Kobe Bryant continues to do his Magic Johnson impersonation with another big assists night, finishing with 11 helpers to go with 14 points and eight rebounds. I can’t help but think it’s a referendum on Steve Nash (12 points, four rebounds, five assists, three treys). Nash has trouble getting the corner on defenders now and that might be why we’ve seen the shift in approach.
Dwight Howard scored 24 points with five steals and four blocks, but drew criticism for having just four rebounds. As Lakers reporter Mike Trudell pointed out, he was helping a lot on defense tonight and that took him out of rebounding position. As long as he’s healthy and expending effort that low number will be a fluke. Earl Clark went nuts with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting (including four threes), 12 boards, four assists, and six turnovers. He flashed hints of potential in past stops but never got on the floor, and now we’re seeing the total package come together.
With the Lakers finally looking like a team, this configuration could very well stick, making Clark a must-own player for standard formats in the process. Pau Gasol hit triple sevens in points, rebounds, and assists in just 21 minutes, and remains one of the more enigmatic players in fantasy leagues due to trade speculation and questions about his nightly utilization. Antawn Jamison scored 16 points with seven boards, and after scoring 12 points in the prior game he’s worth watching to see if he can keep it up. I’m still waiting before considering an add in reasonably sized formats at this time.
News and Notes
Andrew Bogut looked good in his return from his ongoing ankle injury, but he’s not going to be playing in back-to-backs in the near future. Mike Conley (ankle) is “hoping” to return to action on Thursday, and with two days until then it will indicate a more serious injury if he cannot go. Jerryd Bayless is the play if that is the case, while Tony Wroten will have spot-start appeal in much deeper formats. Arron Afflalo added “left Achilles’ soreness” to his calf strain on the same side, and while they aren’t being reported as serious it’s something to keep an eye on.
Wednesday Night Lights
WAS @ PHI: Bradley Beal (shooting wrist) didn’t sound optimistic about playing tonight, and regular readers know where I stand on shooting wrist injuries. I love Beal’s upside but in a 12-team league if a really hot free agent comes along I might be enticed to make the change knowing that he isn’t a lock to post startable value in the current Wizards configuration. Jordan Crawford will be the short-term speculative add if Beal cannot go. Jason Richardson (knee) is targeting a return on Friday, so Nick Young will get another night with relative freedom.
DET @ IND: The Pacers are a consistent fantasy squad that will get the Pistons in the second game of their back-to-back, so look for them to have a nice night.
TOR @ ATL: Al Horford (hamstring) and Zaza Pachulia (heel) were held out of practice yesterday for maintenance reasons. Both are expected to play tonight. We’ll be keeping an eye out for an update on Kyle Lowry (back), and it’s possible the Raptors will continue to hold him out so Jose Calderon can keep putting up numbers for the trade market. Keep an eye on Devin Harris to see if he can take advantage of the open backcourt.
SAC @ BOS: Our blurber from yesterday morning called Keith Smart’s rotations “whimsical.” I thought that was a kind way to put it. DeMarcus Cousins was benched and clearly didn’t like it, so it’ll be worth watching to see what happens tonight. Cousins should be able to swallow the Celtics’ frontcourt whole, which is offset by the fact that Kevin Garnett is nearly guaranteed to get into Cousins’ head. Get your popcorn ready. Doc Rivers and other reporters have essentially made every player on the roster a possible beneficiary after the Rajon Rondo injury, with Courtney Lee staying in the starting lineup with Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Jared Sullinger, and KG. Rivers said that Jeff Green will handle the ball more, and there is certainly a reason to watch him. The Celtics are running out of horses and Green has a big contract to justify. Otherwise, the whole lot of these guys and also Leandro Barbosa will be worth watching to see who emerges with value. I’m guessing there will be at least one surprise.
