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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hoops Fantasy

The word "fantasy" takes on a whole new context in the basketball blogosphere this week with the news that Marko Jaric is dating Victoria's Secret model/goddess Adriana Lima.

This is easily the most impressive accomplishment of Jaric's NBA career.

(For more analysis, er, hot pictures, check out Give Me The Rock.)

Note to Ms. Lima: the last Victoria's Secret model to run around in public with an NBA player chose an All-Star. You're doing all of the angels a vast disservice being associated with a backup point guard on a terrible team. Now every scrub in the NBA is going to think he can get love from an underwear model.

Wait... NBA scrubs do get love from underwear models?

Eh. Forget I said anything.

Trabajo de la Wire

An addendum to this week's Working the Wire column... if he's available in your league (and according to the Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner stats, he's available in nearly every league) put in a claim on Juan Carlos Navarro of the Grizzlies.

I was actually very high on Navarro, even before training camps opened. He seemed to be landing in an ideal situation -- on a team expected to play an open, European-style offense stolen from, er, inspired by the Phoenix Suns -- and with Pau Gasol, his teammate for years on the Spanish national team. (I tried to draft him in the expert league, but because his trade from Washington to Memphis wasn't quite final, he wasn't available at the time. Going on the "best available rookie from Europe" strategy, I wound up with Marco Belinelli instead. C'est la vie.)

Navarro didn't have a clear role at the start of the season -- scoring just 30 points total in Memphis first seven games -- and he dropped off the radar of a certain fantasy hoops writer with a remarkably short attention span. Seeing him play last night, in the Grizzlies' win over the Nets -- showed me I was right about him all along. (Until I forgot about him... that part was wrong.)

When given playing time, Navarro has produced numbers that match or exceed the production of any other rookie in the league. In the five games in which he's played 30 or more minutes, he's averaged 20.4 points, 4.4 boards and four assists -- in his breakout game against New Jersey on Tuesday night, he scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. On the season, he's shooting 46 percent from the floor and 44 percent from three, and hitting 88 percent of his free throws.

And much like his countryman Jorge Garbajosa, he's an excellent "glue guy" -- the Grizzlies seem to play better when he's on the floor. "Glue Guy" isn't a category in most fantasy formats -- but if "doing the little things that helps the team win" means he gets more minutes, those little things do have real fantasy value.

A note about this post's title... it was intended to be "Working the Wire" in Spanish. Unfortunately, I took French in high school - so Google Translate was the best I could do. (Is the Spanish word for "wire" really "wire?")

NBA Barometer: No Joy in Wiz-Ville

(Originally published on

The NBA lost one of its most entertaining players – and one of fantasy hoops' superstars – when Gilbert Arenas suffered another knee injury last week.

Arenas' progress in rehab will be one of the most interesting hoops stories of the next three months or so. Reading between the lines of Arenas blog on, we get the vibe that he thinks he was cleared to play before he was really ready. Any hint of distrust between Arenas and the Wizards' medical staff is significant; Arenas has an opt-out clause in his contract that will allow him to test free agency after the season if he so chooses. If the Wizards fall out of contention, Arenas may decide not to risk his health – and his possible fat free agent contract – playing out the string for a loser. The chances of him testing free agency would seem to increase exponentially if he thinks the team is putting his long-term health and earning potential at risk.

On the other hand, he might feel the need to come back and drop a few 40s and 50s down the stretch, just to show potential suitors that his knee is 100 percent.

In the meantime, look for the rest of Arenas' Wizards teammates to pick up the slack – and there's a lot of slack to go around. Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler will get the most immediate boost, but they're not available. Antonio Daniels might be – and Arenas' injury makes Daniels a highly-productive assist man as Washington's starter.

Another Wiz to watch is Andray Blatche, who showed enough skill and potential replacing Antawn Jamison late last season and Brendan Haywood more recently to merit some additional run.

Read the full article, and all of this week's upgrades and downgrades, on (subscription required).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Give and Go: These Guys Are Experts?

In this week's Give and Go column on, what starts out as an honest discussion of the progress of this year's NBA rookies turns savage when managing editor Chris Liss launches a savage and unprovoked attack on my team in the expert league.

For the ugly side of Chris Liss, check out the full article (subscription required).

