Byron Mullens was on every sharp fantasy owner’s preseason sleeper list and things started off according to plan. Through the first 27 games, he averaged 11.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.4 3-pointers, 0.9 blocks and 0.9 steals. The 37.1 percent shooting hurt, but we could live with it thanks to the unique contributions elsewhere.
Then, nearly five weeks ago, Mullens went down with a severe ankle sprain. Yet at long last, he’s showing signs of progress. In the last week, Mullens has gone from the zero-gravity treadmill to jump shots. Now he says he’s hoping to return sometime during the Bobcats’ five-game road trip that starts Monday. Mullens practiced with the team on Thursday.
“(Based on) Thursday, I felt like I could play on Saturday, but I know I can’t,” Mullens said. “Just running around at 10 percent is not like game speed and I’m definitely not in game shape. Not after being out for a month.’’
As with all injured players, Mullens figures to be eased in slowly. But within a couple weeks, look for him to ramp back up to the 31 minutes per game he was at before. The Bobcats are 3-12 without him and fill-in starting power forward Hakeem Warrick has sunk to just 22.1 minutes a night in January.
NEWS OF THE DAY #2
The Clippers continue to brush off Chris Paul’s bruised right kneecap as minor. But he sat out Thursday night for the fifth time in seven games and is not taking any contact right now.
"He is still doing some conditioning things," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "There is no timetable, it's just, 'Is he feeling better?' He is just staying off it a little bit."
It would be a surprise if Paul plays Saturday in Portland. And Sunday doesn’t seem too realistic either. We’ll know to start really worrying if CP3 isn’t back in the saddle Wednesday.
In the meantime, starting-caliber backup Eric Bledsoe continues to be a must-start plug-n-play. He went for 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals, one block and one 3-pointer Thursday night.
NEWS OF THE DAY #3
When Derrick Rose tore his ACL in the playoffs last season, he was slapped with a broad timetable of 8-12 months. It’s been almost exactly nine months.
This week, Rose took the “next step” in his rehab, progressing to playing controlled games of 2-on-2. Coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t sound overly excited.
"It's going to be a while," Thibodeau said. "It's the next step in the rehab. Everyone has to be patient. He's doing fine, he's playing more, he's practicing more, so he's doing well.”
Speculation out of Chicago has Rose on track for a return sometime in late February. He needs to be owned in all formats, but let’s keep expectations in check. Look at what’s happened to Ricky Rubio – a guy that doesn’t even use athleticism too much of his game.
I fear that the miraculous recovery of Adrian Peterson is going to raise expectations for this injury across all sports. Even Peterson himself admits that he’s the freakish exception to the rule.
"Everybody's body heals differently. That's something nobody is going to understand,” Peterson said. “This is also a matter of genetics. Look at my dad. And my mom's side, my aunts and uncles, they're all ripped. At 50 years old, they've got six packs and eight packs.”
If Rose returns top-80 fantasy value over the final six weeks of the season, stashers should be happy.
The All-Star reserves (voted on by the coaches) were announced Thursday night. Bang it here for the full rosters. Some thoughts:
* Kyrie Irving is one of the best 20 players in the NBA, but he missed 11 games and the Cavs are a woeful 11-32. I would not have had him as an All-Star this year.
* Luol Deng is a nice player and rugged defender. But his stats – 17.4/6.4/3.0 – are inflated by his absurd 39.8 minutes per game. I think both Brook Lopez and Josh Smith would have been more deserving All-Stars as players carrying their playoff-bound teams.
* Stephen Curry is an obvious snub. He’s averaging a 20.9/6.6/4.1 line for a team that’s 26-15.
* Jamal Crawford is not a snub. He’s a strict gunner that’s shooting 41.8 percent and is a liability on defense.
* If Zach Randolph were in the East, I’d have no problem with him as an All-Star. But he’s no more valuable to the Grizzlies than Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay or Mike Conley – none of whom were All-Stars. I would have had Curry and difference-maker Serge Ibaka ahead of Z-Bo.
In the spirit of All-Star season, I figured I release my much-anticipated fantasy all-star team.
PG – Jrue Holiday: Gets the nod over Kyrie Irving because Kyrie missed 11 games. But if I was drafting now for the rest of the season, I’d take Kyrie.
SG – Paul George: We saw the breakout coming from miles away. Fantasy gold is 2.2 treys, 1.7 steals.
SF – LeBron James: Shooting 55.0 percent while taking 18.6 shots per game. Insane.
PF – Carmelo Anthony: Really close here between Melo and Chris Bosh. Anthony gets the nod thanks to the leap he’s taken in 3-pointers.
C – Joakim Noah: Guess how many players are averaging at least four assists, two blocks and one steal. One.
PG – Stephen Curry: Would have been Chris Paul if not for this knee issue.
SG – James Harden: Only two players in all of fantasy I’d rather have than Harden. They rhyme with Devin Kurant and JaBron Lames.
SF – Kevin Durant: He’s in the midst of the greatest fantasy basketball season of the modern era. He’s more than 25 percent better than LeBron James. Durant is averaging career-highs in field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage, assists, blocks and steals. Just insane.
PF – Tim Duncan: I don’t regret avoiding Duncan in all my leagues this year, just as I have in each of the last four seasons. We can’t bet on guys having career years at age 36.
C – Serge Ibaka: Gets the slight nod over Marc Gasol because of the added blocks.
RAPTORS at MAGIC RANDOM THOUGHTS
* J.J. Redick’s promotion to the starting lineup has now yielded two straight games with 37 or more minutes. He’s quietly having a top-50 fantasy season.
* Andrea Bargnani (elbow) is back shooting jumpers, but he’s going to have a hard time carving out more than 25 minutes upon his return. Ed Davis and Amir Johnson rebound, play defense and go hard. They are the anti-Bargs.
* Don’t go selling low on Kyle Lowry. Along with Al Jefferson and Pau Gasol, Jose Calderon is among the players most likely to be traded by Feb. 21.
KNICKS at CELTICS RANDOM THOUGHTS
*Jason Kidd had yet another big fantasy night with three steals and two 3-pointers, but the party is ending soon. He’ll crash to roughly 20 minutes as soon as Raymond Felton (pinkie) returns.
* As I mentioned in the East Rotating Rotations a couple weeks back, I don’t see much reason to carry Jared Sullinger on fantasy rosters. He bottomed out with seven points and three rebounds in 15 minutes.
CLIPPERS at SUNS RANDOM THOUGHTS
* See above for the latest on Chris Paul’s knee.
* Blake Griffin rolled his ankle early. He didn’t miss any time, but he was clearly affected. It’s something for owners to monitor.
* So much for that Lindsay Hunter loves Kendall Marshall hype. The rookie has a total of zero minutes in the two games Hunter has coached.
* Hunter’s biggest rotation change appears to be dinging Jared Dudley. After averaging 30.5 minutes per game under Alvin Gentry, he’s at 23.3 under Hunter.
INJURY FAST BREAK
Dwight Howard’s shoulder injury turned out to be nothing. He’s ready to continue the misery in L.A. ... Raymond Felton (pinkie) remains on track to return Saturday. … Kawhi Leonard (knee) is traveling with the Spurs to Dallas and is questionable. Tim Duncan (knee) did not travel. … Anthony Davis (ankle) is good to go. … Alexey Shved (ankle) and Nikola Pekovic (quad) are not traveling for the Wolves’ back-to-back road set. Good news for J.J. Barea and Greg Stiemsma. … Devin Harris (ankle) and Al Horford (Achilles) are both questionable for Friday. … Andrew Bogut (ankle) keeps inching closer to a return. Stash him.