Get Your Team Vaccinated
I had just sat down to write this article when my computer got sick. It started so innocently, just one little message that a virus had been detected, and before I knew it there were pop-ups everywhere, none of my programs would work, several hours went down the tubes as I tried to fix it, and finally my IT guy told me that there was nothing left to be done but wipe the hard drive and start over. Good times to be had by all!
This was a fitting start to my work day, because recently it seems like all of my fantasy teams have gotten sick. I'm in way too many basketball leagues, to the point that I forgot to set my line-up in one of my weekly ones. That team has Pau Gasol and Allen Iverson in the starting line-up. Did I mention that I co-own that team with my boss, who is probably reading this right now with steam coming out of his ears (Sorry boss)? Sick. [Ed. Note: There's money on the line in that league, too].
I'm in a Stock Exchange basketball league where each team owner buys and sells players daily, and players' prices change second-to-second to reflect how many other team owners across the country are buying/selling them at any one time. The goal is to maximize both fantasy points scored and team budget. I even write a weekly article telling other people how to play this game . My team has lost almost 20 percent of its value in the last week. Sick.
I lost several leagues last week when Andrew Bynum, Vince Carter, Gasol and Iverson all either got hurt or went on hiatus mid-week. And every roto team I have also has some combo of those players, so in the last few days those teams have fallen into the basement as well. Just sick, sick, sick.
I won't even get into my fantasy football teams and the horror of that Monday night game, but you get my point. And I know that I am not the only one whose teams are looking sick right now, so let's all go get vaccinated together. The good thing about your basketball team being sick now is that it is extremely early, and basketball season is long. If you let these early problems get you jump started then your sickness can act more like a flu shot, ultimately strengthening your squad in the end. You definitely don't want to just let the virus linger, though, or else your teams will end up resting in peace like my poor computer.
So, what does the "basketball flu shot" consist of? Just one thing: pay attention. Pay attention to your team, pay attention to the NBA news, pay attention to the other teams in your league and the moves they are making - in fact, even pay attention to which of your league-mates are NOT paying attention. It sounds basic, but considering most of us have families, lives, jobs, football teams, and other things going on sometimes it's easy to get lax about your basketball teams. And you know, by December or January you may be able to get away with slacking off with fewer consequences. But in basketball, the first month or two are the most crucial for setting up your team to succeed, so you can't afford that now.
Now is the time when the majority of the unexpected sleepers are going to make themselves known and be picked up from the free agent wire. Now is the time when the busts are showing warning signs and may need to be traded before everyone else realizes how bad they are, and their value tanks. Likewise, now is the time to see if you can buy low from your league mates for the underachieving star that you're confident will recover. The point is, if you slack now you might as well not have played. But if you put in a bit of work now, even if your team looks sick already you still have time to recover and thrive so that you can rest on your laurels later.
Situations to Watch and Quick Hits
Out of Answers? Allen Iverson is currently on an indefinite leave of absence from the Grizzlies, and there are rumors that he's considering retirement. I still haven't figured out why the Grizzlies signed Iverson if they didn't plan to start him, because after last season they had to know that wasn't going to end well. Nevertheless, I would hate to see a legend leave the game like this. Iverson's absence boosts the value of pretty much every other member of the Grizzlies, especially Mike Conley Jr. and O.J. Mayo who may have slid in a few drafts on the thought that AI would take their minutes and shots.
Injuries have Kobe partying like it's 2006...…and 1998: Injuries to Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum have forced the Lakers to rely upon Kobe Bryant to score points more heavily than they have had to in years. Through the first seven games Kobe is scoring more points (33.6 ppg), taking more shots (25.3 FGA) and taking more free throws (10.1 FTA) than he has in any season except 2006. On the other hand, his current assist rate (2.6 apg) would be Kobe's lowest since he used to back up Eddie Jones in the late 90s. Neither Gasol nor Bynum is expected to miss too much time, so expect Bryant's scoring and assists to look more like the last two seasons before long.
Old legs and busy schedule slow the Celtics: Last week I wrote about how the Celtics were pitching defensive shutouts, allowing only LeBron James and Chris Paul to score more than 20 points and/or dish more than five assists through the first five games. Then, over the next three, the Celtics gave up 34 points to Jason Richardson, 22 points to Amar'e Stoudemire, 12 assists to Steve Nash, 23 points to Brook Lopez, 20 points and seven assists to Rafer Alston and 24 points to someone named Oleksiy Pecherov who bears a striking resemblance to Stewie from the Family Guy and had scored only 21 points in four previous games combined.
