I’ll tell you, when you’re deathly ill and it’s the first time you’ve been sick in three years, any little thing helps. Over-the-counter stuff wasn't working for my sinus infection, so I resorted to eating jalapenos. Some of you told me to eat wasabi, so I ate a pound of wasabi last night. Apprently there is no daily limit to how much of that stuff one can eat. Still, nothing has worked to clear me up.
Needless to say every breath of mine is made in pain and I'm hacking up a lung. So when the NBA put on perhaps its best night of the year -- it was THE single-best thing that could have happened to distract me. Between the big-time matchups, the Blake Griffin destruction of Pau Gasol, and a seemingly non-stop series of big plays and close endings – I made it through the night.
I probably could have called in sick (ha), but I wouldn't have had it any other way since we are knee deep in it right now,. I’ve expanded the analysis a bit here, so let’s not waste anymore time as we go through a HUGE 12-game night.
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80 MINUTES OF MEDIOCRITY
The double-header on the four-letter network was simply awesome last night, and it kicked off with a battle of athletes in the Thunder at the Heat. It was the type of game I didn't really 'watch,' enjoying it instead. Ultimately the Thunder came up short, and you can blame Kevin Durant's nine turnovers if you want, but of course it came down to substituations and philosophy. Serge Ibaka played an inexplicable 24 minutes and still racked up four points, seven boards, two steals, and five blocks. Meanwhile, ineffective Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins, Derek Fisher, and Nazr Mohammed combined for nearly 80 minutes. I know that Brooks is a good guy and everybody’s buddy, and that the media doesn’t want to have to backtrack on their narrative-driven Coach of the Year vote – but for the love of crumb cake.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Dwyane Wade’s knee emerged as the biggest fantasy storyline in the Heat locker room, as the swelling due to his bruise has indeed been an impediment to his recent play. The team has a game against the Grizzlies on Friday, so they don’t play a cupcake, but owners need to be watching the situation closely as we wrap up the year. He’ll be sat if there’s any concern that his effectiveness in the playoffs will be jeopardized. LeBron James was a beast in the box score last night, scoring 34 points with seven rebounds, 10 assists, four steals, one block, and three treys. He’s going to win the MVP award unless Durant goes nuts and the Heat lose an inordinate amount of games. James' numbers are just that insane.
As for the MVP talk, I find it incredibly brain-numbing as everybody in the basketball media has different criteria for what the MVP award should be, but we all press along comparing apples and oranges. Are we voting on the guy whose teammates suck the most? The guy whose No. 2 player is a big step down in terms of production? Would in-his-prime Michael Jordan still not be the most valuable player on the planet if he was surrounded by (gulp) his present-day Bobcats? Kobe Bryant has won just one MVP award. If MVP voting was a job they’d all be fired.
The nightcap to Thunder/Heat was the Battle of L.A. and it took about one second to take over Twitter, as Blake Griffin made it his personal quest to emasculate Pau Gasol in ways never thought possible on a basketball court. To Gasol and the Lakers’ credit they won the game, and that’s all that matters, but I find it very telling that not even hot head Matt Barnes would retaliate after Griffin literally threw Gasol to the ground after dunking all over his face. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Griffin is already the best in-game dunker of all-time.
For the Clippers, it looks like Vinny Del Negro might be loosening the leash on DeAndre Jordan, as Jordan played a whopping 40 minutes and posted 11 points, 13 rebounds, one steal, and four blocks. He is averaging nine points, eight boards, and two blocks over his last five games, and hopefully Del Negro realizes that Jordan needs to stay on the court if the team wants him to develop at all. Caron Butler rejoined the rest of the world with 28 points, and maybe this is a sign that he’s ready to produce again, but calling him a better than 50/50 bet to do so is a bit optimistic in my opinion. Chris Paul was electric and scored 22 points with a season-high 16 assists while dicing up the Lakers’ inexplicable strategy of switching big-men onto him so he could blow by them.
The Lakers, who seem to have identity issues now that Phil Jackson is gone and the kids are running the show for Dr. Jerry Buss, they were their normal entertaining selves. Andrew Bynum continued to make an ass of himself by saying that he’s going to continue shooting threes, and he even caught a pass with time expiring at the half – and instead of putting up a shot right away he dribbled out to the 3-point line just to be that guy. You don’t need me to tell you that he missed.
The good news is that Bynum would have to really escalate things in order to stop being a fantasy beast. He posted 36 points with eight boards, one steal, and four blocks. Ramon Sessions was cool as a cucumber with 16 points, six rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and two threes, Kobe had 31 points and a full line, and Pau Gasol picked up his manhood up off the ground and put it on display for 12 points, seven boards, and two blocks. For Gasol's effort, Bynum made the funniest face I've seen on a human being in at least two weeks.
