Wednesday, January 25, 2012 Basketball Daily Dose

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Carmelo Anthony: Glue Guy - 01/25/2012
BY Aaron Bruski

  • Bargnani returns with season-high 36 in win   
  • Dwight Howard becomes Magic's leading scorer   
  • Carmelo Anthony bottoms out, but Knicks win   
  • Stein: Love hasn't decided to accept deal   
  • Ray Allen ruled out for Thursday's contest   
  • MRI on MarShon's Achilles is negative   
  • Wade (ankle) out Tuesday, Wednesday unlikely   
  • At least for one night Carmelo Anthony was a glue guy, and no I’m not sniffing glue.  And no, I don’t expect to see any more of the one-point outings he had last night, and I admit I may have sniffed some glue following the 49ers loss this Sunday.  I just can’t be sure about anything other than the Kyle Williams tattoo that I woke up with in my armpit. 


    Back to business though, upon learning that the cause and solution to all of the Knicks’ problems had gone 0-for-7 from the field with just one point on a technical free throw, I admittedly thought the round mound of slowing the ballgame down had suffered some sort of crisis.  Then seeing the Knicks’ winning score, I couldn’t help but wondering if Anthony had been ejected only to see his team rally to win in spite of the guy holding their offense hostage with each successive jab step. 


    It was none of that, and all kidding aside it wasn’t all that surprising to see Melo take a big step back following his 10-of-30 shooting effort in Saturday’s loss to a Nuggets team he spurned for the media glitz of New York. Of course, this came after 61-of-172 (35%) stretch shooting the ball and a six-game losing streak.  "Maybe I need to not take so many shots," he said after the symbolic loss.  "Should I pass it more? Maybe I should take the blame for the games we've been losing (and the) offensive struggles.”


    I’m not going to bore you with the complete history lesson, but the Knicks are in the bind that they are in because of Carmelo Anthony.  His people stripped the team so he could get his contract extension with the side benefit of stroking his ego.  Anthony, for everything he hasn’t proven in this league, joined a team that was previously winning and imposed his way of handling matters on the court despite the losing it bred.  Saturday’s loss was the final proof the jury needed to see to determine that O.J. did it, and the folks that think he didn’t have a bunch of glue all over their nose. 


    And though the quotes were relayed to us as the words of a dejected man, we don’t know if he was truly being introspective or just passively defensive when he said that.  Only he knows.  It doesn’t matter though -- we will get the answer to that question on the court, because if he doesn’t make the necessary changes the Knicks will keep losing and the New York media might eat him for lunch. 


    So I wasn’t surprised to run the tape and see that Carmelo Anthony was a good offensive teammate last night.  The game-plan was obvious from the get go.  Anthony was going to defer.  He held the ball like it was a hot potato and he put himself in the corner at times, literally.  His seven field goal attempts came within the flow of the offense, and ironically he looked like a guy that was trying too hard to make the shot because he knew he’d only get a handful of them.  He set off-ball screens to free other guys up, and he moved out of their space when it wasn’t his turn to stand there.  His teammates responded by actually keeping their hands above their waists when making their cuts.  They smiled and laughed as movements were easy.  Things actually worked. 


    They started to resemble an NBA offense. 


    Maybe it was just one game.  Maybe it was the Bobcats.  Maybe he was tired of the white hot spotlight of the New York media breathing down his neck.  But if you’re an Amare Stoudemire (18 points, eight rebounds, one block) owner, this stuff is important.  The venerable Tommy Beer, a true basketball expert and solid Knicks guy, said that Stoudemire showed more explosion last night.  Going to the tape I would agree, but he’s still taking too many jumpshots – which tells me he’s not fully back.  None of that is going to matter if Melo is grinding the offense to a halt.  Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert are both guys holding fantasy value right now, but they’re! inconsistent.  Their inconsistency, along with that of Toney Douglas and whoever else is going to play the PG position – will be tied to whether or not the Knicks run offensive sets as they did last night.  The Knicks even got out and ran a little bit, and frankly there is absolutely no reason that Melo should be walking the ball across the half-court line at the 16 second mark.  These are the things that owners need to watch for when assessing the Knicks.  Even Anthony’s owners will shave off a few extra points if it means a better field goal percentage and a couple of extra assists per night. 






