Articles By Corby Yarbrough

All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /columns/national-notebook/11-golfer-countdown
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Post date: Friday, February 4, 2011 - 14:46
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /columns/national-notebook/no-20-bubba-watson

2011 Golfer Countdown

BORN: Nov. 5, 1978, Bagdad, Fla.


2010 PGA TOUR EARNINGS: $3,198,998

WORLD GOLF RANK: 18 (as of Feb. 4, 2011)

GOLF CHANNEL’S BRANDEL CHAMBLEE GIVES HIS TAKE: For the first time in his short career, Bubba cracked the top 50 in putting, and he was rewarded with his best season and very nearly the PGA Championship. Long known as a bomber, Watson found a way to complement that length with a newfound savoir faire on the greens and quickly elevated his game to a different level, finishing 15th on the 2010 money list. He will always struggle with inconsistency because of his erratic style of play — on average, he has missed almost 10 cuts a year since he got his card — but birdies and eagles come easily to him, and so will his next win.

CAREER PGA TOUR STATS (through Feb. 4, 2011)

  • Events — 133
  • Cuts — 79
  • 1st  — 2        
  • 2nd — 5        
  • 3rd  — 2        
  • T10  — 18        
  • T25  — 41
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Post date: Friday, February 4, 2011 - 14:06
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-western-conference-notes/missing-all-stars

The NBA's 2010-11 All-Star Roster is one player away from being finalized for the Feb. 20 game in Los Angeles.

The starting lineups for the East and the West are hard to argue with — save for Yao Ming who collected 1,736,728 votes despite his playing just five games in the last two seasons. Commissioner David Stern will select the replacement for any player unable to participate in the All-Star Game. If the injured player is a starter, the head coach of that team will determine who replaces him in the starting lineup.

The Western Conference All-Star starters will be Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul at the guards, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant at the forwards and a center to be announced.

Starting for the Eastern Conference are Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade at the guards, LeBron James and Amar'e Stoudemire at the forwards and Dwight Howard at the center spot.

Then came the announcement of the reserves Thursday night. And let the annual controversy begin.

Manu Ginobli, an MVP candidate, Russell Westbrook, one of the league's best emerging guards, Blake Griffin, the clear-cut Rookie of the Year, Dirk Nowitzki, an MVP candidate before being sidelined with an injury, and Deron Williams, Utah's do-everything guard, were named as reserves and deservedly so.

Pau Gasol is quietly among the top 20 in field goals, field goal percentage, rebounds, blocks and currently tied with Derrick Rose in player efficiency rating (23.2). But there's a feeling that Lamar Odom has been the second-best player, behind Bryant, on the Lakers during the first half of the season. To go from reserve to the role Odom has played for the two-time defending champs this season, the 12-year veteran should have earned a reserve spot from the league's coaches to play in his first-ever All-Star game.

The other glaring omission is Minnesota's Kevin Love. He currently leads the league in rebounding (15.5 per game), is 16th in scoring (21.4 per game), 10th in 3-point shooting percentage (.439) and sixth in PER (24.6). His 755 rebounds as of Feb. 4, is 90 ahead of Dwight Howard. He has 43 double-doubles this season — three more than Griffin — and has not gone without a double-double since Nov. 19 — 34 games.

Love should not be punished for Minnesota's miserable 11-37 record, and since it is a big man that Stern has to replace, there is a good chance it is Love that will get the nod.

Either Love or Odom should have earned the coaches' vote and the other the replacement spot. But since there is just one spot left, only one gets in. The spot should have been cleared up by the coaches not naming Tim Duncan as a reserve.

Duncan's minutes (29.4), field goal percentage (.481), blocks (2.0), rebounds (9.3) assists (3.0) and points per game (13.5) are all down against his career averages.

But the Spurs having the NBA's best record — 40-8 — and the equity Duncan has built up as a great player over the years got him his 13th invitation to the All-Star game.

It's just the opposite of Odom's situation. He is on the second-best team in the West and having his best year and is not named while Duncan is on the West's best team and having his worst year and does get named. Maybe if the Lakers had won a few more games or if the Spurs had not come out of the gate like gangbusters it would be the other way around. But I doubt Duncan is being kept out either way.

Griffin was going to be hard to keep out because he is an electrifying player, the first rookie to play in the All-Star game since Yao did so in 2003, and his hustle over the first half of the season earned him a chance to play his first All-Star game in his home gym — Staples Center. Westbrook joins him as the only first-time All-Stars on the court.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will coach the West team.

In the usually dull Eastern Conference there is not as much controversy.

The East's top-seeded Celtics, which have no starters on the All-Star team, saw four of their players named as reserves. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo became the seventh team in NBA history to have four players selected to the All-Star game and just the second to have all four named All-Star reserves — joining the 2006 Pistons. And since Boston has the best record in the East, its coach, Doc Rivers, will be the coach for the Eastern Conference team.

Atlanta's Joe Johnson and Al Horford were named reserves as was Miami's Chris Bosh. That gave all six teams in the Eastern Conference with winning records at least one player on the All-Star team. All 12 members of the Eastern Conference team have been named All-Stars before.

There is really no argument from any team in the East that the fan voters for the starters and the coaches' vote for the reserves missed out on anyone. There may be an argument for New York guard Raymond Felton who has logged the scond most minutes in the Eastern Conference (1,853) and is currently third in the East in assists per game (8.9) and second in the East in steals per game (1.8). But as the sixth-best team in the East and Rose, Wade and Rondo already on the roster, there was little chance for Felton to make the All-Star game.

