Adam Levitan

The Daily Dose

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Knee Knockers

Friday, February 17, 2012

There’s something going on with knee injuries in New Orleans.

Right now, no less than four of their key players are sidelined by knee woes: Eric Gordon, Carl Landry, Jarrett Jack and Emeka Okafor.

Jack says he is targeting Friday’s game for his return, so perhaps his situation really is mere “soreness.” Jack projects as the starting point guard once healthy, shifting Greivis Vasquez into a third guard role. However, Okafor’s injury situation is much less clear, a la Gordon’s.

The Hornets originally said that Okafor would travel with them on their five-game road swing that leads into the All-Star break. But on Wednesday, coach Monty Williams revealed that Okafor wasn’t traveling and that his starting center would be out through the break.

“It’s one of those weird deals,” Williams said. “I’m not going to get too detailed about that. It is what it is.”

We’ve grown weary of undetermined knee injuries in New Orleans, leaving Okafor’s situation very hairy. Jason Smith is still dealing with concussion issues. Landry isn’t close. Chris Kaman is poised to be one of the biggest targets of the March 15 trade deadline. That leaves Gustavo Ayon.

Yes, the Gustavo Ayon from Mexico who doesn’t speak much English and joined the Hornets as a rookie this year without any fanfare. He’s started five straight games, averaging 7.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks during that span. With Okafor out the last two games, Ayon has raised those numbers to 12.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.5 blocks. This is the kind of short-term glue guy that deep-leaguers win with.

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Nothing was official as of 1 a.m. ET Friday morning, but both the New York Daily News and Hoopsworld reported that free agent J.R. Smith and the Knicks are on the verge of a deal. Barring a last-second snag, Smith should be a Knick by this weekend, earning the $2.5 million exception.

Look for Smith to come off the bench as a scoring swingman behind Landry Fields and Carmelo Anthony. It’s similar to the role that Smith played with the Nuggets last season. He played 24.9 minutes per game, averaging 12.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.6 3-pointers and 1.2 steals. That’s a reasonable expectation for owners going forward, with a tick more upside thanks to Mike D’Antoni’s freewheeling scheme.

The Cavs finally put a timetable on Anderson Varejao (fractured wrist). He won’t need surgery, but will still be out 4-6 weeks.

If Varejao does actually get back in four weeks, he’ll have a chance to play in 25 games. But with the Cavs non-contenders and the damage to Varejao’s shooting wrist, that seems optimistic. Most owners are going to have to bite the bullet and move on from a quality preseason sleeper that was having a career year. Semih Erden is your starting center going forward, but is just a deep-league flier. Coach Byron Scott isn’t comfortable using No. 4 overall pick Tristan Thompson extensively yet.

Danny Granger’s sprained ankle was not a concern. He returned with 32 points in 41 minutes. … Add DeShawn Stevenson to the list of useless veterans hurting exciting young players. Avery Johnson insists on starting Stevenson over Anthony Morrow. … MarShon Brooks’ 36 minutes are really encouraging considering how worried the Nets appeared earlier over his nagging injuries. … Kevin Garnett (hip) returned with 18 and 10 in 32 minutes. He’s fine. … LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) is targeting Saturday for his return. Look for mega-talent Nicolas Batum to still stick in the starting five, leaving Wesley Matthews as a bench player. ... No, Chris Paul was not hurt. Just an off night for the first three quarters. ... The Blazers are about out of confidence in Raymond Felton. Jamal Crawford closed the game out at point guard while Felton sat. ... Yes, DeAndre Jordan is losing major minutes to a surprisingly spry Kenyon Martin.

Derrick Rose (back) didn’t play Thursday, but the Bulls sound optimistic about Saturday. We’ll see. … Jerryd Bayless (ankle) is expected back on Friday. He’ll likely come off the bench. … Mario Chalmers (hand) practiced in full Thursday. He’s fine. … Jarrett Jack (knee) is hoping to play Friday. He’ll likely send Greivis Vasquez into a bench role. … Jason Terry (personal) is tentatively expected back Sunday. …Delonte West (finger) may be out until mid-March.

Nene (calf) will be in a walking boot for another four days. … Brook Lopez (foot) is very close. There’s still a chance he plays before the All-Star break … Carmelo Anthony (groin) is expected back Friday or Sunday. … Spencer Hawes (Achilles) is in a boot and out through the All-Star break. … Drew Gooden is reportedly dealing with a shooting wrist injury that’s limiting his effectiveness. It makes sense, Gooden is shooting 38.2 percent over the last five games. He’s a career 46.8 percent shooter.

Monta Ellis didn’t play in the fourth quarter Wednesday, but he has confirmed that was due to the flu. It’s hard to see a rift here between Mark Jackson and Ellis -- Monta is eighth in the league at 37.4 minutes per game on the year. He’s feeling better, so expect something around his usual burn Friday. … Manu Ginobili is still working his way back into shape. Eventually, he’ll get to 27-30 minutes. … With Daniel Gibson (ankle) and Anthony Parker (back) out, Alonzo Gee will start as an interesting flier Friday. … Wilson Chandler may end up skipping out on the Chinese playoffs, making a return to the Nuggets close.

Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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