By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Staff Writer
NBA Barometer: Knicks and Mavs edition
I'm writing this week's column while watching the Knicks and Mavs. After the weekend's back-to-back blowouts at the hands of the Sixers, I'm thinking this might be Isiah's last game as coach. I feel like I need to be here.
The pregame show opens with the announcement that the Knicks have settled the sexual harassment lawsuit with Anucha Browne Sanders. The formal statement from Madison Square Garden makes it sound like David Stern pushed Jim Dolan and company into settling.
With two hands.
And maybe a foot.
I can't help but wonder if clearing the lawsuit eliminates the last reason not to fire Isiah Thomas. But that's a topic for another column. The spin from MSG's talking heads is that this will allow Isiah to concentrate more fully on running the team.
Ah, I get it. The Knicks are 6-13 because Isiah is worried about his legal troubles.
Zeke must be distracted – he's opened the game with Eddy Curry assigned to covering Dirk Nowitzki. That's like, rec league thinking - tallest guy has to cover the other tallest guy. Kenny Smith, calling the game for MSG, actually suggests that Mardy Collins would be a better guy to defend Nowitzki. This is both accurate and terribly sad.
Nowitzki, predictably, looks unstoppable early. He's got 10 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first six minutes. This one could get ugly. Like, Celtics game ugly.
Skipping ahead to the half. Mavs are up 13. If not for the writers' strike, I'd likely have bailed on this game by now, but my options are this, Saints/Falcons on Monday Night Football, and Howie freakin' Mandel.
Let's get back to Mike Breen who is telling us that tonight's game marks the eighth time in 20 games that the Knicks have trailed by at least 20 points. Losing games might be the mark of inferior talent, but getting blown out regularly is a symptom of something worse.
But wait - what's this? I spend a couple of minutes learning that Atlanta's starting quarterback was selling insurance a few months ago, and all of a sudden the Knicks have made a little run to get within eight. More importantly, Zach Randolph finally woke up. He scored six points total in the two Philly losses on Friday and Saturday and was 0-for-the first half tonight, but suddenly he's at 19 points. And now 21. And the Knicks could actually win this thing, if they could get a stop.
But they can't.
Ah well. It was a nice little run. Unfortunately, it just proves that this team can actually play some pretty good basketball on those rare occasions when they decide to.
That might be a bigger indictment of Isiah Thomas than anything he faced in court.
Randolph finishes up with 24 and 11 – a nice line that completely obscures how useless he was in the first half. Jamal Crawford ends up with with 19 points and his usual mix of brilliantly good and horrifyingly bad plays.
Nowitzki, thanks in part to Curry's "defense," scores a season-high 36, and the Knicks lose by 10, 99-89.
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.
Jamaal Tinsley (IND): The Pacers have announced that they won't take any action against Tinsley relating to his involvement in a shooting late Sunday night. That makes him free to continue his surprisingly productive season – at least until he's forced to stand trial in January as a result of a different incident. (Boy, nothing makes me prouder to cover the NBA than writing updates like that one.)
Emeka Okafor (CHA): Charlotte coach Sam Vincent has noticed an interesting trend: Okafor has taken at least 10 shots in six of the Bobcats' seven wins. That being the case, the team is reportedly under strict orders to feed the big fella down low. That will probably pay nice dividends in scoring, but beware – it will also mean additional trips to the line for the career 60-percent free-throw shooter.
Allen Iverson (DEN): We're not sure how long he'll be able to keep this up, but Iverson has been playing a massive number of minutes (40-plus in 10-of-21 games this season already and an average of 39:36 for the year). His scoring and other numbers have been up as well – he led the Nuggets with 23 points on 7-of-16 from the floor (1-of-3 3pt) and 8-of-8 from the line during the team's 101-97 win over Sacramento on Saturday night. He also added 10 assists and four rebounds in his 45 minutes.
Chris Bosh (TOR): Bosh returned strong after missing five games due to a groin injury, scoring 21 points with 10 boards in 41 minutes and leading the Raptors to a win over Houston.
Brevin Knight (LAC): The veteran Knight has started the Clippers last six games in place of the even-more-veteran Sam Cassell (calf), averaging 9.3 points, 6.3 assists and one turnover in that stretch.
Francisco Garcia (SAC): Kings' coach Reggie Theus is reportedly encouraging Garcia to stay aggressive and attack the basket, reassuring the third-year wingman that he won't be yanked from the rotation for making mistakes. That's a real positive sign for Garcia owners and indicates that Sacramento is hoping he'll pick up some of the slack left by Kevin Martin's absence.