— Corby A. Yarbrough on Twitter

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Post date: Friday, February 4, 2011 - 12:40
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-power-rankings/easy-1-2-3-again

Third verse, same as the first .. and second.

For the third straight week the San Antonio Spurs hold the top spot in the Athlon Sports NBA Power Rankings, followed by the Boston Celtics.

The Eastern Conference's top team has been the perennial No. 2 virtually all season long in the rankings, while the Spurs have not slowed down yet.

San Antonio has fallen just once in the last three weeks — 11-1 in that time, averaging 102.8 points per game in the 11 wins and has a 7.5-game lead over the second-seeded Lakers and eight games ahead of the Dallas.

In the same time, Boston has gone 9-4 and still holds a 2.5-game lead over second-seeded Miami and three games ahead of Chicago.

Chicago remains as the third-ranked team this week. The Bulls have won five in a row, and after being held under 100 points in 13 straight games, Chicago put up 110 against Indiana and got Pacer coach Jim O'Brien fired afterward.

Miami and the Lakers flip-flopped spots this week, with the Heat moving up to No. 4 and L.A. falling to No. 5.

The Heat have bounced back from the four-game losing streak that followed a ridiculous run of 21 of 22 games with a win. Over the last 10 days, Miami has played five games and won four of them.

The Lakers have lost their last two and four of their last seven after having reeled off nine of 10 from Dec. 29-Jan. 14.

Orlando remains at No. 6 despite not having strung together back-to-back victories since a three-game winning streak from Jan. 19-22. The Magic are 2-3 in their last five.

No. 7 Dallas is starting to charge back up. After losing 10 of 13, including six in a row from Dec. 28-Jan. 20, the Mavericks have on their last five games, scoring 102.8 a game in the process.

No. 8 New Orleans has lost its last two after winning 10 in a row and 12 of 14 to start 2011.

Oklahoma City and Denver round out the top 10 for this week.

There are six matchups of top-10 teams this week. TNT gets the marquee games Thursday night when the Heat travel to Orlando and the Lakers play host to the Spurs.

Orlando also travels to Boston on Sunday for a key Eastern Conference tilt. Boston will be coming off a Friday night game against visiting Boston.

New Orleans will travel to OKC Wednesday and play host to the Lakers on Saturday.

— Corby A. Yarbrough on Twitter

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Post date: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 - 17:05
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-fantasy-dime/picking-pace

There are many ways to play fantasy basketball — rotisserie, head to head, lineups that can be changed any time and lineups that lock just prior to Monday night’s tip. With that in mind, Athlon Sports will give you the Fantasy Dime each week. These are 10 things to assist you before you have to lock in that lineup for the week.

So what does the firing of Jim O'Brien do for the Pacers in the fantasy world?

O'Brien messed with the lineup so much that it is hard to tell who can do what for your roster on a consistent basis.

Small forward Danny Granger has been about the only untouchable all year. So keep playing him as you would.

Earlier in the year, Mike Dunleavy and Brandon Rush were switched in and out at the 2-guard before Dunleavy settled in as the starter. He and Granger are the only two on the roster averaging over 30 minutes per game.

Darren Collison also had to battle off and on with T.J. Ford for the starting point guard spot, but has also settled in and is averaging 29:56 a game.

After that, with a new coach at the helm, it is hard to say what to expect from the Pacers.

Rush is out til mid-February so that should open up more playing time for Paul George, who was already stealing minutes from Rush.

Roy Hibbert should become more of a mainstay at the center spot, while Tyler Hansbrough should see more time at the power forward after having averaged just 16 minutes a game thus far. Josh McRoberts, a forward-center, will also figure into the mix.

Indiana plays four games this week, starting Monday with Toronto, followed by Cleveland, Portland and New Jersey with no back-to-backs this week. Indiana scored 97.8 points a game — good for 18th in the league — with O'Brien at the helm. So if you have the ability, give it a week to see who emerges under Frank Vogel's coaching and move forward from there.

Utah from the 1
Deron Williams missed second straight game Sunday with strained tendon in right wrist. Utah's star point guard has no timetable for his return, leaving Earl Watson as the director of the offense in the meantime.

In the two starts, Watson is averaging nine points, nine assists, three boards and shooting .429 from the field, .400 from beyond the arc and is perfect from the stripe.

With four games this week, and if you have to set your lineup on Monday, you might want to stash Watson on your roster if you have the room.

Utah from the 3
C.J. Miles is ranked as the 93rd-best player in Yahoo nine-category leagues but is still available in 65 percent of those leagues.

He is averaging 23 minutes per game, scoring 12.1 points per game, grabbing 3.2 rebounds, dishing out 1.6 assists, hitting 1.5 3s and stealing 1.1 balls a game. He also has shoots at a .417 clip from the field and .783 from the stripe.

Utah has a four-game week against three teams that allow over 102 points per game and — Charlotte (97.0), Houston (104.9), Denver (104.4) and Oklahoma City (102.7). Charlotte has surrendered 100-plus in its last three games.

With Deron Williams (wrist), Paul Milsap (thumb) and Mehmet Okur (back) all battling injuries, Miles is a great play this week.

Utah from the 5
Mehmet Okur left Friday night's game with a strained lower back and did not travel with the team for Sunday's game against Golden State. The Utah center is doubtful for Monday's game against Charlotte. If he misses there are still three more games this week for the Jazz — Houston on Wednesday and a back-to-back with Denver and Oklahoma City Friday and Saturday.

