October 19 Games
NYK @ TOR: It’s tempting to hop on the streetcar and watch this one live. The Kyle Lowry show is always fun and Jonas Valanciunas is really fitting in. Andrea Bargnani missed practice yesterday with a “calf contusion” — the location does remind his frustrated owners of those chronic lower-leg issues last season, but he got kicked, it’s a bruise, and it’s only a coincidence. At least until we start hearing about MRIs and further tests. Terrence Ross (knee) was back at practice; sitting out Wednesday’s game was just a precaution.
The Knicks need a shooting guard, ASAP. Ronnie Brewer (knee) has yet to see any action, but may return just in time. J.R. Smith, expected to see the most minutes whether he starts or not, is wearing a walking boot for what is either an ankle or Achilles injury. Stay tuned. Iman Shumpert won’t be back from his knee injury until late December or early 2013.
Meanwhile, there’s an opportunity for James White (who has been playing in Italy) to become a starter on an NBA playoff contender. Mychel Thompson, also getting a look, doesn’t seem good enough. The obvious solution to me — admittedly a fantasy guy, not a basketball coach — is to use two point guards. Either Jason Kidd or Raymond Felton can play off the ball, and venerable rookie Pablo Prigioni could be the secret weapon.
IND @ ORL: One of these nights, the opponent will be so completely disinterested that the Magic will win a game. Arron Afflalo (hamstring) will bring some much-needed offensive spark when he’s ready to play. There’s uncertainty at C, where sophomore Nikola Vucevic will have to outplay Gustavo Ayon. The “best” Orlando big to own is Glen Davis, a man you don’t want to build a team around in reality or fantasy.
The Pacers can take the entire preseason lightly, like every other good team. It’s much too long, except for rookies and free agents trying to impress, or for starters like Danny Granger (knee tendon) who need time to recover from injuries. George Hill has yet to appear either; he was over the thumb injury and back at practice when he sustained a hip pointer.
PHI @ BRK: Is it just me, or are the Atlantic Division teams playing each other a lot? The Sixers are preparing for Lavoy Allen to start at C if Andrew Bynum isn’t ready for opening night. In either scenario, Thaddeus Young will be prominent. Yes, it’s his sixth season, not the usual breakout campaign. But he’s only 24. If he gets 32 minutes or more, in any role, he will have a career year.
The Nets have home games on consecutive nights and may not be “up” for this one after that fairly intense workout against Boston. I’m giving them a pass in advance, but you never know what you might learn.
MIN @ CHI: The Loveless Wolves are a work-in-progress now for Rick Adelman. One “solution” — there’s no replacing an All-Star — is to start sophomore Derrick Williams at PF. Another is to take advantage of two versatile veterans, moving Andrei Kirilenko to the 4 and Brandon Roy to the 3, with Williams and Chase Budinger backing them up. With backcourt depth like J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved, I like that option. However, Luke Ridnour is suffering back spasms, so it won’t happen tonight.
There are fewer questions about the Bulls. Kirk Hinrich (thumb) missed the last game but is expected to return. Nate Robinson took over that contest and is clearly next on the PG depth chart until Derrick Rose is able to play, which is likely to be measured in months, not weeks. Richard Hamilton looks very good so far; if Rip stays healthy he’ll be a draft-day bargain.
PHO @ OKC: Like a few other top-class teams, the Thunder is on cruise control for these exhibitions and will answer the bell when it rings. Until then, we’re seeing a mirage named Perry Jones III. The rookie has been great, no question, and he’ll have a fine career. It’s just that coach Brooks likes to ride six players hard when the games count, and Jones is #7 or #8 this season.
The Suns are one of the teams that may benefit from “extra” games, as they try to integrate three new starters and replace a departed legend. If David Stern asks for my advice on how to fix the preseason doldrums, somewhere between the rushed, inadequate 2011 camps and this month-long version would be ideal.
SAC @ LAL: The Kings were horrible at home on Wednesday and the Lakers have been completely indifferent so far. Both teams are contractually obliged to put on a show, but I don’t expect to learn much that will help in the draft room. Today’s theme, impatience for the real season to begin is common to players, coaches and fantasy writers.
GSW @ POR: Another entertaining west coast tilt between two teams with several of our fantasy favorites. It’s looking more and more unlikely that Andrew Bogut’s ankle will be healed sufficiently by opening night; that would make rookie Festus Ezeli the starting C and mean a lot of bench minutes for Carl Landry. The Warriors are still trying to choose between rookie Harrison Barnes and fifth-year man Brandon Rush at SF. Call it a timeshare.
Damian Lillard has a bruised foot and may not play tonight, though he says he’s ready. A Rookie of the Year candidate as a starting PG, he’s still learning how to be a distributor but proved at Weber State that he knows how to score. Nicolas Batum hasn’t shot well so far; it would be nice to see him get in a better groove.