Working the Wire: 11/28

This week's fantasy hoops waiver wire suggestions are live at and RotoWire. Here's a preview:

Let’s kick off this week with a look at the most-added player in Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues.

Grant Hill – PHX [SG, SF]: As Darth Vader said to one of his Imperial lackeys, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” Yes, Hill’s injury history is as terrifying as a seven-foot space villain who can choke people with his mind. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s getting big minutes for one of the NBA’s top offenses, but is only owned in 43 percent of all Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues – up from just 23 percent a week ago.

One reason not to own Hill – his stats are somewhat empty: nice scoring, but little else (15.4 points, 4.8 boards, 2.9 assists). But ask yourself – why is a guy with a career average of five dimes per game posting half that number for a team known for ball movement? Especially when one of the reasons given for his signing was to add a presence able to initiate the offense when Steve Nash is on the bench? I strongly suspect that Hill’s current role – that of a spot-up scorer – will expand as he grows more familiar with Mike D’Antoni’s sets and his new teammates.

Hill is a substantial injury risk, that we’ll grant you. And that risk is probably exacerbated by the 30-plus minutes per game he’s been logging. That doesn’t change the fact that he can help a lot of fantasy teams – and in more than half of all Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues, he’s there for the taking.

(Read all this week's picks at or RotoWire (subscription required).

Friday, November 23, 2007

Waiver Wire Picks

This week's waiver wire picks were posted over on back on the 21st... I'm just posting them here now after a series of turkey-coma-related delays.

The big recommendations of the week are bench players getting extra run due to injuries, including:

  • Stromile Swift
  • Jannero Pargo
  • Ira Newble
  • Beno Udrih
Check out all the picks over on

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Making Sense of the Marbury Scenarios

You basically need to be an actuary/ninja/wizard to really understand the ins and outs of the NBA salary cap... which is one of several reasons that there's so much mis-information out there disguised as trade scenarios for Stephon Marbury.

I'm not an actuary, a ninja or a wizard... so please bear with me as I try to break this down.

The Perception:
Steph and Isiah kissed and made up last night before the Knicks/Clippers game. Marbury didn't start, but he played 34 minutes (more than two Knick starters), scored 13 points and racked up four assists in the game.

The Reality:

The fact that Steph got some run last night doesn't mean a damn thing. Steve Francis actually managed to work his way out of the doghouse -- briefly -- last spring, with a sudden and remarkable recovery from his "injury" right when Jamal Crawford was shut down for the year. Steve Francis, you'll note, is no longer a New York Knick.

The Perception:
The Knicks should hang on to Marbury. There's an excellent class of free-agents waiting after the 2008/09 season, when Steph's $22 million comes off the cap.

The Reality:
There's horror... and then there's the Knicks' salary cap situation. Here's a quick list of the Knicks under contract for 09/10:

  • Zach Randolph - $16 million
  • Jared Jeffries - $6.4 million
Then, there's the player options:
  • Eddy Curry - $10.5 million
  • Quentin Richardson - $9.4 million
  • Jamal Crawford - $9.4 million
  • Jerome James - $6.6 million
Of that group, Crawford is the only one for whom opting out seems like a possibility.

Now, let's assume they pick up options on all Isiah's highly-touted draft picks:
  • Nate Robinson - $2.9 million
  • Renaldo Balkman - $2 million
  • Wilson Chandler - $1.2 million
  • David Lee - $2.6 million
  • Mardy Collins - $1.8 million
Add that all up... the Knicks already have over $58 million in salaries after Steph comes off the books. The salary cap for 2007-08 is 55-and-change, and for the last few seasons has increased at a rate of $2-5 million per year. Which means, once you factor in the next two years' worth of draft picks or a re-signing of someone like Randolph Morris, the Knicks most likely already over the 2009 cap. Even if they squeak in under the cap, they won't have enough room to make a competitive offer to one of the hot free agents.

(Salary cap figures are from the invaluable HoopsHype.)

The Perception:
If the Knicks can't get under the cap and make a run at a 2009 free agent, they might as well trade Steph for whatever they can get, even if it means taking back an even longer deal.

The Reality:
Actually, the summer of 2010 is where the Knicks' cap situation starts to look reasonable. Richardson and James come off the books, leaving Randolph, Curry, Crawford (if he stays) and Jeffries (player option) as the only big-ticket items. Robinson and Lee will need to be re-signed, but if they can be retained at a reasonable level, the Knicks actually do have a shot to be able to bid on one of the big free agents that year.