After missing nearly the first two months of the season, Okur played in just four of the last seven games of December, none of the first five of January and never played more than 16:06 of any of the nine games before the latest injury.

If you drafted and waited on Okur it might be time to cut bait on the Jazz center as he has been back a month and a half and played in just 13 games with 4.9 points per games and 2.3 boards.

There's a Buck out there ... if you want him
John Salmons could return to the Milwaukee lineup Monday after a hip injury has sidelined him the last seven games.

But in his absence there has been the emergence of Chris Douglas-Roberts and the return of Carlos Delfino from a concussion that tabled him for 32 games.

Delfino is owned in just 33 percent of Yahoo leagues and has averaged 11.3 points, 3.5 boards, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals and two 3s in the six games since his return.

The Bucks play a four-game schedule this week against teams allowing 99-plus points — Clippers (101.5), Suns (106.9), Warriors (106.5) and Pistons (99.4).

Add Delfino if you can and monitor how Salmons, Delfino, Corey Maggette and CDR work with one another. Keep in mind, the Bucks average a league-worst 91.7 points per game, so there are a lot of mouths trying to be fed with few points.

There's another Buck out there ... if you want two of them
Ersan Ilyasova has been the 41st-best player in Yahoo's nine-category leagues, but is owned in just 18 percent of those leagues.

The Milwaukee forward has averaged nearly 28 minutes a game, 11.6 points with 7.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.9 steals in January. You can add a 50-percent clip from the field, 90.3 from the line the last month to those stats.

The Bucks play four games this week and the fact that Drew Gooden (plantar faciitis) can't stay in the lineup makes Ilyasova's certainly worth a look.

Sit the New York Chandler
Wilson Chandler has missed the Knicks' last two games as he is battling a sore right calf. Reports are that he will be read for the team's Wednesday game against Dallas.

The Knicks play Dallas and then a home and home with Philadelphia this week. Dallas has won its last four games. Philly won the first meeting of the year against New York (Nov. 7) and have allowed over 100 points just three times in 14 games this month.

Meanwhile, Chandler has scored over 10 just once in his last four games and is shooting under 31 percent in those four games.

This might be a week to shelve Chandler until he is completely healthy and becomes a solid scoring option for the Knicks again.

No stats for getting to the timeline
Mario Chalmers finished up his first week as Miami's starting point guard and there are probably other options you would want to explore first if you're looking for a point guard.

In the four games as the starts, Chalmers is averaging 7.8 points, 4.3 assists, 1.5 rebounds, shooting .444 from the field, .385 from 3 and 100-percent from the stripe.

Other point guards that are probably available in your leagues and had better weeks on average were: Randy Foye, Jose Juan Barea, George Hill, Keyon Dooling, Lou WIlliams, Ty Lawson, Derek Fisher, Steve Blake and Eddie House.

Another Clipper to pick up
Eric Gordon has been out three games with a wrist injury and is due to be out around a month. Randy Foye might be the hot new Clipper to pick up — joining Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan this season.

In the three games since Foye stepped in for Gordon he has scored 18.7 points, 3.0 assists, 1.7 boards and steals per game to go along with eight 3-pointers.

The Clippers do have some tough defenses to face this week in Milwaukee (92.8 ppg), Chicago (92.0), Atlanta (95.5) and Miami (94.0).

Out of O.J.? Go Young
So who benefits from O.J. Mayo's 10-game suspension?

The Memphis shooting guard is not eligible to return until Feb. 15 against Philadelphia. In the two games since his absence, Sam Young has continued to start and his minutes have increased. He is averaging around 30 minutes, 11 points, a rebound, and assists in the two games. Tony Allen has played 20 and 34 minutes, scoring 8 and 15 points.

The Grizzlies play four games this week — Orlando, Minnesota, Cleveland and Houston — the latter three allowing 104.9-plus points per game. Young might be worth a spot on your roster if you have the room since he starts and has seen the increased minutes.

— Corby A. Yarbrough on Twitter

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Post date: Monday, January 31, 2011 - 18:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-power-rankings/bulls-charging

The San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics still hold down the Nos. 1 and 2 spots in this week's Athlon Sports NBA Power Rankings, but they did hit some snags over the last week.

San Antonio, the fifth-highest scoring team in the NBA (104.1 ppg) was held to a season-low 72 points in a loss to New Orleans last week, ending an eight-game winning streak. The Spurs bounced back with a 113-102 victory over Golden State Monday night.

Meanwhile, Boston saw a five-game winning streak snapped by lowly Washington. The Celtics rebounded with a get-well game against even lowlier Cleveland on Tuesday night.

The Bulls have ascended to their highest ranking of the year, taking the third spot as winners of two of three last week. Take away Charlotte (two losses to this month) and Chicago has won its other eight contests since Jan. 8.

But the wins are producing scores similar to those of the Central Division foes the Bulls have a monster lead on; they have not scored over 100 since a 111-91 win over Tornoto Jan. 4. That was the back end of back-to-back 100-point outputs to start the year, but none have come since. However, despite scoring 92.6 points per game in its last 12 outings, Chicago is still 8-4 in that time.

Miami and Orlando round out the top five. The Heat ended a four-game skid with a 120-point outburst against Toronto on Jan. 22. Orlando, on the other hand, posted three wins last week and then fell to Detroit at home Monday night. Since Miami is 2.5 games better in the standing, it gets the bump over Orlando.