    Tyson Chandler scored 20 points with a season-high 17 rebounds and a block in his abuse of B.J. Mullens, but the tougher fantasy decisions rest with Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert.  Fields is on a nice little hot streak, and last night he scored 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting with four rebounds, five assists, two steals, two blocks and a three in 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, Shumpert hit just 1-of-9 shots for three points, five boards, two assists, two steals, and a block in 25 minutes.  Their four-game stretch is a microcosm of what each player represents right now, as Fields has been mostly steady and Shumpert has two nice game! s and two awful games.  Here are their averages over that span:


    Fields: 36 minutes, 15.8 points, 0.8 threes, 3.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, 53.3% FG, 57.1% FT, 2.5 turnovers (Round 6 value in 8-cat, Round 7 value in 9-cat)


    Shumpert: 34 minutes, 11.3 points, 1.3 threes, 4.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 3.0 steals, 0.3 blocks, 36.4% FG, 80.0% FT, 2.8 turnovers (Round 4 value in 8-cat, Round 6 value in 9-cat)


    As you can see, Shumpert is actually holding more value but his inconsistency along with Fields’ experience and recent play means that Fields could end up holding the starting shooting guard position when Baron Davis returns.  Davis could debut tonight at Cleveland, but he’s going to be handled with kid gloves and provides neither the Knicks nor fantasy owners any guarantees.  That said, if you have a need for point guard in any respect then hopefully you made the add a few days ago while he was still available.  Look for Davis to come in and add some stability to the offense, but he’ll also steal touches from everybody when he’s on the court and isn’t afraid to jack up bad shots, either. 


    This leaves Shumpert, a hot add a few weeks ago, as somebody panicked owners might drop if/when news breaks that he will come off the bench.  Given the strong valuations during a tough stretch for the rookie, I’ll be right there to pick him up.  Davis isn’t a good bet to stay healthy and Shumpert will continue to improve as the year goes on.  As for Fields, he’s certainly worth an add and looks a whole lot better in a functioning offense.  I’d also look to sell Fields for just about anything I can get my hands on with Shumpert possibly overtaking him as the year goes on. 


    Of course, it all comes back to Melo.  If he plays within the offense, then you can expect Amare to return somewhere close to form, Fields and Shumpert to both hold value, Tyson Chandler will continue to put up big lines, Baron Davis will be a low-end value guy, and maybe even Toney Douglas could make some noise.  This is New York and Mike D’Antoni’s offense, but it’s Melo’s world and we’re all just pawns in it. 




    Dwight Howard (14 points, nine rebounds) broke the Magic scoring record last night, and he was about as excited as John Boehner was listening to Obama talk during last night’s state of the union address.  He talked about his time in Orlando in the past tense and I’m pretty sure he’s sick of talking out of the side of his mouth.  He is gone one way or another.  And the guy that can only hope it happens sooner rather than later is Jameer Nelson, who put up a now normal line of two points on 1-of-5 shooting and five assists.  Howard has publicly discussed wanting to play with a top point guard (i.e. not Nelson), and Nelson just hasn’t been the same player after the vote of no faith.  It isn’t helping that teams are following the Hawks’ playoff blue! print of letting Howard beat them while snuffing out most of his teammates on a given night.  The Magic’s 12-5 record is a mirage, with one home win against the Lakers and road wins against the Blazers and Pacers as their only ‘good’ wins on their schedule.  Meanwhile they’ve lost to the Thunder, Pistons, Bulls, Spurs, and Celtics.  Things are going to get worse before they’re going to get better. 


    Ryan Anderson bounced back with Howard in some foul trouble, scoring 24 points with five threes and eight rebounds, and Hedo Turkoglu was the only other truly productive player with 11 points, three treys, and eight assists.  As the offense is currently constructed, they are the only guys you can count on from night to night.  Jason Richardson was awful with two points on 1-of-6 shooting and not much else, while J.J. Redick scored 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting (including a three) with three rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a block.  I th! ink a swap of roles here could be helpful for both players, though I wonder if Richardson is pushing his knee too hard in hopes of holding his starting job. 




