An NBA game in Fargo? You’re darn tootin’! The Timberwolves played like a home team, even in North Dakota. J.J. Barea started at PG; Luke Ridnour has been battling back spasms and of course, the return date of Ricky Rubio (knee) is indefinite. The Russian Connection of Andrei Kirilenko and rookie Alexey Shved contributed very little but the big news was Brandon Roy playing 23:40 and scoring 13 points in his first game in 18 months.
That wasn’t really the Pacers, not without 60% of the starting lineup. Danny Granger (knee) is taking it slow; George Hill and David West got the night off. Paul George (16) was the only Indiana player in double figures and the only takeaway is that Sam Young might carve out a rotation spot.
Other Wednesday Games
TOR @ DET: I’m confused. Last year, the Raptors played ferocious team defense and scoring was an afterthought. So far this year, they seem more wide open with the ball, but they gave up 37 first-quarter points last night. John Lucas (16 PTS, 5 AST) is turning heads, mostly because Kyle Lowry (thigh) is out for a while. Jonas Valanciunas made his NBA debut with 13 minutes of energetic play; he blocked a couple of shots but was not a factor otherwise.
Both of these teams might be better than many people expect. Detroit won in part because coach Lawrence Frank is rotating his players by night, instead of dividing minutes among 18 or 19 guys. Ten Pistons played 20 minutes or more; Greg Monroe (17 PTS, 10 REB) was the best and rookie Andre Drummond (12 PTS, 7 REB, 2 STL, 2 BLK) the most exciting. Not dressed, but expected to play the next exhibition while others sit, were Austin Daye, Jonny Flynn and three other rookies.
OKC @ HOU: A pair of rookies led the Rockets to an “upset” of an opponent making only a token effort. Terrence Jones had 20 points and Jeremy Lamb 12, as the Houston starters were on a short leash. Kevin Martin scored 11 in 9:23 and Omer Asik had 9 PTS, 7 REB, 2 AST and 1 BLK in less than 17 minutes. For the Thunder, Cole Aldrich (10 PTS, 11 REB, 3 BLK) made the most of a rare start as Serge Ibaka was rested and Kendrick Perkins (wrist) was out. Russell Westbrook (19) and Kevin Durant (13) played, but not at full intensity.
ATL @ SAS: No Tim Duncan, no Tony Parker, no Manu Ginobili. Shades of last season, when the aging Big Three were often rested on the same night. Eddy Curry started at C, Josh Powell backed him up and French rookie Nando De Colo (11 PTS, 9 AST, 2 STL) played 28 minutes off the bench. The Atlanta lineup was nearly as odd; Louis Williams started at PG, with Jeff Teague running the second unit. Josh Smith was limited to just 13:25 while Damion James (21:31) played the most of any Hawk. Rookies John Jenkins (9 PTS in 20:53) and Mike Scott (11 PTS in 13:30) got their NBA feet wet.
PHO @ SAC: Thomas Robinson should be moving up your draft lists. The fifth-overall pick from Kansas had a great camp and is now being talked about as a combo forward, not just a PF. He scored 12 points in 28:41 last night and will be more important to this team than Jason Thompson, sooner than I expected. James Johnson played less than 20 minutes off the bench but was +16, with a juicy per-minute stat line.
For the new-look Suns, Wesley Johnson scored 18 bench points despite shooting 2-9 from deep. Michael Beasley was the most impressive of the starters. Both are getting a chance after disappointing in Minnesota and may take advantage.
POR @ LAL: So far, so good for Damian Lillard. The only rookie PG to be handed the keys to a high-powered offense, he held his own vs. Steve Nash and his ratio of 7 AST to 2 TO is encouraging. It seems clear that rookie Meyers Leonard (10 PTS & 5 REB in 17:36) will be in the rotation; depth could be a problem if the Blazers encounter injuries. The Lakers are pulling the old rope-a-dope on the league. Kobe Bryant (strained shoulder) didn’t play, Dwight Howard is on a timetable to be ready for opening night and the other starters are taking it easy. Ignore ALL their preseason numbers, especially 0-2.