New Orleans has had a resurgence, re-entering the top 10 last week and moving to No. 7 as winners of its last nine games — one better than the 8-0 start the Hornets had to the 2010-11 campaign.

Oklahoma City, Dallas and Atlanta round out the top 10 this week.

As for games between teams in the top 10 this week, there are about as few as there have been at any other point in the season. There are just four this week, but three of those four should be pretty good contests.

Orlando travels to Chicago Friday night. The Bulls will be suiting up after three days rest, while Orlando will be in the middle of a Central Division run — Detroit, Indiana, Chicago and Cleveland all in succession. The Magic won the first meeting 107-78 on Dec. 1 in Chicago.

Atlanta and Dallas will meet for the second time this year as well. The Mavs won the first game on Nov. 20, which kickstarted a 12-game winning streak. An injured Caron Butler and Dirk Nowitzki Dallas team is much different than the one the Hawks saw before Thanksgiving. Dallas has won just four of 12 games this calendar year. Atlanta, in the same stretch, has won eight of 10.

The NBA schedule makers give us a doubleheader of goodness on the first Sunday since September where there is no meaningful NFL game — unless of course you are part of the winning Pro Bowl team.

Miami and Oklahoma City tip off at 1 p.m. Eastern followed by Boston at the Lakers at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. In a clash of possible NBA Finals matchups — not that OKC is really going to get that far, but the Thunder are exciting — we will see the Eastern Conference's top two seeds (as of Wednesday morning) go up against the Western Conference's Nos. 2 and 4 seeds (as of Wednesday morning).

This will be the first meeting between Boston and L.A. this season, a rematch of the two of the last three NBA Finals. This will also be the first meeting between Miami and OKC.

— Corby A. Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - 01:20
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-fantasy-dime/health-issue-big-three

There are many ways to play fantasy basketball — rotisserie, head to head, lineups that can be changed any time and lineups that lock just prior to Monday night’s tip. With that in mind, Athlon Sports will give you the Fantasy Dime each week. These are 10 things to assist you before you have to lock in that lineup for the week.

Miami’s Big Three have certainly made quite a rebound from their lackluster start as a group. But over the last two weeks the injuries have started to creep in and hit all of them at once.

Chris Bosh has missed the past two games with an sprained left ankle. Dwyane Wade missed Saturday’s game with a migraine. LeBron James missed the two games before that with an injured ankle. James had a monster return with 34 points and 10 boards in his first game back and 38 and 11 in his second game back — with both Wade and Bosh out.  

Bosh reportedly cannot even jog on the ankle a week after the injury. Wade should not miss anymore time since the Heat do not play until a Thursday TNT game against New York in Madison Square Garden. And obviously James has since returned to the point where he looked like he never missed a beat.

The Heat do not play until Thursday but still get three games out of the week — Detroit and Oklahoma City as well.

So if you were worried about the Big Three’s availability this week, Bosh should be the only concern. Mike Miller broke out in the Heat’s last game — 32 points and 10 rebounds. James Jones added 15 points, two 3-pointers, and four boards.

Miller is still unreliable since his return (Dec. 20) from a thumb injury — three games this month over 25 minutes, four under 10 minutes and three where he logged no minutes. Miller is available in 65 percent of leagues and has guard-forward eligibility, but it is hard to say when you should pull the trigger on adding him to the roster. Monitor Bosh’s situation.

Might be time to add Fernandez — again
Portland’s Rudy Fernandez is the 25th ranked player in Yahoo’s nine-category leagues over the last two weeks and he is still available in 80 percent of those leagues.

The shooting guard has scored in double digits each of the last four games, and has no less than three boards in the last eight games, and no less than three assists in the last three games. His shooting percentages are also efficient.

All that said, the Blazers play just two games this week — Sacramento and Boston — so he might not be the best play this week. However, Fernandez has been balling enough over the last two weeks that you might want to add him before another team in your league does.

Amir Johnson a good play
The Raptors have a four-game schedule  — Memphis, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Minnesota — and that should be good news for Toronto power forward Amir Johnson.

He has been the 53rd-best player in Yahoo leagues over the last two weeks and is available in 45 percent of those leagues. His nearly eight rebounds and eight points a game over that time could get a boost against three teams that rank 20th or worst in shooting percentage — Philadelphia (.453), Minnesota (.442) and Milwaukee (.422).

A center emerges?
Is a center starting to rise up for the Phoenix Suns?

Marcin Gortat, acquired in a trade with Orlando earlier this season, has been the 40th-best player in Yahoo leagues over the last two weeks and is still available in 73 percent of those leagues.

He enters this week on the heels of three straight double-doubles. Centers are always hard to come by and you might as well ride him while he’s hot and take ownership of him just in case this is a sign of things to come for the remainder of the year.
The Suns get Philly, Charlotte, Boston and New Orleans this week.

A center emerges, part II?
Detroit rookie Greg Monroe has started to shine this month.

The forward-center has played 11 games this month, the last eight as a starter, logging nearly 34 minutes a contest — up over 12 minutes a game from last month. He is scoring 10.8 points per game with 8.9 boards, 1.9 steals and five straight double-doubles (from Jan. 4-14) in the 11 games since the turn of the year.

Monroe is the 40th-best in Yahoo leagues over the last two weeks and is still available in 57 percent of those leagues. The Pistons get Orlando, Denver, Miami and New York this week, so it will be a tough road for Monroe.