Z-BO NO SHOW
O.J. Mayo kept his foot on the gas with 17 points and four treys, and the real question out of Memphis is what’s wrong with Zach Randolph. He played another listless 23 minutes last night with four points and five boards, and until he can be a No. 2 or 3 guy then Mayo and others will continue to step up. Tony Allen went down with a nasty cut on his mouth, but he should be okay going forward. As for Randolph’s owners, I had mentioned last week that Randolph would have two five-game weeks to put up low-end numbers while finding his groove. I prefer a stash by far, but this isn’t the time to be tied to any given idea. He is droppable for teams that can’t afford to bench him, even with the five-game week ahead.
Delonte West started for Jason Kidd (groin) and will do so for the rest of the week, finishing with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting, two threes, two assists, and a block against the Grizz. Backup PG Roddy Beaubois played 22 minutes on his way to eight points, two rebounds, five assists, on steal, and two blocks. The two are nothing better than low-end plays with equal parts upside and downside in 12-team formats, and both are only short-term options, obviously. West is still the preferred play because he is starting and doesn’t draw the coaches’ ire with nearly as much frequency as Buckets does.
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME ISN’T NAMED DERRICK
Derrick Rose went through a full practice on Wednesday and C.J. Watson was revealed to be dealing with a host of nagging injuries, which may or may not explain his nosedive in recent games. Regardless, Rose is questionable for Thursday’s game against the Celtics, but really we shouldn’t believe anything that comes out of Chicago. I read a Chicago Sun-Times report that said it was more likely that he would return against the Knicks on Sunday, for what it’s worth. Just be ready to move as the situation calls, and feel free to drop Watson if you haven’t already.
Ryan Anderson (right ankle) will likely be out another five or six days and is wearing a walking boot. He said his ankle is the size of a softball, but is reportedly “optimistic” about his prognosis. He has also missed time in the past due to the same ankle. Owners can rely (loosely) on this timetable right now but I’ll be watching for any funny business. From Tuesday’s game, Glen Davis (31 & 10, no Dwight Howard), J.J. Redick (four points), Quentin Richardson (nine points), Earl Clark (five points) were the minute-moppers and as you can see none of them are exciting. Dwight Howard (back) and Jameer Nelson are both questionable for Thursday’s game against the Knicks.
Players develop their own injury identity, which gets tossed into a coach and organization’s mentality toward such things, and out pops a loose guideline for fantasy owners on how to handle their guys. Kyrie Irving (shoulder) sounds like a guy that that’s going to fib about his injuries a bit, at least right now, which is common for a younger player trying to prove themselves under a no-nonsense coach like Byron Scott. It doesn’t hurt that he lost all that time at Duke, either. He convinced Scott to put him back into action on Tuesday, and proceeded to reinjure the shoulder right away. I’m not sure if the 10-day timeline released yesterday is conservative or not, but I know the Cavs will be decidedly so when dealing with their franchise player from now on.
Donald Sloan put up 10 points, seven boards, four assists, and two steals in his first start for Irving on Tuesday, and backed it up with 12 points with eight assists in Wednesday’s loss to the Bucks. Backup Lester Hudson also put up an interesting line last night with nine points on 3-of-13 FGs (0-for-6 3PTs), five rebounds, six assists, and a block in 28 minutes. Part of why these guys’ lines were fatter was that the Bucks now employ a small backcourt/lineup with an up-tempo game plan, and the other part is that newer additions to a rotation often create on the fly until they get the concepts of the offense down.
Anthony Parker, of course, led the way with a season-high 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting, seven boards, four assists, and three steals, and he has to go in front of the two youngsters in fantasy leagues because he’s both better and more apt to produce. The only upside the young guys have is that the Cavs could indeed phase Parker out during the last 10 days of the season. I’m calling Parker a must-add player in 12-team formats, and I'm calling Sloan a must-add player if you need a guard or guard stats in those formats. Hudson is worth a look by the same guard-needy group as a desperation stash.
THAT’S FUNNY HOW WE DRAFTED SO MANY POINT GUARDS
Luke Ridnour will miss a week with his ankle injury and I don’t see him returning for any other reason than that the Wolves are desperate. If the team can find a stop-gap I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ridnour shelved for most if not all of the year. I hope you guys heeded my calls to go all-in on J.J. Barea earlier in the week. I know we were a little soft in our blurbage on Wednesday, which should have read ‘run, don’t walk’ in the event he was available in your league. Barea posted a predictable line of 15 points, six boards, eight assists, and three treys in 37 minutes, and the only roadblock he has is his health. So far we haven’t heard of any extraordinary news about an aggravation to his thigh last night, just normal rust and pain coming off injury.
Wayne Ellington scored 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting (including three treys) with seven rebounds and a steal in 28 minutes off the bench. He is creeping up on 13 points and two threes per game over his last three contests, which all told equals some late-round value over that span. I don’t trust him, but the Wolves are so beat up that he could end up playing a role for owners with two four-game weeks upcoming.