    D.J. Augustin finally was ruled out for four games due to the slight crack in his right big toe, opening up the Bobcats rotation in the short-term.  Kemba Walker predictably put up numbers in his place, scoring 22 points on 7-of-17 shooting (including two threes) with five rebounds and two blocks, but managed just two assists and had four turnovers.  That sounds about right for the shoot-first rookie.  Derrick Brown started at small forward and scored 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting with four rebounds, two steals, and a block in 33 minutes, and looks like a guy with a 1-2 week window of productivity.  Tyrus Thomas kept up ! the enigma act with four points on 1-of-9 shooting with four rebounds, two steals, and two blocks in 31 minutes, but what else is new.  Bismack Biyombo played just 11 minutes, missing all five of his field goal attempts with just three rebounds and no blocks.  I still have the guy rostered in a few leagues knowing that the second half of the season could be big.  If they were daily leagues without game limits, or weekly leagues that I wasn’t doing well in I would not be so bold right now. 


    Boris Diaw wasn’t able to take advantage of the open minutes, scoring just four points on 2-of-6 shooting, six rebounds, and one assist in 24 minutes.  I’ll have to go back and check, but I thought I yelled pretty loudly to sell-high a few weeks back.  Hopefully I yelled loud enough.  Byron Mullens showed why he was drafted in the second round as he was manhandled underneath all night, and finished with six points on 3-of-8 shooting, five rebounds, one steal, and three blocks.  His weaknesses are being exposed more than I thought they could be, as teams are chasing him off his jumper and forcing him to play more physically.  Mullens has borderline fantasy value in 12-team leagues over the past two weeks, but dropping him when he’s slumping and at his ‘floor’ doesn’t seem right, especially with nobody to truly push him for playing ti! me. 




    Andrea Bargnani (calf) returned to action and just destroyed the Suns with a season-high 36 points on 10-of-21 shooting (10-of-10 from the foul line, four threes).  He also added six boards, two assists, two steals, and a block, and dare I say he played like the No. 1 pick he was drafted to be.  Also hot last night was Leandro Barbosa, who played so well while scoring 19 points with three treys that he forced DeMar DeRozan (four points, 23 minutes) to the bench down the stretch.  That shouldn’t sit well with DeRozan’s owners, but now is definitely not the time to give too much weight to Dwane Casey’s decisions.  He reportedly met with each player individually on Monday and appears ! to be on the warpath.  Amir Johnson (five points, three boards) was one of the casualties of war on Tuesday, as lumberjack Aaron Gray (two points, five boards, two steals, 15 minutes) started in his place and left Johnson with just 13 minutes of action.  Don’t even ask about Ed Davis – he’s on the side of a milk carton.  As for DeRozan, he could easily be the Raptors’ No. 2 scorer throughout the second half of the year and he’s added a 3-point shot to his repertoire.  There’s too much upside to drop him, and I personally feel comfortable buying low though it’s a hard recommendation to make publicly with Toronto getting somewhat crowded.  Jerryd Bayless and Linas Kleiza have both returned and James Johnson is emerging. 


    As for Johnson, I noticed the first signs of problems when Casey told media that he was “banged up on every limb of his body” on Wednesday, which would normally cause a coach to back off if they aren’t running around the court that well on Sunday.  But Johnson was chewed out for a lack of effort on Sunday, and it sounds to me like a case of Casey being done covering for his player.  Since Johnson doesn’t have a public history of effort issues, we’re guessing he is able to win out in the long run over Gray and that Casey is just trying to motivate him.  It’s worth holding for at least a game or two to see where this heads. 


    One player whose recent promotion isn’t worth questioning is James Johnson, who started his fourth straight game at small forward and posted 18 points, 10 boards, and a steal, while Rasual Butler played just seven minutes and nearly handed the game over with a turnover late.  Yes, Johnson is inconsistent, but even factoring in two stinker games he is averaging 13 points, five boards, 1.5 steals, 1.8 blocks, 0.5 threes, and shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 88.9 percent from the line.  That’s good for fourth round value over that span and you don’t just find that type of upside every day.  I know we didn’t call him a must-add player because of his recent inconsistency, but in my book you have to make the aggressive play to add him in exchange for anybody that yo! u can’t call a must-start player in a standard 8/9 cat, 12-team format.  If I get burned I can live with it, but I can’t live with Johnson kicking my ass up and down the stat sheet while he plays for somebody else




    The Suns are depressing to watch.  Despite the often gaudy numbers, Steve Nash (17 points, seven rebounds, 14 assists) can’t shake anybody anymore and nobody in the media wants to say it.  He still gets what is blocked for him and is fine within the flow of the game and when using screens, but it’s a problem that the main ball-handler can’t get the type of penetration he and his teammates need in order for all of them to be successful.  The problem gets exasperated exponentially when Jared Dudley (six points, three steals, 23 minutes), Channing Frye (three points on 1-of-7 FGs, three boards, 12 minutes), and Grant Hill! (11 points, five rebounds) are all sub-par athletically. 


