NBA Basketball Column: The Daily Dose
Dose: Popped Off
Gregg Popovich wasn’t happy about playing four road games in five nights and didn't seem to care about his team's five-game winning streak, so he decided to make a statement to David Stern and the NBA by sending starters Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home yesterday. That meant the Spurs would bring a skeleton crew to Miami for a nationally televised game against the LeBron James and the Heat, drawing the ire of the commissioner and embarrassing the league. Had Popovich done this on a busy Wednesday against the Wizards, it likely would have been half the story it was. But Pop chose the NBA’s biggest stage – TNT on Thursday on a two-game night – and will take some sort of hit from Stern for his arrogance. In terms of fantasy, it was yet another cheap shot to the owners of Duncan, who is playing very well this season, Ginobili, coming off his best game of the year, and Parker, who had scored 30-plus in two of his last four games.
I get that Popovich wants to win in May, and doesn’t really care about games this early in the season, but there are other ways to go about resting your older players. At least pretending to play along with the unwritten rules of the game would have made Stern happy. But Pop making his move when the Spurs-Heat was essentially the only game in town (nice win, Falcons) was basically the equivalent of your kid flipping you the bird as he walks out the door to pick up his girlfriend in your car, using your gas. And Stern aired his grievance with Pop in the following statement prior to last night’s game.
“I apologize to all NBA fans. This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.”
As a fantasy owner, it’s infuriating to deal with guys who play for Popovich and Scott Skiles, as those coaches have their own agendas and pretty much get off on marching to the beat of their own drummer. Maybe Stern’s penalty will be to require Popovich to do more halftime interviews, but I’m curious as to where he was when Pop listed Duncan as a ‘DNP-OLD’ last season. And how Charles Barkley was allowed to interview Pop last night, but not ask him about sending his stars home is beyond me.
As for the game, the Spurs D-League team showed up and put up an admirable fight, led by Gary Neal’s 20 points, seven dimes and six turnovers, while Tiago Splitter (18 points), Nando De Colo (15), Boris Diaw (12) and Matt Bonner (10) all made a splash for Pop. Neal is actually on fire right now, averaging 17 points over his last three games, but because he plays for Pop and the Spurs, you never know if he’s going to be in the starting lineup or in street clothes.
The Heat hung on to get the win and David Stern is thanking his lucky stars that he didn’t make his “substantial sanctions” speech on a night the Champs fell to Pop’s bench. They got 23 points, nine boards and seven assists from LeBron James in ‘just another day at the office,’ while Chris Bosh double-doubled, Ray Allen exploded for 20 points despite a sore back and Dwyane Wade chipped in with 19 points, five boards and five assists.
In the late game, Stephen Curry had 20 points and 10 assists as he continues to defy the odds and play well on his fragile ankle, while David Lee went off for 31 points, nine boards, six dimes, a steal and a blocked shot, while hitting 13-of-15 shots from the floor. Klay Thompson finally showed up for his fantasy owners, draining 10-of-19 shots for 21 points and nine boards, but hit just one 3-pointer. Thompson hasn’t been fun to own up to this point, but last night is a good sign that he might be ready to right the ship. Jarrett Jack had 18 points, five assists and three 3-pointers off the bench, and is finally starting to come on for the Warriors. He missed all seven of his shots and scored one point on Saturday, but scored 17 on Friday night.
The Warriors held on for a one-point win against the Nuggets, who saw six players score in double digits. Andre Iguodala led the way with 22 points, four boards, four assists and two 3-poiners, Danilo Gallinari actually hit 6-of-12 shots and three 3-pointers for 20 points and nine boards, while Ty Lawson came through with 17 points, nine assists, four steals and two 3-pointers in the loss. Kenneth Faried quietly posted a beastly line with 10 points, seven boards and a career-best five blocks.
