I was listening to the TNT halftime show when Chuck, Kenny, Ernie, and Shaq were discussing the Dwight Howard/Stan Van Gundy situation, and like many of the voices on Twitter I wasn’t buying what they were selling. Shaq was simply grinding his axe with SVG, but Kenny and Chuck kept going on and on about the code of ethics in keeping things behind closed doors, etc.
If you haven’t checked in for a while, Dwight Howard has been lobbying to get rid of Van Gundy, which isn’t exactly a surprise. Van Gundy got confirmation from management that Howard had made the request, and since rumors surrounding the situation have been swirling for a few days now, questions about it were posed to him during shootaround. Now this is where it gets funny. Van Gundy, never one to hide what he’s thinking, finally got fed up I presume and answered the reporter’s question honestly, saying that he got confirmation from management that Howard did indeed try to get him fired. And throughout the evening multiple sources confirmed what Van Gundy said.
So Van Gundy starts to go on his rant about not caring if he’s going to get fired, expressing indirectly what we all know – that Dwight is pretty much a phony – and who else but D12 himself comes trotting into the press session, not knowing that Van Gundy had just dropped a news bomb. Howard put his arm around the coach and when he realized what was going on, he tried to blame some other guy for starting the rumor, despite multiple reports confirming what Dwight had done.
Van Gundy pretty much bolted from the presser and that setup another ‘Dwightmare’ of a game, to borrow a term from SI.com’s Sam Amick. Howard decided to mail it in and didn’t score until the very end of the third quarter, and that energy spread over to his teammates as the game was over early in the fourth.
Back to the TNT guys, they spent so much energy talking about how Van Gundy shouldn’t have brought it out in the media – and there is a case to be made for that – but it’s pretty clear that Howard has been a grade-A ass probably since the first time a sneaker rep slid money underneath his front door. In this player’s league, you can only hope to get a team guy like Kevin Durant or Derrick Rose, but more times than not you’re going to get a Howard, a Melo, or a LeBron. It’s just the nature of the beast for guys that ride the wave of fame and fortune in a gladiator environment.
And that’s fine – it is what it is. I just don’t think we should be talking for one second about Stan Van Gundy and how he has handled the petulance of a guy in Howard who has single-handedly run the Magic into a state of dysfunction.
For more on that dysfunction, check out Amick’s piece over at SI.com.
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THE DWIGHTMARE, CONTINUED
Jason Richardson was the only real fantasy news on the Orlando side, as he finally woke up with 16 points on 7-of-18 shooting with four rebounds, four assists, and one steal. I don’t know how much this was a reflection of Howard playing keep away from the ball, but it’s something. I can only call Richardson a risky speculative add right now, after a few weeks of being just awful. If he does it again, though, it might be a sign that he’s ready to go. Glen Davis posted 15 points with seven rebounds, and with Ryan Anderson possibly playing on Saturday his window is closing soon. Hedo Turkoglu (seven points, zero assists, 18 minutes) hit his funny bone and suffered a cut under his eye, and I don’t think the elbow injury will be serious.
Because this game was a laugher, Baron Davis was able to play just 19 minutes which is actually great news for whatever you want to call his fantasy value. He posted five points, three boards, five assists, and two steals, and while he’s not a good bet to make it out of each game he plays, he’s worth a look if you’re desperate at PG.
The real issue for me is how the wing situation is clearing up, as the offense from the old Denver days has now been loosely installed in New York. And in this system, the players take turns taking isolation possessions, which benefits guys like J.R. Smith who can play that type of game. Smith scored 15 points with four rebounds and nine assists, and I like him as a must-own player in 12-team leagues going forward. Yes, he’s going to be up and down and flaky as anybody, but I think the numbers will level out at low-end value, at least.
I also think that this new offense is bad news for Iman Shumpert (nine points, zero assists) and Landry Fields (10 points). Fields is a motion guy and there isn’t much of that now, and while Shumpert isn’t afraid to play isolation ball, he is deferring to the veterans right now. I expect Shumpert to have a few big games here and there, but he needs a Baron Davis injury before he’ll provide consistent numbers.
