Today is April Fools' Day, but the Miami Heat pranked the San Antonio Spurs and David Stern a day early, which, in turn, left most fantasy owners in a humorless mood. Remember way back at the end of November, when the Spurs visited the Heat? The box score next to Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Danny Green read "NWT," as in "not with team," because coach Gregg Popovich left those four players back in Texas.
Well, on Sunday, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra returned the favor by sitting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers when the Heat visited the Spurs. The only difference was that Spoelstra brought his players along and claimed to hold them out due to injuries. To be fair, Chalmers missed Friday's game with a sprained ankle, and there had been hints that LeBron (hamstring) and D-Wade (ankle) were dinged up heading into Friday, so it is possible that Spoelstra was giving them a legitimate day off to rest up.
In the end, these types of absences are normal for any veteran player on a team nearing the playoffs and are just a typical part of fantasy hoops strategy at this point of the season. Teams that set weekly lineups will have a tough call to make when it comes to some veterans (I'll discuss some of them below), but in daily lineup leagues, these absences present an opportunity to stream in role players who suddenly get more minutes.
For instance, on Sunday Norris Cole played nearly 43 minutes and had 13 points, 4 dimes and a steal, Mike Miller banged down four 3-pointers, Udonis Haslem chipped in 8 points and 7 rebounds, and there was even a Rashard Lewis sighting (7 points, 3 assists, 3 blocks). Of course, the Heat rode the Super Friends' third wheel, Chris Bosh, who racked up 23 points (9-15 FG), 9 boards, 2 blocks and a season-high three 3-pointers.
All savvy fantasy owners should be glued to the newswire prior to setting lineups at this point of the season to be sure you don't end up leaving in players who will end up with a random DNP-CD or NWT, and so you can stream in role players who may benefit from the absence of those starters.
• My adoration for Andre Drummond's NBA and fantasy potential is no secret, so I was just as bummed as anyone when a back injury sent him to the infirmary just as he was finally about to join the Detroit Pistons' starting lineup back in early February. After taking nearly two months off to recuperate, Drummond returned to action Friday and was immediately thrust into what should be a permanent spot as the Pistons' starting center. He continued his insane per-minute production with 17 points (8-10 FG), 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks in 19 minutes Friday and 8 points (4-7 FG), 14 rebounds, 2 dimes and 1 block in 23 minutes Sunday. He's still available in more than half of ESPN leagues, so go get him and pop him right into your lineups, unless you are in a critical FT% battle, where his hideous charity-stripe shooting should scare you off; Drummond has hit just one of his seven FTAs in those two games, including a pair of air balls in one trip to the line Sunday.
• Rookie Bradley Beal made an unexpected return from his sprained ankle Sunday -- quite a surprise considering a Friday report that he was a week away from even testing the joint. He certainly looked ready, as he ended up with 24 points (8-14 FG) and a career-high six 3s. He came off the bench but played 30 minutes. The Washington Wizards run four times this week, so Beal is a terrific pickup (available in more than half of ESPN leagues). Beal's return, however, nixed the value of Garrett Temple, who played just 13 minutes Sunday.
• Also absent from Sunday's Heat/Spurs tilt was Manu Ginobili, who is expected to miss at least the next week due to his strained right hamstring. In fact, Pop granted that the injury could sideline Ginobili into the playoffs. The Spurs play only thrice next week, so fantasy teams may well want to move on from Ginobili if there is a safer play available on waivers.
• Joakim Noah was allegedly a game-time call Saturday, but he skipped that game and missed his fifth straight game Sunday. It's anyone's guess when he will return from his plantar fasciitis or for how long he might be able to tough it out once he does lace 'em up again.
• Kevin Garnett is expected to miss Monday's battle with his old Minnesota Timberwolves squad due to his ankle injury. If the Celtics stick with their plan to rest him for two weeks, KG could be back in the mix Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Coach Doc Rivers said that he probably will give Paul Pierce a day of rest Monday, though Pierce was pushing to roll anyway. Be sure to check for updates as game time nears.
• It sounds like Joe Johnson could return from his heel injury this week, perhaps as soon as Wednesday versus the Cavs. We may not have word prior to setting weekly lineups on Monday, though, which will put owners in a bind, especially since the Brooklyn Nets play just three games this week.
• A sprained right ankle cost Jameer Nelson most of the past two games, and it's not clear when he will return to action. We should know his status before lineups are set this evening, since the Orlando Magic face the Houston Rockets at 8 p.m. ET Monday. They ball four times this week, but keep in mind that the Magic have only two games on their schedule next week. If he skips tonight's game, you may just dump Nelson for an active player, like backup guard Beno Udrih, who had 20 points, two 3s, 8 dimes and 7 boards with Nelson out Saturday.
Fastbreak Player of the Night
There are only three games on the agenda for Tuesday evening, and with injuries and random DNP-CDs factored in, there isn't a ton of obviously great plays in the Fastbreak game. One I like the most, though, is Luol Deng. He's been posting terrific points-league stats of late (20, 32, 29, 24 Fastbreak points in his past four games), and he faces a beatable Wizards squad on Tuesday. I think he's one of the safer upside plays we can use tomorrow.