SH Blog: Knicks-Nets autopsy; Gasol trade unlikely; Skiles empties bench for win

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Regular-season games are must-see TV about as often as Raymond Felton shoots 3-of-19 in the field, but both certainly happened Monday night.

The Nets turned back the Knickerbockers in overtime in the first game of their long-awaited, much-debated Battle of the Boroughs, and here’s what I got out of it:

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Durant (37) Keys OT Win; Lakers Crush Mavericks; Wizards Still Winless

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The best friend of fantasy owners is overtime. Kevin Durant had a fantastic line in 48 minutes, but the extra five minutes made it even better.

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Injuries and Disappointments: The 7-10 Split of Fantasy Basketball

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As we do every Saturday afternoon, let’s examine the lessons from the Week That Was, review our Depth Chart Updates, the Upcoming Schedule and make our picks of Sits and Starts for the upcoming week.

This week we welcome back some stars who returned ahead of schedule (Kevin Love, Nene Hilario and Kyle Lowry), update on some of the more intriguing injury situations (Andrew Bynum, Brandon Roy and Andrew Bogut) and give some pointers on how to evaluate your team’s disappointments. 

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Five reasons to feel positive about the Washington Wizards

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(This is another in a series of 30 guest columns that will run in October, when optimism reigns supreme across the NBA. The theme will be “Five Reasons to Feel Positive About … ” We encourage you to follow the authors on Twitter and visit their sites. – CS)

wizards small logoThe Washington Wizards’ rebuild is now into year three as the plan remains to grow with a young roster. But the team sprinkled in veterans this summer, adding big man Emeka Okafor and small forward Trevor Ariza.

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has said he was tired of being a lottery team and now is the time to make a playoff push. With center Nene already in the fold as a trade-deadline addition last season, the rebuild has taken on a new look.

Here are some reasons to feel positive about the Wizards this season.

1. John Wall’s ceiling

The biggest question for the Wizards heading into the upcoming season clearly is whether John Wall can take that next step and become a star? The former top overall pick really doesn’t have a choice if the Wizards wants to turn around a squad that went 20-46 last season. Wall has to take his game and his team to another level this season, which will be hard to do while he is sidelined for the first month of the season with a sore knee.

Two years ago, Wall had a solid rookie season, averaging 16 points and eight assists. But he averaged nearly identical stats in his second season when many expected him to take a bigger leap. Wall shows flashes of
brilliance with his dazzling speed and high-level ability to finish around the rim but he has yet to find consistency in his jump shot, which has been his Achilles heel so far.

Wizards coach Randy Wittman has been with the team since it drafted Wall in 2010 – then as an assistant and now as head coach – and he knows this is a huge season for the point guard.

“This is a big year for him and it’s time to take the next step,” Wittman said. “It’s his third year and he knows the ins and outs of what to expect.”

In the offseason, Wall worked on his jump shot and built strength. But he also has to become the go-to player offensively and must be more of a vocal leader for this rebuilding team to become a factor in the Eastern Conference this season.

2. Nene’s impact on and off the court

Even though it was a small-sized sample, in the short time Nene was on the court for the Wizards last season, his impact was felt and certainly creates optimism.

When healthy, Nene provided a steady low-post presence, something the Wizards have lacked for years. Defenses had to focus on Nene, giving teammates like Wall less of an “I got to do it all on my own” mentality on offense.

Simply, Nene gave the Wizards a better chance to win when he was on the floor. When he played, he averaged 14 points and eight rebounds and Washington was 7-4. When he didn’t play due to plantar fasciaitis – which has him questionable for the start of this season – Washington was 4-7.

Nene and Wall had some nice flashes in the two-man game, and Wall credited the success of himself and the team to the arrival of Nene, pointing to his locker-room presence and leadership. If Nene can stay healthy – a big if - then the future is bright in the middle for the Wizards.

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SH Blog: Love breaks hand at condo, Carmelo couldn’t accept Jeremy Lin as an alpha dog

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After playing a vital role in the Olympics for Team USA, gold medalist Kevin Love had high expectations for the Timberwolves and their revamped roster for the upcoming season. Unfortunately for him and the team, those expectations took a major hit on Wednesday afternoon when Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports tweeted and broke the news that Love has suffered a broken hand. Chris Bernucca has the details of the situation.

This really is a tough break for a franchise finally hoping to get out of a  funk that has lasted far too long – the team last made the playoffs in the 2003-2004 campaign. With point guard Ricky Rubio already out with a torn ACL, the team will now have to begin the season without the two cornerstones of the franchise for several weeks.

This marks the second time that Love will miss time in the NBA due to a broken hand. He broke his hand almost exactly three years ago in a preseason game during the 2009-2010 season on Oct. 16, forcing him to miss the first 18 games of that season.

This is not to say that Minnesota’s season is already ruined: they still have formidable pieces in Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko, a hopefully-resurgent Brandon Roy and more. It also gives 2nd overall pick of last season in Derrick Williams a chance to better establish himself – provided Rick Adelman is willing to commit to the second-year forward. But certainly, it puts the team more in a position to have to fight for a playoff spot than to establish themselves as one of the better teams in the Western Conference.

Bad news aside, there were plenty of other items of note around the league from Wednesday, as you will see below: