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The Give and Go: The Give and Go-Week 21

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

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 Chris Liss
RotoWire Staff Writers

Subject: Give and Go
Date: March 16, 2009 8:16 AM PDT

At the risk of making this a weekly discussion of the Golden State Warriors... another reader weighed in response to last week's column on the current state of Nellieball. A brief recap:

(It's) as if he hasn't been paying attention to the games Nellie plays.

  • (Mullin) Warriors trade for Marcus Williams over the summer, after (Baron Davis) bolts and sometime around when Monta signs.

  • Summer league: Louis Amundsen, Rob Kurz, DeMarcus Nelson, and Anthony Morrow all shine in both leagues. Warriors sign all except for Amundsen, who ends up with the Suns.

  • Warriors resign CJ Watson.

  • Nellie announces DeMarcus Nelson the starting pg (over Watson, mainly, and Williams) while Monta is hurt.

  • Nelson plays yo-yo with Nelson and Watson starting, barely having Williams ever get off the bench.

  • Eventually, Nelson waives DeMarcus Nelson and/or moves him to the D-League.

Also, Nelson gushes over how Randolph was always "our guy." Then why is he still barely playing 20 min. a game if even? If not for all the injuries, why do I get the feeling he would barely sniff the floor, like (Brandan) Wright last year?

Taken from that perspective, it's not so hard to see why a guy like Al Harrington wanted out. Nelson - like some other coaches - seems to become disenchanted with players, leaving them to rot on the bench. From an outsider's perspective, he seems like a player's coach because his style is probably a lot of fun to run. But if you're not one of his guys, watch out.

The reader also astutely pointed out that many of the problems we're seeing on the court seem to stem from conflict in the front office... there's a pretty clear "too many cooks" problem in Oakland, with Nelson, team president Robert Rowell, general manager Chris Mullin - reportedly on his way out - and "assistant" general manager Larry Riley - reportedly on his way in. That transition could account for the Warriors' inconsistent handling of personnel issues, particularly the failure to re-sign Baron Davis and the hard-line approach taken with Monta Ellis. (But to give credit where credit's due, Ronny Turiaf has been an excellent signing.)

OK, enough with Golden State - let's talk about some good teams for a change.

We're starting to see little notations in the standings now... the Cavs have clinched the Central, and the Lakers the Pacific. Boston and Orlando have locked up playoff spots, and, with huge leads in the Atlantic and Southeast, it's just a matter of time before they clinch first place

That's bad news for fantasy owners. When teams clinch early they're apt to rest the stars more and give guys a little extra time to come back from injury. Is Boston going to rush Kevin Garnett back when they're sitting on a 15.5 game lead in the Atlantic?

That could mean that guys from teams that are still fighting for something are going to be more valuable than the big names from Boston, Cleveland, Orlando and the Lakers down the stretch. For example, Denver, Portland and Utah are all within one game of each other atop the Northwest Division. There's also a big bunch of teams in the mix for the last playoff spot in the East - as things stand right now, Milwaukee owns the eight seed by percentage points over Chicago, with New York, New Jersey and Charlotte all 1.5 games back and Indiana 2.5 behind.

On the other hand, that means second-stringers on the top teams might get a little extra run down the stretch... making a guy like Leon Powe a real hot commodity right now.

Any other players you're buying - or selling - based on their teams' place in the standings at this point? Or is it too late to really take advantage of these trends in the average NBA league?

One more thing... have to ask... who do you like in the NCAA Tournament?

Subject: Re: Give and Go
Date: March 16, 2009 10:59 PM PDT

Asking who I like in the NCAA tournament is like asking your grandmother - I don't really follow college hoop, and I don't know anything about the players until the tournament actually starts. I don't really study up on them until the weeks before the NBA draft. Of course, I'll have a few brackets - I've won far more than my share thanks to having good advisers, but anyone I picked would just be a guess. I'm definitely not taking Carolina or Louisville because everyone will have them. Probably the No. 2 seed that people tell me is best. If I had to pick, I'd say Duke - which hasn't done anything in years. Have no idea about their personnel - only their coach.

As for the Warriors - maybe that's the case, but the flip side is the team isn't very good. Monta Ellis was their star, and he took himself out. So what were they left with? Stephen Jackson. Corey Maggette, Al Harrington before the trade? That's just not going to get it done, especially in the Western Conference, and so Nelson experimented. Did his players have trouble adjusting? Maybe so. But Harrington's getting paid a lot of money for the modestly above average skills he brings to the table to say anything about anything. Shut up and do your job. No one is guaranteed playing time in his contract. As for Ellis, he was expressly prohibited from riding a moped by his contract. And he also lied about it and destroyed the team's plans for the season. So I don't see the team's approach as hard line. Hard line is suing to void the entire contract and wishing him better luck with the next franchise assuming his leg ever heals completely (it looks like he might finally be back, incidentally).

