What am I thankful for this holiday season? Aside from great family and friends, a woman who loves me, a great job, perfect teeth and a rent-controlled apartment, I really have it hard these days. First off, the best team in college football went down this weekend, the beloved Michigan Wolverines. Then my fantasy football teams all got shut out across the board (0-5). Finally, to cap it all off, the Grizzlies attacked and left me for dead.
After leading 7-1 and 6-2 for most of the week over the Memphis Grizzlies, the New York Knicks looked like they might finally have gotten things together and were ready to compete. The Grizzlies were without Andrei Kirilenko, out with an Achilles issue. But despite an outburst of scoring from Peja Stojakovic, the Grizzlies made an improbable comeback this week. Sure, David West is injured for the Knicks, but then Larry Hughes sprained his right ankle on Wednesday. X-rays and an MRI taken Thursday revealed a high ankle sprain. Hughes, who has been injury prone throughout his career, sat out the rest of the week.
With nearly every category up for grabs heading into Saturday night and neither team having any players going on Sunday, the Grizzlies edged out razor-thin victories in four categories on the last night of action in Week Three: 178 to 176 in total points scored, 15 to 14 in steals, 6 to 5 in blocks and 13 to 11 in 3-pointers made. That is a four-point swing in one night. Painful, absolutely painful.
The Utah Jazz are the surprise team of the NBA season so far, winning nine of their first ten games this season. A primary reason for that has been the maturation of forward Carlos Boozer. Boozer is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists and field goal percentage. In the past week alone, he led the league in rebounds per game and ranks second over the course of the young season: 20.5 ppg, 13.0 rpg and 3.7 apg. But what makes him even more valuable to the fantasy Utah Jazz is his center eligibility. Boozer's PFC Jazz went 7-1 this week over the Houston Rockets.
Stat of the Week
Seattle's tandem of Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen currently lead the NBA in 3-pointers made with 30 and 29 respectively. There is no pair of teammates even close to the Sonics duo, but the top 3-point shooting teammates in the PFC are Washington's Gilbert Arenas (26) and Jason Terry (22).
Not Another Red Cross
One of the biggest challenges of a head-to-head fantasy league is setting your lineup each week. It usually comes down to one tough decision that could go either way. You spend an hour or so studying the matchups and locking it in, then the rest of the week seeing if you made the right decision or not. But the one factor that can throw a wrench into the fine workings of your machine is an injury. Since NBA players play between two and four games a week, an injured player in your starting lineup can absolutely kill your week.
The Detroit Pistons learned this as M.I.T.'s newest celeb, Andrew Westerdale, opted to start center Shaquille O'Neal this week. Bad move. Shaq missed every game this week and will undergo knee surgery. He could be sidelined for four to six weeks after tearing cartilage in his left knee Sunday in a collision with Houston's Chuck Hayes. The injury was originally diagnosed as a hyperextended knee. Prognosis: Negative. Luckily, he did not have Kenyon Martin in his lineup this week as Martin will miss the rest of the season because of a bad right knee.
So if you are Nets owner David Hughes, when can you expect Jefferson back?
"I really don't know, only because I've never missed a game because of a sprained ankle. I'm not like a big man who's planting. I'm a guy who's sprinting, cutting, chasing people around, so it's different. I never experienced anything like this," he said.
What do Andre Miller, Mickael Pietrus, Ryan Gomes, Elton Brand, Chris Wilcox and Luke Walton have in common? They make up the starting lineup for The Team of the Week for Week Three. The Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks flew out to an early lead over the favored Timberwolves and closed out with a 6-2 win, winning every category but blocks and free throw percentage. The Hawks have also emerged as one of the elite teams so far (16 wins), trailing only Portland, Miami and San Antonio in total victories. Every player in the starting lineup is scoring in double figures but Gomes (who is just below that with 9.8 ppg), but all six players are filling up more than just one or two stat columns. The Hawk never dies.
Game of the Week
The Bucks and Hornets matchup this past week may not have caught the eye of the casual observer, but who wants casual, anyway? Dressed in my finest tophat and tails, I took a formal look at this game last week that netted out as a 4-3-1 victory for the Hornets. The two tied in points, but Milwaukee fell behind early without the services of Steve Nash, who left a gaping hole at the top of the Bucks lineup. Meanwhile, Mo Williams did his part, racking up 60 points and 21 assists in three games. The Hornets also had a hole in their lineup as Troy Murphy was out with injury. Chris Paul and Ron Artest continued to impress, though, single-handedly winning assists and steals for the winning side.
