By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Staff Writer
No Joy in Wiz-Ville
The NBA lost one of its most entertaining players – and one of fantasy hoops' superstars – when Gilbert Arenas suffered another knee injury last week.
Arenas' progress in rehab will be one of the most interesting hoops stories of the next three months or so. Reading between the lines of Arenas blog on NBA.com, we get the vibe that he thinks he was cleared to play before he was really ready. Any hint of distrust between Arenas and the Wizards' medical staff is significant; Arenas has an opt-out clause in his contract that will allow him to test free agency after the season if he so chooses. If the Wizards fall out of contention, Arenas may decide not to risk his health – and his possible fat free agent contract – playing out the string for a loser. The chances of him testing free agency would seem to increase exponentially if he thinks the team is putting his long-term health and earning potential at risk.
On the other hand, he might feel the need to come back and drop a few 40s and 50s down the stretch, just to show potential suitors that his knee is 100 percent.
In the meantime, look for the rest of Arenas' Wizards teammates to pick up the slack – and there's a lot of slack to go around. Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler will get the most immediate boost, but they're not available. Antonio Daniels might be – and Arenas' injury makes Daniels a highly-productive assist man as Washington's starter.
Another Wiz to watch is Andray Blatche, who showed enough skill and potential replacing Antawn Jamison late last season and Brendan Haywood more recently to merit some additional run.
Love for Chris Kaman
Speaking of centers... we received a few comments on last week's column on the biggest surprises and disappointments to date. One reader was disappointed that we showed insufficient love for Chris Kaman. Now, I have as much love for Kaman as one can have for an unfrozen-caveman lookin' dude, but I'll admit, I didn't realize just how good Kaman has been.
At 18.3 points per game, Kaman is scoring more than Amare Stoudemire (18.1), Pau Gasol (17.7) or Shaquille O'Neal (16.6), and his 13.9 boards per game trail only Dwight Howard (14.5) and Marcus Camby (15), and his 2.7 blocks per game rank fourth in the league. Are those numbers sustainable? Especially considering they are close to double his career averages of 9.6 points, 7.7 boards and 1.2 blocks?
We think so - at least, until Elton Brand comes back.
One of the biggest reasons for Kaman's improvement is fouls – he's committing a lot fewer fouls this year. That means he's forced to the bench less often. Last season he fouled out of six games. This year, he's yet to crack four personals in any one contest. As a result, he's playing nearly 10 additional minutes per game. More time means better numbers.
When Brand comes back there'll be more competition for points in the paint and rebounds, which might mean Kaman's numbers will tail off, but Brand's return is still months away, and Brand-at-full-strength farther still.
It might not be the worst idea in the world to contact Kaman's owner and see if he's looking to sell high.
Around the League:
Every week, we'll use this space to track players whose fantasy value is improving, declining, or uncertain. We're not particularly concerned with hot or cold streaks ? all players toss up a 2-for-10 every now and again ? unless they are extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time or role or skill level. Comments and questions are always welcome ? just post 'em on the message board at the bottom of this page.
Stephon Marbury – NY: Seems like all the drama of Marbury's sudden departure and return will be forgotten so long as the guard keeps putting up "Starbury" numbers. In Monday's win over the Jazz, he scored 28 points on 9-of-14 shooting with three 3-pointers, six assists, four turnovers, two steals and a block in 36 minutes. Don't expect Mardy Collins back in the starting lineup any time soon.
Corey Maggette – LAC: Maggette (hamstring) returned to the floor Monday night, coming off the bench with four minutes left in the first quarter. We expect him to take back his starting spot shortly.
Eduardo Najera – DEN: Najera should get a short-term boost in playing time while Kenyon Martin recovers from his latest knee injury. The boost could be larger if the Nuggets decide to be a bit more cautious with Martin's playing time – which might be prudent at this juncture.
Andrew Bynum – LAL: Getting heavy minutes with Kwame Brown unavailable, Bynum continues to pay big dividends. In Sunday's loss to New Jersey, Bynum had 12 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and three blocks in 36 minutes - though he did blow his assignment badly on a last-second inbounds play that could have won the game for LA.
