Paul overshadows Kidd's debut
Those of you in desperate need of help at center should move on Erick Dampier. Don't yell at me for suggesting this; I probably hate Dampier more than you, having closely followed the Warriors for the past 14 seasons. He is a classic underachiever, but he has all the minutes at center now and will get you rebounds and blocks. Last night he went for 11 points, 7 boards, 2 steals and a block. This is close to what you can expect from Dampier, and for some of you that's enough.
Shaquille was better in his debut with the Suns (15 points, 9 boards and 2 blocks), but his weaknesses were on display. He shot 3-of-8 from the line and committed three turnovers in his 29 minutes. Most troubling were the five fouls. Shaq is going to have trouble staying with quicker 5s (and that would be almost all of them). Foul trouble as much as fitness -- though they are not unrelated -- will dictate Shaq's fantasy value going forward.
Forty days and nights of rain, 40 years in the desert, 40-point beatdown by the Philadelphia 76ers. Each of them are trials and tribulations, but methinks one of them will not end in redemption. Nights like these make me think Isiah Thomas' nights are numbered, but like waiting for Godot, the wait goes on. The fans chanted "Fire Isiah" and the Knicks players made a strong case, giving up 102 points in three quarters to the fifth-worst scoring team in the league (94.2 per game). You have my sympathies if you started any Knicks last night. Even Jamal Crawford was off, shooting 6-for-14 from the field for 14 points to go with five assists and two steals. This was the best fantasy line of the night, by far, for any Knick.
Thaddeus Young didn't start last night (for the first time in eight games), but that hardly mattered to his owners as he put up 20 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals in 24 minutes. This kid is a great pickup for the second half (and he is owned in just 16.8 percent of ESPN leagues) and owners should be on him in leagues of all sizes.
Think the All-Star Game revved LeBron James's engine at all? Last night, the King came through with his second triple-double in as many nights, dazzling his owners with 31 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists.
Larry Hughes continues his strong play of late with 19 points and two 3-pointers. He is getting the minutes and the production is there. In his past five games, he is averaging 38.0 minutes, 23.0 points, 2.4 3-pointers on 48.8 percent from the field and 77.7 percent from the line. He's not contributing in steals and assists as much as you'd like, but considering that Hughes was a waiver add in most leagues, you can't really complain.
Some players come out the All-Star Game inspired. Two of them faced off in the Toronto-Orlando game. Chris Bosh (40 points on 14-of-16 from the field and 11-of-11 from the line) and Dwight Howard (37 points, 15 rebounds with 13-of-16 from the field) each put on displays. Bosh faced up Howard, who could do nothing with Bosh's jumper. Howard bounced back from Tuesday night and continued his dunkathon inside with five, but it wasn't enough, as Jose Calderon's efficiency (19 points, 13 assists with just 1 turnover) and clutch 3-pointers proved too much for the Magic.
Two long-injured players made their way back last night for the Bulls. Luol Deng played just 19 minutes but scored 13 points in that limited time, a good sign for his owners. Ben Gordon scored 14, but shot poorly (5-of-15 from the field).
The real story of the Nets-Bulls game was Marcus Williams, who scored 25 points to go with three 3-pointers, 4 assists and 2 steals. Devin Harris' ankle isn't ready and so long as he is out, Williams will put up decent numbers. I don't expect him to surpass Wednesday night's numbers, but even a few more games with scoring in the teens and, more importantly, some wins and Harris could see his playing time pinched.
So Charlie Villanueva is supposed to start the rest of the season. So what? He will still split minutes with Yi Jianlian and not reach his potential. The only way I see Villanueva as a worthy waiver add is if Yi goes down with an injury. In 23 minutes last night, Villanueva scored just eight points. Yi played 25 minutes and scored an identical eight points. These guys will continue to cancel each other's value so long as they split minutes.
You know what I like to see in a player who I am targeting in a trade? How about 15 minutes of playing time, 3 points and one lonely assist. This is what John Salmons offered up last night and I advise folks to try and work a trade on the cheap for Salmons as there is a very good chance Ron Artest will soon be following Mike Bibby out of town.
Bibby was solid in his second game with the Hawks, scoring 17 with four 3-pointers, bouncing back nicely from the heel problem that forced him out in his Hawks debut. It will be interesting to see how he affects Joe Johnson's numbers. Last night, Johnson had some foul trouble, limiting him to 29 minutes, but he still got his shots off. I don't see his numbers falling off much, if at all.
Marvin Williams is another story. So long as Josh Childress (18 points) continues his highly efficient play, Williams will not see the same number of minutes or shots. In the team's past five games, including Childress' missed game on Tuesday, Childress is averaging 30.3 minutes, 16.0 points, 1.0 blocks and 0.8 steals on 60.6 percent shooting from the field and 91.6 percent from the line. In the same span, Williams is averaging 31.2 minutes, 9.4 points, 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks on 32.7 percent shooting from the field and 91.6 from the line.
I still don't like the fact that Hakim Warrick gets you no defensive stats (no steals or blocks last night), but the offense is real. He had 20 points against the Clippers and that makes four straight games with at least that many points.
Golden State-Boston was the game of the night and I am not just saying that because I was there and, through a connect, "upgraded" my upper-level seats to Row 8 seats near half court despite being a part of the largest crowd (20,711) in Oracle Arena history. This game had it all -- lead changes for the teams, multiple seat changes for yours truly -- but in the end it came down to a last-second shot taken off of one leg by Baron Davis. Even as a Celtics fan, I have to give it up for the Warriors fans. There can't be many better places to watch a close game than Oracle Arena in Oakland. The whole crowd was just so into it.
Here are some fantasy observations from the game:
KG is still rusty. The legs are there (see the 15 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks) but there is still some rust. He was a bit tentative with the jumper early and I couldn't understand why, when isolated against Chris Webber, he didn't drive on him.
No one can really contain Monta Ellis (26 points, 9 assists). Rajon Rondo was solid D-ing him up in the third quarter, but Monta found his way in the fourth. Think fourth round next season in 12-team leagues.
Tony Allen (18 points, two 3-pointers and two steals) and his bionic leg are worth a sniff in deeper leagues. He is getting his speed and hops back, and as the Celtics rest their stars down the stretch, I like Allen to be the biggest beneficiary. Really, though, has anyone pulled off that black legging to see if that is his real leg under there?
Ray Allen scores the quietest 32 points you'll ever see, really. Every time I looked up at the JumboTron, I was surprised at how many points No. 20 had.
Guy Lake is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.