The big 2009 free agents? LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

In other words, taking on any salaries beyond 2009-10 would be unfathomably dumb.

The Summary:
Isiah Thomas' best -- and only -- play might be to buy out Marbury's deal. That removes the distraction, allows New York to build around the two big fellas in the post and the younger guards, and maintains the cap relief after the 08-09 season.

The Reality:
Does anyone REALLY think Isiah is still running this team come summer of 2010?

Even if he is, does anyone really think he won't do something to screw up the cap between then and now?

So... in reality, any discussion of what the Knicks can or should do is completely moot...

Unless they actually hire a professional to run the damn team.

Give and Go: Even yet still more Stephon

On the off chance that you're not completely burned out on idle Stephon Marbury speculation... in this week's Give and Go column on RotoWire (subscription required), managing editor Chris Liss and I discuss whether or not the Knicks are better off without him.

Also on the table: which of the other slow starters -- most notably, the Bulls -- have what it takes to get things together? And how good are the New Orleans Hornets?

Working the Wire: I'm a Jinx!

I'm thinking of starting a new career as a professional jinx... it seems to have worked out pretty well for the John Madden Football and Sports Illustrated guys.

See, for the second week running, the main guy I featured in my Waiver Wire recommendations immediately got injured. Last week it was Cuttino Mobley. This week? Mardy Collins.

As luck would have it, I was watching the game when Collins was hurt... and was able to get a revised version of the column in just before the deadline... which is why you'll see Nate Robinson listed first over on

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Dirt on Isiah...

Another Marbury post for all you conspiracy theorists out there...

The prodigal Knick text-messaged the NY Post, the Stephen A. Smith radio show and probably every other media outlet in New York (but not this blog... dammit, Steph, where's the love?) to say that he's on his way to Los Angeles to re-join the team.

If he's back in the starting lineup -- that means whatever dirt he's got is really super-extra dirty.

And with that, Charlie adjusts his tin-foil hat and signs off.

Marbury to Drop Dime?

Stephon Marbury has dished out 6,317 assists in his thirteen-and-change NBA seasons. But it sounds like the next dime he drops could prove to be the most significant.

For those who have been living under a rock for the last 24 hours and/or those who get all their sports news from this blog (bless your little hearts) I'll re-set the scene:

At some point during the Knicks' charter flight to Phoenix, Isiah Thomas revealed that Marbury and Eddy Curry would be pulled from the starting lineup for Tuesday's game against the Suns.

(It's unclear what Zeke's motivation was... he might have been attempting to light a fire under his team by benching two of the biggest names he's acquired for the Knicks. Or he might have been playing matchups, thinking that Mardy Collins and David Lee would have a better chance of slowing Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. But that's a basketball discussion, and basketball has remarkably little to do with what's going on with the New York Knicks.)

Marbury was... nonplussed by the news, and reportedly responded by saying:

"Isiah has to start me. I've got so much (stuff) on Isiah and he knows it. He thinks he can (get) me. But I'll (get) him first. You have no idea what I know."
Read the whole sordid tale in today's New York Daily News.

Now, here's where the story gets interesting... I'm certainly not a Madison Square Garden insider, but I have an idea what Steph might know. After all:
  • Marbury was a defense witness in the sexual harassment suit filed by Anucha Browne Sanders against Isiah Thomas and Madison Square Garden
  • He testified in open court to having sex in a car with a Knicks intern. The intern also testified that the sex was consensual... though it is worth noting that she also received a nice promotion from the MSG organization
  • Several of Marbury's family members also work at The Garden and played roles in the Browne Sanders trial
In other words, Steph is in a position to know about -- and to air out -- a lot of really filthy laundry relating to a case that has already cost Jimmy Dolan $11 million bucks. He almost certainly has information that could be damaging to Dolan's pending appeal of that award -- and might even know that Thomas or Dolan or others weren't 100% forthcoming at the trial.

Could we be looking at perjury charges on top of the lawsuit?

Would that be the final straw that would inspire David Stern to intervene, as he did with the Cavaliers under Ted Stepien's ownership?

But wait, there's more.