Tim Duncan – SAN: As if Duncan weren't good enough - this season he's even hitting his free throws at a 72.1 percent clip – around 10 points better than his career mark.
Gerald Wallace – CHA: Charlotte's do-everything forward is expected back in the lineup for Tuesday's game against the Heat.
Sasha Pavlovic – CLE: There's evidence to suggest Pavlovic is getting closer to mid-season form – like the fact that he played 41 minutes against the Pacers on Sunday, scoring 22 points and hitting four three-pointers.
Ronnie Price – UTA: Jazz coach Jerry Sloan has indicated that Price has moved ahead of Gordan Giricek in Utah's rotation, and will serve as backup to Ronnie Brewer. It remains to be seen how much run Price will actually get - at 6-2, he's undersized for an NBA off guard, and will have a great deal of trouble defending the likes of Tayshaun Prince and Stephen Jackson.
Jamario Moon – TOR: Moon is rapidly emerging as this year's "guy who emerges out of nowhere" with player-rater friendly contributions all over the score sheet. He had 15 points (7-for-12 FG), nine rebounds, six blocks and three steals Sunday in Toronto's victory over Chicago. Don't expect that sort of scoring regularly, but do expect value in the hustle categories.
Jermaine O'Neal – IND: O'Neal will reportedly suit up for Tuesday's game against the Nuggets. Still, with all the knee problems he's had this season, we'd like to see a couple of games' worth of solid production before putting him back in the lineup. O'Neal's return means less minutes for David Harrison, but the only category where Harrison really contributes is personal fouls.
Kenyon Martin – DEN: OK, George Karl, you can exhale now. The latest malady affecting K-Mart's surgically-repaired knee is reportedly just a bone bruise, which means Martin will only miss a game or two. That said, it seems reasonable to expect the Nuggets to proceed with caution and limit Martin's minutes as they did earlier this season.
Wally Sczcerbiak – SEA: Sczcerbiak has the ability to fill it up when given the opportunity – as evidenced by his game-high 27 points in 28 minutes off the bench on Sunday. Unfortunately, opportunities have been sporadic this season – in 14 games, he's played more than 20 minutes six times and less than 15 minutes five times. Unless Sonics coach P.J. Carlesimo decides to give Sczcerbiak a more definite role, it'll be hard to use him on fantasy rosters.
Kurt Thomas – SEA: Carlesimo is also juggling his centers - his latest realignment has Thomas starting in the middle and Nick Collison coming off the bench. With all the flux, it's hard to recommend any Sonic not named Durant these days, but watch minutes and production closely, as Thomas, Collison and Chris Wilcox are all good power forward/center options if given consistent minutes.
Trevor Ariza – LAL: The move to Los Angeles could pay long-term benefits for Ariza, but in the short-term it's a major hit to his fantasy value. Ariza does many of the same things as Luke Walton – LA's incumbent at the three spot – but doesn't have the benefit of experience playing in Phil Jackson's triangle offense. He won't get minutes at the two, either – the Lakers have a pretty decent shooting guard already, maybe you've heard of him... Kobe somebody.
Vladimir Radmanovic – LAL: Radmanovic got the start at power forward on Sunday and responded by shooting 0-of-10 from the floor. Doesn't it seem like this guy is just looking for ways to annoy Phil Jackson?
Theo Ratliff – MIN: Ratliff will seek a third opinion on the status of his bum knee this week. Clearly he's hoping to hear something different than what he heard the first two times – that is, he needs a 'scope. Don't expect him back any time soon.
Jorge Garbajosa – TOR: After consulting with a specialist, Garbajosa has reportedly opted for another surgery on his leg and is out indefinitely.
Anderson Varejao - ???: Varejao reportedly told Chad Ford of ESPN.com that he isn't even interested in signing with the Cavaliers any more – which indicates that his long-running impasse with Cleveland general manager Danny Ferry won't be resolved any time soon.
Thanks to all the Rotowire beat writers whose updates found their way into this week's Barometer.
Article first appeared on 11/26/07