Living the Fantasy: Many Healthy Returns?

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By NBA TV's Rick Kamla

December 15, 2006

Ho-ho, freaks.

Hopefully your wife isn't turning your tiny fortune into a penny dish this holiday season—like mine.

If I were a stand-up comic, this would be the part where I crush my wife for the sake of a few cheap jokes. It's tempting. Trust me, it's tempting, but I'll resist the urge to jeopardize my marriage and get right to it.

It's great to have you back as I ride the high from Baron Davis' game-winning three against the Rockets while rocking out to The Disco Biscuits.

[By the way, if you're looking for a new band…one that pulsates, rocks, and tickles at the same time, then you have to check out www.discobiscuits.com. This isn't the first time I've pimped Bisco in this space and it won't be the last, but this band changed my life. The Grateful Dead showed me the light back in the day (and to this day), but the Biscuits have evolved Jam to its farthest reaches. Their juicy recipe of jam, jazz, and trance is the best stuff going today. Period. You're very welcome.]

By the way in the light of day, what a fantasy feast at the Oracle Arena in Oakland on Thursday, with Yao Ming going off for 38 points and 18 rebounds, and Baron matching his fellow All-Star with 34 points, eight assists and the game-winner.

Baron was aided by Monta Ellis, who finished with 17 points and six assists, and Andris Biedrins(h), who came off the bench (Nellie started Adonal Foyle for the Ming matchup) for 15 points in 22 minutes. You knew a couple of lesser-known players would emerge as fantasy sleepers under Nellie, but you didn't necessarily know who it would be. It's clear now that Ellis and Biedrins are for real, and Nellie is a Coach of the Year candidate based solely on his decision to give these dudes the run they deserve.

Yao received great support from Houston's starting backcourt of Rafer Alston and Luther Head, who has started the past two games for the injured Tracy McGrady. Head was The Man for a second straight game, posting 26 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three threes, and a block against the Warriors. Rafer was ultra-kind himself, dropping five bombs on his way to 19 points, eight assists, and six rebounds. Quite obviously, both Head and Alston will see a spike in fantasy value as long as Tracy is out...which brings us to today's bit.

After smooth sailing for the first few weeks of the season, the injury bug is starting to take its toll on the league and that's why I'm back with advice on the 11 biggest injuries.

Shaquille O'Neal - Heat:
Shaq's injury isn't as fresh as most of the players on this list, but we just got an update on the big fella. As of Thursday, Shaq was behind schedule according to the team.

Really? Hmmm. I actually thought the 34-year-old would beat the odds and race back ahead of schedule. If you buy that line, I’ve also got a pallet full of Ron Artest albums for sale.

Shaq won't be ready for the Christmas Day reunion with Kobe Bryant, and he probably won't be ready before New Year's Eve, either. Do I hear the Super Bowl? How ‘bout Easter?

And while we're on the topic of Shaq going under the knife, I am using that unfortunate development as justification for changing my Finals prediction to Phoenix. Seconds after last year's Finals I predicted Miami over Phoenix in the 2007 version, but all bets are off following Shaq's surgery.

Freaks, I am officially flip-flopping to the Suns six weeks into the season. In the Golden Age of Small-Ball, the Suns have to win a title. They just do. It's like destiny or something. And it’s going to happen this year because Amare Stoudemire is well on his way to being rock-star Amare again. How cool is that?

And how bad are the Heat without Shaq and Dwyane Wade? The Heat would go 3-79 if they had to play 82 games sans superstar.

Hey, it was nice of Antoine Walker to show up for the encore, huh? That's the worst encore performance since The Grateful Dead insisted on capping off killer shows with Bob Dylan's "Baby Blue." I think he meant to name it “The Most Boring Song Ever.”

The injury bug has bit both David West and Lamar Odom.
(Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)
Lamar Odom - Lakers:
It wasn't too long ago that Odom and Shaq were traded for one another (among others), and here they are in the fantasy infirmary together. And like Shaq, Odom has a serious knee injury, but his moderate MCL sprain will not require surgery according to the team.

The night it happened, Phil Jackson said Odom would be lucky to return before the end of January. The team recently updated that timetable to mid-to-late January, but anyway you slice it the fantasy world will miss Odom for the next 4-6 weeks. Buzzkill.

And further complicating the issue for Odom owners is that fact that there isn't one player who is going to pick up the slack. From Vladimir Radmanovic, who started the first game without Odom, to Kwame Brown, who will play more four in addition to his regular work at the five, to Andrew Bynum, who will play more five with Kwame playing more four, to Brian Cook, who is working his way back from vertigo, the Lakers will go with power forward-by-committee until Odom is ready.

Jermaine O'Neal - Pacers:
We still haven't received definitive word from the team regarding JO's hamstring injury, but some reports have added the words “partially torn” before hamstring, so you have every right to be worried. So worried, in fact, that I wouldn't blame you for holding your breath every time he plays.

JO was one of the Warriors of the Week on the fantasy show last week, and he validated that status by returning to play (and beat) the hated Pistons earlier this week after taking three games off. Dude had 26 and 14 against Detroit. What a freakin’ stud.

That's all good, but we are talking about a player who missed 51 games last year and 44 the year before - and not all of those DNPs were brawl-related. I would be actively shopping JO for another big such as Carlos Boozer, Dwight Howard, Elton Brand, or Rasheed Wallace. I would aim high and dial down my scope according to the interest generated.

