Larry Sanders did not play and there was no word how things went when he got a second opinion on his back. Hopefully we’ll get an update out of reporting-light Milwaukee over the break, but until then I wouldn’t be discounting Sanders too heavily and I’d also call this a gambling man’s time to buy low on the defensive freak. The absence left Samuel Dalembert (17 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks, 32 minutes) free to start and continue his assault, and in general I see him continuing to get minutes but not at the expense of Sanders, so long as Sanders is healthy. Take that for what you will and hang on or sell-high if you are holding Sammy D.
Ersan Ilyasova got into early foul trouble and that sapped his effectiveness last night, as he finished with just seven points, two boards, two steals, and a three in 18 minutes. I’m not thrilled but I’m not worried about his role. Brandon Jennings was on his way to another disastrous night but pulled out of his lateral spin with 21 points on 8-of-21 shooting, two threes, four rebounds, five assists, and four steals. His shooting is a legit concern but he’s a lock to improve that number, most likely when the trade deadline comes and goes, wherever he plays. I doubt a team would acquire him without making him their undisputed point guard, so I’m not projecting a massive change in his value one way or another. Monta Ellis (27 points, four rebounds, five assists, one steal, 11-of-24 FGs) on the other hand, could be a guy whose touches go drastically down in a trade to a contender. Right now he and Jennings are trying to outdo one another on the offensive end, even if the competition is subliminal in nature between the players.
WAITING FOR THE CLOCK TO STRIKE
Mo Williams had the pins removed from his thumb but no timetable information was attached to the expected report. For now, we’re expecting a mid-March return in a very best case and anything goes beyond that. The Jazz secured a pretty normal-looking win last night in Minnesota, with Al Jefferson (20 points, 11 boards) and Paul Millsap (21 points, eight boards, two blocks) leading the way, Randy Foye (10 points, 2-of-11 FGs, two assists, one steal, one block, 27 minutes) limping into the break with his right quad injury, Derrick Favors scoring seven points with six boards and two blocks, and Enes Kanter reminding everybody what he can do with 10 points, three rebounds, one steal, and one block in just 14 minutes. Favors is a must-stash and owners have correctly made plans to stash Kanter or keep him on watch lists as the Jazz try to trade one or more of their big men this week.
Ricky Rubio took a little while to warm up but he is officially hot, scoring 18 points on 3-of-13 shooting (0-for-3 3PTs, 12-of-13 FTs) with nine rebounds, 10 assists, four steals, and one block. Hopefully you stayed patient. Luke Ridnour kept his foot on the gas with 18 points, two threes, three boards, and two assists. Hold him and hope he gets traded to a good situation, and keep your eye on beneficiaries in J.J. Barea (six points, 2-of-10 FGs, six assists) and Alexey Shved (goose eggs, 11 minutes).
Shved’s line is obviously going to send folks running for the exit, but his value proposition more or less stays the same with the short-term struggles I’ve been alluding to and long-term upside as the healthy young guy the Wolves likely want to develop next to Rubio. Derrick Williams sent a charge into the fantasy universe with 24 points, 16 rebounds, one block, and two threes. We’ve seen this act before with the big popcorn stats, and he has to keep it up to make up for his poor peripheral numbers. Maybe he’ll turn a corner here but I’m still not convinced. Andrei Kirilenko (quad) did not play but it looks like he’ll be back after the All Star break.
TODAY IN SMART
Marcus Thornton did not play due to a bruised right hand suffered in Tuesday’s game, and there’s a better chance than not that he will be fine after the All Star break. The most noteworthy thing to come out of last night’s game strategically was the invention of a Keith Smart Twitter parody account, which is the only thing that can take the pain out of the nightly head-scratchers for Kings fans. Tyreke Evans scored 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting which is impressive when you consider the defense could care less if he shoots and they know he’s not going to pass, Isaiah Thomas scored 12 points with three assists as the point guard until the ball crosses the half court line, DeMarcus Cousins tweaked an ankle but stayed in the game and finished with 17 and 13 with five amazingly bad turnovers, Jason Thompson is back on Smart’s good side and thusly stayed productive with 17 points and nine rebounds, and James Johnson came out of nowhere with 16 points, six rebounds, and four assists in a fluky performance.
The Mavs do what teams do against the Kings, which is run normal, surface level plays and watch defenders not understand how to hedge, rotate, or communicate about open players. Darren Collison kept playing like a guy whose job is on the line, because it is, and he secured a cosmetically pleasing 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting with four rebounds and nine assists. Vince Carter passed Larry Bird on the scoring list and made basketball purists everywhere throw up a little in their mouth, but congrats go out to a player that learned at a late stage how to be a better teammate. Carter hit six threes and scored 26 points on his big night, as the Kings looked at the man making lots of shots and wondered what he was up to. Dirk Nowitzki also toyed with the Kings en route to 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals, and one block.
ARE YOU IN OR OUT?
James Harden was ‘not playing,’ playing, and then out once again with his ankle injury. He warmed up fairly well but shut it down when the pain worsens, which was the wise thing for all parties involved. And after a big game against the Warriors, it wasn’t surprising to see the Rockets let up going into the break. Jeremy Lin scored 14 points with a full line, Carlos Delfino bombed as the starting shooting guard with just three points on 1-of-6 shooting, Omer Asik was quiet with eight points, seven boards, a steal and a block, Chandler Parsons picked up the slack with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists, Patrick Patterson put up an empty 12 and six, and everybody’s values more or less stayed the same.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Somewhere along the line Doc started believing that I thought Chauncey Billups was going to outplay Jamal Crawford, which I’ve never thought would be the case, but I did believe that Billups and the Clippers’ depth would have the ability to mess with Crawford – making him a sell-high candidate way back when he was torching the NBA in the season’s first few weeks. Well finally Billups is back, and while I have no idea if he can stay on the floor, he showed a little of what I was talking about with 19 points and four treys in 20 minutes.
I don’t think Billups is a guy that owners should be targeting after one good game, but Crawford’s owners are officially on notice that things are going to get tight. Crawford scored 13 points with two threes, three rebounds and one steal in a line that might start to look commonplace. Caron Butler (back) also returned and scored 19 points with three treys and four assists, but one look at his game log will show owners why they should ignore this line. Eric Bledsoe (17 minutes, two points, three assists, one block) is back where he was fighting for low-end value, and his only real value to owners right now is as a trade deadline stash. Otherwise he’s droppable for a hot free agent once the deadline passes. Matt Barnes (nine points, three treys, 19 minutes) is already feeling the pinch of the Clippers’ depth, and I wouldn’t hang on at the expense of a free agent here, either.
NEWS AND NOTES
THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
MIA @ OKC: Udonis Haslem (leg) and Mike Miller (illness) are questionable, but otherwise everybody is a go in what should be a very entertaining game.
LAC @ LAK: Earl Clark (foot) is expected to play but at this time of year don’t be surprised if that suddenly changes. And in what sets up as an excellent night of basketball, look for the sky to fall if the Clippers take down their in-arena rivals when the lights are dimmed.
****Note, I will not be having my scheduled chat tonight due to travel reasons.