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Hoops Lab: NBA Hoops Lab-Week 8

Andre' Snellings

Andre' Snellings is a Neural Engineer by day, and RotoWire's senior basketball columnist by night. He's a two-time winner of the Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

The Hoops Lab

By Andre' Snellings
RotoWire Staff Writer

Holiday season is entirely different for me, now that I'm a father. "Christmas break" used to mean vacation, time off from school, sleeping till noon, then getting up and playing all day while counting the days until Christmas. These days, with a newborn and a two-year old in the house, "Christmas break" is a misnomer. I've spent the last couple of weeks waking up every hour-and-a-half at night to get the newborn, then getting up early in the morning to entertain the two-year old, then fulfilling an ever expanding "honey do" list around the house. In other words, I'm actually looking forward to going back to the lab, so I can get a break!

But there is another aspect of Christmas that's different once you have kids. For the first time in my life, there was a whole pile of gifts under the tree, and only one of the gifts was actually for me... and I was HAPPY about it. I was genuinely excited to watch my little girl run around and open all of her stuff, throwing wrapping paper all over the place, and generally making an excited mess. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face, and in fact I forgot that I even had a present at all, because it just wasn't important to me.

Then, after opening the gifts, I watched the NBA games that were on. I watched the Lakers play, and I saw Kobe Bryant (who never met a shot he didn't like) passing up open shots to instead try to set up Sasha Vujacic for a jumper. I watched the Celtics play, and I saw Kevin Garnett (the rebound vacuum who went his whole Minnesota career without boxing out) boxing out two guys and letting Kendrick Perkins or Rajon Rondo take the rebound... and it hit me, that being a star veteran in the NBA is a lot like being a giving parent at Christmas.

Guys like Bryant and Garnett... they've been around for a bunch of "holidays" now. They've had years of wonderful stats and individual accolades (i.e. piles of presents), and though they could still average 30-plus points or 12-plus rebounds if they wanted, they're all grown up now, and those gifts start to lose a bit of their luster when compared to the fruits of "parenthood". By allowing their younger teammates to get stats and accolades, they reap the parenthood rewards of a happy household that's stronger and potentially more championship ready. That makes them, along with Tim Duncan, the rare superstars who are far more valuable in real life than they are to your fantasy squads.

Situations to watch and Quick Hits

Jazz Power Forwards Out: For several games last week, the top three big men for the Jazz were all out due to injury. Carlos Boozer has been out for 21 straight games now with a quad/knee injury that was initially estimated to keep him out 10 days. An MRI this week revealed that Boozer's injured knee requires arthroscopic surgery, and he's also expected to have another surgery to repair his damaged quad tendon. No timetable has been set for Boozer's return, but don't expect him for awhile. Paul Millsap has a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his knee, and is expected to be out for another week. Mehmet Okur missed three games with back spasms, but he returned to the line-up on Tuesday to score 19 points with 10 boards.

Boozer's and Millsap's absences have opened up room at power forward for Andrei Kirilenko, who has taken major advantage to the tune of 15 points, 12.3 boards, 3.7 assists, 2.7 steals and 2.3 blocks per game over the past week. AK47 is better as a quick PF than the tall SF that he's forced to play when everyone's healthy, so he could be excellent short-term value until Boozer and Millsap get back.

Knee-Mac: Tracy McGrady played on Monday, scoring 15 points with seven assists and six boards in 32 minutes of action. But he had sat out the previous game on Saturday night, when his knee was too sore to go. He had also played poorly in the three games before sitting out, averaging only nine points in that stretch as his knee was obviously affecting his play. Now he's unable to go in back-to-backs, and it's anyone's guess if and when he'll have to shut it down for an extended period.

