You guys probably think I hate the Warriors with how much I bag on them, but understand that’s the fan in me seeing long-term problems for the franchise as it’s currently constructed and a lack of reality permeating throughout the organization. Everything is ‘better’ than it really is around Oracle, and the proclamation that their win over a decimated Hornets squad was “validating” by team-leader Stephen Curry was the most recent exhibit.
Going into the Spurs’ house where they had lost 28 straight and a chance to expose the older squad without their point guard Tony Parker, they laid an egg with the normal culprits of bad defense and interior play being their undoing. David Lee hit just 4-of-17 shots for 10 points to go with 12 boards, two steals and one block, while Curry (24 points, 8-of-20 FGs, four threes, three assists) and Klay Thompson (nine points, 3-of-8 FGs) were bothered into mediocre nights.
I love them to death and will root like crazy in the playoffs, but claiming you have a defensive focus and coaching by narrative are different than going out there and getting it done. The sooner the Warriors realize they don’t have the winning formula and move on from their big financial commitments to it, the better off the suddenly strong ownership group will be in building a champion. Godspeed!
Tony Parker (ankle) could play on Friday according to Gregg Popovich, which of course needs to be taken with appropriate caution even if it seems reasonable that he goes. In his place Manu Ginobili (16 points, seven assists) and Nando De Colo (10 points, two assists, two steals, 25 minutes) did their thing, but Ginobili is the only ball-handler worth touching with a ten-foot pole. Tim Duncan (25 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, one steal, four blocks) and Tiago Splitter (17 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block) predictably picked apart the Warriors’ interior defense in the easy win. Splitter has some sneaky value with a 3-4-3 upcoming schedule during bingo hour at the old folks’ home.
ONE DOOR SHUTS
Owners grimaced as Bradley Beal (six points, five rebounds, four turnovers, 19 minutes) re-injured his left ankle and went down in a heap. He got up and walked quickly back to the locker room after rolling the ankle and did not return. The Wizards didn’t take X-rays after the game but his status going forward is officially in doubt, and it’s hard to see the cellar dwellers rushing him back to action. Naturally, this opens the door a bit wider for Trevor Ariza (14 points, six rebounds, three treys, 34 minutes) and Martell Webster (13 points, three treys, 29 minutes). We’re not hearing about Ariza’s knee right now so owners can be cautiously optimistic about his rest-of-season value. The Wizards close out the meaningful year with a 4-4-3 slate and that gives everybody a boost, too.
Emeka Okafor did not play last night due to illness, and A.J. Price missed his fifth straight game due to a groin injury. That meant Kevin Seraphin got dusted off and put into the game, scoring 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting with five rebounds and two blocks. With Okafor likely to return soon, it’s still officially time to watch Seraphin, who apparently gained a lot of confidence over the offseason. The efficient version is what we’re looking for. Garrett Temple has been a beneficiary of Price’s absence with some deep league value, but that came crashing to a halt when he went scoreless on four shot attempts to go with an otherwise recognizable three rebounds, three assists and two steals over 28 minutes.
Jermaine O’Neal (12 points, 3-of-11 FGs, six rebounds, no steals or blocks, 33 minutes) just hasn’t looked right since returning to action, and he left last night’s game with a lower left leg injury without returning. He looked dejected sitting on the bench, as if he was realizing that he just played his last minute of professional basketball, but keep in mind I’m not a mind reader and he could have been thinking about the ending to Lost. He said after the game, "It's been bothering me the last couple of days” which didn’t exactly sound like a guy whose season would be lost, so there is that. It just goes with the territory for O’Neal, who can be dropped for a hot free agent but with no real competition for minutes he could be back and producing at some point. With a 3-3-3 schedule upcoming, the whole Suns squad is getting the worst of things right now, so keep that in mind when you’re taking out the trash.
That said Wes Johnson has been a small bright spot and kept it up with 18 points on 8-of-18 shooting, two threes, four boards and a steal in 38 minutes. His role seems to be secured, though it’s worth noting that Shannon Brown got unglued from the bench and quickly scored four points with a steal in nine minutes.
If Brown gets out of the doghouse, it could get even uglier in Phoenix. Jared Dudley (illness) played eight minutes, and he’s in the same exact boat as Brown but to a lesser extent. Markieff Morris (11 minutes) started but was benched along with Michael Beasley (eight minutes), while Luis Scola tickled owners with 11 points, five rebounds, one steal and one block’s worth of fool’s gold. Ditto P.J. Tucker (10 points, 10 boards). Lindsey Hunter had Tom Chambers poking at him in the post-game coverage, which isn’t the greatest sign for the home squad.
