RUN RAYMOND RUN
It might seem like a bad night to evaluate the Blazers after they helped Gerald Wallace (23 points, five boards, three steals, one block) exact revenge upon his old Bobcats squad to the tune of a 44-point dismantling, but two key guys that have been shooting awfully bad lately deserve a spotlight nonetheless. Less relevant to last night’s result is Wesley Matthews, who hit 3-of-6 shots and is shooting a career-low 41 percent on the year. Jamal Crawford’s arrival isn’t doing him any favors, but it’s a bit of a stretch to put Matthews’ troubles entirely on that. He’s simply not making shots, and those things tend to work themselves out as long as the player in question hasn’t fallen off a cliff. I don't think Matthews is that guy. If Nicolas Batum’s knee injury (day-to-day, trying to play Saturday) is more serious than he or the team is letting on, then Matthews will have even more opportunity to work back toward his 45.5 percent career mark. Sitting at mid-round value in 8- and 9-cat formats on the year, and late round value in the last two weeks, there is room to buy low here.
Then there’s the case of Raymond Felton, who got fat over the summer and while slimmed down since those photos were snapped, he hasn’t been running the ball like Nate McMillan wants. Felton’s answer as to why he won’t run? “I don’t know,” he said when asked about it before last night’s game. Wouldn’t you know he ran the ball last night, and with Jamal Crawford his only real competition at point guard he has all the time in the world to get his act together, at least until Nolan Smith becomes an option (read: not anytime soon). Felton has late round value on the year in 8- and 9-cat formats, and that has improved a bit over the last two weeks, and his 37.2 percent mark from the field is also bound to move toward his 41.1 percent career mark. As for buying low, we’re talking about a starting, pedigreed point guard with little to no competition for minutes with the law of large numbers on his side. That he could play worse is certainly a possibility, but what are we talking about here – a 70 percent chance he improves? 80 percent? Surely Felton gets a few percentage points for being in a contract year, unless of course his current contract was incentivized with cupcakes.
Nate McMillan praised him for running the ball last night and here’s a shocking theory – the fat out-of-shape guy is getting into shape two months late and didn’t want to push tempo early in the year because he couldn’t. Assuming Felton continues to push the ball, which he is being asked to do, the touches and opportunities will increase. With extra opportunities guys usually do one of two things – play their way out of a role or get a better feel for their own game through the added success they have. Felton is good enough to be the latter. He is the definition of a buy low guy.
ODDS AND ENDS
Kenyon Martin is going to decide this weekend where he will sign, and owners might as well just wait to hear where that will be outside of desperate, deep-league scenarios. Shawne Williams started at small forward with half of New Jersey injured, and despite his own leg issues he could be worth a look for his 3-point shooting. Williams had 11 points, five boards, and three treys last night. Ishmael Smith was called up by the Magic and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stan Van Gundy give him a shot. He knows what he has in Chris Duhon and will be looking to catch lightning in a bottle with Jameer Nelson scuffling. I’m not buying Jason Smith’s 16 points, four boards, and three blocks until he does it again. You couldn’t pay me to take on Rashard Lewis after his 20-point, eight-rebound line. He is old, breaking down, and not that good anymore. Trevor Booker (eight points, nine boards, two blocks) is still the add in Washington.
FOUR QUARTERS OF INJURY UPDATES
1ST QUARTER: Spencer Hawes (Achilles) and Nikola Vucevic (quad/knee) still aren’t playing despite being day-to-day forever. I don’t buy what Doug Collins is selling about their health to date, as they would have been out there if they were right. Luol Deng (thigh) did not play last night and Richard Hamilton (groin) says he’ll stay out until he’s 100 percent. Reports have had them ready to play for a while now, but I’m glad I didn’t buy them. The Chicago Sun-Tribune has missed a few times already, and has Deng “expected to start Thursday.” We’ll see. Ditto Jason Richardson (knee) whenever his status gets updated. The guy hardly looks like he can run, let alone jump, but he was “expected” to play last night and didn’t. Rajon Rondo (wrist) didn’t play and once again I’m not shocked. His new target is Friday and short of a guarantee owners are gambling if they’re counting on him.
2ND QUARTER: Raja Bell (adductor) missed last night and will miss Thursday. He missed four games on two separate occasions with the same injury last year. Don’t be surprised if the Jazz play it safe and use this time to work with Gordon Hayward, Josh Howard, and C.J. Miles. Earl Watson left last night’s game with a severe left ankle sprain (X-rays negative, doubtful for Thursday), so it’s time to hold or add Devin Harris (sore left hamstring, expected to play Thursday) no matter how bad he has been playing. If I had to guess, he’ll have about a week or so to get his act together at a minimum and Utah needs him to enhance his trade value. Not having Earl look over his shoulder could help. Al Jefferson (foot) continued to make minor injuries look minor with 27 points and 12 boards last night, so the status quo remains in effect in Utah’s frontcourt. Marcus Thornton (thigh) was a full participant in practice yesterday and might play Thursday. Jimmer is not being helped by the coaches, who haven’t figured out a pick-and-roll game for him, but the end-result is that he failed his interview, nonetheless.
3RD QUARTER: Baron Davis (back) isn’t close to returning, which is another shocker. There was a reason Cavs reporters had him out for half of the year. Zach Randolph’s MRI (knee) came back and there is no change in his rehab status. My advice is to ignore anything you’ve heard so far and to put stock in the next three weeks’ worth of reports. Anthony Morrow (ankle) missed last night’s game but I’m all over adding him. Gerald Henderson went from back injury to hamstring injury, and we’re starting to see a lack of information out of anybody not named Rick Bonnell in Charlotte. Reggie Williams went 0-for-7, and could be in line for big minutes and Paul Silas is fired up about him. Williams is a guy that owners can slowplay over the next 24 hours while they look at other waiver wire prospects – at least until news hits that he will start or take on a big role if/when Henderson is announced as day-to-day.
4TH QUARTER: Shawn Marion hyper-extended his right knee but stayed in the game last night, and if he’s not healthy then Lamar Odom gets his zillionth chance to get his head in the game. Odom was out with an illness last night, and my official last straw came on Monday night. Yours probably came earlier. He needs to prove himself to me from the waiver wire if Marion’s knee isn’t an issue. Linas Kleiza (knee) didn’t play, highlighting yet another reason I wasn’t high on him. Caron Butler was a late-scratch with a sore back, but as long as it’s not his knee I’m probably okay with it. He has proven me wrong with his play so far this year, but it’s still early. That knee has gotta hold up. Rodney Stuckey added ‘ankle’ to his banged-up body descriptors, but stayed in the game and finished with seven points. Watch for the update and I’m still adding him if he hits the wire, at least until Ben Gordon’s shoulder doesn’t sound like it’s ready to fall off.