No Jazz in Utah
The Jazz look like they’ll be without Mo Williams for weeks, and they’ll be crossing their fingers that it’s not going to be a month or more when he gets a second MRI on his severely sprained right (shooting) thumb. Currently he can’t eat or brush his teeth with that hand, and the Jazz are now down a key weapon as they try to figure out how to become less predictable on offense. Last night the Warriors zoned them up to shut down Al Jefferson and it paid off, as Jefferson worked to get his 18 and 10 and everybody else sucked. I don’t know why we’re not hearing Utah fans and writers screaming bloody murder about the fact that their team is addicted to Jefferson’s scoring in a stand-and-watch offense, but until that happens it’s doubtful we see a change.
I’m not giving up on Gordon Hayward (nine points, three rebounds, three assists, two threes, 3-of-10 FGs) or otherwise discounting the Jazz assets, but I’ll have the fringe guys like Hayward, Randy Foye (eight points, 3-of-10 FGs, two threes), and Derrick Favors (nine points, three boards, 20 minutes) on my bench until the team shows signs of life. Jamaal Tinsley (zero points, four assists, 21 minutes) and Earl Watson (zero points, three assists) will be better than this, and if I had to pick one I’d choose Tinsley, but their situation has timeshare written all over it.
Carmelo Anthony did not play due to a hyper-extended left knee suffered on Christmas Day, and one would think that his availability to slop around with the Kings on Friday would be in question after Mike Woodson expressed some concern about his status. Amare Stoudemire (knee) is targeting a January 1 return, but I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that it’s a tiny red flag that his return date has slipped a bit. I trust Tommy Beer on all things Knicks, though, and he seems to be optimistic about his effectiveness upon return so I’ll stay the course with my current must-own, mid-to-late round value grade coming off the bench (with injury risk). Raymond Felton was finally knocked out of action when he showed up to the arena with a soft cast on his right (shooting) pinkie, and reports emerged during the game indicating that he would be out 4-6 weeks with a right pinkie fracture. It’s fair to say that the injuries to his hands were the culprits behind his worse-than-normal shooting numbers, and it’s also fair to wonder if he has taken a night job as the guy that holds the nails at a construction site.
This makes Jason Kidd the talk of the town, of course, and he wasted no time putting bootprints on fantasy owners’ posteriors with a 23-point, six-rebound, eight-assist effort that included five 3-pointers. With Anthony and J.R. Smith (27 points, six rebounds, five assists, five steals, one block) around to do the heavy lifting, he is a must-start player that will do a little (or a lot) of everything to fill in the gaps for the Knicks. Smith hit the game-winning shot tonight in their win over the Suns, and while it doesn’t seem likely he could get disciplined by the league for his flagrant foul on Goran Dragic.
Goran Dragic’s hard fall occurred when J.R. Smith clipped him on a fast break, causing Dragic to go flying and land on his left side hard. He stayed in the game to shoot his free throws, but left immediately after with 10 seconds to go in the first half and did not return. He would later leave the arena with a left (shooting) wrist brace, as he reportedly suffered injuries of some degree to all three of his hip, wrist, and back. Sebastian Telfair is the beneficiary if Dragic is to miss any time, and he posted a solid 11 points, four assists, three steals, and three 3-pointers in 30 minutes of duty last night. Owners should consider him as a speculative add with confidence knowing that Kendall Marshall isn’t a threat to his playing time, as the rookie still can’t shoot and defenses know it.
Jared Dudley kept his foot on the gas with 36 points on 11-of-17 shooting, five threes, five rebounds, three assists, one steal, and a perfect 9-of-9 mark from the line. I felt like the world’s biggest Dudley apologist over the first month of the season, so it stands to reason that I’m not shocked beyond belief by him being productive, but his first round value over the last two weeks definitely a sell-high moment of some type. Don’t be surprised if Michael Beasley (10 points, seven rebounds, one steal, one block, 22 minutes) makes some sort of noise if Dragic misses time, as the Suns will be desperate for scoring even if it means suiting up a guy that may already be on his last legs in Phoenix. Luis Scola scored six points with four rebounds in 22 minutes, and is proving to be much more trouble than his season-long late-round value is worth.