Marbury was also reportedly responsible for running several prominent members of the Knick organization -- from Larry Brown to Keith Van Horn to Steve Francis -- out of town. Though revelations of that nature probably wouldn't pack the same legal punch, they probably aren't the sorts of details that Dolan and Thomas would prefer to see in Mike Lupica's column.

Conspiracy theorists take note... maybe this is the reason Thomas has repeatedly said Marbury will be welcomed back if and when he returns to the team. Maybe he can't afford not to.

And maybe, just maybe, the next dime Marbury drops will be the one that brings down the entire Knick organization.

NBA Barometer: Too Good for Fantasy Hoops

There's any number of reasons to avoid having certain players on your fantasy team, ranging from "He'll kill my free throw percentage" to "I'm afraid he'll wind up in jail after taking an AK-47 to a nightclub" to "I really don't think he's any good."

Here's a new one for you.

"That team is just too good."

Team success in the NBA doesn't necessarily mean success for fantasy owners. Often, it's just the opposite. Title contenders may be very conservative with distribution of minutes, knowing that the season that really matters is the one that starts after the first 82 games have been played. Good teams will frequently blow out inferior opponents, and use garbage time to rest the regulars and empty the bench.

There's no better example than Tim Duncan and the Spurs. Just about any casual observer of the NBA would agree that Tim-MAY has the ability to put up 20-and-10 every night. But the fact is, the Spurs don't need that sort of production to be successful, and they'd rather keep Duncan fresh and healthy for the important games next spring. As a result, Duncan scores in the 12-16 point range many nights.

To read the entire column, which includes this week's player upgrades and downgrades, subscribe to

Too Much Nash

In one of my columns on this week, I wrote about the reasons for fantasy owners to be wary of players on very good teams. A squad like the Spurs, for example, is going to outclass a lot of opponents and generate big leads... and championship contenders are likely to pull their stars in blowouts and save their legs for the long haul.

I'm disappointed to report that Suns coach Mike D'Antoni is apparently not one of my readers.

D'Antoni's Suns absolutely fit the profile of a team that might be inspired to rest key guys with a big lead. They have championship aspirations. They have a number of key players who are older, have extensive injury histories, or both. And yet, in last night's game against an outclassed Knick team that was flying in missing-man formation from the opening tip and then lost Mardy Collins and Renaldo Balkman to in-game injuries, D'Antoni never really emptied the bench.

With six minutes left in the fourth quarter and a 19-point lead, Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa, Grant Hill and Boris Diaw were all on the floor. Hill -- he of the long and dramatic injury history -- played 37 minutes. Barbosa -- still recovering from a rib injury -- played 43.

Does D'Antoni have so little faith in his bench that he couldn't trust Marcus Banks or D.J. Strawberry or Alando Tucker with a 19-point lead and six minutes remaining?

I won't suggest that D'Antoni was running up the score... there may be a perfectly logical reason why he chose to let Nash and company log heavy minutes last night. He may have been using the game as a sort of extended training camp -- letting players who have missed time due to injury like Stoudemire, Diaw and Barbosa, build up their wind in game conditions. And as a fantasy owner, I can't say I'm disappointed when guys like Marion -- on my roster in a few leagues -- keep racking up points in garbage time.

But as someone who would really like to see the Suns challenge for a title this season -- as a victory for basketball that's really fun to watch -- I can't help but be concerned. Steve Nash is too valuable a commodity to risk in a blowout.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Rules for Naming Your Team

Obviously, I'm having trouble letting this whole "team names" thing go... it seemed a good time to discuss my very high standards when it comes to naming and mascots.

Names with specific local/regional significance. Colleges are great for this... Tar Heels, Hoosiers, Sooners, Cornhuskers, Longhorns, Buckeyes, just off the top of my head. From the pro ranks, you've got Knickerbockers, Steelers, Pistons, Packers, Rockies. Good stuff.
Unacceptable: Names with specificl local/regional significance... for a region other than where the team plays. Happens most often after a team moves -- Los Angeles Lakers. Utah Jazz. Los Angeles Dodgers.
Corollary to the "Local/Regional" rule... when a team moves, the name should stay with the city. The Browns moved to Cleveland and became the Ravens. The new team in Baltimore became the Browns. When the Senators moved away from DC, they became the Minnesota Twins... and the Texas Rangers. By this logic, the Timberwolves should be known as the Lakers, the Hornets should be the Jazz, and the Texans should be called the Oilers. Kobe Bryant's team can be the "Plastic Surgeons" or some such.

