LAKER LIFE FLASHING BEFORE OUR EYES
I had this thought watching Kobe Bryant go down with an ankle injury on the game’s final play last night. What if one night he suffered a Derrick Rose-style knee injury and we were suddenly robbed of watching the Mamba every night. Of course, he’d probably come back twice as fast as the next guy and like Chauncey Billups, he wouldn’t go out on those terms – but love or hate the guy the league just wouldn’t be the same.
X-rays taken on Bryant’s ankle were negative and he’s heading toward an MRI today. He said (in addition to calling Dahntay Jones dirty for sliding his foot underneath him) that it was the worst ankle injury he has suffered since the 2000 playoffs. He’s out “indefinitely” and while his warrior status is unquestioned, it does look like he could indeed miss some time. How much is anybody’s guess and Jodie Meeks (three points, 1-of-4 shooting) and Antawn Jamison (seven points, 3-of-6 FGs, four rebounds, one three) are both worth picking up. The Lakers will need to find scoring from their entire unit to replace what the Mamba provides. Look for Steve Nash (11 points, seven assists) to get going, as well as Metta World Peace (20 points, eight boards, two threes, two steals). If there was any time for Dwight Howard (10 points, 16 boards, one block) to carry the team it is now.
Pau Gasol (foot) said in a radio interview that he wants to practice next week, and the timing on that is actually pretty good since owners likely wouldn’t be starting him during the Lakers’ two-game week. I’m calling him a must-stash player even if the minutes will come slowly at first, and with struggling Earl Clark getting knocked out of the game last night due to an ankle injury he isn’t exactly positioned to stave off Gasol. That said, if you want to gamble that Clark’s injury is minor he could also be called upon to pick up some slack if Bryant misses time, so he can be considered a speculative add despite his struggles.
WHY THEY PLAY THE GAMES
Jeff Teague (ankle) did not play last night in a big game against the Lakers, but the surprise was Josh Smith missing the game due to a sprained left knee. I wrote yesterday that the Lakers should go into Atlanta and trounce the Hawks if Teague couldn’t go, but that it’s hard to bet heavy on them this season. Exhibit ‘A’ for that concept came into play last night as the Hawks inexplicably stole a win playing the game with mostly spare parts.
Devin Harris started at point guard and scored 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting with three rebounds, seven assists and a three, and he’s worth a short-term look with upside in the event Teague’s ankle is worse than it seemed on Tuesday when he was “available to return” but didn’t. Anthony Tolliver started for Smith and scored nine points on 3-of-7 shooting with six rebounds and one three in 24 minutes. There’s enough recent data on Tolliver to keep him on the wire until he shows consistent production. Kyle Korver bounced back as expected with 15 points, six rebounds, two threes and two blocks in 34 minutes off the bench. He shouldn’t have hit the wire in standard formats, but if he did go run and pick him up.
SCORCHING HOT MESS
The Suns are a hot mess which is nothing new, and finding the silver linings there is an exercise in frustration. Wes Johnson scored 15 points with a three, steal, block and three assists in 31 minutes, and he’s been a low-end value for the past two weeks. He seems to be getting along as well as anybody there, and he’s a recommended pickup as long as expectations are in check. With plenty to work on, Johnson has athleticism that the Suns would be crazy not to at least try to develop.
In the 30-point loss to the Rockets the borderline guys were abhorrent. Luis Scola scored four points with four rebounds in 14 minutes, Markieff Morris scored four points on 2-of-8 shooting, five boards, a steal and a block in 22 minutes, his brother Marcus managed just five points, one steal, one block and nothing else in his 19 minutes, and aside from Johnson no starter played more than 22 minutes.
Jared Dudley played just 19 minutes and finished with five points and one three. Michael Beasley scored 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting with five rebounds, two steals and a block, and I won’t touch him with a ten-foot pole. Yuck. Alvin Gentry was a mess and Lindsey Hunter is making him look like Red Auerbach, and Robert Sarver’s penny pinching ways are starting to smell mighty Maloofian. We can’t discount every game the Suns get blasted because it still hurts fantasy owners the same way, but try to minimize the impact this one game has on your thinking. And take a shower to get the Sarver stank off.
Hamed Haddadi admitted to not being in ‘basketball shape,’ and any hope that he could retain value with Jermaine O’Neal back was dashed in a two-point, one-rebound effort over 13 minutes that at least included a steal and block. The matchup was horrible here against the run-and-gun Rockets anchored by Omer Asik, so both Haddadi and O’Neal (six points, three boards, one steal, two blocks, 23 minutes) were at a disadvantage to start. O’Neal looked winded to me and that was to be expected, as well as some struggles against Asik. I’m holding O’Neal where I need a big man with the hopes he can rediscover the recent magic, while Haddadi was a flier pickup at best that needed to prove himself last night and he didn’t.
Kendall Marshall scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting (including two threes) with six assists and two steals aided by garbage time, and though the Suns have been eager to get something out of their lottery pick I can’t shake the image of Andre Miller literally daring the rookie to shoot without defending him the other night. Marshall does look like he’s taking the Jason Kidd route to NBA bricklaying, but as a point guard that’s just not going to work. The kid can pass, but that’s about it right now.
