Adam Levitan

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Return of the Mamba

Friday, March 22, 2013

To be fair, the Lakers asked for this. Their supposed “Dream Team” featured four 30-somethings past their prime in Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace. They knew about Dwight Howard’s back woes.

Still, the Lakers are right when they say that they’ve had their real lineup together just two times all year. And on Friday, when Bryant (ankle) and Gasol (foot) return, it will mark the third time.

“That’s the lineup,” coach Mike D’Antoni said, per ESPN Los Angeles. “If we’re going to do any damage, that’s what has to happen.”

As we’ve discussed before, Gasol is going to be the starting power forward at some point. It might not be Friday, but shortly he’ll be playing 16-20 minutes next to Howard and then another 10 minutes while Howard is resting.

Bryant, on the other hand, won’t be eased in. He’ll mercifully send Jodie Meeks back to the bench and play his usual 35-38 minutes. The Mamba went through an intense practice Thursday without issue.

Brad Beal just can’t get over the hump with his left ankle injury. He missed six games with a sprain earlier this month and then aggravated it against the Suns Wednesday night. Beal left the arena in a walking boot and is already listed as doubtful for Friday.

Garrett Temple – who was starting at shooting guard anyway -- will see a boost. Over the last five games, he’s averaging 10.2 points, 3.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.0 3-pointers in 35.6 minutes. Deep leaguers should take notice.

The Pacers haven’t made a big deal about David West’s lower back sprain, but it’s developed into a situation to watch. West has already missed two straight games and is not expected to play on Friday or Saturday either. As recently as Tuesday, he was having trouble walking.

Fantasy owners should be well-aware of Tyler Hansbrough’s raw statistical upside when he gets minutes. In three starts this season, he’s averaging 17.0 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals.

* Kirk Hinrich finally returned from his foot injury after a seven-game absence and immediately took his starting job back from Nate Robinson. Although Hinrich went 1-of-7 in 20 minutes and Nate had nine assists in 31 minutes, don’t expect a role reversal here. I detailed why a few weeks ago in Rotations. Robinson is a hold while we see if Hinrich can sustain health, but the leash should be short.
* Taj Gibson made a smashing return from his MCL sprain with 14 points and nine boards in 24 minutes, but he’ll be closer to 22 minutes most nights. The Bulls were down by 27 points after three quarters in this one.

* Ty Lawson did not play due to a bruised right heel and is day to day. Of course, that means Andre Miller went off for 21 points and eight assists.
* Damien Wilkins went off for 24 points, four steals and two 3-pointers as he’s locked himself into the starting two-guard spot. It’s an aberration of an offensive outburst from a defensive-minded player, but the minutes are going to be there. Deep leaguers should take notice.
* Kenneth Faried’s minutes were down once again, but the Sixers play small a lot with Thaddeus Young at the four. Faried will be needed for his usual 30-plus minutes in upcoming matchups against the Kings and Hornets.
* With Wilson Chandler (shoulder) and Lawson sidelined, Corey Brewer got 32 minutes. He responded with an absurd 29 points, five steals and five 3-pointers. Brewer is worth owning as Chandler will be out a couple more games and the Lawson situation is up in the air.

* Ricky Rubio said his groin issue was no big deal and he was right. He had 12 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and three steals as his second-half tear continued.
* DeMarcus Cousins was limited to 27 minutes by foul trouble, but still had 15 points and 14 boards.
* Patrick Patterson continues to quietly produce whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. He was the sixth man in this one, but still played 31 minutes and posted 11 points, four rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Over Patterson’s last four games, he’s now averaging 15.0 points and 5.7 boards.

Wilson Chandler (shoulder) is targeting Wednesday for his return. … Danny Granger (knee) got some practice in Thursday, but he’s not someone I’d stash. Too many complications. … Tony Parker (ankle) played 5-on-5 in Thursday’s practice. He could return as soon as Friday. … When asked when he’ll return Derrick Rose (knee) said, “Nobody knows by God.” … Andre Drummond (back) got a full practice in Thursday. He’s day to day and worth stashing if you’re desperate for blocks. … Jermaine O’Neal has been diagnosed with a calf strain. Considering his age, injury history and the Suns’ place in the standings, we can see where this is headed. … Brandon Knight (ankle) doesn’t appear close to a return. Good news for owners riding Rodney Stuckey. … Ersan Ilyasova (hip) is expected to be out Friday. Look for Samuel Dalembert to get another start.  

Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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