Anderson still out there
Power-forward/center Ryan Anderson has been a top-20 player in nine-category leagues over the last two weeks. He is logging over 26 minutes a game during that time, and averaging 16.1 points with 24 made 3s and 7.2 rebounds. As of Sunday, he was ranked 16th in Yahoo leagues and still available in 53 percent of those leagues.

The Magic have a four-game slate this week with no back-to-backs. They get Detroit, Indiana, Chicago and Cleveland. So along with picking up Anderson, playing any Orlando guy should be beneficial this year.

Take a shot with J.R. ... and all Nuggets this week
It’s a slim chance that Denver’s J.R. Smith is still available in your league — he is, however, still available in 31 percent of Yahoo leagues. The guard-forward was the 38th-best player in Yahoo leagues over the last two weeks,   

Smith is a little inconsistent, but he gets minutes (24:18 for the season and and 23:11 this month) and plays for the league’s highest scoring team at 107.4 points per game.

The Nuggets play an East coast swing this week with games at Washington (102.1 ppg), Detroit (99.0), Cleveland (104.6) and Philly (97.3). That’s a pretty sweet slate for any player on the top scoring team in the Association.

Beware of Al
Reports are the swelling from the ankle Injury to Al Horford has started to come down and he is aiming for a Wednesday return against Milwaukee. But with the Hawks having just three games this week, including a back-to-back to end it against the Knicks and Mavericks, you might want to look elsewhere.

Offensive output for deficient teams
If you have any Charlotte Bobcats or New Orleans Hornets on your roster or are thinking about picking some of their players up for a week, this may be the week. Both have four-game slates against teams that certainly don’t do a good job of slowing teams down.

The Bobcats play Sacramento (103 ppg allowed), Phoenix (107.8), Golden State (106.5) and the Clippers (101.7) this week. For New Orleans and its schedule, the Hornets play Sacramento, Phoenix, Golden State and sub Oklahoma City (102.2) for the Clippers.

The unfortunate thing in this four-game cornucopia of offensive opportunities for both New Orleans and Charlotte is that they are two of the worst scoring teams in the Association — Hornets 26th at 94.3 points per game and Bobcats at 28th at 92.7 a game.

Salmons still ailing
Milwaukee guard-forward John Salmons had been having a solid January — eight games produced 14.6 points a game with 1.8 3s a game on 41.4 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent shooting from beyond the arc. However, Salmons missed his third straight game on Jan. 22 with a sore right hip.

Milwaukee plays four games this week — Chicago, Atlanta, Toronto and New Jersey — but it could be a three-game or less week for Salmons.

Forward Corey Maggette has picked up some of the slack in Salmons’ absence. He has scored over 20 points in four of the last five games and had five or more rebounds in four of the last five games. Maggette is still available in 40 percent of Yahoo leagues.

The Bucks, however, are the lowest-scoring team in the league at 91.2 points a game while allowing a fourth-best 92.8. So don’t expect much scoring on either end when Milwaukee is involved.

— Corby A. Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Monday, January 24, 2011 - 10:32
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-power-rankings/familiar-no-1-halfway

As teams in the NBA reach the halfway point of their season this week — 41 down, 41 to go — a familiar team is back atop the Athlon Sports Power Rankings.

The San Antonio Spurs return to the top for the first time since Week 6. They have the best record in the league at the halfway mark (35-6 entering their Jan. 19 game with Toronto) and have won their last six contests. They enter Jan. 19 games five games ahead of the Lakers for the top seed in the Western Conference. The next closest contenders are Oklahoma City and Utah at eight games back and the reeling Dallas Mavericks at 8.5 back.

Boston, which has hung around as the top three spots virtually all season, sits at No. 2 and are the best team in the Eastern Conference at 31-9 entering its Jan. 19 game against Detroit. The Celtics are in a much tighter race for the top spot in the East. They lead Miami by two games for the No. 1 spot, but Chicago, Atlanta and Orlando are all within 5.5 games as of Jan. 18.

The top five spots in the rankings reflect how the seedings currently sit through 41 games. The Heat are ranked third, followed by the Lakers at four, the Bulls at 5.

Orlando, Oklahoma City, Utah, Dallas and New Orleans round out this week's top 10.

While the top of this week's rankings reflect those of the standings, this is a down week for match ups of top-10 teams. There are only six as a matter of fact.

The Mavericks, 2-8 in their last 10 games, are part of the first two match ups, but certainly cannot be considered challengers in either game the way they have played as of late. They play host to the Lakers on Jan. 19 — 8-2 in their last 10 — and then travel to Chicago the following night. The Bulls are 7-3 in their last 10, are 18-3 at home and coming off wins over Miami and Boston the last two times they played at the United Center.

Utah is also not that hot right now. The Jazz fell at 12-27 Washington on MLK Day and will travel to Boston for a Friday night tilt. The Celtics are 19-3 at their place.

San Antonio travels to New Orleans on Jan. 22. It will be the fourth meeting of the year between the two teams. New Orleans won the first meeting — the second game of the year as part of the Hornets' 8-0 start — but have fallen in the las two meetings by an average of 19.5 points.

The Hornets then get Oklahoma City in New Orleans on Jan. 24. The Thunder have won the first two meetings this season.

— Corby A. Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - 19:24
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-western-conference-notes/team-wire

News, notes and nuggets from the teams of the Western Conference.

