Anderson Varejao off to remarkable start
Anderson Varejao continued his complete domination of opposing frontcourts Monday evening by abusing the Memphis Grizzlies for 15 points (7-of-11 FG), 22 boards, 3 dimes, 2 steals and a block. Not only was that his fifth straight double-double, it was also the fifth consecutive game in which he pulled down at least 15 rebounds. He faced some weaker frontcourts at the start of the streak (Philadelphia 76ers twice and the Orlando Magic), but the past two games were against the Miami Heat and Grizzlies, which seems to imply that he is actually matchup-proof at this point.
After 13 games, Varejao has collected a whopping 191 rebounds. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that's the fourth most rebounds pulled in over a player's first 13 games during the past 10 seasons:
Joining a list of some of the best rebounders in recent NBA history isn't necessarily that surprising for Varejao; the one thing we knew he could do was crash the glass. What is unexpected is that at age 30, he has suddenly become a terrific free throw shooter. Keep in mind that he never shot better than 67.2 percent for a season during his first eight campaigns and has shot 61.5 percent for his career, yet he has knocked down 77.8 percent from the stripe this season.
We should expect that to regress, but there is little reason to doubt that he can continue his general scoring from the field and big rebounding numbers as long as he can stay healthy. Don't forget he missed more than half of the previous two seasons due to injuries.
• The big news from New York last night -- aside from Slick Rick getting booed by the Brooklyn Nets' home crowd for his shoddy halftime performance -- was that the Nets outlasted the New York Knicks for a 96-89 OT win. For fantasy folks, though, there was some slightly concerning news about Nets star Deron Williams, who said afterward that he played through a sprained right wrist that he sustained two games earlier against the Los Angeles Clippers. He added that it wasn't related to his 2011 surgery. While his overall production hasn't suffered at all, it could help explain his poor shooting (seven straight games under 35.4 percent), though he apparently had the injury only the past few games. At this point, it's just something to keep an eye on.
• Ersan Ilyasova has not remotely lived up to the expectations he set last season with his terrific production, much less his big offseason contract. So Milwaukee Bucks coach Scotty Skiles finally benched him Monday night against the Chicago Bulls, replacing him with John Henson. The rookie was a non-factor in 14 minutes, but the game plan worked for Ilyasova, as he led the team in scoring with a season-high 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field. Ilyasova made his name as a reserve last season before busting loose as an eventual starter; perhaps the switch to the bench will relieve the pressure he was feeling and let him get back to producing quality numbers. He's worth snagging off waivers if a frustrated owner gives up on him.
• LaMarcus Aldridge played through his sore back Monday. It appears that it was not an issue at all, judging by his stat line: 32 points (12-22 FG, 8-10 FT), 10 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks. He and his Portland Trail Blazers have three more games this week, and it looks like he should be good to go.
• Also battling through an injury, Brandon Jennings was able to get in 26 minutes of work against the Bulls Monday night. However, his numbers suggest that the sprained ankle he suffered in his last game was bothering him, because he hit just two of his nine shots and finished with only six points and four dimes. You may want to check for updates before the Bucks battle the Knicks Wednesday to be sure his ankle is OK.
• A sprained ankle has kept Mo Williams out of the past two Utah Jazz games, including Monday's tilt with the Denver Nuggets. He said he is targeting a return to action on Wednesday, but I think we need to take that notion with a grain of salt, because he was still in a walking boot Monday. Check for updates as the game nears to see if he will be ready to roll. If not, Jamaal Tinsley should continue his solid production in Williams' place.
"It's almost like a disorder. There was a little bit of a bone bruise, and, you know, kind of like some of these other guys like [Andrew] Bynum and [Danny] Granger. Luckily, my process will be shorter than that," he said.
Considering Bynum and Granger are also out indefinitely, that's not exactly the kind of information fantasy owners are looking for. There's little reason to believe we will see him back on the hardwood any time soon.
Fastbreak Player of the Night
When a player goes up against his former team, you know he will be motivated. Quite often the feeling is mutual, though, which means an entire opposing team may be motivated to shut down said player. Case in point will be James Harden's heading back to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder Wednesday evening. You would have to think that the Thunder will do everything possible to limit Harden's production, but I don't see how you can't stick him in your lineup to see if he can get off anyway.