Adam Levitan

The Daily Dose

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The Dwightmare is Over

Friday, April 20, 2012

On Thursday night, word came down that Dwight Howard needs surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back. He’ll go under the knife first thing Friday and is looking at a four-month recovery timeline. That means he’s out for the regular season, out for the playoffs and out for the Olympics.

And with that, an all-time strange season for an NBA superstar is over.

For us fantasy owners still grinding, the fallout here is simple. By developing his mid-range jumper into a dominant weapon, Glen Davis has established himself as an elite performer. In 10 starts this year, he’s averaging 16.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals while shooting 50.4 percent from the field. The hyperextended knee isn’t a concern after he logged 35 productive minutes on Wednesday.

As for the NBA conspiracy theorists, the story is far from over. The surgery comes during the same week in which a report emerged saying Dwight Howard called Orlando’s owner to say he’ll never play for coach Stan Van Gundy again. There’s whispers that Howard could have played through this, but decided to quit on his team.

I’m not buying that at all. No matter how much Howard despises Van Gundy, he doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy that would just walk out on his teammates. Having such a major procedure proves how serious his back injury is.  

For owners digging for late-season gems that will play big minutes, we need to look at teams completely out of the playoffs. We’re thinking about guys like Sundiata Gaines in New Jersey and Charlotte's Kemba Walker. And in that vein, we need to get the Blazers’ situation on our radar.

The Blazers have already decided they want to look at their young guys more, aka tank. Raymond Felton hasn’t played in either of the last two games and is missing Saturday’s game for his uncle’s funeral. Over those last two games, Nolan Smith has averaged 15.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game. I’d be surprised to see Felton ever play another game as a Blazer.

It gets more interesting at the swingman spot. Nicolas Batum’s knee is really bothering him and it sounds like the Blazers are considering a shutdown. Anytime Batum misses a game, Jamal Crawford will be active and worth a fantasy play. But if Batum is up, Crawford will be held out.

And no matter what, the Blazers are going to get a long look at sophomore bomber Luke Babbitt. Note that Babbitt has put up 17.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 treys per night over the last two. He’s the kind of deep-league difference-maker we need to be aware of.

The Celtics are pretty much locked into the No. 4 seed, so you know what that means. Ray Allen (ankle), Rajon Rondo (back) and Mickael Pietrus (knee) didn’t even travel to Atlanta for Friday’s game against the Hawks.

Allen’s injury is most concerning as he’s sustained multiple aggravations and setbacks. But with only two games left in the year, the other two guys could just be held out until the playoffs as well. Avery Bradley is another one of those late-season difference-makers.

Kobe Bryant (shin) is fully expected to make his return for Friday’s game against the Spurs. Considering how the Lakers exercised extreme caution here, I’d expect a solid complement of minutes on both Friday and Sunday, thus putting an end to the Metta World Peace party. Owners should note that Kobe is a decent bet to rest in the regular season final, Thursday against the Kings.

Amare Stoudemire (back) is also finally ready to return. He’ll immediately jump back into the starting five against the Cavs Friday, but his minutes will be watched closely by the training staff and Mike Woodson. Look for something in the 20s. But considering Amare’s talent level and the Knicks’ need to get him acclimated before the playoffs, that should be enough time for production worth owning. Remember that the Knicks still have four games left in their season.

Nikola Pekovic is a man’s man. He knows he needs ankle surgery after the season, but continues to play at a high level nightly. … Anthony Randolph showed that we can’t give up on him as long as he’s starting. He blocked three shots and grabbed 10 boards Thursday. … Tayshaun Prince was back after a rest day and put up 18 points. … Derrick Rose (foot) sat out again and remains day-to-day. Meanwhile, John Lucas outplayed C.J. Watson. … Chris Bosh took a rest day while Dwyane Wade returned in fine fashion. The new candidate for rest is LeBron James, who dealt with cramping late.

Courtney Lee racked up 44 minutes in an overtime loss. Kyle Lowry’s return has not had an impact. … Marcus Camby gutted through a back injury before leaving after 27 minutes. Once the Rockets playoff fate is decided, he’s done. … Samuel Dalembert (back) didn’t get on the floor and neither did Kevin Martin (back). Consider both day-to-day going forward. … Jerome Dyson predictably followed up his fluky 24-point outburst with zero points in 13 minutes. … Jason Smith left after taking a shot to the face. It’s a concern considering his recent concussion history, making Carl Landry and Gustavo Ayon worth a long look. … Eric Gordon (back) was active for 27 points, but it’s anyone’s guess as to when he’ll play again. … Grant Hill (knee) was a late scratch, leaving Shannon Brown with the two-guard job to himself.

Nate Robinson’s (hamstring) status remains completely unknown. Considering the time of year, he’s really hard to trust. … Stephen Curry won’t even test his ankle for another month. He’ll head into next season with another red flag. … Baron Davis (illness) is expected back in the starting lineup Friday. … Darren Collison (groin) is questionable for the rest of the regular season. George Hill’s sizable talent continues to impress as he went for 22 points, eight assists and five rebounds Thursday.  

The Wolves are now suggesting that Kevin Love (concussion) and Luke Ridnour (ankle) could very well play in the final two games. I’ll believe it when I see it. … Ersan Ilyasova (thigh bruise) is day-to-day, allowing Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to get off for 16 and 11 on Thursday. … Anderson Varejao (wrist) is not expected back this season. … Wilson Chandler (hip) is done for the season and facing 4-5 months of rehab.

The Cavs let Lester Hudson go and the Grizzlies quickly scooped him up. He’ll just be depth at both guard spots with Gilbert Arenas nursing a finger injury. … Coach Kevin McHale says Kyle Lowry’s limited minutes are due to conditioning issues. … Kyrie Irving admitted that he’s unlikely to play in all five of the Cavs’ remaining games. Coach Byron Scott could also keep him on a minute count.

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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