So, what happened? Well, the Celtics started off with an NBA-high eight games in the first 12 days of the season, and they happen to have several 30-somethings in their main rotation. Looks like fatigue set in to the old legs. And it didn't just show up on defense, but also from the 3-point line where the Celtics averaged 10.4 treys/game on 49 percent shooting through the first five games but plummeted to 3.3 treys/game on 21 percent shooting in the last three. They had a three-day rest before their next game on Wednesday, so expect the team to perform more normally against the Jazz, but keep this in mind through the season if the Celtics continue to wear down when the back-to-backs start piling up on the schedule.
Return of Fun in the Suns: Reports of the Suns' demise seem to have been premature as they are once again leading the NBA in scoring (110.9 ppg), Steve Nash is once again leading the NBA in assists (12.9 apg), and there are at least six players in the rotation that are fantasy worthy. This makes me bullish on acquiring Suns players, and if any of their main rotation players except for Nash get injured I would expect the replacement to put up good numbers as well.
Weekly Warriors update: The Warriors have more ups and downs and drama than a soap opera. This week, Stephen Jackson's agent blistered coach Don Nelson through the media and once again demanded that Jackson be traded. Jackson responded with a season high 15 assists on Monday, and remains a viable producer despite the turmoil. Starting center Andris Biedrins will miss at least the next five games due to a significant setback to his back injury, and he's not even travelling on the team's road trip. With Biedrins and Ronny Turiaf (knee) both out, Anthony Randolph is getting more time and responded with 23 points, seven boards, three steals and three blocks in 30 minutes off the bench against Minnesota. Tell me again why he isn't starting regularly? Finally, Kelenna Azubuike actually is starting right now and appears to want to keep the job based on his 31-point explosion on Monday.
Magic look for their swing men to re-appear: Vince Carter is still working his way back from a sprained ankle and is a game-time decision on Tuesday night. He is still a risky play for the short term until he proves he's healthy, but it shouldn't be long before he's back in the lineup. Also due back soon is Rashard Lewis, whose 10-game suspension ends on Friday. He should be back in the starting lineup in time for next week's games.
Ankle injuries sideline two Spurs but ignite the rest: Tim Duncan and Tony Parker both missed Monday night's game due to sprained ankles, but in their absence the rest of the previously sluggish Spurs exploded against the Raptors. Manu Ginobili led the charge with 36 points, eight assists, six treys and a shocking four blocked shots. Richard Jefferson flirted with a triple-double with 24 points, eight boards and seven assists, and even George Hill got into the action with 22 points and five assists in a spot-start. Duncan and Parker are both expected back soon, but this is the kind of thing that could jump start Ginobili and Jefferson even once their teammates return.
Martin down but boosts young teammates: Give Jason Thompson and Tyreke Evans a boost in value with the news that Kevin Martin may be out for two months due to wrist surgery. Thompson is working on three straight double-doubles, two of which came with five assists as well, while Evans has averaged 27.5 points, 5.5 boards and 4.5 assists in the two games since Martin went down. Beno Udrih is also back on the fantasy map, as he is once again a main scoring/assist threat as the starting point guard for the Kings.
You better not say NOTHING bad about Michael Jordan! Congratulations to all two of you who got the obscure In Living Color reference in this bullet point. But that was the line that came to mind when I had the audacity to wonder if the tragic circumstances that ended the careers of players like Len Bias, Ralph Sampson and Magic Johnson in the late ‘80s might have weakened the competition that Michael Jordan faced during his championship runs in the '90s. I have already been thoroughly reprimanded by Jordan fans for this offensive stance, but if any of you would like to weigh in with you opinion I'll welcome your comments here .
Quentin Richardson (36% owned): Richardson has been taking advantage of extended minutes due to the injury absence of Daequan Cook (shoulder). He has averaged 16.7 points, 9.3 boards and 3.3 treys over the last week to get himself back on the fantasy radar.
Kelenna Azubuike (35% owned): As I mentioned above, Azubuike is currently the starting small forward for the Warriors and is coming off of a 31-point performance on Monday night.
Carl Landry (29% owned), Chuck Hayes (24% owned) and Chase Buddinger (4% owned): The Rockets are playing much better than many expected this season, and they are getting regular contributions from players that aren't well known in the fantasy world. Landry and Hayes are both nightly double-double threats, and Budinger is a rookie with a nice 3-point stroke that is at least worth keeping an eye on.
Anthony Morrow (27% owned): Morrow is an excellent long-range gunner that plays in the wide open Warriors offense. The only reason he isn't more valuable is that you never know what line-up Nellie is going to put out there on any given night, but in the last week Morrow has averaged 18.3 points and 3.3 treys per game so he's worth a roster spot in most leagues.
Raja Bell (15% owned): Bell put off wrist surgery and is trying to play through the pain. He already has seven treys in his first three games back, and could make a decent 3-pointers role player in deeper leagues.
Article first appeared 11/10/09