Better news for Howard, Sacre steps in
Fantasy owners wondering about Dwight Howard's status received some reassurance from D12 himself. Prior to Tuesday's game with the Houston Rockets, Howard clarified the extent of his shoulder injury. He said that the labrum wasn't torn, but partially separated from the bone. He added that he'll be re-evaluated early next week and hopes to return soon thereafter. Under that timetable, Howard will miss at least three more games.
Robert Sacre, a rookie who had been playing in D-League, took Howard's starting spot against the Rockets. In 28 minutes, the 7-footer from Gonzaga finished with 10 points and four blocks. In large leagues of at least 14 teams, Sacre could provide a short-term infusion of rejections, but don't expect Larry Sanders-type production. In his final three collegiate seasons, Sacre averaged 1.9, 1.9 and 1.4 blocks.
Pau Gasol (concussion) was ruled out for Tuesday. He'll be re-evaluated Thursday.
• Scott Skiles is gone, and Ersan Ilyasova just might be back. Consider Ilyasova the top fantasy free agent available now that interim coach Jim Boylan is running the Milwaukee Bucks. Making his first start since Nov. 24, Ilyasova recorded 12 points, six rebounds, four assists, a couple of 3-pointers and a pair of steals against the Phoenix Suns. Though he played only 26 minutes, he was saddled with five fouls. Figure he'll get more playing time going forward. He's still available in about 48 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Meanwhile, despite his 12-point, 11-rebound effort, I'd downgrade John Henson, who saw just 19 minutes against the Suns as the backup power forward. Things could change, but for now I'm guessing the rookie will be limited to 15-20 minutes a night behind Ilyasova.
• Steve Nash became just the fifth NBA player to record 10,000 career assists, joining John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson and Magic Johnson. From a fantasy perspective, Nash has been reliable and surprisingly durable (at least until this season). Over the previous eight seasons, starting with his return to the Suns in 2004-05, Nash has never had fewer than 9.7 assists or shot less than 49.2 percent from the field or 88.7 percent from the line. As for the durability factor, over his previous 11 seasons, Nash missed just 41 games total. Injuries have cost him 25 games this season.
• After missing four games with back spasms, Ricky Rubio is expected to play on consecutive days for the first time this season when the Minnesota Timberwolves visit the Oklahoma City Thunder. Rubio went scoreless against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, but contributed eight assists and four steals in 19 minutes.
• I guess I called it about three weeks early, but Carlos Delfino is starting to emerge off the Rockets' bench. After racking up 19 points and five triples against the Lakers on Tuesday, the statistically volatile Delfino is averaging 14.8 points, 3.8 3s and 1.4 steals over his past five. On Wednesday, the Rockets visit the New Orleans Hornets, one of seven NBA teams that allows at least 8.0 3-pointers per game.
• If you're digging for 3s in a deep league, Alan Anderson is another option. Though he's just a 38.7 percent shooter for the season, Anderson went for 27 points on 10 of 14 shooting against the Thunder on Jan. 6. He's averaging 2.5 treys over his past 10 games and should again play big minutes off the bench for a Toronto Raptors team that could be without Terrence Ross (ankle). The Raptors host the weary Philadelphia 76ers, who are playing their eighth road game (and ninth game overall) in the past 15 days.
• Rajon Rondo (suspension) is set to return for the Boston Celtics, who host the Suns. I'll be interested to see how the recently returned Avery Bradley fares in this one. With Rondo out against the New York Knicks on Jan. 7, Bradley played 33 minutes, finishing with 13 points and five assists in just his fourth game of the season.