Now that the Celtics are probably too far behind the Cavs to catch them for home court, they might well take their time with Garnett. The Cavs are 29-1 at home and won all their home games in the playoffs against the Celts last year, so if that three and a half game lead shrinks to two, maybe the Celts will care a bit more. Otherwise, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen may take it a bit easy, too - assuming the Celts aren't overly worried about losing home court to Orlando in the second round.

In general your point is valid, though, and the NBA in late March and early April is just a month-long Week 17, where only teams fighting for their playoff lives and important positioning will go all out. I think where the real value lies is in the bad teams because the good teams won't sit the Allens and Pierces completely, so their backups might get a little extra run, but nothing substantial. But the dregs of the league will be giving out auditions to young players, and if you get a Ramon Sessions type (who went nuts last April with the Bucks), that can be a real difference maker. Players like Jason Thompson on the Kings should log heavy minutes down the stretch, and if the Pacers decide it's better not to push Danny Granger (didn't look good his first game back), maybe Brandon Rush will get a long look, too.

Another player I might buy on the cheap, especially if I needed blocks is Greg Oden. He's due back soon, and in a non-keeper league he could be on your waiver wire. The Blazers will probably want to get him some work down the stretch to see if he can be a factor in the playoffs - they'll need him to be - and you never know - if he's feeling healthy, the light bulb could go on at any time.

What about you, Charlie - anyone you're targeting down the stretch? And, as someone who knows college hoop, who are your sleepers for the tourney?

Subject: Give and Go
Date: March 17, 2009 6:21 AM PDT

To close the book on the Warriors... for me, it's sort of a chicken/egg thing. Nellie can't settle on a rotation because they're bad, or they're bad because Nellie can't settle on a rotation. I'd argue that his generally unsettled rotations are a double-edged sword - their unpredictability and his willingness to play matchups was part of their success, but it also turned off players (like Harrington) which eventually led to some imprudent trades. (This is not to excuse Harrington's pouting... just saying I understand there were reasons behind it.)

As for "down the stretch" sleepers... I'll be looking at the young guys on some of the teams that have been eliminated or close to it. Keyon Dooling will put up numbers if the Nets play cautious with Devin Harris - and clearly, they aren't making the postseason if Harris is dinged up. Hakim Warrick will get some run for Memphis. Charlotte should be taking an extended look at D.J. Augustin. The Knicks will probably go back to giving Danilo Gallinari significant minutes if they drop a couple games in a row and fall out of the race. Washington's Dominic McGuire and Andray Blatche and Nick Young will score more with Caron Butler hurting again.

A nice sleeper would be a guy like Marcin Gortat of Orlando. Their backup center has produced some nice numbers in limited minutes (eight points, eight boards and a block in just 13 minutes on Sunday, 13 and 15 in 24 minutes against Chicago last week) and could get a look down the stretch if Stan Van Gundy decides to play it safe with Dwight Howard.

(OK, tomorrow's waiver wire column is now essentially written. Thanks for that question.)

As for March Madness... my grandmother is actually the person who got me interested in hoops in the first place. When my cousin was at St. John's, my grandmother really got into watching all their games. As luck would have it, my cousin's years at SJU were the same as Chris Mullin's and Walter Berry's and Mark Jackson's.

Good times.

I was actually a college hoops guy before I started following the NBA. I sort of followed the Mullins and Jacksons and Patrick Ewings to the next level when they graduated. Didn't hurt that public enemy number one - Ewing - landed with my home town team. (Thank you, David Stern, for the frozen lottery envelope.)

Grandma also knew a thing or two about gambling - she taught me how to play poker. (Italian grandmas are like that...) She probably would have smoked both of us in the brackets.

As far as the brackets are concerned, I think there are about six teams with a legit shot to win it all... and I think they are fairly evenly matched. On my college hoops site I
picked Memphis (a two seed) to win it all.

Subject: Re: Give and Go
Date: March 17, 2009 10:51 PM PDT

Okay, bad example - your great grandmother then.

And I've done some talking with my advisors. (And here. Seems like Duke was poor call, but now I'm superstitious about it, so I'll pick them in my cheapest bracket at least.

And while I agree that Nelson's tinkering might have made it hard for players to adjust, how many games do you think it really cost them? Even if it's 10 - and that's a lot, what difference would it make? I'm not a huge fan of Nelson, by the way - he did a great job two years ago - but generally I think his upside is limited. I just have about as much sympathy for Harrington and Ellis as I do AIG.

I like Blatche, too - though you have to wonder why they're not giving him more minutes already - do they really need to play Darius Songaila that much? Maybe the team will just be more comfortable turning it over to the young guys in April, but it's been April for the Wizards since December.

Article first appeared on 3/17/09