By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Staff Writer
We've hit the point in the season when the status of several key players will be governed by the law of diminishing returns. Why force a player to hobble through 20 more games, when he can get a jump-start on surgery or treatment or rehab and increase the chances he'll be healthy for the start of the 2008-09 campaign?
The biggest name to initiate Operation Shutdown so far is Dwyane Wade. (We don't include Yao Ming in this count – it's not like Yao had a choice about sitting out the rest of the season.) We've been expecting this for several weeks - the Heat aren't winning games with him, he hasn't been 100 percent healthy all season - letting him heal seems like the most logical course of action.
Of course, like Yao, Wade is reportedly targeting the Olympics, and not the start of next season, for his return to the court. Expect that to be the subject of much controversy in the offseason, particularly if either superstar experiences any sort of setback in rehab.
The next player who might appear on this list is the Knicks' Eddy Curry. With Zach Randolph on the shelf, Curry was actually very productive for three straight games, scoring 19, 20 and 23 points. Apparently the exertion was too much for him; the New York Post reports that he has torn cartilage in his knee and may need surgery.
Other candidates: Milwaukee forward Yi Jianlian, who continues to suffer from an as-yet undetermined wrist injury, Washington swingman DeShawn Stevenson, who reportedly needs a cane to walk after games due to the pain in his knee, and Caron Butler, whose hip injury is still weeks away from healing.
As more teams are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, look for this list to grow.
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.
Kevin Durant (SEA): Durant is reportedly making a very specific effort to be more aggressive in driving to the basket instead of settling for jump shots – which should have a positive impact on his scoring and percentages.
Ben Gordon (CHI): After missing time due to injury, it appears Gordon is re-establishing himself in Chicago's rotation as one of the Bulls' key scorers. He's topped the 20-point mark in three straight games.
David Lee (NY): With Curry (see above) and Zach Randolph (see below) out, Lee will get extended run and should be a nightly double-double producer.
Nate Robinson (NY): With Curry, Randolph and Jamal Crawford (see below) unavailable on Sunday, little Nate was the Knicks' number one option on offense. He responded to that challenge with a career-high 45 points. He should continue to get ample scoring opportunities for at least the next few games, depending on Crawford's status.
Gerald Wallace (CHA): Wallace returned to practice Monday and should be back on the floor for Wednesday's game against Dallas. He's also reportedly giving up playing power forward – which will hopefully help prevent him from getting as banged-up as he's been for the last couple of seasons.
Rasho Nesterovic (TOR): Nesterovic has been productive in Chris Bosh's absence. He's started Toronto's last five games, and is averaging over 11 points, eight boards and two dimes in that stretch.
Marcus Banks (MIA): The news that D-Wade is done for the year would represent a substantial upgrade for Banks - if he hadn't pulled a hamstring on Saturday. Because of the hammy, we'll call this a conditional upgrade, while waiting to see how badly he's hurting.
Antawn Jamison (WAS): Jamison is reportedly playing through a sore back, which has prevented him from logging heavy minutes since the All-Star break.
Thabo Sefolosha (CHI): Sefolosha should be healthy enough to play soon – the question is, where and how much? The acquisition of Larry Hughes would seem to mean a significant drop in fantasy value, but we'll reserve judgement until we see how Jim Boylan adjusts his rotation.
Jamal Crawford (NY): Crawford missed Sunday's game with what's being called a deep bruise in his right – shooting – hand. His status is uncertain for the Knicks' next several games.
Tyrus Thomas (CHI): Note to Tyrus -- when trying to hang on to a role in the rotation, getting suspended for violating team rules is not the way to go. Thomas was suspended for two games after missing last Wednesday's practice without permission. He was back on the floor Sunday, but suddenly finds himself behind Joakim Noah and Drew Gooden and Andres Nocioni and Luol Deng and sometimes Larry Hughes in the frontcourt rotation. He played just four minutes on Sunday.
Zach Randolph (NY): Randolph has missed New York's last four games with a sore foot and "personal reasons," that are beginning to feel more and more like the series of injuries – real and imagined – that ended Steve Francis' career in New York. When he'll return to the lineup is anyone's guess.
Brad Miller (SAC): Miller is playing through an injury to his tailbone – possibly sustained in a hard fall during the Kings' game March 2nd – which has left him feeling "pretty banged up." Look for Spencer Hawes to cut into Miller's minutes for the next few games at a minimum.
Udonis Haslem (MIA): Haslem re-injured his bad ankle during Friday's game and is "questionable" for Miami's next couple of contests. As with Wade, it doesn't make a ton of sense to risk further injury - don't be surprised if the Heat are very cautious with his recovery.
Article first appeared on 3/11/08