Run Old Guys, Run
For once in Pau Gasol’s career it felt like Staples Center was fully on his side, as he represents everything that is wrong with Mike D’Antoni right now. The Lakers have personnel to play a big, beat-you-up lineup, but D’Antoni is hell-bent on running with his slow, aging team. So when Pau got into the game there were big cheers anytime he did anything good and real anxiety when the rust showed itself. For his part, Pau had a nice game with 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting, nine rebounds, five assists, and four blocks, but he was benched down the stretch and finished with just 29 minutes while being separated from Dwight Howard (16 points, 18 rebounds, four blocks) as much as possible.
Ironically, it is Howard that benefits from high-low passes from Gasol as much as anybody, but D’Antoni is already making small overtures towards running the small lineup that minimizes Pau’s role. He moved Metta World Peace (17 points, seven rebounds, 6-of-18 FGs, two threes, four steals, one block) into a bench role to maximize his ability to play power forward and is going to start Jodie Meeks (17 points, five threes) at shooting guard according to recent reports. Kobe Bryant (30 points, full line) is going to start at small forward, and both he and World Peace are going to play as many minutes as they can handle. Meeks saw 39 minutes last night and D’Antoni can’t get enough of a one-center and four-shooters lineup, so Gasol isn’t in the clear after everybody in America including Kobe has talked about the need to go to Pau down low.
I talked about the risk-reward of buying Pau low in last week’s Dose, but seeing D’Antoni so committed to rooting him out I’d just suggest holding steady after one game back. I think D’Antoni might experience some massive blowback if he doesn’t change his ways, but it’s a tricky situation right now that demands a day-to-day outlook from fantasy owners. As for Meeks, he’s a must-add player in 12-team leagues with a starting job in tow, but it’s worth noting that the Lakers could change things up frequently if the losing continues.
Steve Nash is now “50-50” to play on Saturday against the Warriors, but that could be expectation management after the reliable Marc Spears broke news of his return earlier this week.
Nothing with Eric Gordon (knee) surprises me. So when a report came out from Ken Berger of CBS well over a month ago pointing toward January 15 for Gordon’s return because he would be eligible to be traded – I took a mental note. He didn’t want to be in New Orleans as recently as this summer, and he pulled the same sort of injury behavior last season when he saved his knee strength for late-season auditions in order to get paid. Wouldn’t you know the talk surrounding his return has picked up just weeks before that magical deadline. I’m not saying he’s getting traded or that I know for sure that this is what he’s up to, but I am saying he should be owned in almost every league for the chance he rolls up on the battlefield like Commodus.
As for the game, the Pelicans ran into Golden State and gave them a game, which caused national columnists with no business commenting on NBA basketball to have to quickly re-write their ‘Warriors are a well-oiled machine’ stories by the end of the night. Anthony Davis returned to the starting lineup and had a bit of a concussion scare, but he stayed in the game and finished with 15 points, 16 boards, four steals, one block, and a perfect 7-of-7 mark from the foul line. It’s been a rough start, but the returns should be plentiful as long as he stays on the floor.
Ryan Anderson scored 28 points on 8-of-22 shooting with four threes and a steal, but somehow managed to go without a rebound in 41 minutes of action. Other than to condemn the act, I’m just going to say it’s weird and move on. Austin Rivers scored 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting with no threes, two rebounds, four assists, and no steals or blocks. Unless you’re in a format where peripherals don’t matter, I still need to see way more especially when Monty Williams almost killed him tonight for his effort on the defensive end. And despite the assists he has been getting, he is still one of the league’s worst passers at the guard positions. Al-Farouq Aminu played three minutes and is living in the dog’s doghouse nowadays.
As I alluded to above, the praise of the Warriors is silly after such an easy schedule and we’re seeing early signs that they were playing over their heads. Of course, as a browbeaten Warriors fan I hope I’m wrong, but we’ll see. David Lee scored 26 points with nine rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block, and Carl Landry (16 points, nine boards) stole a few minutes out of Harrison Barnes’ (zero points, 19 minutes) bucket tonight. I’ve been talking about the Warriors’ need for better interior defense when the schedule tightens, but it might take Mark Jackson a few losses to get off the Lee train. Jarrett Jack scored 16 points with 10 assists in 34 minutes, and while his role looks stable now just be careful that my prediction of GSW struggles doesn’t knock him off his perch.
Who Cares What You Guys Want
I’m working on a story for PBT along the same lines, but I pledge my allegiance to you guys first and them second but I’ll break the news here (and bury it in the middle of my column). Sources close to the Kings players told me a few days ago that most of Isaiah Thomas’ teammates want him to be starting and playing heavy minutes. According to the source, “they don’t have any idea what Keith Smart is doing” and they wonder if he is even making the call.