With their record setting 112-57 victory vs. Cleveland on Jan. 11, the Lakers recorded their league-leading seventh wire-to-wire win of the season.

Getting to seven wire-to-wire victories in just 39 games matches the Lakers regular season total from all of last season.

This season, the Lakers lead the Celtics (6), Spurs (5), Hawks (4) and Bucks (4) in wire-to-wire victories through games played by Jan. 13.

After winning 17 of 18 games and improving to 24-5, the Mavericks are just 2-6 in their last eight games without forward Dirk Nowitzki (sprained right knee). With the loss to Indiana on Jan. 12, Dallas recorded three straight losses for the second time this season. Prior to losing three consecutive games from Dec. 28-Jan. 1, the last time the Mavericks dropped three straight was from Jan. 28-Feb. 1, 2010.

Last season, Stephen Curry became the first rookie in NBA history to shoot at least 45 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 85 percent from the free throw line (minimum 100 3-point and free throw attempts), and he is doing it again this season. Curry is shooting 46.2 percent from the field, 41.1 percent from beyond the arc and 92.3 percent from the charity stripe (second in NBA).

The Rockets have allowed at least 100 points in each of their last nine games. It stands as the longest such streak since a run of nine in a row back in 1991-92. The last time Houston allowed an opponent to reach the century mark in 10 or more straight games was in 1987-88 (10 in a row from Feb. 9-26, 1988.

The Clippers earned their second win of the season when allowing over 100 points when they defeated Miami 111-105 on Jan. 12. The Clippers are now 2-17 this season when allowing 100 points or more.

The Hornets won seven of the last 11 games. The Hornets have held opponents to 90 or fewer points 16 times this season, including five of the last seven games. New Orleans is 15-1 in those games.

Jared Dudley
has nine career scoring efforts of 19 or more points. Five of those nine have come in the last 11 games. Dudley has five career 20-point games, four of which have come this season, all in the last 11 games. Dudley is averaging a career-high 9.5 points.  

Seven of Portland’s next nine games will be at the home. The Trail Blazers play more home games in January (nine) that any other month this season. They are one of only five teams that have already played 22 road games entering Jan. 14. Portland played seven of its 15 Eastern Conference road games only 19 games into the season. The Trail Blazers contested 16 of their first 26 games on the road.

This season, Tony Parker is averaging 17.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 7.0 assists, while shooting 50.7 percent from the field. Parker and Steve Nash are the only two players in the NBA this season to average at least 15.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists, while shooting at least 50.0 percent from the field. Parker’s assists (7.0) and steals (1.41) season averages are career highs.

Al Jefferson
is currently averaging 2.0 blocks a game, the most by a Jazz player since the 2006-07 season when Andrei Kirilenko averaged 2.1. Jefferson’s 2.0 average is also the highest by a Jazz center since the 1999-00 season when Greg Ostertag notched 2.1 blocks per game.
DeMarcus Cousins
has totaled 18 points in the last two games after averaging 21.2 in the previous six games. Meanwhile, Tyreke Evans has totaled 56 points in the last two games he has played in after totaling 18 points in the previous two games.

Post date: Friday, January 14, 2011 - 19:53
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-eastern-conference-notes/dj-double

News, notes and nuggets from the teams of the Eastern Conference.

D.J. Augustin has scored in double figures in eight straight games, marking the longest double-figure scoring streak of his career. Augustin previously scored in double figures in seven straight games Nov. 18-29, 2008.

During the current eight-game stretch, Augustin is averaging 19.9 points on .495 shooting from the field (51-103), including .477 from beyond the 3-point line (21-44), and .923 from the free-throw line (36-39). Augustin posted season highs in scoring in consecutive games during the streak, tallying 28 points on Dec. 29 against Cleveland after totaling 27 points Dec. 27 against Detroit. Augustin made 10 field goals in each of those two games, tying his career high.

It was the second time in his career that he has had consecutive games of 20 points or more. He previously did so on November 18 and 21, 2008, when he scored 21 points against Dallas and 26 points against Atlanta.   

Ray  Allen
 is having one of the best shooting years of his career from beyond the arc this season and is closing in on Reggie Miller’s 3-point record for most threes made in a career. Miller holds the all‐time record  with 2,560 makes. Allen currently has 2,526 makes for his career and is just 34 away. Allen is being helped  by the fact that he is currently shooting 46.6 percent from beyond the arc, the best of his illustrious  career…He has only been over the 40-percent mark five times in his career with his career high coming during the 2001‐02 season with Milwaukee when he recorded a 43.4 clip from beyond the arc. 

In his last 19 games, Ronnie Brewer has registered 38 steals (2.00 spg). He’s averaging a team-high 1.53 steals per game on the year, also good for 16th best in the league as entering games on Jan. 14.

Ramon Sessions
scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting and added four assists in 26 minutes off the bench against the Lakers. In his last eight games, Sessions is averaging 13.6 points on .507 (36-71) shooting and 5.4 assists per game in 26.9 minutes per game.

Rookie Paul George entered the Pacers' game with Dallas on Jan. 12 having shot 1-of-7 from 3-point range in his previous five games and having made 8-of-32 from 3 in the first 14 games of his pro career. Against the Mavericks, George exploded for a bench-leading and career-high 16 points on 6-of-9 field goals and 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. That tied the most 3-pointers by any member of the Pacers in the last nine games — since James Posey shot 5-of-7 against New Orleans on Dec. 20. Against the Mavericks, George and Brandon Rush shot a combined 6-of-11 from 3 while the rest of the team connected on just 2-of-13.