Animal Nicknames
Encouraged: Again, animal nicknames with some sort of logical connection to the city/region where the team plays. Florida Gators, Wisconsin Badgers, Florida Panthers, Baltimore Orioles.
Acceptable: Teams named for animals that just look/sound cool. Here's where you find all your Tigers, Wildcats, Lions, Bears, Eagles, Cardinals, etc. Extra points for adding a descriptor to make the name sound unique... i.e., "Nittany Lions."
Unacceptable: Made-up animals. This is one you'll see pretty regularly with Minor League Baseball teams... I recently attended a game featuring the Tri-City Valley Cats. What in heaven's name is a Valley Cat? Is the animal kingdom really so limited that they couldn't find an acceptable mascot anywhere therein?

Place Names
Acceptable: Teams named after the city/area where the team plays. New York Islanders. (Please note... team name good, angry Gorton's Fisherman logo BAD.)
Unacceptable: Teams named for cities/areas that do not actually exist, are cutesy nicknames for the city/area where the team plays, or attempt to align the team with another, larger area. For example: Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Devil Rays (thank you Gregg Easterbrook), Golden State Warriors (attention Chris Cohan... your team plays in Oakland), Anaheim/California/Los Angeles Angels, the aforementioned "Tri-City" Valley Cats (who play outside Albany, New York) and the "Hardware City Rock Cats" (who play in New Britain, CT).

Corollary to the "Place Names" rule... The team does not need to play within the geographic boundaries of the city for which it is named, so long as its home stadium is within a reasonable distance. As such, "New York Jets/Giants" and "Detroit Pistons" are acceptable, even though those teams play home games in East Rutherford, New Jersey and Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Purely Descriptive Names
This is a concept mostly seen with very old franchises, named after their own uniforms -- Red Sox, White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Harvard Crimson.
Unacceptable: Bastardized versions of descriptive names -- usually created to replace far more traditional and historic names that have been deemed "offensive" by the powers-that-be. Best example is the St. John's University "Red Storm" (Redmen wasn't a Native American reference, it was based on their uniform color. Once the Big Chief mascot was eliminated, there shouldn't have been any need to change the team name).

Names, Titles, Cultures and Honorifics
Encouraged: As with the animal names, names that celebrate the local culture of the team's home city -- or specific people associated with the team -- are much better than things that just sound cool. Boston Celtics. Cleveland Indians (named for Chief Louis Sockalexis, a Native American who played for the team in the early 1900s). Cleveland Browns. San Diego Padres. Manhattan College Jaspers (named for Brother Jasper, a faculty member). Amherst "Lord Jeffs".
Titles and honorifics that simply sound cool or intimidating or tough. Examples include things like Braves, Warriors, Knights, Cavaliers, Pirates, and Buccaneers.
Unacceptable: Racial slurs and stereotypes. I'm looking at you, Washington Redskins. You too, Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Corollary to the "Cultures" rule... Personally, I don't think using a tribal name as a team name is instantly offensive... problems emerge when the tribal name is associated with a caricature of a mascot and "tomahawk chops" and spears being planted in the middle of football fields. Adjectives in the name are also troubling... I'd prefer "Seminoles" to "Fighting Illini" or "Runnin' Utes."

I'm also of the opinion that if the tribe in question says it's OK, who am I to complain?

Other Notes:
Singular team names should always be avoided. They sound dumb, and make it very difficult for sportswriters to handle verb tenses. The Miami Heat. The Utah Jazz. The Minnesota Wild. One of many reasons it is so hard to take the WNBA seriously is that the league is full of awful names: the Liberty, the Shock, the Storm, the Sun, the Sky, the Fever...

The horror.

Team nicknames that are always presented in shortened form -- to the point that people forget what the team is actually called -- are usually good. Best two examples of this are the Oakland A's (Athletics) and the New York Mets (Metropolitans).

Punny names are always bad. I'm sure "Buffalo Bills" seemed clever at one point... but that point was long, long ago. And alliteration is acceptable... New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Cavaliers... but only if it isn't forced. New Jersey Nets (nee New York Nets) is pretty lame... I'm hoping that one is changed when the much-anticipated move to Brooklyn happens.

Maybe they can take back the "Dodgers" nickname.

