Working the Wire
By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Hoops Editor
Reason number 6,574 that I'm sorry I'm not an NBA player:
Even if everything else went wrong, I could get some team to pay me millions of dollars to stay away.
Nice work if you can get it, eh?
The latest example of a healthy player being told, "don't call us, we'll call you" is Larry Hughes. With Kirk Hinrich back in action, Bulls management opted to thin out their backcourt logjam by telling Hughes he won't be used unless/until he's traded. With a salary of over $13 million guaranteed for next year, Hughes' only hope is a move to one of the teams trying to clear cap space for the summer of 2010 - New Jersey has been mentioned as a possibility.
If not, the Bulls are expected to send Hughes home and try to make a deal this summer.
The fantasy implications are clear - Kirk Hinrich - who is only about 40 percent owned right now - becomes a key player for Chicago, splitting backcourt minutes fairly evenly with Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose.
As for the guy who raised "pay me to stay away" to an art form, the most recent reports indicate that Stephon Marbury may be willing to negotiate on a buyout. Up to this point, Starbury's agents have been insisting on the full value of his contract, not a cent less. Now, it seems, he'd be willing to give the Knicks a $1 million discount in return for his freedom.
Knick management is probably torn - as much as they'd love to give Marbury his walking papers, they're understandably leery of letting him sign anywhere he likes… for obvious reasons, they'd prefer not to see him winning a title in Celtic green.
There's still a decent chance - call it 50-50 - that Marbury lands with another team and produces decent numbers. But I'll approach him the same way I'd approach a large, snarling Rottweiler:
Only if absolutely necessary.
Travis Outlaw (POR) - Outlaw's percent owned numbers are hovering in the 50 percent range, despite the fact that he's having an excellent January, with averages this month of 14.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.4 threes and 1.1 blocks.
Danilo Gallinari (NYK) - New York's 2008 lottery pick is finally healthy, and it seems Mike D'Antoni will waste no time working him into the rotation. Gallinari has played 15-plus minutes in the Knicks' last two games and displayed a good shooting touch, the ability to finish at the rim and the athleticism to block a shot or two. D'Antoni reportedly thinks the rook is the best shooter on the team; look for his minutes to increase significantly as long as he can stay healthy.
Craig Smith (MIN) - Smith is getting an extended look as part of Kevin McHale's youth movement, and he's shown flashes of potential - as in, a combined 38 points and 15 boards in the T-Wolves last two games.
Jerryd Bayless (POR) - Steve Blake is expected to miss another ten days or so with his shoulder injury, which gives Bayless more time in the rotation. The rookie is splitting point guard duties with Sergio Rodriguez, and providing Portland with scoring punch off the bench (23 points against the Nets on Thursday). With Rodriguez' name coming up regularly in trade rumors, Bayless could end up with a bigger role down the stretch.
Amir Johnson (DET) - Pistons coach Michael Curry made it official this week - he'll be using a bigger lineup, with Johnson starting and Rip Hamilton coming off the bench. He won't produce huge numbers, but could help you in rebounding.
Renaldo Balkman (DEN) - With yet another Nugget sidelined - this time, Dahntay Jones and a separated shoulder - Balkman could be in line to get regular minutes for the next several weeks. He won't score a ton, but he should produce boards, blocks and steals.