The Bucks have recorded an equal or greater number of rebounds than their opponents in six of the last seven games. In those games, they are outrebounding their opponents 45.3-41.6 per game. The Bucks rank third in the league in defensive rebound percentage, collecting 76.4 percent of the available boards.

New York’s scoring trio of Amar’e Stoudemire (26.1), Raymond Felton (18.3) and Wilson Chandler (17.7), averages 62.1 points per game, which is the third highest scoring trio in the NBA, behind Miami (69.0) and Oklahoma City (66.1). The duo of Stoudemire and Felton, average 44.4 points, which is fourth most in the NBA.

Seven of the Sixers' 15 wins have been by double-digits and Philly is 4-14 in games decided by eight or fewer points, including 0-7 in games decided by our or fewer points. The 76ers had 15 wins by 10-plus points in 2009-10, compared to 12 by fewer than 10. They are outscoring opponents by 12.8 points a game (192 total) in wins this season compare to 9.3 last season.

Post date: Friday, January 14, 2011 - 19:49
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-power-rankings/heat-rises

Once upon a time there was talk of ...

When are the Miami Heat going to get it together?

When is Pat Riley going to come down from the executive offices to replace Erik Spoelstra?

Should the Heat trade one of the Big Three?

The Heat organization must just sit back and laugh at those questions, comments, etc. that were abound about them as they headed into LeBron James' return to Cleveland on Dec. 2 on the heels of a two-game winning streak.

Well, since leaving Cleveland after a 118-90 drubbing of the Cavaliers, the Heat have lost just once in the last 20 games (96-98 to Dallas) and currently ride a nine-game winning streak into Wednesday's game at the Clippers. They have won 13 in a  row on the road and have three more away from Miami this week — Clippers, Denver and Chicago.

That Jan. 15 game against Chicago is one of just five games between top 10 teams in this week's Athlon Sports NBA Power Rankings — a list Miami is on top for the first time this season. They are only the second Eastern Conference team through 12 weeks to take the top spot (Boston in Weeks 8 and 9).

It will be the first meeting between the Bulls and Heat this season. The seventh-ranked Bulls bounced back from terrible road losses to New Jersey and Philadelphia by returning home and defeating Boston Saturday night.

On Jan. 13 the No. 3 Orlando Magic travel to No. 8 Oklahoma City for their first meeting of the season. The Magic, winners of nine in a row, will be coming off a game against No. 11 New Orleans the night before.

Dallas, reeling after the season-ending loss of Caron Butler and the absence of Dirk Nowitzki, are 5-5 in its last 10 games and will travel to No. 2 San Antonio on Jan, 14. It will be the third meeting of the season, a series they have split thus far.

On Monday, Jan. 17, there are two games between top 10 teams. The Magic and fourth-ranked Celtics go at it again, this time in Boston. The two teams met in Orlando on Christmas Day with the Magic winning 86-78.

The fifth-ranked Lakers play host to Oklahoma City in their first meeting since the Thunder took the defending NBA champions to six games in the first round of last year's playoffs.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Post date: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 10:44
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-fantasy-dime/bad-gets-worse-cavs

So Anderson Varejao is out for the season. Can it get any worse for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the post-LeBron era?

But the beauty of fantasy, you and your team can just move on and find another replacement. Or someone else in your league might already have that replacement where they can benefit from the injury or trade you what you need. Either way, one of you should benefit in the fantasy world as J.J. Hickson's value increases in the real world.

A torn tendon in Varejao's ankle will sideline the team's leading rebounder and shot blocker for the year, leaving the door wide open for someone else to take care of the inside for the Cavaliers.

Hickson should be that someone else. He is already averaging 10.9 points and 5.5 boards to go with a 44-percent clip from the field. Since the turn of the year (four games for Hickson), he has averaged 17 points, nine boards to go along with 1.3 steals and one block per game. In 21 games as a starter, Hickson has averaged 25 minutes per game, 12.1 points, six boards and shot .447 from the field this season.

He has forward-center eligibility in Yahoo leagues and is still available in 38 percent of Yahoo leagues as of Monday afternoon.
Daniel Gibson
, the Cavs' starting point guard, also has an ankle issue, a sprain that is expected to sideline him for the three games Cleveland has this week. In steps Ramon Sessions.

Sessions has started seven games this season, playing nearly 30 minutes per in those games, scoring 11.9 points with 4.1 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 0.9 steals. He has also shot a miserable 37 percent from the field in those starts. Overall, Sessions averages 10.2 points, 4.2 assists, 2.8 boards and 43 percent from the field in 22 minutes of action over the 36 games played this season. He is available in 72 percent of Yahoo leagues and can be used at both guard spots.

The Cavs play the Jazz, Lakers and Nuggets this week and score just 94 points per game this season — good for 26th out of 30 teams in the league. So while there may be two openings for Cleveland players on your roster, keep in mind the team's lack of production before you hit "Add Player" to your roster.

Pardon my hack line, but Lakers guard-forward Shannon Brown may be able to do a lot for you with the injury to fellow reserve Matt Barnes (torn meniscus in his left knee).

I had Brown earlier in the season when he was scoring in double digits nine times in November, shooting 48 percent from the field, 95 percent from the stripe with 1.7 3s and 2.7 rebounds during that time. But I bailed after a little slump and it seemed like he and Barnes were canceling each other out when there might have been more consistent options out there.

