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After all the talk about his stellar preseason, Blake Griffin was the bright spot for the Los Angeles Clippers in their opening night loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Watching Griffin was quite an experience; his energy level is downright frightening -- so much so that Blazers head coach Nate McMillan joked about having to tackle him after the first quarter. Griffin finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds (including an astonishing nine on the offensive end).
However, after racking up blocks and steals in the preseason, Griffin finished with just one steal and zero blocks on Wednesday night. It's something that is worth watching, because he'll never be more than a middling fantasy talent (no matter how many rebounds he grabs) unless he can figure out a way to get steals and blocks the way he did in the preseason. I have faith in him, and would absolutely not trade him right now if I owned him; it's just worth keeping an eye on.
Mo Williams, in a surprising turn of events, did not even suit up for the Cavaliers against the Celtics. Evidently, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, head coach Byron Scott is being extra careful with Williams after he was limited due to a groin injury in the preseason and does not know the entire offense. I don't see this situation lingering too much, so keep this in mind when you're evaluating the 35 minutes Ramon Sessions got in the Cavs' win. After what the Celtics' defense did to the Miami Heat, it was good to see J.J. Hickson and Anderson Varejao put up some productive numbers; on the other hand, they were facing a bunch of old geezers on the second night of a back-to-back, so don't do anything drastic based on what you saw. Devin Harris' 22 points and nine assists were a good start to what many are hoping is a bounce-back season; personally, I'm more encouraged by his 6-for-6 at the foul line, since his ability to get to the line is what made him such a great scorer two seasons ago. As for the Pistons, perhaps it's time to temper the enthusiasm for Austin Daye; I was as excited for his season debut as anybody, but the fact that he managed only 21 minutes while Jason Maxiell and Charlie Villanueva played well off the bench is a really bad sign going forward. He probably belongs on the very end of your bench until things pick up. James Jones may not be a very well-rounded basketball player, but until the Heat can field a healthy roster, he could be attempting nine 3s per game on a regular basis. He won't make six every night, but he'll be worth playing in fantasy. Evan Turner, on the other hand, looked pretty good for the 76ers, despite all the talk about his already being a bust. He put up 16 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, and if he's going to get 31 minutes on a regular basis, it's going to be hard for him to avoid decent fantasy numbers. Timofey Mozgov got the start at center for the Knicks, but four fouls in seven minutes relegated him to bench duty. For now, you may want to pay more attention to Ronny Turiaf, who managed to block four shots (and collect two steals) off the bench. Lots to consider fantasywise for the Bucks, but I'm most interested in the fact that Andrew Bogut managed 15 points and 15 rebounds in 36 minutes on opening night. Maybe he's not fully recovered from his terrible injury that ended his 2009-10 season, but it looks as though he'll be able to play through it. Francisco Garcia was great for the Kings in their win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but it's important to remember that his minutes were high due, in large part, to the one-game suspension Tyreke Evans had to serve. Instead, pay attention to Carl Landry, who played 37 minutes and racked up 22 points and 11 rebounds. He's always productive when he plays, and he should get big minutes at least until Samuel Dalembert returns to the lineup. On the Wolves' side, you should keep an eye on the situation brewing between Kurt Rambis and Kevin Love. Rambis played Love fewer than nine minutes in the second half and went with Anthony Tolliver instead. Considering the fact that Love racked up a double-double in the 24 minutes he played, it's hard to figure out exactly what's going on, but if he's getting fewer than 30 minutes per game, he's not going to be the breakout star so many of us thought he'd be. Taj Gibson (16 points and 11 rebounds) cemented himself as a decent fantasy play for the Bulls while Carlos Boozer is out of the lineup. Zaza Pachulia went crazy for the Hawks, playing so well that Al Horford was relegated to just 18 minutes of action. I wouldn't expect that to be the case every night. More concerning is the lower back injury to the Grizzlies' Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies are calling him day-to-day for now, but when a player with his history gets hurt, it's always cause for concern. The Pacers got some great numbers out of Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison, but it looks as if their defense is going to be fantasy gold for other teams, as the Spurs managed 122 points. The Warriors are always in that club as well, but this season it's looking like the Rockets may be pretty porous on the defensive end, too, after following up their loss to the Lakers with a 132-128 loss to the defenseless Warriors. Sure, Monta Ellis had 46 points for Golden State, but until the Rockets show me they can stop somebody, I'll be starting any fantasy guy I can against them. As far as the Rockets' fantasy game goes, it's looking pretty great. Luis Scola (36 points and 16 rebounds) is going to be a stud this season, and Kevin Martin (17-for-17 free throws) could be the most valuable free throw shooting commodity in the league this season.
Thursday night, we'll see the debuts for both the Wizards and the Magic. Lots to look for, but the Magic were particularly susceptible to good point guards last season, so it might not be as difficult a start for John Wall as it first appears to be. As for the Jazz and the Suns, both teams should be pretty hungry to prove their first games were mere aberrations. I'm expecting more crisp offense out of both teams, but it could be a huge night for Al Jefferson if he can get Robin Lopez into some foul trouble.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.