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The Give and Go: The Give and Go

Charlie Zegers

Charlie has covered the NBA, NFL and MLB for RotoWire for the better part of 15 years. His work has also appeared on,, the New York Times, ESPN, Fox Sports and Yahoo. He embraces his East Coast bias and is Smush Parker's last remaining fan.

The Give and Go
By Charlie Zegers and Carson Cistulli
RotoWire Staff Writers

From: Carson Cistulli
Sent: Monday, March 1, 2010 4:42 PM
To: Charlie Zegers
Subject: Give and Go: Choose Your Own Adventure

One thing we can learn from the discipline of poetry is that, rather than limiting creativity, constraints actually tend to stimulate it. Think of the sonnet, for example. The sonnet -- a 14-line poem written in iambic pentameter and with an ABAB rhyme structure -- poses a problem to the mind. It's no easy business. But there's reason to believe that, being "distracted," as it were, by the structural constraints, allows the mind to be creative in a way that's otherwise impossible.

I'd like to start this week's Give and Go with a constraint, Zegers -- namely that, for the duration of our correspondence, neither of us is allowed to mention, slyly reference, or even think about the New York Knicks. I know it'll be tough. I know you might get the shakes, or some other symptom of withdrawal. But I think, in the long run, it's the right thing to do -- for you, for us, for the Give and Go.

The good news is that there are exactly 29 other NBA teams, each with their own newsy news items.

How about this: we'll run this Choose Your Own Adventure-style. I'll name, I don't know, three stories, and you can pick one that strikes your fancy.

Say bonjour to these:

Headline: Darko Milicic, Still a Basketball Player!
It was probably one of the lowest-profile moves of the trade deadline -- certainly smaller than other moves made by that NBA team whose name rhymes with "Boo Fork Clickerstockers"* -- but it's no less true: Darko Milicic got traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Brian Cardinal. Now, the early returns aren't startlingly good -- 4.4 points, 5 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game -- but not terrible, either. Meanwhile, this past weekend, Minnesota's starting center Al Jefferson, was arrested on drunk-driving charges. Now, reports out of Minneapolis suggest that Milicic will be starting for the T-Wolves at center. It begs the question: Does Milicic have any long-term prospects as an NBA-er. Minnesota seems committed to giving him an opportunity. Is it his last one? Will he go back to Europe?

*This isn't breaking the rules. Just trust me.

Headline: Andris Biedrins Injured. Again.
After missing a number of games due to back problems already this seasons, Biedrins left Golden State's Saturday contest versus Detroit with a groin injury and is now set to miss the team's five-game road trip. When he's healthy, Biedrins is a rebounding and shot-blocking menace (albeit, one subject to the whims of Don Nelson). Now Golden State will rely on Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Tolliver, and maybe Chris Hunter to protect the middle. What are the fantasy gains here? Pick up Tolliver? Pick up someone else? Pick up nobody?

Headline: New Jersey Nets Defeat Boston Celtics: What?
Seriously, what? Is this a sign of either (a) Boston's weaknesses heading into Playoff Territory or (b) the Nets finding a silver lining to their rain cloud of a season? Or is it just random variation?

I report, you decided, Zegers!

From: Charlie Zegers
Sent: Monday, March 1, 2010 5:51 PM
To: Charlie Zegers
Subject: Give and Go: Choose Your Own Adventure

You'll be pleased to know that I'm not watching tonight's contest involving the Cleveland Cavaliers and the team-that-shall-not-be-named. As such, I won't be tempted to launch into one of my apparently-infamous diatribes about the current state of the you-know-whos.

(Hey, I could get used to writing like this. Why not? It's made J.K. Rowling an awful lot of money. Of course, just to be spiteful, I do plan on launching next week's column with a complete ban on all asides, asterisks and assurances that made-up words are, in fact, words. Turnabout being fair play and all.)

Hearing you talk about Darko is sort of like hearing a friend talk glowingly about a girl I once dated and know to be a complete loon. I know getting involved is a bad idea for you. And I know it's impossible for me to convince you of that. And therefore, I'll plan to sit back, watch the chaos unfold, fully ready to mock you when it all blows up in your face.

Because that's what friends are for.

I haven't the faintest idea what David Kahn sees in Darko at this point. I'm starting to suspect he's got a thing for guys who would rather be playing in Europe. Is it possible that he'll put up some nearly-adequate numbers in the short term? I suppose. But if he had any upside at all… don't you think we would have seen some evidence of that at one of his last two stops in the league?

If I was desperate for center help, I'd be looking at Golden State. I hate having Don Nelson players on my teams because Nellie is so unpredictable… but the players who do get big minutes for Nelson's squad usually produce some pretty good numbers. Turiaf looks like an excellent buy with Biedrins out of the mix; he's averaged over 11 points, 6.5 boards and 2.5 blocks in his last two games. Of course, Cleveland might be another place to look… with Shaq out of the mix until the playoffs and Ilgauskas ineligible to re-join the team for another three weeks, there's a great big donut hole in the middle of the Cavaliers' lineup. Who do you like to fill that spot? Varejao? J.J. Hickson? Leon Powe? Weren't we talking about how Cleveland is over-loaded at the four and five spots, just last week?

As for the Nets/Celtics game… I suspect Kevin Garnett is hurting more than we've been led to believe. The Nets went right at the Celtics' defense and did a great job of drawing fouls - 41 free throw attempts to Boston's 11. They're not doing that if Garnett is anchoring the frontcourt. And let's not forget, the Cs were playing without Paul Pierce and with Nate Robinson. Neither of those factors is conducive to good basketball.

