Hope you guys had a great MLK Day, and the NBA did its part by hosting a great slate of games. I said it on Twitter and I’ll say it here, I love MLK Day because it reminds me of the strength we have as a people, and in particular, the man who showed us the way.
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Paul George kept his foot on the gas with a near triple-double in last night’s win over the Grizzlies, scoring 12 points with 10 rebounds, nine assists, two threes, and a steal. He might take a slight hit when Danny Granger returns, and I fully expect the entire team to struggle a bit when Granger returns as they get to know each other again, but this is George’s team now and Granger should know that. Roy Hibbert (10 points, five boards, two steals, four blocks) and David West (14 points, two boards, five blocks) shut down the interior in a defensive struggle.
I mentioned last week that we didn’t have anything to go on but that the Grizzlies looked like the trade rumors were getting to them, and lo and behold the report about that came through the very next day. This is an example of a clearly short-term issue so owners should be trying to get their hands on Grizzly assets while they’re running in quicksand. Mike Conley (13 points, two assists), Marc Gasol (six points, five rebounds), Zach Randolph (13 points, seven boards), and Rudy Gay (14 points, eight boards, 7-of-22 FGs) all fit the description, though Gay’s situation is a bit more risky as he could get traded into a crowded situation. Theoretically he could work his way into a better situation, but right now he’s getting more touches than he realistically deserves so he’s on the high-end of his productivity scale.
Stealing From Sacramento
I broke news Sunday night about the ‘Kings to Seattle’ story, which was kind of neat but it doesn’t make the situation any more palatable if you’re a fan of people not getting screwed over.
On the court the Kings are still a total mess with Keith Smart at the top of the list, as he creates a how-to-guide for doing the exact opposite of what one should do at any given coaching moment. Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting despite being sent to the corner on most plays, and DeMarcus Cousins went for 29 and 13 with an unusually good 11-of-17 shooting mark. Tyreke Evans (16 points, four assists) could really use some good coaching to get something out of his unique athleticism, and should continue to be the Kings’ focal point, for better or worse. Jason Thompson played 17 minutes after being the Kings’ most consistent player all season, and the locals not scared to death by news of relocation are throwing things at their TVs watching Smart screw with the guy. Marcus Thornton might have an ankle issue, which would explain the low minutes lately (11 minutes last night). Then again, I’d be willing to bet it’s just another Smart decision.
Anthony Davis REALLY wanted to play for Team USA and it’s possible that it is costing him games during his rookie season. His left ankle knocked him out of last night’s game and though he said he’ll probably play on Wednesday, he is clearly dealing with the same type of situation that Steph Curry is in Oakland. That’s not to say that his ankle injury is as serious as Curry’s was/is, but that he now has an ankle injury that is more susceptible to aggravation. The only thing that could have changed that was rest, and now he’s in the grind of the NBA season. I’ve surmised that his ankle has been the main reason for his limited minutes, and with the light reporting out of New Orleans on injury issues owners may not know what is going on until it’s too late. This shouldn’t be a panic moment for Davis owners, but it’s definitely time to cool it a bit on the buy low mentality. If he’s healthy production shouldn’t be an issue, but a losing team will play it safe with their franchise player and that’s not the type of situation you want to sell the farm for unless you’re feeling lucky.
As for Ryan Anderson (27 points, seven threes, six boards), I know we blurbed otherwise but I’m not buying that Anthony Davis and his 20 some odd mpg lately have impacted his production. The team is trying to find its way with a big new piece in Eric Gordon, who at times isn’t a team player. Even if Gordon was Magic Johnson, it’s a big change to fit in a guy like Gordon and that is all that was going on there. Anderson is going to be productive as long as Gordon doesn’t ruin the team’s flow.
Al-Farouq Aminu scored 14 points with 11 boards and a three, returning to the early season form he flashed. Gordon hit 6-of-15 shots for 16 points and two assists, and it sure seems like he’s going to be a hassle this year.