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News and Notes
Rajon Rondo was given a two-game suspension for his role in the mini-brawl that took place on Wednesday when he overreacted to Kris Humphries’ ho-hum foul on Kevin Garnett. Humps, KG and Gerald Wallace all avoided a suspension, and I would have been shocked if Rondo would have gotten more than two games off, given that Ron Artest’s ‘Malice in the Palace’ move only drew a 73-game suspension in 2004. Rondo will sit out tonight and Saturday, but will be back on Wednesday against the Timberwolves. Leandro Barbosa, Jason Terry and possibly Courtney Lee will be good pick-and-play options for the next couple games.
Brook Lopez will miss the next two games with a sprained right foot, meaning he’s out on Friday and Saturday, and possibly longer. Lopez was playing at a very high level and this news is going to hurt a lot of fantasy owners, although the injury is said to be unrelated to the foot problems that shut him down last season. Hopefully he’ll be back on Tuesday against the Thunder. Look for Kris Humphries and Reggie Evans to help pick up the slack in his absence, while Andray Blatche will start at center. Picking up Blatche, at least as a short-term fill-in, makes sense.
Wesley Matthews’ thumb injury is a painful one and could be limiting his offensive prowess right now. He was 2-of-10 from the floor on Wednesday and owners should keep an eye on how he looks tonight at Boston.
Chandler Parsons has a strained right shoulder and is iffy for Saturday's game. Daequan Cook went off on Wednesday and is worth a deep-league look if you need short-term help, while Patrick Patterson is on fire right now. Patterson should be owned in most leagues at this point, with or without Parsons healthy.
O.J. Mayo has a pair of sprained ankles and has hit 11-of-34 shots over his last three games. Yes, he could take a hit once Dirk Nowitzki is back from knee surgery, but I still think he’s a buy-low candidate. We’re still not getting a firm return date on Dirk, but my guess is he’ll be back in mid-December, possibly playing against the Celtics on Dec. 12.
Andrei Kirilenko is not worried about the back pain that caused him to miss Wednesday’s game. My guess is he won’t play on Friday, but might be ready for his next game, which isn’t until Tuesday.
As we hinted at previously, Jason Kidd is out indefinitely with his back problems. I’ve got him stuck in a couple weekly lineups, but will be dropping him for a hot free agent on Sunday night, assuming I can find a decent one to pick up. Pablo Prigioni could be a nice pick up for as long as Kidd is out after going for 11 points, seven assists and two 3-pointers in his last game. Steve Novak is also worth a look and could start for the Knicks tonight. Novak hit five 3-pointers on Wednesday and has scored 18 and 19 points in two of his last three games to go along with 10 3-pointers over that stretch. If you can drop Kidd and pick up Novak for the next couple games, it could pay off.
Amare Stoudemire is now targeting a return around Christmas from knee surgery, but could come off the bench for the Knicks. It’s time to pick him up if he was dropped in your league.
Kyle Korver isn’t likely to play on Friday with his back problems, which is a shame. He was playing very well and the Hawks’ schedule is about to get very good in terms of fantasy. Once he’s healthy he should be picked up.
Marvin Williams could miss a few games with a concussion, which should help a struggling Gordon Hayward. And if Hayward plays well in the next game or two, a sell-high window will open, and I’d recommend climbing through it.
Mo Williams is a game-time decision for Friday night after missing three straight games with a foot injury. If I had to guess I’d say he’s playing tonight.
The Raptors will sign Mickael Pietrus, who is worth a look in a 30-team league, but I expect Terrence Ross to pick up more minutes and start playing well for Toronto. He had 19 points, five boards and a 3-pointer on Tuesday, but cooled off on Wednesday with eight points. He’s worth a look if you play in a deep league.
Daniel Gibson is a game-time decision for the Cavs on Friday against the Hawks with an elbow injury, but went through practice on Thursday. He might be good for some threes tonight, but Dion Waiters is a safer fantasy bet. He’ll be playing through a right finger contusion, but it sounds like he should be able to go tonight.
The Mavericks signed Derek Fisher on Thursday, which doesn’t even qualify as fantasy news.
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