Roy's injury makes teammates grow up? Brandon Roy sat out Tuesday night's game with a hamstring injury, and in his absence the Trail Blazers were still able to defeat the powerful Celtics. The Blazers got strong efforts from LaMarcus Aldridge (20 points, seven boards, four combined steals/blocks), Steve Blake (21 points, 8-for-12 FG, five treys), Greg Oden (13 points, 11 boards, three assists, three steals), and Travis Outlaw (17 points, 7-for-14 FG, game-clinching dunk) in the game. All four of these relatively young players made big plays late in the game, the kind that build confidence. It would not be surprising at all if this was a turning point game for the youngsters on the team, one that helps them perform better as the year progresses.

The Big "Amare's stats killer": Amare Stoudemire's numbers this year haven't been quite as good as expected, while on the other hand Shaquille O'Neal is playing a larger-than-anticipated role in the Phoenix offense. Shaq has really taken over the interior lately, averaging 25 points, 12.3 boards, and 3.0 bpg over the past week. Meanwhile, Stoudemire's numbers over the past week have dipped to 15.7 points, 6.0 boards and .7 blocks after he had scored 20 or more points in the 11 straight games coming into the week. Stoudemire's poor week is partially tied to foul trouble and an ejection, but it seems clear that in the new slower paced offense that the Suns run there isn't room for both Shaq and Stoudemire to put up big numbers. O'Neal was expected to play second fiddle among the Suns big men, and for the most part he has, but he has also publicly stated several times that he needs more touches to be effective. All in all, the "Big Cactus" is one of the reasons for Stoudemire's roto numbers coming in slightly below expectations.

The Butler's Ankle: Caron Butler has missed three games in a row with a sprained left ankle. Butler is ultra valuable as a roto contributor when healthy, as one of just two players averaging 20-plus points, six-plus rebounds and four-plus assists on the season (the other is LeBron James). On the other hand, Butler has missed an average of 22 games over the last two seasons, so even though this current injury doesn't seem serious it's not a good feeling for Butler's owners to see him on the sidelines yet again.

Baron's Buyers Remorse? After hanging out with Baron Davis over the weekend, former teammate Stephen Jackson said that Davis had regrets about his move to Los Angeles and that Davis wanted to return to Golden State. Davis has since said that Jackson misinterpreted the conversation and that he doesn't want to leave Los Angeles, but considering Davis's struggles thus far this season (he's shooting only 26 percent from the field) it's possible he does have some buyers remorse. Of course, if Jackson were right and somehow Davis could return to Golden State, it would be wonderful for his fantasy owners, but that is extremely unlikely at this point.

New Additions

Grant Hill (49% owned): Hill has moved into the Suns' starting line-up as a "defensive stopper", but he's also providing enough offense of late to be fantasy worthy. He's averaging 14 points, 4.7 boards, 2.7 steals, 2.0 assists, and shooting 57.1 percent from the field over the last week.

Luke Ridnour (40% owned): Ridnour finds himself in this space again, after another strong week that saw him average 13.5 points, 5.5 assists, 4.0 boards, 1.5 steals, 1.0 blocks, 1.0 treys and 57 percent shooting from the field. People keep forecasting his doom as Ramon Sessions is "supposed" to take over for him, but Ridnour is on the uptick while Sessions has fallen off of late.

Hakim Warrick (36% owned): Warrick has been consistently strong of late, averaging 18.5 points, 5.8 boards, 1.3 blocks and a steal over the past week. He has scored 12 or more points in six straight games, and is coming off of a season-high 25 points on Tuesday.

Andray Blatche (30% owned): Blatche is averaging 11.9 points and 7.3 boards since moving into the starting line-up, and has upped those numbers to 14.5 points and 8.3 boards with 3.2 assists per over the last week.

Marco Belinelli (28% owned): Bellinelli continues to be the latest unknown to flourish in Don Nelson's offense, averaging 19.7 points with 4.0 assists and 3.7 treys per in the last week.

Daequan Cook (13% owned): Cook has drained 34 3-pointers in his last nine games, and more importantly he's representing for my home town of Dayton Ohio. Of course, for you guys, the treys and the 13.7 ppg he's been averaging for the past week may be more important... we all have different priorities.

Article first appeared 12/31/08