    This has led to a ton of pick-and-rolls with Nash and Marcin Gortat, who is performing admirably, but he’s not somebody that you can build an offense around, at least not yet.  Markieff Morris (four points, 17 minutes), Ronnie Price (four points, five boards, 27 minutes), Shannon Brown (seven points, 17 minutes), and Hakim Warrick (17 points, four assists) have athleticism going for them, but the culmination of the entire group has resulted in offensive possessions that look like the basketball equivalent of three yards and a cloud of dust.&nb! sp; Nobody is open, and the machine is so broken that they don’t even run anymore.  It’s a sad situation, but it has become clear that nobody outside of Nash and Gortat is a must-own player.  While I’d like to think that Morris, Dudley, or Frye is capable of stepping up, my guess is that some athleticism needs to be added to the roster to make any of them worth banking on with a roster spot.  Sadly, if I had to bet on any of them right now it would be Hill, who left last night’s game with a cut over his eye but should be fine.  Beyond that we know better than to bet on Warrick, and if I had to rank the whole group by gut I’d go Hill, Dudley, Morris, and the rest of them don’t deserve the ink. 




    O.J. Mayo has quietly become one of the more productive waiver wire pickups of the last couple of weeks, scoring another 20 points last night with two threes and a steal in the Grizzlies’ loss to the Blazers.  He is averaging 16 points, 1.2 steals, and 2.4 threes over his last five games, which is good for third to fourth round value over that span.  I mentioned it somewhere when Marreese Speights was signed, but we now have the answer to who between the two stood to gain more by Zach Randolph’s knee injury. 




    Marcus Camby not only played after suffering a strained groin on Monday, but he dominated the glass with a season-high 22 rebounds and five blocks against Marc Gasol and Co. last night.  It doesn’t really change his fantasy value, as he’s still an injury-prone guy built for owners needing center help.  But if you have the center position filled there’s no need to add a guy that will probably have a little red cross next to his name by the time you read this. 




    Gerald Wallace aggravated his finger injury but stayed in the game, and finished with seven points on 3-of-6 shooting with 11 rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes.  Typical.  Speaking of typical, Nicolas Batum came off the bench and scored 10 points on 2-of-4 shooting with two rebounds, two assists, a steal, a block, and a 3-pointer in just 20 minutes, and besides his mother being held by immigration officials he’s also being stonewalled on a contract extension.  The situation with his mother will subside, but he’s not exempt from getting moody or down on himself, so watch how he reacts to whatever the Blazers decide on Wednesday.  Overall, it seems more likely that his stress lessens by about this time next week. 




    Flip Saunders was fired yesterday and if you think things are getting better any time soon in Washington, think again.  New coach Randy Whitman is essentially “Saunders without the accolades” according to one recent report, and the problem with that group of players is so deep rooted in their personalities and lack of work ethic that it will take a big-time move to fix things.  Either some players will have to go or a big-name coach will need to be brought in, but when the team picks up their level of play for a week or two to prove to folks that it was all Flip’s fault – don’t buy into some sort of renaissance taking place.  Now if they were to give Sam Cassell the job you might have me listening.  That’s just stupid enough to work. 




    Spencer Hawes (Achilles) could be out until Monday after a conflicting set of reports first said he couldn’t “lift on his toes,” followed by one that implied the injury wasn’t serious.  We’re pretty sure the latter report was understated and I’ll be looking at Nikola Vucevic (quad/knee) closely over the next few days.  He’s a game-time decision for tonight’s game, but heard a ‘pop’ when he was injured and had to be carried off the floor.  Other than that news has been skimpy, but he theoretically has a chance to make headway in the position battle if he can get on the floor.  A guy that can hit threes and block shots, he could be a poor man’s Andrea Bargnani if everything works out in his favor.  He’s just to be watched for now. 




    1ST QUARTER:  Rajon Rondo (wrist) is expected back on Thursday, while Ray Allen (ankle) didn’t travel with the team … Keyon Dooling (knee) is the better option between he and Sasha Pavlovic if he can go.  Josh Howard (quad) is probable to play on Wednesday … unless you’re comfortable gambling on a guy with very little chance of staying healthy you need to look elsewhere.&n

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