Chris Bosh - Raptors:
I'm starting to worry about Bosh because it seems like day-to-day has morphed into out indefinitely. Nobody has said the words "out indefinitely", but Sam Mitchell told reporters on Thursday, "We don't know when Chris is going to be back and we just have to go play with what we have."

When you read between the lines that sure sounds like "out indefinitely" to me.

Bosh has missed the past three games with a bone bruise to his left knee, he will miss Friday's game, and he reportedly won't be back with the Raps until the middle of next week—at the earliest.

I wouldn't shop Bosh just yet. I'm not that worried. Plus, you're kinda stuck with him anyway, so ride it out. I do not think this is going to ruin his season.

That said, you should have already picked up either Andrea Bargnani or Jorge Garbajosa just in case. Both are inconsistent at this stage of their rookie seasons, but both contribute in the rare categories like threes, blocks, and steals.

Tracy McGrady - Rockets:
Every fantasy owner has that one player who they can't stop drafting—even when they know the history/baggage. It's kinda like that hot-but-bad-news girl in college that you'd always end up with at the end of the party. You knew you'd regret it later, but you just couldn't help yourself.

For me, that player is T-Mac because of his dastardly combo platter of points, threes, boards, dimes, steals, and blocks. When he's right, he really does do it all. However, he's rarely right anymore because of recurring back issues, and those issues are back once again.

The good news is that the Rockets have brought him along on their five-game road trip that began Thursday in Oakland. As such, I think Tracy is more day-to-day than out indefinitely. I am cautiously optimistic that Tracy will return over the weekend, giving us T-Mac owners a tough decision to make next week.

When/if he returns and gets back to doing his thing, I would start shopping him at reduced prices. Early in the season, I attempted to deal McGrady for the likes of Joe Johnson and Ray Allen. I was quickly and soundly rebuked. I plan on dialing down my asking price for the hopefully soon-to-be-dealt McGrady.

And no...I'm never going back.


Joe Johnson - Hawks: Good news on Joe Cool. He was back at practice on Thursday and should return either Friday or Saturday night. He said in a TV interview earlier this week that he was targeting Saturday's game against the Bulls for his return from a calf injury that has cost him three games.

JJ and the Hawks were very smart about this injury so I'm confident this is nothing more than a bump in the road on his way to Vegas, baby.

Ray Allen - Sonics: Now we slide back into the superstars I'm real worried about. The 31-year-old Allen has been diagnosed with a contusion of the talus bone in his right ankle. The good news is that an MRI revealed no ligament or tendon damage. The bad news is that doctors would not rule out the possibility of surgery.

He has served five games of an 8-game sentence and is scheduled to be re-evaluated on Dec. 24. Merry Christmas, Ray.

It's starting to sound as if we won't see Ray again until the New Year, if then. So those of you who picked up Damien Wilkins have the right to party with extra zeal on the 31st.

Jason Richardson - Warriors: My two boldest opinions coming into the season were to stay away from J-Rich and Kobe because of their off-season knee surgeries. Looks like I got one right and one wrong, huh? Kobe had his surgery five weeks before J-Rich, and he's obviously tearing it up again.

Richardson, on the other hand, has missed six straight games because of soreness in his repaired knee, but he told reporters on Thursday that he wants to return Monday against the Nets.

The Warriors have four games next week, so J-Rich owners are chomping at the bit to play him. However, I recommend chilling out until you see how Nellie works him back into the rotation. I doubt he plays 35 minutes in his first few games back. And if the Warriors are smart, they'll ease him back because Monta Ellis, Matt Barnes, and Mickael Pietrus have been solid in his stead.

Going forward...I don't think we've heard the last from that pesky knee.

David West - Hornets: The news is not good on West, who has missed the last 14 games with a mystery injury in his right elbow/forearm. There is no timetable for his return and the word “surgery” keeps popping up in published reports.

The team has been very vague in terms of details on the injury, meaning his owners just need to hang in there with him. West is so productive when he's healthy that you can't drop him until/unless you hear he needs surgery. It stinks, but this is what we call fantasy purgatory: you can't drop him, play him, or trade him, so you're stuck with him.

Peja Stojakovic - Hornets: Peja has missed the last eight games with a back injury, and Byron Scott was quoted in Friday's papers as saying he expects his sharpshooter back "before Christmas".

Last season, Peja's teammates with the Pacers questioned his toughness for not playing through injury in the playoffs. Peja missed 27 games over the past two seasons, and the way he's going, he may reach that number this year.

I still love the threes, but I gotta call 'em like I see 'em in fantasyland, and I no longer trust Peja. Even when/if he returns, I would constantly be worrying about re-injury or new injury. Upon his return, start shopping.

Other injuries: Pau Gasol, Grizzlies (congrats to his owners on the early return); Richard Jefferson, Nets (ganked his ankles so badly that this is likely to be a long season); Jameer Nelson, Magic (sketchy value even without the groin injury); Brandon Roy, Trail Blazers (we're all crossing our fingers that he doesn't aggravate the heel injury upon returning because another setback may require surgery); Sam Cassell, Clippers (should be dropped until Shaun Livingston gets hurt again).


Rick Kamla is NBA.com's resident fantasy expert. Rick Kamla will be here all season long to give you his insider analysis on the fantasy basketball world. Kamla is the heady host for "NBA Fantasy Hoops Presented By Toyota," a seven-nights-a-week, one-hour studio show that has become the ultimate guide for NBA fantasy basketball players.

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