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Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Jamal Crawford gets start, plays well


A week ago, Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan reportedly tossed around the idea of swapping out Raymond Felton for Jamal Crawford at the point. He ended up changing the starting lineup by moving Wesley Matthews to the bench for Nicolas Batum but left his point guard situation alone. Until last night, that is. While Batum has looked terrific as a starter (21.3 points and 2.7 3-pointers per game in six games, counting Tuesday night), the Blazers had lost three of five coming into Tuesday's tilt with the San Antonio Spurs, so McMillan decided it was time to replace Felton with Crawford.

The immediate results might have locked Crawford in as the starter for the time being; the Blazers whipped the streaking Spurs by 40 points (137-97), and Crawford was 6-of-8 from the field and finished with 20 points, 5 3-pointers, 8 dimes and a single turnover in 30 minutes. Felton, meanwhile, played the good soldier and had 16 points, 4 3s, 4 dimes and one turnover in 21 minutes.

We have to take these stats with a grain of salt since the Spurs rested Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, and were already missing the injured Manu Ginobili. But it was still an impressive performance by the Blazers. If they can keep winning with this lineup, McMillan will have little reason to change things. Crawford certainly is talented and skilled enough to run the point and pile up terrific stats, especially scoring and 3s, so we can ride him with confidence in Fantasyland.

Felton's previous fantasy success is looking more and more like he was just a product of his environment, and unlike his environment with coach Larry Brown and the Charlotte Bobcats and Mike D'Antoni and the New York Knicks, the style of play used by McMillan doesn't appear to be a good fit for Felton.

Looking back

• As noted above, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich decided to rest Tim Duncan and Tony Parker on Tuesday. Clearly, Popovich is focused solely on what's best for his team in the postseason, which for his aging vets means keeping them healthy and not worn out during this condensed regular-season campaign. We should expect Duncan and Parker back in the mix Thursday against the Denver Nuggets. However, looking ahead at their schedule, there clearly will be other situations in which Popovich will rest his vets. They have a back-to-back-to-back set later next month and they play 16 games over the final 24 days of the season, including a five-game week that begins April 2. If you want better stability, you should flip Duncan and Parker in trades before your league's trade deadline arrives.

• The Sacramento Kings' Isaiah Thomas is named after legendary Detroit Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas, and while it's unfair to compare a rookie who was drafted at the end of the second round to a Hall of Famer who went second overall, the Kings' version has looked pretty solid as a starter over the past week. He hit half of his 14 field goal attempts Tuesday and finished with 24 points, 5 3-pointers, 5 dimes and 2 turnovers. In his three starts, Thomas is averaging 20 points, 6.7 assists, 5.0 boards and 2.3 turnovers per game, with a 52.8 field goal percentage and 92.9 free throw percentage. He was a dynamic scorer at Washington, so let's ride him as long as he stays hot.

Jarrett Jack came off the bench behind Greivis Vasquez again, but he still played 32 minutes and piled up 19 points, 5 boards, 10 dimes and 2 turnovers, while Vasquez managed just 9 points, 3 boards, 7 dimes and 3 turnovers in 20 minutes. With Jack already getting the starter's minutes, it shouldn't be long before he takes his starting job back from Vasquez.

Looking ahead

Nikola Pekovic sprained his right ankle during Monday's game, and the Minnesota Timberwolves list him as doubtful for this evening's matchup with the Utah Jazz. The injury didn't sound too bad, so if they sit him out Wednesday, the All-Star break will provide a full week of rest for Pekovic before they face the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday. While his absence might provide us with a Brad Miller or Darko Milicic sighting, neither is a viable fantasy option. Michael Beasley is more likely to help fantasy teams if Pekovic does sit.

• Despite his attempts to play, Brook Lopez was held out of Monday's game as a precaution after returning from his foot surgery Sunday. He will be back in the mix Wednesday versus the Orlando Magic. Expect limited minutes again as the New Jersey Nets ease him back in, and also expect poor production battling Dwight Howard.

Ty Lawson sprained his ankle Monday and is considered day-to-day. Because it's the same ankle that cost him a couple games late last month, there's a good chance coach George Karl will have Lawson skip Wednesday's tilt with the Clippers and Thursday's game with the Spurs. Then he'd have nine days of rest before the Nuggets return from the All-Star break to play the Blazers next Wednesday.