Skinny In Minny
The Wolves are as banged up as any team in the league and their floor general is slowly getting back into the swing of things, with the key word being ‘slow.’ Ricky Rubio scored five points on 1-of-4 shooting with two rebounds, six assists, and two steals in 25 minutes. His field goal shooting and scoring were concerns even if he was healthy, so his recent performances are just extrapolations of those issues. Owners should have been planning for this type of return with any increased production being icing on the cake.
Derrick Williams scored 17 points and had a steal, block, and 3-pointer, but the four rebounds are typical even when he got a whopping 37 minutes. I’m just not impressed. Dante Cunningham (illness) got back on the court and put up a typical 13 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks, while J.J. Barea (14 points, seven assists) took advantage of Alexey Shved’s (ankle) absence and Luke Ridnour (12 points, two assists, three steals) did not.
Picking Up The Pieces
Devin Harris was primed (and probably still is primed) for a nice role in the wake of Lou Williams’ season-ending knee injury, but per usual he is already missing time due to an ankle issue. He was hobbling noticeably yesterday and it doesn’t sound like he’s returning anytime soon, though that’s just speculation on my part. Jeff Teague (nine points, 10 assists) is well-positioned to do whatever the Josh Smith-flavored offense will allow, and Al Horford (28 points, 10 boards, two steals, three blocks) took a hobbled Wolves interior to school last night.
Smith scored 10 points with four rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks, and Jannero Pargo showed up with 16 points, four assists, and four threes in 25 minutes off the bench. Pargo did the proverbial ‘just signed a 10-day contract so let’s make the most of it’ thing and it’s possible he’s a better play than rookie John Jenkins (zero points, 13 minutes), who started last night. Zaza Pachulia started but was disappointing once again, scoring two points with zero rebounds and three assists. His story will come down to how he is deployed, and right now Larry Drew isn’t digging the Pachulia look.
Jeremy Lin (four points, three assists, 24 minutes) is slumping right now and he had a real tough matchup against the super-quick Kemba Walker. Like his past duds, owners shouldn’t be worried unless Patrick Beverley (10 points, two assists, 24 minutes) shows some out-of-nowhere upside that I’m not ready to sign off on. James Harden also struggled hitting just 5-of-20 shots but still finished with 29 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. It’s a clear example of heavy usage impacting efficiency, and bad nights will look a lot like this. Chandler Parsons (14 points, seven rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block, two threes) and Carlos Delfino (16 points, three treys) finally found the statue that they were relieving themselves at and learned life lessons in the process. If you haven’t watched the mildly amusing movie The Change Up that just means they’re back to their normal selves after a weekend of switching roles.
Lightning In A Bottle
As mentioned, Kemba Walker is lightning quick and Jeremy Lin is not, and Lin’s backup has very little NBA experience, so his career-high 35 points aren’t exactly coming out of nowhere. It’s good news for a guy that has seen some impacts of the guard crunch in Charlotte. Gerald Henderson (back) started but scored just eight points with four rebounds, and owners should have him on their benches and I wouldn’t pass up an average to above average free agent to hang on. Be patient with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (nine points, four rebounds, five fouls). He’s going to have rough patches but should be a late round value at least. Ramon Sessions scored 19 points on 6-of-15 shooting with eight rebounds and five assists, but his unfriendly fantasy game and inconsistency are two reasons to keep expectations tempered.
Byron Mullens (ankle) is not returning to action anytime soon according to the most recent report. Needing to run on a zero gravity treadmill should have been the first clue. Most of you have probably already moved on, but if you were expecting him to be nearing a return thinking this was a more normal ankle injury, this is confirmation that it is not.
(Not) Doing The Hump
Joe Johnson hit five threes and scored 25 points with three rebounds, five assists, and one steal, and because he doesn’t shoot the ball well (8-of-20 FGs tonight) or provide much defense he’s struggling to crack the top-80 in standard formats. There was a Kris Humphries (11 points, 13 rebounds) sighting but I’m nowhere near biting.