This of course, begs the question of whether Geoff Petrie has issued the directive to play Aaron Brooks, and multiple sources have told me that Jimmer is getting additional playing time for marketing reasons. The source tells me that the frustration amongst the players over this playing time issue is palpable, and one of the reasons that DeMarcus Cousins came out wearing an IT jersey after his big game. The situation in Sacramento is coming to a head, as local blogs and media outlets that aren’t the Sac Bee or team-sponsored radio station are going in heavy on the decision to play Brooks and/or Jimmer at the expense of IT.
How this all plays out in the short or long-term is anybody’s guess, but this is Isaiah’s team inside the confines of the locker room as far as the point guard position goes. I added IT as a flier in one deeper big money league that operates like a 14-teamer, and I wrote the blurb that said he was a unique stash for those with an iron clad stomach. For a team that needs a solid on- and off-the-court persona to rally around, and a playmaking presence that can distribute the ball in Smart’s no-concept offense – Thomas could be the guy that brings it all together for the fans, the players, and an abused city.
News and Notes
LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) did not practice yesterday and he’s a game-time decision for Thursday’s national TV game. He is no longer using crutches, but he hasn’t been a picture of health so far this season and I don’t have a strong sense of whether he’ll play or not. Wes Matthews (hip) did not practice and I have him in the same boat as Aldridge. Sasha Pavlovic (butt strain) missed time, too, which is what happens when you go from bench warmer to heavy minute guy so fast.
Wednesday Night Lights
BKY @ NYK: Carmelo Anthony (ankle) is a game-time decision but a rivalry game should up the ante a bit. The Knicks’ defense really fell apart without him on Monday and I can’t believe I’m writing that. Raymond Felton has bone bruises on both hands but isn’t expected to miss any time. Rasheed Wallace (foot) is questionable and is not a fantasy factor right now.
DET @ TOR: Rodney Stuckey (back spasms) practiced yesterday and his status is going right down to the wire by the morning report. Kyle Singler slowed down right after convincing owners to pick him up, and failed to take advantage of Stuckey’s absence on Monday. The most interesting news for the Raptors might happen off the court, as we’ll be following up on Dwane Casey’s comments from last night about the point guard position.
WAS @ ORL: We’ll be watching to see how Kevin Seraphin bounces back from last night, but otherwise these two teams don’t have a lot of fantasy question marks in standard formats right now.
UTA @ IND: The Gordon Hayward situation outlined above is worth watching, and in the back-to-back for both teams look to see if Roy Hibbert can get on track against defenseless Al Jefferson.
OKC @ ATL: Russell Westbrook took a hard spill in Monday’s game and left with a brace on his left wrist, but we’ve heard nothing about an injury and that’s probably good news.
CLE @ BOS: Both teams’ fantasy players are well-defined right now, with Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles just outside of must-start status for the Cavs and the Celtics’ roles practically etched into stone.
PHI @ HOU: It sounds like Jrue Holiday (foot) will miss tonight’s game if I had to guess, but he’ll be a game-time decision after a report emerged that the team is going to play it safe (duh). The Rockets are buzzing after their win in New York and we’ll be watching to see if Marcus Morris can take advantage of Patrick Patterson’s (foot) absence. Omer Asik could use a bounce back game and he should get it against the Sixers.
CHA @ PHO: Look for a Bobcats letdown after the big game in L.A., though they could come out fired up to get a win after their close loss. Gerald Henderson, Bismack Biyombo, and Byron Mullens are still under the microscope, as is Ramon Sessions after his big night. Marcin Gortat has built some slight momentum the past few games, and Jared Dudley is one game away from being a must-own player. Shannon Brown is hot and so it’s probably time to let owners down again. Luis Scola got numbers against the Kings but he needs to follow that up with a few good games and if he can’t keep it up against the Cats coming away from Staples Center that will be a bad sign.
MIL @ MEM: Of course we’ll be watching the Ersan Ilyasova show, Mike Dunleavy’s comeback, and Larry Sanders’ block party. The Grizzlies don’t have any surprises right now.
GSW @ SAC: Keith Smart basically put Tyreke Evans’ (knee) future on Evans and the team trainers, which is another way of saying that the Kings aren’t going to interfere with the player during his contract year. My gut tells me that if they had to decide today the Kings would re-sign him, and it doesn’t hurt them if he hurts his own market value by taking games off. Either way, team sources tell me that he could take games off down the road, and owners need to evaluate the situation accordingly. This improves the outlooks of virtually everybody on the squad, and as I said on Twitter I have nothing to do with any advice one sees here about dropping Marcus Thornton. Thornton will return tonight after being with his ill mother, and that along with the dysfunction in Sacto are explainable reasons for his slump. He is one of the league’s better scorers and with Evans’ issues, a turnaround is more likely than not. Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette get a small bump in their outlooks while Evans’ issue isn’t technically serious, but the whole team will operate much better when Evans is not the featured player. This isn’t to say Evans can’t be a positive influence, but that he needs much better coaching and development to tie it all together and that’s obviously not happening under the current regime.
NO @ LAC: The Clippers are still without Chauncey Billups, and we’ll get an update on his status tonight. Owners will be watching to see if Matt Barnes and Eric Bledsoe can keep up their productive ways in their bench roles.