December 20, 2007
The Broadway stagehand strike may be over, but the best drama in Manhattan is still the New York Knickerbockers. Each home game is a spectacle of unmitigated disaster. Audience members are encouraged to participate in a chorus of boos and insults until their throats are sore, like some grand, participatory dinner theater on steroids where everybody in the arena knows that Isiah did it. It’s pretty clear at this point that Isiah Thomas wants to be fired, but he can’t even seem to do that right.
Set aside the sexual harassment drama from this summer and the countless bad contracts Thomas has handed out, which would be enough for a dishonorable discharge from any self-respecting franchise in professional sports. Since the season started Thomas has publicly criticized and threatened to bench his hand-picked franchise cornerstones Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury. He’s butted heads with nearly everybody on the roster, called out the team for a lack of heart and lost his players in the process. Curry was overhead on the bench last week repeating the phrase, “Get me out of here.” Thomas has jawed with fans near the bench, going so far as to suggest to them that his players were missing layups because the fans were booing. Embarrassing loss after embarrassing loss has piled up.
The team looks clueless on offense and has allowed players like Mike Dunleavy Jr to post career highs in points. They lost to the Celtics by nearly 50 points last month, and were on the brink of a franchise-low in points that game before a last-second shot saved them. The thing is, James Dolan and Isiah Thomas are in an epic pissing contest, with both facing squarely into the wind. Thomas wants Dolan to fire him, and Dolan refuses to pay the severance. Thomas said this week that he’ll fight to the “death” (whatever that means), and Dolan shows no signs of backing down. We’re all left wondering what new low this franchise can reach next. And each game, the chorus in the Garden gets louder and louder. It’s so bad that today Knicks fans staged a “Pink Slip Protest” outside of MSG with a 10-foot pink slip angry fans signed as petition to expedite Thomas’ ouster. But Dolan continues to stand by and play his fiddle as the Garden burns.
It would be hard to imagine any Hall of Fame athlete ever managing to tarnish a brilliant NBA career quite like this. As the drama continues to come to a head nightly in New York, here are your fantasy performers of note from the last week:
Up and Down Game:
Push it Up:
Josh Boone/Sean Williams, PF/Cs, Nets: Sitting at 10-14 with his superstar grumbling and orchestrating a departure, Nets coach Lawrence Frank decided it was time to mix things up yesterday. He inserted Josh Boone and Sean Williams into the starting lineup, and while New Jersey is 10-15 today, the kids played well. Boone had a modest 5 points, 5 assists and 4 boards in his first career start. Not great, but enough, and Boone has shown flashes lately. Meanwhile, Williams was dropping jaws left and right en route to 11 points, 7 boards, 2 steals and… 8 blocks. Williams is going to be a shot-blocking machine in the NBA and should be owned in nearly every league.
It boggles the mind that this didn’t happen sooner, as the Nets ex-starting center Jason Collins was averaging 1.2 points this season after putting up 2.1 points per in 80 games (78 starts) last season. That was not a typo–Collins scored just 169 points in 80 games last season. The athletic 2006 and 2007 first-round picks should be fixtures as the season wears on.
Tyrus Thomas, SF/PF/C, Bulls: Tyrus Thomas was universally drafted this season, but has been dropped in most leagues after a disappointing start, injuries and being benched by Scott Skiles. He’s starting to get minutes again, and the defensive stats specialist had 10 points, 6 boards, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals in 23 minutes Tuesday night. If he gets 20+ minutes a game, those “hustle” stats will make him worth owning in every league. The Bulls are struggling with their rotation right now, and Thomas has every opportunity to earn some major minutes. As I write this Thomas has put up 14 points, 3 blocks, 2 steals and 6 boards tonight in almost 28 minutes. Go scoop him up.
Luke Walton, SF, Lakers: Phil Jackson toyed with his minutes for the first month of the year, and even sent Luke to the bench after just four games this season. Fortunately Tex Winters, the Lakers de facto offensive coach, Triangle Offense guru and longtime Jackson confidant, convinced Phil to put Luke back in the starting lineup. It’s been a good thing for Walton and his owners, as he usually produces serviceable numbers when he starts and isn’t worth owning when coming off the bench. Walton has started playing well again recently, and will produce a 12-point, 5-rebound, 4-assist, 1-steal, and 1-three line on a solid FG% when he gets minutes. In most leagues that all-around production makes Luke worth a spot at the end of your roster.
Luke Ridnour, PG, Supersonics: It’s been a heated and murky battle for point-guard duties in Seattle all season, but Ridnour is now healthy and Delonte West is out indefinitely with a foot injury. The mercurial Earl Watson is still starting for now, but I have to think Ridnour will get big minutes very soon. If Jerry Colangelo thought he could be good enough for USA Basketball, how can Ridnour not be good enough for the lowly Sonics? Luke hasn’t gotten consistent tick since 05-06, when he put up an elite 7 assists, 1.6 steals and 87.7% FTs. He’s more than capable of replicating that with 30+ minutes a game.
Samuel Dalembert, C, 76ers: Bert has the physical tools to be one of the NBA’s elite shot blockers, but he’s always struggled with the finer points of basketball. His defensive footwork was suspect, he couldn’t stay out of foul trouble and appeared to be completely ignorant of the definition of goaltending. Something has clicked recently though, as Dalembert is averaging the most minutes and blocks of his career and the fewest fouls in three years. December has been especially impressive as the other Haitian has averaged 3.3 blocks a contest, including a monster 9-block performance a few games back.
Brad Miller, C, Kings: Miller was plagued by injuries for a bulk of last season, only managing to play in 63 games. His fantasy game suffered as a result, and he posted his lowest points, assists, steals, blocks, rebounds, FG% and FT% of the last four years. Miller is now fully healthy though, and he’s producing like an elite fantasy center. After an up-and-down start Brad is averaging 16 points, 3 assists, 8 boards and nearly 1 three, steal and block on 56% FGs and 78% FTs in December. While the scoring may take a hit, he should only get more efficient and focus more on defense with the return of Bibby in a few weeks. If you play for FT% and need a center, Miller is your man.
Boris Diaw, PF/C, Suns: Diaw made an appearance at the end of this column last week for his struggles, lack of playing time and questionable dietary habits. We also mentioned that Mike D’Antoni expressed a desire to get Boris more minutes, and the coach came through on that. Diaw played 29 minutes last game, his most since November, and responded with 11 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. That’s the exact type of line we were looking for from the Frenchman on draft day, so if he continues to see an increased role, scoop him up if he’s been dropped.
Slow it Down:
Anthony Johnson, PG, Hawks: Johnson is the definition of a journeyman, playing with eight teams since being drafted in the second round of the 1997 draft. He’s never averaged double-digit points, 5 assists or 1 steal at any stop along the way and shoots 41.2% FGs and 73.4% FTs for his career. Somehow he’s one of the hottest free agents in fantasy basketball right now, but I’m not buying. Yes, the Hawks are a supremely athletic team that can run and finish and a capable point guard in Atlanta will rack up assists, but Johnson isn’t it. As the season wears on he’ll lose more and more minutes to Acie Law, and this hot streak will be a distant memory.
Jeff Green, SF/PF, Supersonics: I mentioned Jeff Green early in the year as he came out on fire, but he’s cooled considerably of late. We always urge patience with rookies because there are always a couple that break out in the middle of the season, but you really can’t keep this guy on your roster right now. Green has just 11 steals, 1 three-pointer and 10 blocks in 25 games this season, so he really needs to get most of his value out of points and rebounds. Those haven’t been there of late with one game of double-digit scoring in his last eight and no games with double-digit rebounding in his last 13.
Andris Biedrins, C, Warriors: Don Nelson is a mad scientist with his lineups and rotations every season, and this year he’s toying with fantasy owners as much as ever. After averaging 32 minutes a game in November, Biedrins hasn’t reached that total yet in December, causing a drop in production across the board. With just 0.5 blocks in his last eight games, the lack of consistent playing time is killing Biedrins’ value. He’s bound to get more tick soon, but you may consider selling high at some point because you never know when he’ll find himself coming off the bench again.
Joel Przybilla, C, Trailblazers: After his strong recent play I scooped up the Vanilla Gorilla in the ETB fantasy hoops league, and he hasn’t let me down. Przybilla has always had the size and defensive habits to be a plus player in blocks and boards with excellent FG%, but he never manages to earn the consistent minutes he needs from the coach. His recent strong play has been a result of LaMarcus Aldridge’s injury, but Aldridge is expected back tonight and will take minutes from Joel. Still, Przybilla was back in the starting lineup even before the injury, so hold off on cutting him if you can help it.
Nazr Mohammed, C, Bobcats: Nazr Mohammed is one of the hottest additions of the week in fantasy leagues, but we urge caution. Yes, he will be in the starting lineup for the Bobcats now, but this guy has just never been a fantasy commodity. If you have a scrub you can dump, he might be worth a gamble, but Nazr has never been able to put it together on a consistent basis in his 11-year career. I remember the middle of January in 2002 when he was the hottest free agent on the market after putting up 14 or more rebounds and points in five of six games, but those numbers were just a tease, as they have been since. Every season he manages a strong stretch here and there, but every season he leaves owners wanting shortly after.
Andrew Bogut, C, Bucks: In his brief NBA career Bogut has been known as a decent big man who is an average source of points and boards with excellent FG% and assists for a center, but lacking in blocked shots. He spent much of this offseason working on his defensive footwork and timing, and that was the story early as he was finally posting strong block totals this season. Unfortunately, over the last few weeks those blocks have once again started to fade. After averaging 2.5 blocks in 13 November games Bogut is down to just 1.2 blocks per in 10 December contests. The added rejections made him one of the better big men in fantasy early on, but if those don’t come back he goes back to being just mediocre.
Andrea Bargnani, SF/PF/C, Raptors: It’s no secret that last season’s first-overall pick is struggling, even when he isn’t injured. He showed flashes of brilliance last year and figured to be a solid source of blocks and threes this season, but we’re a quarter of the way into the season and it may be time to adjust expectations. Toronto’s assistant GM Maurizio Gherardini, who has known Bargnani since his earliest days in Italy, said this week that he believes Andrea’s poor play is the result of exhaustion. That doesn’t figure to change any time soon. We still think he will be worth owning this season, but the fantasy bust label is looming larger and larger.