For countless fantasy basketball owners, this is Week 1 of the head-to-head playoffs. Maybe your team has a bye (congratulations) or your league doesn’t use the most popular dates. For the majority of us, this week is sudden-death and tonight will go a long way toward deciding the result.
Consecutive win number 18 was anything but a typical game for LeBron James (13 PTS, 7 AST, 6 REB) but the Heat went to Rio. That’s what they call Mario Chalmers, who scored 26 points on fantastic shooting (5-of-6 from deep, 7-for-9 overall and 7-for-7 on free throws) while adding seven rebounds.
Dwight Howard sure did open up a can of worms when he called out his former teammates in a recent interview with Kristine Leahy, saying he led a group of guys that no one else wanted on their team.
Didn’t Howard say he has learned his lesson when it comes to discussing matters of this nature with the media? It’s well known around the league that the big man simply wants to be liked by everyone.
Newsflash: no one is going to like you when you’re putting guys that went to battle with you for seven-plus seasons under the bus. Howard probably got off relatively easy for saying what he said, in terms of receiving vitriol from the media. Can you imagine if LeBron James said such a thing about his former teammates on the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Some of Howard’s former teammates, despite choosing not to comment, were naturally not happy with him, according to Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld:
Jameer Nelson, considered one of Howard’s best friends during their tenure as teammates, shared his thoughts on the matter, from Brian K. Schmitz of Orlando Sentinel:
“At some point, when are you [Dwight] gonna as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner?” Nelson told the Sentinel after Wednesday’s shooatround in Miami.
“I would be less of a man to comment on certain things that people comment on about me and my teammates. We had a great run as a group, as core guys, and he was a part of it (reaching the 2009 Finals) and for him to say things about anybody in a negative manner, that’s up to him.
“That’s his opinion. If that’s how he feels, that’s how he feels.”
Schmitz also detailed what Rashard Lewis had to say:
Nelson and Lewis have the right to be upset. They went to battle with Howard and although they could only get so far, they were a strong core that many considered to be contenders in the Eastern Conference. To hear him take credit for what the Magic did as a team by belittling everyone else? It’s unprofessional and embarrassing. Again, you would think he learned from his past mistakes.
Onto other news from around the league:
It won’t be long until Ricky Rubio is back, flinging passes through his legs and behind his back to astonished teammates. Rubio is way ahead of schedule (we were guessing Christmas) in his recovery from knee surgery, and took part in the T-Wolves’ practice on Sunday. Decimated by knee injuries to Chase Budinger and Brandon Roy, with Andrei Kirilenko (back) day-to-day, the team can use any healthy body.
While it may take some time before the flashy Spaniard plays a game, and conditioning will be a factor after nine months off, Rubio should be picked up if he’s a free agent in your league. Just be aware that FG% is not his strong category (just 35% as a rookie) so all those points, assists, rebounds and steals will come at a price. His return will complicate an already crowded backcourt situation, with Luke Ridnour sure to take a minutes hit. J.J. Barea has been playing hurt, but even at less than 100% was the starting SG last game. Rookie Alexey Shved and Malcolm Lee (currently sidelined with a sore groin) will be the fourth and fifth guards. I’d be trying to trade Ridnour and Shved ASAP, but you’ll need to find an owner who isn’t following the Rubio story. Good luck with that.
December 1 Games
ORL @ LAL: The NBA, where amazing happens, and sometimes the impossible. First of all, the Orlando Magic weren’t even supposed to have Jameer Nelson, whose Achilles flared up last week. In a minor Jameeracle, he was brilliant — 19 points, 13 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals — and sparked one of the biggest upsets of the season. Coach Jacque Vaughn promised to employ the Hack-a-Howard strategy, and it worked; Dwight Howard (21 PTS, 15 REB) missed 12 free throws on the night, including 7-of-14 in the decisive fourth quarter. Sophomore C Nikola Vucevic (17 PTS, 12 REB, 4 BLK) more than held his own and former UCLA star Arron Afflalo (30 PTS, 5 REB, 5 AST) had his best game of the year.
For L.A., Kobe Bryant scored 34, but the struggles of Pau Gasol continued (11 PTS, 7 REB in 29 minutes) and Antawn Jamison (10 PTS, 5 REB in 28:29) returned to ‘normal’ after one huge game. The biggest problem for the Lakers was allowing 40 points in the fourth quarter, when Glen Davis scored 9 of his 23 and Chris Duhon couldn’t stop an inspired Nelson. Big Baby added 12 REB, 2 BLK and finished +22, then was snubbed for a post-game handshake by a subdued Howard. Quite a night.
PHO @ NYK: The Sunday matinee wasn’t nearly as exciting. Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points as the Knicks remained unbeaten at home. There was good news and bad for Raymond Felton; 23 points, 7 assists and zero turnovers is great, but a jammed left thumb was painful and his entire hand was swollen. An MRI found a bone bruise, leaving his status uncertain for Wednesday. J.R. Smith had a horrible shooting day (1-for-11) and while he is supposedly partying less, perhaps he’s not a morning person. Rasheed Wallace picked up two technical in 1:25 (what a surprise!) so Steve Novak (12 PTS on 4 triples) was the best bench player. Tyson Chandler (15 PTS, 13 REB, 2 BLK) had a slight edge up front against Marcin Gortat (18 PTS, 10 REB, 4 TO) and nobody else stepped up for Phoenix. Shannon Brown scored 17, but Michael Beasley (9 PTS) was -20 in 21 minutes.