Arenas looks like old self
• LeBron James, Cavaliers: 38 points, 8 assists, 4 blocks, 4 3-pointers versus Boston.|
• Kobe Bryant, Lakers: 33 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals against the Clippers.
• Lamar Odom, Lakers: 16 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists against the Clippers.
• Baron Davis, Clippers: 2 points (1-10 FG), 8 assists against the Lakers.|
• Luis Scola, Rockets 3 points (1-6 FG), 4 rebounds against Portland.
• Jason Terry, Mavericks: 12 points (4-15 FG) versus the Wizards.
Well, it's a new year, and all it took was the return of the player formerly known as Agent Zero to turn around the trend. Playing on the road, Gilbert Arenas threw himself a coming-out party that turned into a major fantasy event. This wasn't like his previous "comebacks," when one couldn't help but see visions of Penny Hardaway amongst the limping, and the possibility of Arenas' becoming a pass-first point guard.
This was the dominant Arenas of old, to the tune of 29 points and nine assists.
You usually can't take too much from one game, but I offer this as the rare exception. This wasn't about rust or a skill set, this was about his first step.
After a nearly two-year absence -- since he played just 15 games the past two seasons -- and a somewhat enigmatic preseason, owners let Arenas slip to the end of the third round (average draft position of 29). The owners who gambled on Arenas have hoped against hope that Tim Grover could work his rehabilitative magic -- in the same way he had done with Dwyane Wade -- and restore Arenas to his Hibachi-like ways of old.
Last night, it took only about half a quarter to witness that Arenas' explosiveness had indeed returned. He scored in a variety of ways. He scored at will. It was 2006-esque.
Now, the question becomes whether Arenas reverts to his old assist numbers (5.5 per game in his career), or channels his newfound maturity to dial up some additional dimes. He's still threatening to shoot fewer 3-pointers, which his owners will accept as long as the assists go up.
Who knows exactly what the future holds, but if you got Arenas on the cheap in any of your drafts, accept my congratulations. You couldn't have asked for a better start.
Under the boards
If Gilbert Arenas was the top comeback story of the night, Andrew Bynum was comeback 1A, stuffing his stat line (26 points, 13 rebounds) in Pau Gasol's absence. A lot of owners are going to rue passing on Eric Gordon (21 points, 4 assists, 2 3-pointers, 2 steals) in the fifth round. There wasn't a more underrated shooting guard (ADP of 60) in recent drafts. The Wizards' depth means it's going to be hard to peg which particular Wizard is going to benefit the most from Antawn Jamison's one-month absence. But the smart money here is on Andray Blatche (20 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks). He's been a sexy sleeper since what seems like the mid-1980s, and with the Wizards looking painfully thin at the 4, he should average 30 minutes a night through Thanksgiving. I know Shawn Marion (16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks) isn't what he used to be, but anyone capable of a double-double and multiple steals and blocks was worthy of at least a seventh-round pick. Jason Kidd had an ugly opening game (4 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists), and though he'll bounce back, I think we'll be seeing this version of Kidd a lot this season. The Celtics and Cavaliers offered up a cautionary tale for fantasy owners: This is what happens when two deep, defensive-minded contenders play one another. Both teams are in that select group that can put up 95 points while offering an almost totally unproductive box score to fantasy owners (along with the Spurs). Paul Pierce (23 points, 11 rebounds, 2 3-pointers) and Rajon Rondo (8 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) are both top-40 players, but it's hard for me to see Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett putting up big numbers on a night-in, night-out basis. The first place I look when I scan a Rockets box score? Blocked shots. Will they get even 3 a night this (Yao-less) season? On the positive side, they should generate a lot of steals and 3-pointers this season as necessity will force Rick Adelman to run a more wide-open style. It took a late preseason injury to land Martell Webster in Portland's starting five, but Webster managed a sneaky-good stat line (14 points, 2 3-pointers, 2 steals and a block) in only 25 minutes of play. He won't score a ton, but should make for a nice bench player in deeper leagues. Greg Oden had a Ben Wallace-type night, swatting five shots and collecting 12 rebounds while attempting only three shots from the floor. Preseason fears of a developing time-share at point guard in Portland were realized for at least one evening, with Steve Blake and Andre Miller combining for a measly 16 points and 11 assists. At least Miller attempted two 3s, which never, ever, ever happened back in Philadelphia. Travis Outlaw (23 points, 3 3-pointers) continues to be lethally efficient despite a criminally low allotment of minutes. Keep an eye on Rasual Butler. If he continues to steal minutes from Al Thornton, he'll make for a nice 3-point specialist in deeper leagues.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.