The Rockets exacted their revenge after a loss to the Suns last week with few surprises. James Harden played through a sore foot and finished with 18 points on 4-of-7 shooting, three treys, two rebounds and four assists. It was a good spot for him to let others do the work, and his 32 minutes were the most any starter played with everybody else playing less than Donatas Motiejunas’ 28 minutes. Motie scored 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting (including two threes) with five rebounds, two threes and a block, and he looked aggressive in doing so against a lost Suns defense. Greg Smith made a ripple with six points, 12 boards and two blocks in his 22 minutes, but he’d only be worth a look if Omer Asik went down.
Asik brushed off a groin injury suffered in practice the day before and put up 14 points with seven rebounds and a block, and Thomas Robinson got on the board with 12 points, seven boards, a steal and his customary four turnovers in 20 minutes. Feel free to give Motie a look since he has some upside, but one look at his game log will show that expectations should be held in check. Carlos Delfino played just 15 minutes with five points, three rebounds, a steal and a three, but this was a good spot for the Rockets to get him some rest so owners shouldn’t use this game as a decision-maker.
TODAY IN HEAD-DRIVEN WALL BANGING
Boy do the Jazz have problems, and while I wouldn’t use a game against the Thunder on the road as a big measuring stick it was the same old story. Al Jefferson saw the majority of touches when the game was close, but hit just 4-of-13 shots for eight points, seven boards and one block against Kendrick Perkins, who enjoyed a matchup against one of the few centers he matches up with well. Mo Williams hit just 2-of-7 shots for five points, three assists, two steals, and a triple, and Paul Millsap (knee) returned to action quietly with seven points on 1-of-5 shooting, seven boards and three steals in 19 minutes.
None of the starters played more than 24 minutes, and when the bench was turned to Gordon Hayward was finally given touches and finished with 20 points, three assists, a steal, a three and a 7-of-8 mark from the foul line. It’s hard to watch them struggle pounding the ball into Jefferson at the expense of a balanced attack. Derrick Favors had one of his patented what-if nights with five blocks to go with an otherwise dull six points and three boards in 24 minutes. He’s still a hold for his low-end numbers and what-if numbers down the road. Enes Kanter scored 12 points with five boards and a steal in his 23 minutes, and barring an injury ahead of him it could be time to let go if you’ve been holding him. What if.
WRITE IT IN INK
The Thunder had this game wrapped up early with no real surprises in the box score. Russell Westbrook scored 19 points and a full line, Kevin Durant scored 23 points with 10 boards, a pair of blocks and an unsightly eight turnovers, and Kevin Martin scored 15 points with a three and steal to keep owners bearish. Serge Ibaka had just 10 points, three boards, and a steal and block, but there’s nothing to see there in the blowout win.
It’s sort-of funny to see how everybody reacts when a bad team blows out a good team on their home floor, but it’s not surprising to the home crowd because they constantly see those good teams bring their ‘F’ game to the table. That’s what happened when the Bulls got rung by the Kings last night, and for all intents and purposes this game should simply be erased from owners’ memories. Marco Belinelli owners were treated to a zero-point outing that included nine missed field goals, one rebound and two assists in 22 minutes, Nate Robinson scored 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting with three assists, Joakim Noah managed just six points and nine boards with no steals or blocks, and Carlos Boozer did his thing with 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting, seven rebounds and four assists. It wasn’t so much what the Bulls did to themselves on offense as it was what they didn’t do on defense – allowing the Kings to shoot a blistering 54 percent from the field.
I was borderline shocked when I heard Sam Amick’s report that DeMarcus Cousins didn’t get suspended by the league, as the running joke whenever somebody does something wrong in the NBA is that Cousins just got suspended for two games – a reference to the fact that his reputation has made him an easy target. Still, he missed the game due to a left quad contusion he suffered when Mike Dunleavy lunged into him to aggressively box him out on Sunday, which was what catalyzed all of the drama to follow. With the Kings off until Sunday, he stands a decent chance of playing in that game, but naturally after his teammates absolutely demolished the Bulls everybody will be pointing toward Big Cuz’s absence as the uniting factor.
And there may be some truth to that. I know from conversations with sources deep inside the Kings locker room that players are fed up with Cousins’ act, which isn’t exactly inside knowledge, and last night was a way for all of them to show their bratty brother that the antics have to stop. Tyreke Evans went nuts with 26 points on 11-of-13 shooting, five rebounds, seven assists, three steals and a block, and I feel for Kings fans for (among other reasons) the fact that this type of game gets the locals all riled up thinking Evans is a guy to plan around. Until he learns how to play the game he’s simply not that. Isaiah Thomas scored 22 points with three assists and a perfect 4-of-4 mark from the foul line. The dude has hit 87 of his last 90 free throws, making him a top-40 play over the last month and a top 20-25 play over the past two weeks. And that’s with a coach that refuses to deploy him as the team’s primary ball-handler despite more proof than a bottle of 151 that it’s the one and only thing the Kings should be doing.
Marcus Thornton played just 12 minutes with seven points and one three, and this was one case where the minutes can be explained considering the Kings won by 42 points. Jason Thompson (12 points, three boards, 25 minutes) and Patrick Patterson (14 points, nine boards, two threes) both started with Cousins out and both will be inconsistent when the big man returns, though I do think the Kings will lean on Patterson a lot given the fact he isn’t ruined by years of poor development in Sacramento. John Salmons hit 2-of-10 shots for five points and this is my shocked face. Lottery pick Jimmer Fredette played 12 minutes so journeyman Toney Douglas could be developed for 20 minutes, naturally.