ORL @ NYK: Tyson Chandler is going to keep playing through his neck injury. I generally like his value proposition to owners, but once he gets healthy and productive owners may want to see if they can get an even money return on the marketplace. Chandler isn’t exactly a spring chicken and has a mixed injury history, so I’d expect the Knicks to start playing it safe with him toward the end of the year if things act up. Jason Kidd (back) is probable, but it sounds like he could use a rest and the Knicks are getting healthy in the backcourt. I definitely missed out on a few good weeks of value with Kidd, but this is the scenario that had me bearish on him earlier in the year.
MIA @ BKY: Chris Bosh did not practice yesterday due to a toe injury that is being called “general wear and tear.” He is expected to play tonight. Deron Williams (flu) did not practice yesterday, and he is expected to play, as well.
LAC @ MIN: Nikola Pekovic (thigh) and Alexey Shved (ankle) are expected to return tonight, and I’d be fine putting Pek in my lineup while I’d wait and see how Shved does. My recommendation for owners is to evaluate Shved like they would have before the injury and give him 2-3 games to get his feet underneath him. I think he was wearing down and the ankle injury might have been a blessing in disguise for the rest of his body. He needs to get his shooting under control but he was being forced into a pretty heavy role for a rookie. With Ricky Rubio back that could move into a better balance, and the older guys (Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea) are due for a breakdown anytime now. Chris Paul is basically out indefinitely with his right kneecap injury, and if there is any good news it is that it’s not his surgically repaired left knee. Owners should consider him questionable for the eight-game road trip and hope for better news. Eric Bledsoe should be owned in all formats.
CHI @ MIL: It will be interesting to see if Jimmy Butler can continue to hold his value tonight. He scored 19 points in 31 minutes with Luol Deng in the lineup on Monday and really came into his own during Deng’s absence. I added him in a few places with the hope he could keep it up and I think one would have to be fairly stacked with long-term assets to not take a chance on him in a standard league. Deng said his hamstring felt “great” after Monday’s game, though owners should take anything they hear about injuries in Chicago with a grain of salt. They’re going to play through anything and everything.
CHA @ SA: Tim Duncan (knee) practiced yesterday and is questionable for tonight’s game, but since it’s the Bobcats it’s possible the Spurs will give him another night off. Byron Mullens (ankle) is hoping to return on this road trip, but it would be a relative surprise if he could go tonight. Still, I’d be hard pressed not to add him in hopes that the time off gave him some perspective about crashing the boards and trying to get to the foul line. Yes, he can be an asset as a 3-point shooting gunner, but I think owners would be happier with the results if he balanced everything out and added higher volume free throw shooting to the mix. As usual, the guard rotation for Charlotte will be in focus and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could use a good night. Kawhi Leonard cooled off the last time out, and he’s a hot fantasy topic and needs to put some distance between himself and his struggles since returning from a quad injury.
HOU @ DEN: There is no stress fracture in JaVale McGee’s tibia injury, and he is questionable for tonight. It’s a good time to get him on the bench even if he does play. Houston has few questions right now, but Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris are a pair of struggling forwards that are available on most wires and might help deep league owners if one can emerge in the position battle. The Nuggets are on the never-ending hunt for consistency, which can’t really be measured on a game-to-game basis. Wilson Chandler is an interesting name if he can stay healthy, but is probably going to be best suited for deep leagues if he can get things moving.
NO @ UTA: Gordon Hayward (shoulder) did not practice yesterday and is doubtful for tonight. While everybody struggled the last time out, an absence for Hayward will benefit Randy Foye and Derrick Favors, who will see more minutes.
LAL @ PHO: Michael Beasley is definitely getting more run under Lindsay Hunter and the strong rumor was that his lack of playing time was a factor in Alvin Gentry’s dismissal. Still, he has holes in his fantasy game in standard formats so I wasn’t falling all over myself to grab him. Goran Dragic has picked up the passing game, but I’d like to see Hunter open up the offense more and allow him to be the true focal point. He’s the only real playmaker on the team and it stands to reason that everybody would benefit if he attracts defensive attention.