MIA @ LAC: For both teams, this is a goodwill tour of China and a chance to bond as teammates. This morning’s game in Beijing and Sunday’s “rematch” in Shanghai will be more about entertainment than competition; LeBron James and Blake Griffin will take turns electrifying the crowd.
Not only is Dwyane Wade (knee) being handled carefully this month, Mario Chalmers (quad) isn’t 100% and there’s no motivation for the Heat to take these games seriously. Chris Paul (thumb) sat out the Clippers’ exhibition opener and is doubtful to play today. Eric Bledsoe will look good in his place, but don’t get too excited about him for the regular season.
NYY @ WAS: The last time Raymond Felton ran the Knicks, he averaged a career-high 17.1 PPG and 9 APG. That was before Carmelo Anthony arrived. After poor seasons in Denver and Portland, can Felton bounce back? Can Amar’e Stoudemire co-exist with Melo? Did his summer work with Hakeem Olajuwon pay off? These and more questions will be answered, though probably not tonight.
For the Wizards, Nene has an ongoing problem with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, which bumps Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin up on draft lists. The PG situation is completely up for grabs while John Wall rehabs a broken leg; Jannero Pargo may emerge as the “winner” over A.J. Price and Shelvin Mack.
PHI @ ORL: The Sixers don’t have Andrew Bynum yet, and must replace Andre Iguodala. Most likely to embrace a larger role is Evan Turner, a SG-SF in many leagues who might add PG eligibility this year. The Magic are a mess, as our Jeff Nichols pointed out in his excellent preview of the Southeast Division. Gustavo Ayon impressed in his debut at C, Glen Davis is the likely PF and Al Harrington, when he gets healthy, will be the “stretch” big. Why they went after Nikola Vucevic in the Howard trade remains a mystery.
NOH @ CHA: The second half of a home-and-home is another chance for Anthony Davis to shine. The Unibrow didn’t get the memo about taking it easy in preseason; he poured in 22 points, adding 9 boards and a block, as the Hornets won by 15 on Tuesday. Austin Rivers was supposed to be a longer-term project, but the continued knee woes of Eric Gordon have opened the door for the rookie from Duke.
Charlotte is better than last year — being worse would be impossible — and their new star Michael Kidd-Gilchrist isn’t the only reason. I’ve been scrambling aboard the Byron Mullens bandwagon, as he has been shooting — and hitting — three-pointers, but he hyperextended his left knee late in that game and may not play this evening.
$1,000 Fantasy Hoops Contest
All month, we will be encouraging you to join the one-day fantasy tournament for Sheridan Hoops readers at our partner site FanDuel. There is a $2 entry fee, giving you a shot at 61 cash prizes totalling $1,000. First place wins $200, second $125, third $100 and so on. You win at least $4 (double your money) for finishing 61st or better among 555 teams. Pick nine players within a $60,000 salary cap and the team that compiles the most points — on October 31st only — wins.
The link above has more details, including including stat categories, how to play, and my team’s lineup. If you’re ready to compete in our event, this link takes you through the signup process to the entry page: Sheridan Hoops Opening Day $1,000 Fantasy Basketball Tournament.
Or, give FanDuel a test drive absolutely free; no credit card or deposit is required. They offer NFL leagues until the NBA begins, including some with no entry fee. Others cost from $1 to over $500 to join. Click their logo at the top of this page or in the sidebar to get started. Daily and weekly leagues are more fun, and more challenging, than you might expect.
We are here every morning by 9:00; the early Spin will be somewhat abbreviated on Thursdays and Saturdays to make way for our columnists. This afternoon, Bruce Wrigley takes his weekly look at the NBA and on Saturday, Jeff Nichols’ series on strategy continues. During the season, he’ll preview the upcoming fantasy week in that Saturday afternoon time slot.
Follow us on Twitter — @SheridanFantasy — all season.