Andrew Bynum (LAL): The Lakers' young pivot seems to get better with every outing – he posted a 20-point, 11-board double-double and chipped in five blocks in Sunday's win over Golden State.
Larry Hughes (CLE): Hughes (leg) returned to action on Saturday after missing 11 games and led the Cavs with 22 points (6-for-17 shooting from the field) with two steals in 26 minutes of play off the bench.
Luke Jackson (?): Jackson is expected to sign with Miami by the end of the week, and could actually suit up for Thursday's game. A sweet-shooting wing (and the tenth overall pick in the 2004 draft), Jackson could emerge as a Jason Kapono-style threat in Miami's offense.
Craig Smith (MIN): Finally recovered from a lingering ankle injury, Smith seems to be blossoming in his role as Minnesota's full-time power forward – he's averaged 18 points in the T-Wolves' last two games.
Julian Wright (NOR): Peja Stojakovic's latest injury is giving Byron Scott the opportunity to work promising rookie Julian Wright into the rotation. Wright played 21 minutes Friday against Memphis and 38 Sunday against the Sonics. The extensive run hasn't yielded big fantasy dividends yet; Wright scored six points in each game. But give the rookie a little time – he's expected to play a big role for the Hornets even after Stojakovic returns.
Rasual Butler (NOR): Another promising injury replacement, Butler will be Byron Scott's starter at shooting guard while Morris Peterson is sidelined by a back injury.
Chris Quinn (MIA): Starting in place of Jason Williams (see below), Quinn played 44 minutes in Sunday's win over the Clippers, scoring 13 points with three assists and two steals. Productive play from Quinn will make it much easier for Miami to shop Williams (and his expiring contract).
Andrea Bargnani (TOR): Bargnani returned to practice on Monday and is expected back in the lineup for Tuesday's game against the Hawks. Watch his minutes and production before moving him back into your lineup.
Kenyon Martin (DEN): Martin will reportedly be restricted to around 30 minutes per game when he returns from his latest knee injury. Of course, they were also going to limit Martin's minutes before he got hurt, too.
Trevor Ariza (LAL): With Luke Walton (ankle) out, Ariza put up pretty decent numbers in the Lakers' win over Golden State on Sunday – 11 points, four boards and two assists in 26 minutes. Walton could be back later this week, which will hurt Ariza's value in the short term, but we'll take this performance as a sign that he'll be valuable in the Laker offense if the opportunity arises.
Steve Francis (HOU): Francis has started the Rockets' last two games in place of Rafer Alston (groin). He was productive on Sunday, scoring seven points with four rebounds, three assists, two turnovers and a blocked shot in 31 minutes – but in the second half of the back-to-back on Monday night he was limited to one point in 10 minutes. His inconsistent minutes make it very difficult to recommend him for fantasy teams, though he has shown flashes of his former self.
Fred Jones (NY): Jones has moved past Nate Robinson and Mardy Collins on the Knicks' depth chart, and is now the primary backup to Stephon Marbury and Jamal Crawford.
Stephon Marbury (NY): Marbury returned to the Knicks' lineup on Friday against the Sixers -- just a day after his father's funeral, but pulled himself from the game after just 13 minutes and played just 24 the following night. He was not with the team for Monday's game against Dallas, and it's unclear when he'll return.
Eddy Curry (NY): Curry has played three straight sub-par games since returning last week from a sprained ankle. He averaged just nine points per game in two losses to the Sixers on Friday and Saturday, and scored just six on 3-of-13 shooting in Monday's loss to the Mavericks. Adding injury to insult, he left Monday's game with a bloody mouth after taking a shot to the face from Josh Howard.
Bobby Simmons (MIL): Simmons has missed two straight games for personal reasons. There's no word as to when he'll be back.
Jared Dudley (CHA): Looks like Dudley's run in as a starter was short-lived. Primoz Brezec was back in the lineup on Saturday as the 'Cats attempted to match up with Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Detroit's big frontcourt, and Dudley got the dreaded DNP-CD. Dudley still has tons of upside long-term, but it sounds like his playing time will depend on matchups for now.
Jason Williams (MIA): Williams missed Sunday's game with a sprained ankle and is expected to miss at least two or three more games.
As always, thanks to all the RotoWire beat writers whose updates made their way into this column.
Article first appeared on 12/10/07