As many of you probably predicted, the Clippers came home from their loss to the Kings on Tuesday with a vengeance, rattling off a 29-point win against the struggling Sixers. Jrue Holiday got the Chris Paul treatment and finished with just two points on 1-of-8 shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and three steals, but it was Spencer Hawes that was the talk of the town despite the blowout loss. Hawes has been absolutely on fire lately, and posted another gem with 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting, seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals, four blocks, a three and a 5-of-6 mark from the line. How long he can keep it up is anybody’s guess, but he is a must-own and must-start player until he cools down. Who’d have thought we’d be staring at a top-20 value over the past two weeks?
Evan Turner continued to underwhelm with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting, two threes, two boards and three assists. The threes were nice but he needs big popcorn numbers to make up for his poor peripherals. Based on production that wouldn’t pan out in 16-18 team formats over the last two weeks, it's tempting to consider a drop and I wouldn't hold anybody's feet to the fire if they did. But with a 4-3-4 schedule coming up he’s not dead money just yet. Dorell Wright managed just eight points on 3-of-5 shooting (including two threes), two rebounds and one assist in 23 minutes off the bench. Nick Young played just nine minutes and Wright's role doesn’t appear threatened, though that could change pending the big loss.
I'M TALKIN BOUT VENTING
The Clippers’ side of the box suffered from the blowout win, but don’t tell that to Chris Paul after he hit 8-of-10 shots for 19 points with six rebounds, nine assists, five steals and two triples. Caron Butler scored 14 points with six rebounds and Matt Barnes was quiet with six points, four rebounds, a steal and a block in just 22 minutes. Those two will switch production positions when the games get normal. Since Eric Bledsoe (calf) doesn’t have a timetable for return and it doesn’t sound like he’s returning anytime soon, and Chauncey Billups (groin) is trending toward being a non-factor in the Clippers’ rotation, I wouldn’t give up on Barnes right now. I’d at least try to keep him through the upcoming four-game week and see how things go from there with a pair of three-gamers after that.
NEWS AND NOTES
Mike D’Antoni expects Pau Gasol (foot) to make his return on Friday night. He’ll get to show his stuff and owners will have a good idea of what they want to do in the upcoming four-game week. Kobe Bryant (ankle) is also expected to play and owners may have some consternation about using him but I don’t see how you can bench the Mamba unless you’re stacked. Steve Blake turned up sick yesterday and his status for Friday’s game is suddenly in doubt. Give Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison small bumps if he cannot go.
Andre Drummond (back) will not be tested over the next few days, but rather he will meet with strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander to come up with a game plan. I covered this yesterday, calling him a very stashable player but not a must-stash guy. The Pistons finish out the meaningful year with a 3-4-2 schedule, and that four-game week is essentially what you’re hoping for.
David West’s status for Friday’s game is “up in the air” due to a back injury that kept him from walking on Tuesday, and Frank Vogel said that he wouldn’t have been able to play if it were a playoff game. That’s pretty damning news for a tough guy like West. Tyler Hansbrough’s short-term appeal is growing after a solid double-double on Tuesday. Vogel changed his tune and said that he hopes to have Danny Granger (knee) for the playoffs, and that should end any discussion about stashing him in most formats at least for now.
THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
POR @ CHI: We don’t have LaMarcus Aldridge on the injury report, but similarly to Nicolas Batum’s wrist owners will want to watch his knee as they continue to play out their playoff hopes. Otherwise, the only real unknown is whether gambling deep league owners will get anything out of Eric Maynor during this five-game week. There was a now daily ‘nobody knows what Derrick Rose is going to do’ update from Tom Thibodeau yesterday. The Bulls go 3-4-4 on the schedule after this week. Good luck. Taj Gibson (knee) expects to play tonight, while Kirk Hinrich (foot) is “close” to a return. I can’t see downgrading Nate Robinson too much until Hinrich proves he can stay on the court, though a threat certainly exists.
PHI @ DEN: Ty Lawson popped up on the injury report with a heel strain/contusion and he is a game-time decision for tonight. It’s unclear if it’s related to his prior Achilles’ injury but for what it’s worth he said he felt better today. Give surging Andre Miller a slight bump in your evaluations. Wilson Chandler’s left (non-shooting) shoulder X-ray revealed a first degree AC joint separation and he is listed as day-to-day. With a 3-3-3 schedule after this week I don’t think there’s enough to hang onto here to hold in standard formats. A back-to-back in Denver’s altitude after getting their hats handed to them is a scary formula for the Sixers, but there’s always a chance of pride kicking in when nobody expects it.
MIN @ SAC: Nikola Pekovic is getting his conditioning in order and Andrei Kirilenko is on a minute limit, so expectations should be kept in check for both guys. Chase Budinger (knee) practiced yesterday and said he felt good afterward, but acknowledged that he would have soreness all year. That isn’t exactly a recipe for big minutes, but owners should get ready to subtract 10-20 minutes from the rotation, nonetheless. Tomorrow the city of Sacramento will release their arena term sheet and that should have the natives pumped up and ready to go at Sleep Train, and we’ll all stay tuned to see what timeshare the Smart money has invested in.