NBA 5 on Five
Week of 11/21 – 11/27.
Theme: Fading Fantasy Players
1. Erick Dampier, C Dallas
-It was an utterly embarrassing week for ‘The 2nd Best Center in the World’ (Tue/Thu: 31 Mins, 0 Pts, 8 Rebs, 10 TOs, 10 Fouls, 0 Blks) up until he inexplicably dominated the Pistons on Saturday (16 Pts, 14 Rebs, 2 Blks). Dampier has always been a model of inconsistency, but has never been pushed for playing time with a dearth of centers backing him up. That’s not exactly the case anymore with DeSagana Diop (of all people) playing some inspiring basketball for Dallas off the bench. Avery Johnson reportedly isn’t at all pleased with Dampier and won’t hesitate to bench him if he continues to disappear. Perhaps he lit a fire under his ass Saturday that will stay hot for the rest of the season– we’ll just have to wait and see.
2. Jalen Rose, G/F Toronto
-The rim has not been too kind to Jalen thus far (13.5 PPG, 36.6 FG%, 17.4 3PT%), but much like Dampier, he finished the week on a high note after dropping 22 on Sunday in the Raptors 1st win of the season. What might be more worrisome for Rose owners is his dwindling playing time (31.4 MPG down from 33.5 last year and 39.4 in ’03-04) and increasing age (33 in January), especially considering his team is inevitably entrenchng itself in an all-out rebuilding mode. Considering Rose is signed through next season, the Raptors will definitely look to deal him while they can still get something in return. But whether he’s traded or not, Jalen Rose’s best fantasy days are a distant memory.
3. Kurt Thomas, PF/C Phoenix
-I’m not sure there has been another healthy fantasy player that’s been as disappointing as Thomas has this season (22.7 MPG, 8.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG). Expected to inherit the rebounds and some of the scoring left in the void of Amare Stoudemire, Thomas has struggled mightily while guarding bigger and quicker players. Bryan Colangelo and Mike D’Antoni brought him in to help the team in halfcourt sets, but without Amare, the Suns have been relegated to playing a frenetic pace that Thomas clearly isn’t suited for. Even if you wasted a relatively high pick on Kurt, it might be time to consider dropping him.
4. Kenyon Martin, PF Denver
-K-Mart has dealt with knee issues his entire career and not surprisingly, had surgery once again this summer to help relieve his troubles. Unfortunately for fantasy owners that drafted Martin, he’s still experiencing pain in his knee and might be day-to-day for the remainder of the season. Even if he is able to suit up regularly again, there’s no guarantee that an explosive player like Martin will be able to rekindle his emphatically aggressive style of play.
5. Andrew Bogut, PF/C Milwaukee
-Joe Smith is back in the lineup for the Bucks with Terry Stotts firmly stating that the former #1 pick was, is, and will be the team’s starting power forward for the foreseeable future. Thus the minutes of Bogut have taken a serious hit and parallel with his diminished playing time are his dwindling numbers (last 3 games– 4.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.0 BPG). Bogut is still a work-in-progress with some significant upside, so it’s probably a stretch to waive him at this point. But if you can reel in a steadier, more productive big man (P.J. Brown, Krstic?), you may want to consider it.
5 Fascinating Factoids
1. The Minnesota Timberwolves currently rank second-to-last in the NBA in home attendance to none other than the Atlanta Hawks. That’s with ‘The Big Ticket’. What happens if/when they trade Garnett? This could lessen the chances of KG being dealt.
2. The Denver Nuggets are just 23-123 from 3-point range this season, an incredibly pathetic 18.7%. The 2.1 3-pointers per game is significantly lower than the next lowest, Portland at 2.9, and the 18.7% is also a weighty difference from the 26.7% shooting of Portland. If the Nuggets hope to give any sort of fight in the Western Conference this season, a trade for a top-notch perimeter shooter is an absolute necessity.
3. Entering Sunday night’s game against the Lakers, the Bulls were on pace to become the first team since the ABA merger to shoulder more of their scoring load off the bench (48.7 PPG) than from the starting lineup (45.1 PPG). And then the starters went on to score 76 of the team’s 96 points in Sunday’s win at Staples and suddenly this unusual statisic seems bound to cease its existence– at least as long as Mike Sweetney (20-12-3-2-3 on Sunday) remains a fixture in the starting lineup.
4. Sarunas Jasikevicius finally missed a free throw on Sunday, after previously sinking all 22 of his attempts including 10 straight clutch makes in the Pacers win over Charlotte on Friday night. If you think this had anything to do with why Larry Bird and Donnie Walsh targeted Saras this summer, kudos. The Pacers desperately needed a go-to free throw shooter to help close out games after Reggie Miller retired, and Jasikevicius appears to have the clutch touch. By the way, why isn’t anyone discussing Steve Nash’s phenomenal 36-36 streak from the line this season?
