Howard struggles again on free throw line
Once upon a time there was a giant. This giant lived and worked in a Magical place called Orlando, where he imposed his physical dominance upon those who tried in vain to stop the beast. Although he had a fairy tale persona as a giant, he also had an alter ego as a superhero; specifically, he liked to call himself Superman. Alas, just like the real superman, this giant had his "kryptonite," a little thing so innocent that even your granny could handle it: free throws.
He hit just over 50 percent of them early in his career, but in his last year in Orlando that average sank to less than 50 percent. Then the giant Superman moved to a faraway place called LaLa Land, where he somehow managed to do even worse at the stripe. Meanwhile, his enemies figured out that if they simply gave him plenty of that free-throw kryptonite, it would keep him from dominating them when it mattered most and it would bring him and those around him down. They called it "Hack-a-Shaq."
History has a habit of repeating itself. And so it is that more than a decade later another giant who lived and worked in that Magical place called Orlando, fashioned himself as Superman, was prone to the same free-throw kryptonite, and who saw his 59 FT% drop to 49.1 FT% in his last year there, moved to LaLa Land, where it dropped even further to 46.5 FT%. "Hack-a-Howard" doesn't have the same ring as Hack-a-Shaq, but the result is the same in our Fantasyland: it kills your rotisserie league teams.
On Sunday, the Orlando Magic beat the Los Angeles Lakers in LaLa Land, in large part, by intentionally fouling their former teammate Dwight Howard in the fourth quarter, when Howard hit only seven of 14 attempts. Overall, he was 9-of-21 for the game after going a combined 6-for-21 in his previous two games. Howard finally remembered how to rebound and score during his last two contests (combined for 49 points and 35 boards), but there simply is no way around the devastating effect that high-volume free-throw shooters who fail to hit a respectable percentage have on your fantasy teams. The torch has been passed from from Shaquille O'Neal to Dwight Howard, and his kryptonite is now your kryptonite, fantasy owners. Beware!
• Last season, Marcin Gortat averaged a double-double: 15.4 ppg and 10.0 rpg, to be exact. After 18 games this season, he is only averaging 11.7 ppg and 8.3 rpg. He is taking 2.4 fewer shots per game, which helps explain the dip in scoring, but there's little reason why his rebounding is down. Sunday, he had 18 points and 10 boards, his first double-dub in 10 games. Look for Gortat to get that rebounding, and likely his scoring, back up to par sooner than later. Remember that he double-doubled in five of his first eight games this season. He also went through a stretch last March when he had only a single double-double in 10 games. Not coincidentally, most of this year's streak coincided with Jermaine O'Neal playing significant minutes. O'Neal missed Sunday's game with a strained quadriceps. Look for Gortat to get on track, especially if O'Neal remains out.
• As I mentioned a while back, we know two things about J.R. Smith: He can shoot the lights out from beyond the arc and is as flighty and inconsistent as they come. Hopefully, you sold high on Smith a couple of weeks ago when he was red hot and before the inconsistency inevitably kicked in. He has hit at least two 3s in a game exactly once in his past 11 contests, and he has scored 5 points or fewer three times in his past four games. That includes Sunday's 1-for-11, 4-point performance. Don't worry, he'll get hot again; and when he does, be sure you deal him away before he comes back down to reality.
• It sounds like Anthony Davis is targeting a return from the stress reaction in his ankle in another week or so. Keep him out of your lineups for Week 6.
• Ricky Rubio took part in a full practice on Sunday. He has shied away from a specific timetable for his return to game action, but if his surgically repaired knee responds well to practice over the next couple of weeks, we may see him back in action by mid-December. Make sure he isn't still on your waivers.
• A sprained left foot has kept Gerald Henderson sidelined since the second game of the season, but he could be back in the mix by Monday or Wednesday. Since the Charlotte Bobcats are so thin on scoring, Henderson carries a fair amount of upside. His return could limit the production of Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
• Brook Lopez has missed two games already due to a sprained right foot, and he sounds very iffy for Tuesday's game between the Brooklyn Nets and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Nets only play two more games after Tuesday this week, so fantasy squads who set weekly lineups Monday may need to sit Lopez and use someone else with a four-game slate.
• Dion Waiters is dealing with a sprained ankle. He is expected to travel with the Cleveland Cavaliers to Michigan on Monday and is questionable for their matchup with the Detroit Pistons. The injury doesn't sound too serious, and the Cavs have four games this week, so he probably will be in your lineups. Check for updates as game-time nears, though.
• Richard Hamilton is expected to miss at least the next week or two with a torn plantar fascia in his foot. Considering his age and lengthy injury history, it may be wishful thinking to believe he will return on the early side of that timeline. In the interim, Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler will pick up the slack at the two for the Chicago Bulls.
Fastbreak Player of the Night
It's been a slow and, frankly, annoying start to the season for Dwyane Wade. He missed a number of games and his production has been thoroughly inconsistent. However, he showed some signs of life Saturday, scoring 37 Fastbreak points against the Brooklyn Nets. Tuesday evening, the Heat take on the hapless Washington Wizards, who should have little hope of slowing him down. Once he gets up to speed, D-Wade's game is built for success in points leagues and the Fastbreak game.