THE WIZARDS AND PISTONS, BEACONS OF BASKETBALL PLAY
I have a hard time watching Magic and Knicks games in general because it’s just bad basketball from an Xs and Os point of view, so combining the two teams I had to change the channel to the Wizards and Pistons game. The quality of play wasn’t much better, but it was better, which is saying something but I can’t exactly figure out what. Both Trevor Booker and Nene were unable to go last night because of their plantar fasciitis issues, and both are unlikely to play tonight’s game, either.
On cue, Kevin Seraphin scored 15 points with nine boards, two steals, and no blocks, which is a good representation of what owners can expect when Booker and Nene are out. Jan Vesely is a deep league option, and he had one of his ‘good’ nights with 10 points, five boards, one steal, and one block. Theoretically he could improve, but I think what we see is what we get for this year. He could benefit dramatically from a real offseason. Jordan Crawford has been hot and John Wall has not, and the roles flipped last night with Crawford hitting just 2-of-13 shots for nine points and not much else, and Wall posting 28 points, four rebounds, 10 assists, and two steals.
Rodney Stuckey (hamstring) returned to action last night and scored 15 points in 19 minutes, hitting 6-of-7 shots with three assists. We’ll have to see more minutes before saying unequivocally that he should be in starting lineups, and it’s possible he was held back knowing the Pistons had to turn around and get on a plane for tonight’s game against the Hawks. If I’m in a daily league I’ll definitely be weighing my options with Stuckey carefully. If I had to throw a blind guess out there, I’d say he plays 26 minutes and does fairly well.
Ben Gordon (13 points, 6-of-14 FGs, no threes) started and is worth a look while that is the case, but he’s a shaky fantasy asset in general. Brandon Knight is regressing before our eyes and I wonder how the veterans are taking to him in Detroit. He’s certainly not playing a real PG role, and he was making silly mistakes during his six-point, one-assist, four-turnover effort that included a 2-of-8 shooting mark. Knight is playing tentatively and he probably hasn’t earned the guys’ trust, making the highs somewhat high and the lows very low for Knight. I do think he’s worth owning down the stretch and I also think that the Pistons may game plan him the ball or just hand him the keys. But he certainly isn’t a must-start player by any stretch.
TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL
Derrick Rose (groin) didn’t play last night against the Celtics, as expected, but it genuinely seems like he’ll be a go for Sunday’s game against the Knicks. C.J. Watson (elbow, wrist, ankle) might have let it fly knowing he can take a break soon, as he scored 15 points with two rebounds, eight assists, two steals, one block, and six turnovers in 39 minutes. With Rose returning and Watson's health an issue (not to mention the signing of Mike James), I think owners can drop him with relative confidence. Richard Hamilton is about halfway toward being worth pickup consideration, scoring nine points on 4-of-11 shooting with three rebounds, three assists, and one steal in 20 minutes. Just watch him for now. Luol Deng is hot right now and scored 26 points on 9-of-21 shooting (no threes) with six rebounds, three assists, four steals, and one block, Joakim Noah scored 17 points with nine boards and three blocks, and Carlos Boozer scored 12 points with 14 boards in a pretty much normal night.
The Celtics were ripped by their coach for playing like the “cool Celtics,” but from a fantasy perspective everything was pretty much in place. Paul Pierce scored 22 points on 8-of-21 shooting with eight rebounds, four assists, and three 3-pointers, Kevin Garnett scored 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting with 14 rebounds and four assists, and Rajon Rondo scored 10 points with four boards, 12 assists, and a steal. If you took the chance on the old guys this year it totally paid off. Ray Allen may or may not keep coming off the bench, but his value will remain relatively similar. He scored 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting with a steal and a three and should be in most lineups. Brandon Bass (15 points, five boards, three steals, one block) hyperextended his left knee but it wasn’t serious, and he can continue to be used as he was being used going forward. Avery Bradley scored nine points with a three and a steal, and if those numbers work for you give him a look. Expecting more is a bit optimistic.