I did consider the silver lining idea for a while on Saturday. I stopped when the Nets blew a winnable game against the Wizards on Sunday. I keep hearing that the Nets have some young talent to build around - Brook Lopez, Devin Harris, Courtney Lee. But I can't help wondering -- how good can Lopez and Harris and Lee really be? They are, after all, 60 percent of the starting lineup on a team that has just six wins this season.

(And I did manage to work in some complaining about a team that plays in the tri-state area. If you're not careful, I'll move on to the St. John's Red Storm next.)

From: Carson Cistulli
Sent: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 1:00 PM
To: Charlie Zegers
Subject: Give and Go: Choose Your Own Adventure

After Leon Powe played four minutes in his season debut on February 25th at Boston and then 16 minutes the next night at Toronto, I was preparing myself for him to play exactly 256 minutes in Cleveland's March 1st game home to the Team That Shall Not Be Named, thereby continuing the sequence of consecutive squares. So you can understand how shocked I was when he saw his court time increase by only two minutes, to 18 total. That's probably a smart decision by Coach Mike Brown, but disappointing nonetheless.

If we're talking about how the front court situation will play out, that March 1st contest willn't be particularly helpful, as Cleveland won by 31 points, largely on the strength of a 74-point first half. If we look at Popcorn Machine's game flow chart, though, we see that J.J. Hickson was given almost the entirety of the first and third quarters, which is a good sign for his fantasy. Would Coach Brown have deployed him for some fourth quarter action -- in lieu of someone named Darnell Jackson -- had Cleveland actually had to try? I'm led to believe the answer to that is "yes."

In that same game, Powe played 12 of his 18 minutes in the fourth quarter, alongside such NBA stalwarts as Jawad Williams, Danny Green, and the aforementioned Jackson. That suggests to me that he's not a major player in Brown's rotation yet.

As for Varejao -- hmm. Am I allowed to say "he is what he is"? Because that's what I want to do so bad. I mean, here's the thing about the Brazilian*: he's already averaging 29 minutes per game on the season and Basketball Monster still has him just outside the top 100. If he averaged, say, 33 minutes, then maybe he squeaks onto the right side of century mark. But even that'd be saying something: with Hickson starting, Varejao's minutes are unlikely to increase.

*Is he a Full Brazilian? I forget.

So what can Hickson give us? Well, it's funny, he actually profiles almost exactly like Leon Powe -- or, at least, the 2008-09 edition of Leon Powe. On a per-minute basis, Hickson gives up a little in terms of points and rebounds, but gets it back in the percentages almost equally. Give either one of them 30-35 minutes, and that could be a rosterable player. I'd still be concerned about Hickson's free throw shooting, but he doesn't get to the line so often as to make it a huge consideration. Plus, his upside is interesting enough just to pick him up and give yourself a week to monitor his play.

At least that's what I think. I'm curious as to how you read Hickson. You like him as a starter? And also: is it possible Varejao begins to average 30+ MPG in Shaq's absence?

Finally, I have a pop quiz for you. Best Red Stormer in history: Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson, or Max Zaslofsky?

From: Carson Cistulli
Sent: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 3:50 PM
To: Charlie Zegers
Subject: Re: Give and Go: Choose Your Own Adventure

In an ongoing protest of the whole "Red Storm" thing, we typically refuse to use any permutation of that hideous name.

It's next to impossible to really compare players across eras in hoops - the game Zaslofsky played in the forties resembles today's game about as much as baseball resembles curling. Therefore, I'll punt and say Mullin's the guy. This has nothing to do with the fact that he was my absolute hero as a kid - though the devotion white guys from Long Island feel towards Mullin is remarkably similar to Red Sox Nation's feelings about Larry Bird. (I actually wore Jackson's 13 as a kid - mainly because I didn't think I was good enough to dare wear Mullin's jersey number.)

My only hesitation with Hickson was the possibility that Brown used him only because of Monday night's matchup. But the Cavs are slated to play the Nets -- a team with an actual honest-to-goodness NBA center tonight, and Hickson is in the starting five once again. I'm interested to see how he does against Brook Lopez. But I suspect we'll be seeing - in the words of Marv Albert - extensive gar-BAHGE time again tonight, which means we might get more of Powe/Jackson/Green and less of Hickson and Varejao once again.

Speaking of big men with fantasy potential… last week we were talking about Taj Gibson. My take was that I'd prefer not to own Gibson because his production seems to be inversely proportional to Joakim Noah's health. Now Noah's going to be sidelined for three weeks, in the hopes that his plantar fasciitis will heal - that probably makes Gibson a much safer investment.

Shifting gears to the team in your backyard: the Blazers have signed Travis Diener, who was waived by Indiana earlier this week. Players from bad teams who join good teams don't typically become valuable fantasy commodities - but I keep reading that the Blazers are hoping Diener will fill some of the three-point shooting void created by the trade of Steve Blake.

Diener's not going to get enough run to be a viable fantasy option, is he?

From: Carson Cistulli
Sent: Thursday, March 4, 2010 1:53 AM
To: Charlie Zegers
Subject: Re: Give and Go: Choose Your Own Adventure

Zegers, I purposely waited till tonight's Blazers game versus Indiana was over to file this special report. Why? Because I wanted to evaluate Diener's first official game as a Portland Trailblazer.

In his first game with the Blazers, Travis Diener put up these numbers:

Min: 0
FG: 0-0
3FG: 0-0
FT: 0-0
AST: 0
REB: 0

And so on. I don't know, maybe he plays a role eventually, but I don't see him becoming a fantasy commodity. If he does, I'll eat my shoe!

Article first appeared on 2/25/10