5. After leading the Knicks with 21 points in Wednesday night’s loss at Staples to the Lakers, Channing Frye became the first Knick since Mark Jackson in the 1987-88 season to lead the team in scoring in more than one game the entire year. Sounds pretty unbelievable, huh? A quick glance at Knicks rookies through the years should make this factoid fathomable…
- 1988-89: Rod Strickland, Greg Butler
- 1989-90: Brian Quinnett
- 1990-91: Jerrod Mustaf
- 1991-92: Greg Anthony, Patrick Eddie
- 1992-93: Hubert Davis, Eric Anderson
- 1993-94: None
- 1994-95: Charlie Ward, Monty Williams
- 1995-96: None
- 1996-97: John Wallace, Walter McCarty, *Dontae Jones
- 1997-98: *John Thomas
- 1998-99: *Frederic Weis, *J.R. Koch
- 1999-00: Mirsad Turckan, DeMarco Johnson
- 2000-01: Lavor Postell
- 2001-02: *Michael Wright, *Eric Chenowith
- 2002-03: Frank Williams, *Milos Vujanic
- 2003-04: Mike Sweetney, *Maciej Lampe, *Slavko Vranes
- 2004-05: Trevor Ariza, Jackie Butler
5 Fretful Thoughts
1. Slowly but surely, a somewhat surprising name is beginning to pop up in the weekly ‘coaches on the hot seat’ discussion– that of Jeff Van Gundy. At first thought, it seems ridiculous, largely because Rockets Owner Les Alexander inked him to a one-year contract extension this summer through 2007-08, but you have to begin to wonder where the organization will stand on JVG if the Rockets continue to falter. I realize it’s very early in the season and that a 3-7 record can easily be turned around, but if you really think about, what has Van Gundy done since arriving in Houston? For all the progress they made during the second half of last season largely because JVG opened up the offense more for T-Mac and Yao, they appear to have relegated to the stop-and-go offense that held this club back during the early stages of last year. Have you watched the Rockets this season? Even with T-Mac in the lineup, this team hardly resembles the squad that was dropping 100+ every game last spring. Truth be told, there’s no way Van Gundy is losing his job unless the season turns into an utter disaster, and it’s nearly impossible to foresee that with the talent he has. However, a closer evaluation after the season may be in store if the season doesn’t end up where the organization expects it to.
2. It’s time for the Lakers to utilize Lamar Odom differently. What sense does it make exhausting your second-best player by having him continually dribble the ball up the floor, run the offense, and then still do his usual damage on the glass? Kobe Bryant shot 50% from the floor in dropping 43 points on the Bulls Sunday night, yet the Lakers still lost– that can’t happen! Somebody else has to be able to shoulder some of the scoring load on a consistent basis and Odom is the only realistic option on the team. While he does an admirable job of getting everyone involved and cleaning up the boards, this team can’t survive with him scoring less than 14 PPG (13.9). If you want proof that Odom is wearing down because of all his responsibilities, check out his percentages– 42.9 FG%, 28.6 3PT%, 63.5 FT%, all on pace for career-lows. Phil Jackson has got to give either Vujacic or Smush Parker a fair shot at running the point, if only to give Lamar a chance to focus on scoring and to relieve some pressure off Kobe. Perhaps the calf injury to Kwame Brown will allow Phil Jackson to tinker with the lineup a bit (it did Sunday with Odom starting at the 4, but he got into foul trouble and played lousy).
3. The All-Star ballots came out this week and I vehemently urge voters to choose the best players, not their favorite players even though the ballot clearly says at the top, "Choose Your Favorite NBA Players". Look, I just don’t want Grant Hill starting in this year’s game. As much as I love the guy, a spot that deserves to go to someone else is taken when Hill is elected to start and that’s just ridiculous. When someone who hasn’t yet played in a game is voted as a starter yet deserving players like Richard Hamilton or Paul Pierce are left off the team, it flat-out pisses me off. So heed my advice and vote for LeBron James and either Ron Artest, Paul Pierce, or Jermaine O’Neal as the Eastern Conference’s starting forwards.
