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With one simple, routine basketball move, Kobe Bryant's season came to an end Friday. Here in Fantasyland, there isn't much sense in looking back and debating whether he should have been pushed to the max by playing so many minutes at this stage of the season and at his age. Instead, we need to look ahead to next season and ponder what we can expect from him as a fantasy option at age 35 as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon.
The Los Angeles Lakers announced that Bryant will miss at least six to nine months; six months would get him back for the season opener, while nine months would put his return a little before the All-Star break. But playing in games and performing like the Black Mamba are two different things. As our Stephania Bell noted, "Perhaps the most challenging element of a basketball player's game to regain following this type of surgery, however, is sudden acceleration, the quickness off the foot necessary to make a sharp move around an opponent. Athletes will often say that it is this explosiveness, this quickness that takes nearly a year to regain, perhaps long after returning to competition."
Obviously, quick bursts have long been a central part of Kobe's ability to create space for jumpers and get to the rim. If it takes a full year before he's up to speed -- and it seems like a reasonable assumption, considering his age -- then he likely will be a shell of his former self for at least the first few months after he returns to the hardwood.
In the short term, many fantasy owners are going to have to decide this summer whether to hold on to Bryant in keeper leagues. That includes Gary, who asked me via Twitter (@AtomicHarpua) whether he should "keep Deron Williams, Joakim Noah or Brook Lopez over Kobe now?" Unless Bryant truly is on a miracle pace by October, I think all three make better keepers than Kobe, though I'd lean toward D-Will, if he gets his ankles taken care of. In general, I wouldn't keep Kobe over any younger and safer option.
In the long term, I suspect that I will simply steer clear of drafting Bryant in the fall. I already was passing by him for younger options the past few years, because I feared an injury like this would happen in midseason and crush my fantasy team. Even if he is nearly ready to play, I will hesitate to draft him for the reasons stated above -- simply too much risk in the early rounds of a draft. Before you pull the trigger, you should consider how long it's taken Derrick Rose to return from his ACL, that Dominique Wilkins is the only aging stud of note who returned from a ruptured Achilles and performed reasonably well, and that ruptured Achilles tendons ended the careers of Isaiah Thomas, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal.
• Greivis Vasquez returned Sunday from a one-game absence due to a sprained ankle, but he mustered just 11 points (5 of 16 FG) and 4 dimes against the Dallas Mavericks. He should be good to go for the New Orleans Hornets' season finale rematch against the Mavs Wednesday. Vasquez's return didn't limit the hot play of Brian Roberts much; he played 26 minutes off the bench Sunday and had 13 points (5-8 FG), 6 dimes, 0 turnovers and 3 3s. In his past three games, Roberts has tallied 48 points, 22 dimes, 3 steals and 7 3s and figures to remain a solid plug-in option Wednesday.
• DeMar DeRozan went off for 36 points (12-22 FG, 9-9 FT) Sunday and even knocked down 3 3s. Unfortunately, it was a quintessential DeRozan game, because he did literally nothing else of note, posting zeroes in every other statistical category besides pulling down five rebounds. In fact, his 3 3s equaled his total from beyond the arc over his past 30 games. That means he's great if you are in a tight race for points in your roto league, but as a well-rounded fantasy option, he comes up way short.
• After missing four games with a calf injury, Chandler Parsons returned Sunday and had 13 points (5-7 FG), 2 3s, 5 boards and 5 dimes. Since the Houston Rockets are scrapping for the No. 6 seed in the West, Parsons may well play their final two games Monday and Wednesday, though you'll want to check for updates to make sure he isn't an unexpected late scratch.
• I thought the Denver Nuggets might ease Ty Lawson back into game action slowly, but he played 19 minutes off the bench in his return Friday from a torn plantar fascia and 31 minutes Sunday in his return to the starting lineup. He finished with 12 points, 10 assists and 3 steals in 31 minutes against the Portland Trail Blazers Sunday and appears set to take part in the Nuggets' final two games, Monday and Wednesday. Lawson's start pushed Andre Miller back to the bench, where he played only 18 minutes Sunday and had just two points and one assist. He should do better than that in the final two games, but Lawson's presence will cap Miller's upside.
• Here are a few things we know about coach Doug Collins: He knows fundamentals; he knows Xs and Os; he grates on every last nerve of his players after a while; he produced the lowest-scoring team in the NBA (92.9 ppg) this season; he is out as the Philadelphia 76ers head coach. Looking ahead to next season, we should see the reins taken off a number of their players. Who will benefit the most will depend a lot on Andrew Bynum's health, whether he sticks with the team, who the new coach is and how the roster fleshes out. However, we should have higher expectations for their top scorers next season, regardless of those other factors.
• DeMarcus Cousins picked up his 16th technical foul of the season Sunday, which would result in an automatic suspension for Monday's game. However, it sounds like he has a decent chance of getting the call rescinded, which would keep him active Monday. Check for updates this afternoon.
• Jose Calderon is expected to miss Monday's game due to his triceps injury, and it sounds likely that he will skip the Detroit Pistons' season finale Wednesday, too. He seems to be a good fit with the Pistons, but time will tell whether he re-signs as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Another Piston, Andre Drummond, will be a game-time call this evening due to an ankle injury.
• The New York Knicks have locked up the No. 2 spot in the East, which means that coach Mike Woodson is planning to rest his core players for the final two games of the regular season. As is the case for every game at this stage of the season, you'll want to check for updates, but we should expect Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith to join Tyson Chandler on the bench. Chris Copeland, Iman Shumpert, Pablo Prigioni and even Jason Kidd could be decent plug-ins.
• The Indiana Pacers have the 3-seed in hand, which means that Paul George, George Hill, David West and Roy Hibbert likely take a seat until the postseason. That would open up minutes for Lance Stephenson, Tyler Hansbrough, Jeff Pendergraph, D.J. Augustin and Gerald Green in the Pacers' final two games.
• Check for updates on the Miami Heat before tonight's game, but Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh likely will take the night off.
• With nothing left to play for, it's unlikely that LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum or Wesley Matthews will play again this season, since all three are dinged up.
Tuesday schedules are typically light anyway, but our Fastbreak choices have been thinned out even more due to injuries and playoff teams resting players. I like the Atlanta Hawks' matchup with the Toronto Raptors, though. So, I think center Al Horford is in position to have a big night, and the same goes for teammate Josh Smith at forward.