Yao Ming gives owners a scare
Yao Ming owners had themselves a little scare when their big stud sprained his left thumb in the third quarter of Saturday's 113-98 victory over the Chicago Bulls. Luckily, Yao returned to the game later in the fourth quarter, so his owners can breathe a sigh of relief. Still, it's important to note that Luis Scola scored 10 of his 14 points and grabbed 7 of his 11 rebounds after Yao exited. Of course, Scola is fairly worthless when Yao is healthy, so this is just something to keep in mind in case the injury bug jumps up and bites Yao again as it has the past few seasons.
Those thinking about adding Aaron Gray may want to take a look at how he performed with Ben Wallace back in action on Saturday night. Gray, who had put together a few solid outings, came back down to earth, grabbing just 2 rebounds and failing to score in just 12 minutes of action. He still had a better night than Tyrus Thomas, who saw just 6 minutes and registered no viable fantasy stats to speak of. T2 continues to tease us with his inconsistent minutes and play, and will likely do so for the remainder of the season.
Speaking of inconsistency, let's talk about Sean Williams in New Jersey. Starting in his third straight game, Williams quickly found himself in foul trouble (as many young big men are known to do), and finished with just 3 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks in 11 minutes. The upside here is unfathomable, but his foul issues are really going to hurt his fantasy prospects this season. The Nets seem to want him on the court, but there's no way they'll be able to keep him there if he continues to foul like he is right now. Maybe the safer option (albeit with less upside) in the Nets frontcourt is Josh Boone, who went off for 19 points, 13 rebounds, 2 steals and a block in 39 minutes on Saturday. That's a great line, and Boone is starting to solidify his spot in the rotation. As much as I love Williams' upside, I think I'd rather own Boone in fantasy leagues right now.
In typical fashion, Mike Dunleavy followed his 30-point outburst on Friday night with a 11-point effort on Saturday night. Dunleavy has been alternating good and bad games all month, but is still averaging a very solid 19.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.8 3-pointers during December. Not too bad, not too bad at all.
Jamaal Tinsley struggled with his shot again on Saturday, going just 0-for-3 from the field, after hitting just 4-of-18 shots in his previous two games. No one ever accused Tinsley of being efficient, but it's nice to know that his cold streak hasn't affected his passing abilities. Tinsley is averaging 10.3 assists per game in his past three contests. He'll get his shot back, and will continue to be an above-average fantasy point guard as long as he can stay healthy. Of course, that is always the problem with Tinsley, so consider trying to sell high once his shooting touch comes back.
Darius Songaila scored eight points and pulled down 10 boards while starting for the injured Caron Butler on Saturday night, but it was Roger Mason who picked up the scoring slack dropping 20 points and dishing out 4 assists on the night. Mason hasn't had as much value as one would expect with Antonio Daniels out, but if Caron is going to continue to miss time, both Mason and Songaila should have some value in deeper formats. Meanwhile, DeShawn Stevenson is officially back on the ground after a few huge games last week. Stevenson scored just 10 points, but did drain two 3-pointers.
Some folks may be worried about Ronnie Brewer, but I'm going to say that last night's four-point stinker was just an off night for the second year man out of Arkansas. Even with the poor night, Brewer is still averaging 13.2 points and 2.8 steals over his last five games, and anyone who can create that many steals per game (2.2 for the year) is worth owning in all fantasy formats. C.J. Miles has been earning some extra run in Utah, and is someone to keep an eye on, but I'm not at all worried about Brewer's ability to hold onto his value for the duration of the season.
With Marko Jaric and Rashad McCants suffering from "flu-like symptoms" and Craig Smith limited with a sinus infection, Ryan Gomes was able to get loose for 20 points, 9 boards and 2 steals in Saturday's loss to the Hornets. Both Gomes and Gerald Green have seen some extra run due to the illnesses, but both will have a hard time retaining their value once the rest of the 'Wolves are back at full strength. Of the two, Gomes is the better addition, but he's looking like a short-term fix rather than a guy with long-lasting value.
The Clippers got Sam Cassell back (6 points and 2 assists in 8 minutes), but lost Tim Thomas to a knee injury early in the first quarter. To make matters worse, Corey Maggette also missed Saturday's game with a sore right knee. Maggette's injury doesn't appear to be serious, but Thomas' might be, and rookie Al Thornton went off for 25 points, 6 rebounds and a 3-pointer in his absence. Thornton has undeniable potential, and one has to hope that the 9-17 Clippers will start to give the youngster some more time on the court once they realize that this season is a lost cause. Unfortunately the only way Thornton is getting minutes right now is if an injury strikes. Pay close attention to Tim Thomas' prognosis, and be ready to pounce on Thornton if it looks like he'll miss more than a few games with the aforementioned knee injury.
Manu Ginobili re-injured his left index finger and left Saturday's game after logging just 2 minutes. It sounds like the Spurs will try to get him some rest for the next week, so Ime Udoka and Michael Finley will see some extra run if Ginobili has to miss time. Neither are particularly attractive fantasy options, but if I had to choose one, I'd grab Udoka first.
Nazr Mohammed (14 points, 11 rebounds) continues to make me look like a fool for writing him off last week, but I still don't believe that his value is anything that can be considered long-term. Nazr has had some great stretches in the past, but has never been able to translate his spurts of success into long-lasting fantasy value. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to write off nearly 10 years of history just because of a few strong outings. With that said, Nazr has proven that he can put up some very nice numbers in stretches, and given the Bobcats lack of frontcourt depth, anyone needing a short-term boost at the center position should consider adding the big man.
In the same game, Milwaukee's Yi Jianlian continued to showcase his potential. going for 29 points, 10 boards, 3 steals and a block. Both Charlie Villanueva and Desmond Mason missed the game with injuries, and while Charlie Bell picked up the slack in terms of minutes, Jianlian was the one who benefited most on the offensive end. Even so, given Jianlian's inconsistent play, it might be wise to grab Bell, who didn't take a shot but did hand out 7 assists in 34 minutes. Villanueva should be back sometime next week, but Mason is out for 6-8 weeks, which will open up some room for Bell to earn quality minutes while he mends. Remember, Bell proved to be a huge fantasy pickup last year when he averaged 15.6 points, 1.7 3-pointers and 1.2 steals per game in the second half.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy baseball and basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Littlemac@TalentedMrRoto.com.