Wildcats vs. Bulldogs

Another note on Kentucky vs. Gardner-Webb... but one that has nothing to do with the game:

Gardner-Webb's team mascot is, predictably, the Bulldog. Just like 38 other college teams. 'Course, I shouldn't make fun... Kentucky is one of 25 "Wildcats". C'mon folks -- a little creativity, please.

Perhaps this is an extension of the NCAA's ongoing crusade against offensive team nicknames. At some point in the next 5-10 years, they'll probably just divide up all the teams and let 'em choose... I can hear the conversation now.

"OK, Mr. University President... here's the deal. Your team name/mascot is deeply offensive to certain Native American people, animal lovers, a variety of household plants, and this hermit crab. His name is Steve. We won't force you to change it, but we'll forbid you from hosting any postseason events unless you guys start calling yourselves "Dancing with the Stars."

Because, dammit, everyone just loves that Dancing with the Stars."
If I was running the NCAA, every college team would have a nickname that references some obscure local tradition, historical figure or industry. No more Wildcats, Bulldogs, Tigers or Eagles...

More Tar Heels, Hoyas, Hilltoppers, Jaspers and Lord Jeffs.

These Cupcakes are POISONED!!!

What's more fun than an enormous upset?

Why, an enormous upset by a team that was specifically scheduled to be the whipping-boy of some big-college program, obviously. That was true when the Michigan Wolverines opened their season by losing to Appalachian State, and when Notre Dame lost to Navy last weekend.

And though the NCAA hoops season is just days old, it looks like the "season of upsets" theme may carry over from the football fields too the basketball arenas. How else would you explain Kentucky's loss to the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs last night?

Gardner-freakin'-Webb. That's not a college... that's the hyphenated name of some WASP-y interior designer from the Upper East Side. (First name probably "Victoria.")

We actually almost had a daily double of huge upsets, as Morgan State put a scare into Connecticut up in Storrs before losing, 69-65.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Working the Wire

This week's "Working the Wire" column is up over on Some of the players we like this week:

  • Cuttino Mobley -- back in the starting lineup, explodes for 33 points
  • DeSagana Diop -- nice short-term double-double threat with Dampier out
  • Jason Terry -- on the off chance that he was waived in your league when he lost his starting gig
Feedback and questions are always welcome.

Fair and Balanced Fantasy Hoops

The good news... my weekly upgrades and downgrades column, the NBA Barometer, is now available on Fox Sports.

The bad... Fox doesn't have a fantasy basketball page, so the only way to find the article is to hit the main Fox Sports Fantasy page and check the "Headlines" and "Featured Analysis" sections.

Or, you can check here. I'll continue to post links as they're available.

Give and Go: Roster Management in NBA Fantasy Leagues

In this week's Give and Go on Rotowire, managing editor Chris Liss and I compare notes on roster management in NBA leagues. You need to subscribe to Rotowire to read the full column... at least for now. I'm told it will also be published on Fox Sports' fantasy page, but I haven't seen it yet.

Fantasy NBA: Upgrades and Downgrades on Rotowire

This week's NBA Barometer is live over on Rotowire. To read the full article, you need to subscribe.

Too much? Too soon?

The original version of last week's barometer started with an extended discussion of Gilbert Arenas. Talked about the fact that Agent Zero really wasn't fully recovered from offseason knee surgery, that the Wizards had a tough early-season schedule and cautioned owners to be patient – not to panic if their first-round pick struggled a bit until Thanksgiving or so.

Course, in the lapse between when I wrote it and when it was published, Arenas dropped 34 points on the Pacers, playing 44 minutes on Halloween night. My prediction ended up on the cutting room floor, along with Jabba the Hutt's scene in the original Star Wars and Kevin Costner as the dead guy in The Big Chill.

But three games – and over 120 minutes of playing time – into the season, Arenas is struggling. He's shooting just 33 percent from the floor, hasn't hit from downtown in two straight games and was seen walking with a serious hitch in his step after Saturday's game. There's even talk that he'll need to have fluid removed from the surgically-repaired knee before Thursday's game. Luckily for Arenas, the Wizards, and fantasy players everywhere, the Wizards have a very long layoff between games (Saturday to Thursday). Maybe that will be enough time for him to recover from this setback.

Can't say I told you so - because I didn't. So instead I'll recycle the theme that was removed from last week's column.