On the Hotseat
Why bother? We all know who's got the target on his back. This might very well be the last time I write you, but it was fun while it lasted. I will forever blame Loomer for this one.
Better Know An Owner
Just one month shy of his 32nd birthday, the gifts came early for Memphis Grizzlies owner Daniel Kos. "The Daily" Kos, as his internet-savvy friends might call him, hails from Niskayuna, N.Y., which is still in mourning this week after the girl's soccer team fell to Aquinas Institute 1-0 in the Class AA New York State semifinal game. A fantasy veteran (he bagan playing more than 20 years ago), Kos is also no stranger to disputes and works as a Principal Court Analyst for the New York Court system. While that is really just a fancy way to say he is a mediator, his work with the New York State Agricultural Mediation Program and Dispute Resolution Association has been groundbreaking.
As a mediator, Kos has learned that life is all about timing. That is why after playing in one rotisserie basketball league and winning back in 1989, he promptly retired from fantasy sports. But the thrill of competition could not keep him away as he recently returned to fantasy sports. He has now played in three competitive basketball leagues in the last two years, honing a "market-scarcity" philosophy that has proven to be sound. We'll see how he stacks up against his fellow experts over the course of the season.
In past weeks, we have used this space to call out the "what were you thinking" waiver wire signings of the week. Questionable signings, overpriced acquisitions and flat-out bad decisions. But with only one exception, this week's transactions were relatively tame. That exception: the Philadelphia 76ers signing J.J. Redick for $43. Redick may someday prove to be a great NBA player. But he has yet to score a single point or play a minute of basketball yet in the league. What's worse, the Sixers have only $12 left. In other news, Redick's good friend, Adam Morrison, had two 20-plus point games last week and is averaging 14.7 ppg this season.
So instead of looking back, here are some of the free agents that are out there this week that might be useful as short-term injury replacements. Guards Jose Calderon, Damien Wilkins and Beno Udrih have all been on a roster, but were recently dropped. Top overall pick Andrea Bargnani was also released this week, but does not warrant serious consideration. But with the lack of depth at the center position, both Sonics center Johan Petro and Spurs pivot Matt Bonner could get a look. Looking back at past moves, there really is no way to predict just who will get picked up this week, but 20-20 hindsight sure is fun, isn't it?
We had two trades this week, one of which was significant and one of which was not. First, the insignificant... The Dallas Mavericks sent Nick Collison to Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Kendrick Perkins. Whoop de doooo.
Of course, this trade triggered a wave of chatter among league owners, bringing us to our hot topic of the week.Hot Topic
The consensus appears to be that Seattle got the better end of the deal last week. Both the Lakers and Sonics defended their moves claiming that stats are more important than names.
Says Lakers general manager David Byrd: "Rahim is going back to the bench when Miller comes back, IIgauskas is getting 20mins a game, and is lost in the Cavs new offense, and Boykins avg. 4pts,3ast last week. My stats in ast,stl,3's,pts,Ft% is going to be hard to beat. Stats win this game not player names."
Sonics G.M. David Lew says: "Thanks for the trade Lakers.... also agree that trades are more about the stats than names. From my perspective, it seemed like a fairly even trade which obviously impacted both teams a good deal in terms of strategy going forward. IF (and possibly a big IF?) Ilgauskas returns to form, I'll be quite happy. Shareef while obviously nowhere close to his allstar days is serviceable and gives me a handcuff to go with B.Miller. Also whether or not everything pans out, indirectly I traded Mehmet Okur and pocket change to get Ilgauskas, B.Miller, Shareef, Gay, and Boykins."
Celtics G.M. Bruce Dixon, yes THE LEGENDARY MUSIC PRODUCER BRUCE DIXON, chimes in: "Anyway you cut it, its lopsided in favour of the ilgauskas side......... and if their was a protest button, I would push it."
Sorry, Bruce, you may put your pants on one leg at a time and wear gold-plated diapers, but there is no protest button. But speaking of the Celts...
What to Watch
Boston Celtics (12-11-1, 2nd Atlantic) at San Antonio Spurs 17-5-2, 1st Southwest). The Celtics are led by Paul Pierce, Drew Gooden and Nenad Krstic while San Antonio's formidable frontcourt of Wally Szczerbiak, Antawn Jamison and Tim Duncan will be defending the home court. On the NBA docket, we have a full schedule every day this week but on Thanksgiving. The Miami Heat visit San Antonio on Wednesday, the Lakers and Jazz face off in Utah on Friday and the L.A. clippers will be in Denver on Sunday. Sweet potato pie and stuffing visit my stomach on Thursday!
Happy Thanksgiving to yours and mine,