4. I’m getting a little tired of waiting for Mike Dunleavy to "live up to his potential". He played well towards the end of last season, but you could argue that his Pops would be doing a better job at the 3 for the Warriors right now than Junior(29.5 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 32.0 FG%, 19.5 3PT%, 3.6 RPG). How much leeway do you give a guy that you just signed to a hefty long-term contract extension? Quite honestly, I have no idea what Chris Mullin was thinking in setting up this deal. Why pay big bucks for Dun-nuthin when you could just as easily get the same production from a Rodney Buford or Andre Emmett at a fraction of the price? I can’t see the Warriors giving Junior more than a handful more games to try and turn his disastrous start around. Hello, Mickael Pietrus!
5. Does anyone else find the ESPN announcing tandem of Brent Musburger and Tom Tolbert just excruciatingly difficult to listen to? Musburger spends more time talking about college football and basketball, and screwing up the foreign players’ names than he actually does calling the game on hand. Meanwhile, Tolbert gets so caught up in hearing himself talk that he actually laughs at some of his own lame jokes. I can’t wait until the college football season is over so Mike Tirico can limit Musburger’s appearances, and cover up Tolbert’s blemishes. Until then, I’m terrified of what I might do the next time I have to listen to this horrifying Musburger/Tolbert duo.
5 Fascinating Match-Ups
1. San Antonio at Golden State, Wednesday at 10:30 ET
-An opportunity for the Warriors to make a statement out West. Business as usual for the Spurs.
2. Cleveland at Indiana, Thursday at 8:00 ET on TNT
-Nothing like a little LeBron James to help settle down that full stomach after a MONSTER Thanksgiving feast.
3. Dallas at Miami, Friday at 8:00 ET on ESPN
-Miami can’t afford to let home games slip away with Shaq out. Dallas, one of the NBA’s best road teams over the past couple years, should provide a tough test for the Diesel-less Heat.
4. Detroit at Milwaukee, Saturday at 9:00 ET
-This could be numero dos for the Pissed-ons. With a home contest against Washington the night before, Detroit might have its hands full with a Milwaukee team that has been money-in-the-bank at home this season.
5. Indiana at Clippers, Sunday at 3:30 ET on NBA TV
– The Pacers kick off a rugged 5-game, 8-day road trip at Staples against the Pacific-leading Clippers on Sunday afternoon. Keep an eye on the Jermaine O’Neal/Elton Brand matchup, who are both playing as well as any power forwards in the league right now.
5 Fearless Forecasts
1. Now that Toronto has chalked up a W on the board, the Atlanta Hawks are the lone team without a victory. Fortunately for the the hapless Hawks, they have an appetizing menu this week with Boston (Wed.) and Portland (Sun.) both coming to town. They will win one of these games– actually, let’s get fearless– the Hawks will notch their first win Wednesday against the Celtics.
2. I feel like I’m one of the few NBA fans that actually gets excited for the Thanksgiving Day NBA double-header. I realize that football is the traditional sport of Turkey Day and that this year actually features a great NFL game (Denver at Dallas), but I still leave plenty of room for the NBA once I’ve loosened my belt and just want to kick back and relax. That said, I fully expect all of our readers to be at the bar by the time the Seattle/Lakers game tips off at 10:45 ET, because quite frankly, that game totally blows.
3. Like pretty much everyone else out there, I had the Hornets finishing with by far the worst record in the Western Conference and not even piling up 20 wins this season. But from what we’ve seen so far, it doesn’t appear that the Hornets are going to be too terrible. At 4-5 with just one lopsided loss, the Hornets might even be respectable this season (Respectable = Over 30 Wins). Byron Scott has them playing hard every night just as he did last year, and the team appears to be more talented with the likes of Chris Paul, Speedy Claxton, David West, Kirk Snyder, and Desmond Mason either being added to the club or staying healthy thus far. So with that, my forecast– The New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets will not finish at the bottom of the Western Conference. I’m not exactly sure who will, probably a team that gets bombarded by injuries, but it’s not going to be Byron Scott’s crew.
4. As I mentioned above, the NBA All-Star ballots were released last week meaning it’s time to start the debate of who deserved to be selected and who should be snubbed. For now, allow me to pick out the starters I think will be voted in. For the East, Vince Carter and Allen Iverson as guards; LeBron James and Jermaine O’Neal as forwards; and Shaquille O’Neal as center. For the West, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash as guards; Kevin Garnett and Tracy McGrady as forwards; and Yao Ming as center.
5. Since I don’t have any other fearless predictions to make this week, here’s one you can take to the bank– I will not eat any turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Aside from having to work all day and night on Thursday, I’m also one of a handful of people on this planet that happens to be allergic to poultry. So before the rest of you are enjoying the meal of your lives alongside your loving families, think of me when you say grace before digging in since I’ll be plugging away at the office trying to bide time so I can heat up my Mama Celeste deluxe frozen pizza. Happy Thanksgiving!!