Arenas is just one of several high-profile players that missed big chunks of the preseason only to jump into action opening night. Another that may be suffering from a case of "too much, too soon" is Amare Stoudemire. As with Arenas, Stoudemire had knee surgery in the offseason. As with Arenas, he had a strong outing in the season opener (23 points, 11 boards) and a shaky outing after that. Unlike Arenas, the Suns have already held Stoudemire out of one game, and it's not yet clear when he'll be back on the floor.

The lesson is clear - when watching the progress of players coming off injury who haven't had the benefit of a preseason's worth of conditioning, be more critical than you would ordinarily. Sometimes a 2-for-10 from the field is just a bad night. But when it's coming from a guy with a bad knee, it could be an indication of something more. That goes for fantasy superstars like Arenas and Stoudemire, Jason Kidd and Chris Bosh and also for sleepers and marginal plays like Renaldo Balkman.

Missed it by that much...

OK... so my assessment of Knicks/Nuggets couldn't have been much farther off. That's all right. I'll take the win and live with the embarrassment of having my shortcomings displayed all over teh interwebz.

Mea culpas aside... how did the Knicks beat the Nuggets?

  1. Renaldo Balkman is improving with every game. In the season opener, after missing most of the preseason with an ankle injury, Balkman racked up three fouls (all on LeBron James) in about two minutes and was promptly yanked. Against the Nuggets on Tuesday night, Balkman played nearly 28 minutes, scored 11 points and blocked three shots. More importantly, his hounding defense on Carmelo Anthony and Linas Kleiza really keyed the fourth-quarter comeback.
  2. Zach Randolph (22 points, 17 boards) is a beast.
  3. Randolph seems to be rubbing off on Eddy Curry (24 points, eight boards -- five boards and one block in the fourth quarter alone)
  4. Denver played with a very short rotation. The back court is running on empty, with Chucky Atkins, Anthony Carter and Mike Wilks all sidelined. Kenyon Martin was held out of Tuesday's game so he'd be available for Wednesday's against the Celtics -- he isn't playing back-to-backs as a precaution after all his knee problems. Denver coach George Karl used only eight players, and one of those -- Yakhouba Diawara -- only played nine minutes. (The Knicks also played an eight-man rotation, with Balkman, David Lee and Nate Robinson as the only subs used, and Robinson used sparingly. But the Knicks as a team are far healthier than Denver.)
  5. By the middle of the fourth quarter, it seemed, the Nuggets were really exhausted. Maybe the short rotation was a factor. Maybe it was exhaustion from trying to deal with the big bodies of Randolph and Curry. Either way, as a team they really seemed a step slower than New York when the game was being decided -- as evidenced by Randolph's key board of a missed free throw, and a couple of very soft fouls by Marcus Camby.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

You Think THAT's Running Up the Score?

Tonight the Denver Nuggets return to Madison Square Garden for the first time since last December's MSG Melee -- and conditions are ripe for an example of running up the score that would make Bill Belichick blush.

Well, maybe not Bill Belichick.

Let's review the factors leading up to the original fight:

  • George Karl doesn't like Isiah Thomas -- partially because of the way Isiah treated Karl's buddy and fellow Carolina alum Larry Brown.
  • Karl's Nuggets were up 19 on the Knicks with about two minutes left in the game, and had four of his five starters on the floor.
  • Thomas issued a not-terribly-veiled threat to Carmelo Anthony
  • Anthony takes a flagrant foul on a dunk attempt
  • Chaos ensues
Which brings us to tonight...

Denver enters the game sporting two of the best perimeter scorers in the NBA in Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony. New York, on the other hand, has a roster full of guards and wing players that are either incapable of or indifferent towards defense in general. The Vegas line for tonight's game is 212 points. The Nuggets might score that by themselves. 'Melo and AI might score 40 each. Meanwhile, Isiah Thomas' approval rating in New York is hovering somewhere in "Vice President Cheney after he shot that guy" territory.

For added fun, J.R. Smith -- noted troublemaker and participant in the original brawl -- is eligible to return from suspension this evening.

You know Furious George wouldn't pass up an opportunity to make Zeke look bad, right?

You know Zeke won't back down from that sort of challenge, right?

