu, ‘come again.’
4th QUARTER: J.J. Barea (ankle) was a game-time decision and suited up, scoring eight points with two threes in 14 minutes … the starting unit made just 15 field goals on the night and I’m issuing a pass to Luke Ridnour (3-of-10 FGs, seven points, two assists) … he missed practice on Tuesday for personal reasons and there’s enough oddity there to wait it out. Michael Beasley (mid-foot sprain) is still without a timetable for return, but nobody has stepped up in his place … I wouldn’t be surprised to hear murmurs of Derrick Williams reading his own press clippings after spending the summer with NBA All Stars. Nikola Pekovic started the second half of last night’s game at center, which is probably more a statement about Darko Milicic than it is about Pek. He finished with 11 points, four boards, two steals, and a block in 24 minutes. If he continues to start, the bruiser will play as many minutes as he can handle before fouling out, and will probably put up similar numbers to what you see here. If you’re in a deeper league where centers are at a premium, give him a look.