Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Back In Action!

Ok, you can finally exhale. The NBA is back after the long, long All-Star weekend, and now we can go back to the box scores. Oh, box scores, how we’ve missed you!

Showcase Showdown

If you’ve been on Mars for the past decade, in a cave with your eyes shut, and your fingers in your ears, you might be surprised to know that the trade deadline is approaching. As such, all of a sudden players are coming out of the woodwork to be showcased to other teams, while others are sitting out with ‘injuries’ when really they just are avoiding getting hurt.

So it’s no surprise that some of the hottest names on the trading block were in the headlines this morning. Michael Redd’s 39 points on 24 shots (he averages 22.6 on 18.5 shots) was the most obvious showcasing of the night. We also saw Donyell Marshall get 29 minutes – he’s averaging 29 this month as opposed to just 19 in January. And Toronto was also busy showing of Jalen Rose – his 30 points tied for the second-most he’d scored all year.

Leading the questionable injuries category would have to be Peja Stojakovic, who sat out with a strained hammy, which he certainly didn’t get from playing in the All-Star game. Y’know, cuz he wasn’t invited.
What’s important right now is to not read too much into any of this. Redd may explode again tonight, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to score 30 points a night from here on out – the Bucks are simply trying to increase his trade value. Stojakovic may miss another game, but don’t look for it to be a lingering issue like his back. He’ll likely sit out against Dallas, but he should be back after the deadline passes.

Small Ball

In the past, building an NBA team was like following a blueprint. Find the 4 best players you can, and then stick a lumbering, slow, unathletic, uncoordinated 7-foot oaf in the middle of them. Now, however, there are two teams who have decided (now that they’re a combined 25-80) to forego the whole ‘center’ idea, and instead go with simply their 5 best players.

In Golden State, this has worked very well. After going 1-14 in January, the Warriors are now 3-6 in February. Now that’s showing improvement! But really, they had a very impressive win against the Sonics last week, and played Phoenix and Dallas pretty close. The trick has been letting guards Derek Fisher, Jason Richardson and Speedy Claxton play side-by-side while Troy Murphy has been out with injury. Now the Murphy is set to return, look for him to play some center, and allow Fisher, J-Rich and Claxton to continue to coexist on the floor. While they may not all see the 35-40 mpg they’re enjoying right now, they should each keep above 30 mpg and maintain their value.

In Atlanta, the Hawks are also playing small ball, as their 7-man rotation consisted of Josh Smith, Antoine Walker, Al Harrington, Josh Childress, Tyronne Lue, Tony Delk, and Boris Diaw. The result was some nice performances from Walker, Harrington, and Smith, while Lue had an OK game as well. Should this trend continue, Lue, Childress, and Delk could all have moderate fantasy value. Of course, we can’t mention the Hawks without making a major plug for FBB all-time Hall of Famer Obinna Ekezie, who, one of these years, is gonna be awesome. We promise.

Timeshare

Sometimes, you gotta play small ball. But for the Charlotte Bobcats, they have the exact opposite problem. Marvin Ely’s emergence during Emeka Okafor’s injury has forced the Bobcats to give major minutes to Ely, while continuing to give time to Okafor and Primoz Brezec. Last night all three got between 29 and 32 minutes, and each scored at least 12 points, grabbed at least 6 boards, and had a block. It will be interesting to see if each of them can maintain their value over the next few weeks.

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