Don't be too terribly surprised if, at some point in the second half tonight, when the Knicks are down by 30 or so, Thomas sends out a lineup of Mardy Collins, Malik Rose, Jerome James, Nate Robinson, and Sean Avery, on loan from the Rangers.

NBA Gear for the Indecisive

Found this by accident over at Hotkizzle... this guy is -- or rather, his jacket -- attempting to become a MySpace celebrity based on the sheer blinding power of that atrocious festival of logos.

Hey, I'm all for it. It's sort of nice to see something on MySpace that doesn't go something along the lines of "I had to move my naughty pictures to this website because MySpace won't let me post them here..."

MySpace pR0n spam. It's the new Nigerian Lottery e-mail.

As for the jacket itself... I've never understood the whole "gear with every logo" phenomenon. I'm a "no more than one article of team logo apparel at a time" guy myself... wear the hat OR the jacket OR the T-shirt. Wear all three and you wind up looking like Vito Spatafore waiting outside Yankee Stadium, and no one needs that.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

In Street Clothes...

It's remarkable how much medical lingo sports fans pick up these days... ACL, MRI, rotator cuff, HGH, arthoscopy... all as familiar as the 24-second clock, and easier to explain than the "defensive three seconds" rule.

For fans and fantasy owners who want to understand the injuries that players like Mike Bibby and Randy Foye are facing, there's a new column on and Rotowire that explains the details -- and -- more importantly, for fantasy players -- gives an idea of how long guys will be sidelined. Check out "In Street Clothes..." on

The name of the writer may seem familiar -- that's because he's my brother.

There's No Defense for the Knicks

Eddy Curry (18 points, seven boards) and Zach Randolph (21 points, 14 boards) were very productive in the Knicks' opener in Cleveland last night. But there's no way this team is even sniffing the playoffs if they don't do a better job defending the perimeter.

Fantasy owners take note: I suspect Boobie Gibson won't be the only guard to set a new career high in points against New York this season.

The Knicks seemed to miss Renaldo Balkman. Balkman -- who didn't play in the preseason due to a stress reaction in his ankle -- clearly wasn't himself; the Knicks' version of the Energizer Bunny picked up three fouls in under a minute. (Isiah -- he hadn't played in a game in weeks... you throw him into action and ask him to defend LeBron? Seriously? That was your strategy?)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

You Don't Need a Weatherman...

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
Bob Dylan, "Subterranean Homesick Blues"
This week's edition of the NBA Barometer is up on (subscription required). Barometer is a weekly column where I track who's hot and who's not in the NBA.

Here's a clip from this week's column:

Got Bowen'd?

In the Spurs' season-opening win over the Blazers, Bruce Bowen did not score. He was 0-5 from the field, including three missed three-pointers. He didn't draw a foul. But in my eyes, he contributed about nine points to San Antonio's victory margin - which coincidentally (or perhaps not coincidentally) was nine points. Because Bowen put Brandon Roy on lockdown.

Last year's top rookie scored just seven points on 2 of 10 shooting from the field. His career average is 16 and change... my nine point estimate is the difference between Roy guarded by Bowen and Roy guarded by a mere mortal on defense.

I know this is a very simplistic way of looking at things. Obviously, basketball is a team sport, and Bowen wasn't the only guy to defend Roy Tuesday night. Just as obviously, Roy wasn't at full strength after missing most of the preseason with heel problems. But that doesn't change the fact that, in today's NBA, an elite perimeter defender like Bowen (Or Ron Artest, or Tayshaun Prince) can absolutely change the outcome of a game by taking the opposition's lead scorer out of the mix entirely.

We need a new stat to measure this… but that stat would probably need to include dozens of different variables and require a formula as long as Andrei Kirilenko's arm. I'll leave it to one of our resident math professors to muddle through that, and for now, whenever a great wing scorer is shut down by great on-ball defense, we'll just say "he got Bowen'd," and not worry too much about that player's offense going forward.

Fantasy players take note - particularly in daily transaction leagues or games like's "Pick One" – starting your wing scorers against the Spurs is probably a bad idea. A similar trend may emerge with the Kings once Ron Artest returns from his latest suspension, but we'll wait and see on that. New Sacramento coach Reggie Theus is reportedly experimenting with Artest, even using him at the top of a 1-3-1 zone at times.

To read the entire column, including player upgrades and downgrades, you'll need to subscribe to Rotowire.

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