Laker Melting Pot
The Lakers saw their five-game winning streak snapped against the Nuggets last night, who finally got everybody on the same page against a team that everybody gets up for. Dwight Howard was ejected for a Flagrant-2 foul on Kenneth Faried and was plastered all over the highlight reels for it. He shoved him in the face on a borderline dirty play and Faried went flying to the ground, but it’s doubtful that he gets a suspension for the incident. He’ll likely face more scrutiny for not understanding that it was a flagrant foul after the game, and also for calling out Steve Nash in the postgame for a shared defensive miscue.
Fantasy-wise things are starting to fall in place, as Nash scored 15 points with eight assists and two threes, and Kobe Bryant is still playing like he’s 23 years old and put up another 40 points, five threes, four rebounds, six assists, and two blocks. Yes, Dwight Howard isn’t getting the touches he would normally be getting, but the Mike D’Antoni green light and Kobe’s all-around greatness are combining to thrash my preseason projections. At least I can chase that shot of humility with Pau Gasol’s recent surge, as Gasol scored 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting with two threes, six rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. It’s clear that Gasol needs to be a part of this offense as it is currently constructed, and it’s interesting to hear that he’s going to be shooting threes now. I’m not quite sure I’m down with the totality of that, but I’m just going with it as I fend off one-week too late trade offers in the leagues that I own Gasol in.
Pulling in the Same Direction
I talked about the Nuggets’ inability to get everybody on the same page on Tuesday, and yesterday they were able to do exactly that as Andre Iguodala (17 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, two blocks), Ty Lawson (17 points, 14 assists, two steals, one three), and Danilo Gallinari (19 points, 6-of-10 FGs, three treys) were all able to bust out. Corey Brewer also hit the turbo button with 27 points and six treys, and hopefully this is a sign that everybody is starting to gel. The fear of course is that this is just a reflection of the Lakers’ woeful defense, but there is enough talent in the group for owners to give them some benefit of the doubt while keeping concerns about their ability to co-exist in the back of the head. Kenneth Faried went for 21 and 15 and one of these times he’s going to put together a Kevin Love-from-last-year type night.
Same Old Story
DeMarcus Cousins did not travel for last night’s game and Keith Smart will determine his status for Friday’s game when the team returns to Sacramento. Tyreke Evans (knee) “isn’t likely to play soon.” I’ve stashed Isaiah Thomas (12 points, six assists, 28 minutes) where I can and Marcus Thornton (six points, two threes, 22 minutes) is a must-own player in my book – though the most dysfunctional team in sports might not pay me off. I even like Jimmer Fredette at some point, but the local media gives Smart and Geoff Petrie the run of the yard and still calls Thomas a non-factor despite him being the key to their turnaround. They get thrashed on defense every night and they have a plus defender at the point biding his time. They can’t pass the ball or show any tempo on offense, and they stick the only guy with a shot at providing that in the corner to shoot threes in a standstill offense. Rinse, lather, repeat.
Wesley Matthews (hip) looks like he could miss at least the next two games, as he needs to get a practice in as well as an early-morning thumbs up on a gameday to get the green light. If I were Terry Stotts I’d probably tack a game onto that strategy just to be sure. Quality Blazer players don’t grow on trees. The team put up big numbers despite showing very lackadaisical play in the first half, headlined by Damian Lillard’s 17 points, eight rebounds, 11 assists, three treys, one steal, and one block. He could have torched Aaron Brooks on every play and it was the quietest near triple-double I’ve seen on this side of LeBron this season. J.J. Hickson made the Maloofs and Petrie look silly with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and two blocks, Nicolas Batum yawned his way into 18 points with a full stat line, and LaMarcus Aldridge went for 28 and 12 against the soothing sounds of Chuck Hayes and Thomas Robinson masquerading on defense.
Mother Earth Rules
The Bulls and Pacers had their game postponed due to a blizzard.
Thursday Night Lights
Mavs at Thunder
O.J. Mayo (illness) practiced yesterday so he’s probably a go for tonight. Dirk Nowitzki will come off the bench again, and owners with games played limits can still consider him for some low-end production and a hint of upside in his second game back. The Thunder are fully healthy and since it’s a national TV game look for Kevin Martin to get fed the ball.
Celtics at Clippers
Leandro Barbosa (personal) is the only questionable Celtics player and he’s a non-factor in fantasy leagues. The Clippers will look to extend their 14-game winning streak.