Now with Barnes expected to miss two months, Brown and his guard-forward eligibility and the fact that the Lakers are starting to score again, makes him a solid pickup option. He is available in 72 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Call me bitter. Hi, I'm bitter.

I was really hoping New Orleans shooting guard Marcus Thornton would cash in on his sleeper status. He walked into the preseason as the starter but lost the job to Marco Belinelli and has not seen the starting lineup all season.

Then I see on one of my go to blogs _ _ that New Orleans is 4-0 when reserve shooting guard Marcus Thornton plays 21-plus minutes. In those four games, Thornton averages 15 points, five rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.5 steals in those four games. He averages 6.1 points, 2.5 boards, 0.7 assists and 0.3 steals for the entire season.

Belinelli, who earned the starting nod in the preseason and has had it for all 38 games, averages 11.3 points, 2.1 boards, 1.4 assists and 0.6 steals in 28 minutes per game.

So I had to get my Thornton frustration off my chest, and don't look for him to catch fire anytime soon. He hasn't scored in the last four games and has not hit double digits since Dec. 22. He also hasn't played over 10 minutes this calendar year and hasn't hit the teens since Dec. 29 (16:48), which ended a string of eight games where he played less than 16 minutes just once.

Andre Iguodala
has missed the last seven games with an Achilles injury, and may return Tuesday night when the 76ers play the Pacers. He returned to practice Monday, and with just two games this week — also playing Friday against Milwaukee — it is probably not wise to lock Iguodala or any of his replacements (i.e. Andres Nocioni who has averaged 11.4 points, seven rebound and 1.7 assists during those seven games) in to your roster.

While Shawn Marion and Jason Terry see increased production with the absence of Caron Butler (out for season) and Dirk Nowitzki (sore knee), the subject of Nowtizki's return will be answered when you see him on the court.

Nowitzki has missed seven games, and the team starts a three-game week at Indiana Wednesday night. Will the streak reach eight?

"We'll let you know when he's going to play," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle told reporters.

That doesn't do a lot for fantasy players who are trying to set rosters early in the week. I would keep riding the replacement wave of Marion and Terry this week and then see how it pans out when Nowitzki returns — which will affect both Dirk owners and those who have benefited from the depleted Dallas lineup.

Add sprained ankle to the ailments reigning Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans has to deal with.

The point guard has apparently decided to battle through the plantar fasciitis that has plagued him all season, but the ankle may cause him to miss his second straight game when the team plays Washington Tuesday.

This puts Evans' owners in a tough spot. The Kings have a four-game road slate with Washington, Boston, New York and Detroit this week. He is a warrior and his status is only iffy right now for Washington. So I would take as iffy as maybe and then be hopefully for him suiting up for the next three games.

Orlando's Hedo Turkoglu is heating up and his three-position eligibility (SG/SF/PF) is nice too boot.

He has averaged 13.8 points, 6.3 boards, 6.8 assists, 1.6 steals and two 3-pointers a game since the Christmas Day win over Boston (eight games).

Turkoglu is still available in 10 percent of Yahoo leagues, so if you are in one of these leagues go get him.

Minnesota guard-forward Corey Brewer has taken over the starting 2-guard gig from Wes Johnson and is available in 87 percent of Yahoo leagues.

His shooting percentages are terrible (.359 from the field and .254 from 3), career-worst terrible. But in the four games he has managed to start this season, he's shot .395 from the field, .583 from beyond the arc and seen his scoring go from 8.4 to 12.0.

Where Minnesota is different from another terrible team like Cleveland is that the T'Wolves average an eighth-best 102.8 points per game as opposed to a 26th-best 94 a game.

Give Brewer and his guard-forward eligibility a shot this week as the Timberwolves play a three-game week against the Spurs, Wizards and Magic.

Gerald Wallace's ankle has forced him out of the lineup again, this time for the last three games. There's talk that he may return Wednesday against Chicago. That would still give him a three-game week with Boston and the Hornets still to go.

The downside is that these are three defensive minded teams that control possession, so there might not be a lot of opportunities for Wallace. If you have better options, although his high ADP suggest you won't, I would hold off on Wallace.

— Corby A. Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Monday, January 10, 2011 - 19:54
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-western-conference-notes/odom-reaches-milestone

News, notes and nuggets from the teams of the Western Conference.

With 10 rebounds Jan. 5 at Phoenix, Lamar Odom recorded his 7,000th career rebound, becoming just the 23rd player in NBA history to reach 11,000 points, 7,000 rebounds and 3,000 assists and the ninth fastest to do so in terms of games. Only Larry Bird (680 games), Kevin Garnett (681 games), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (691 games), Wilt Chamberlain (691 games), Chris Webber (695), Elgin Baylor (716 games), Bill Russell (746 games) and Charles Barkley (762 games) reached those totals faster than Odom, who did so in 783 career games.

In their victory at New Orleans on December 29th, the Lakers posted season highs for field goal percentage in a quarter (first, .750), half (first, .676) and game (.586) after connecting on only 37.9 percent of their shots in the previous two games combined. Additionally, it was the first time this season that each of the Lakers starters (Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher) shot 50 percent or better from the field in the same game.

Golden State is shooting 40.1 percent from beyond the arc this season, which ranks 1st in the NBA. The Warriors have shot 40 percent or better from three in 19 games this season, including nine games of 50 percent or better. Not only are they shooting a high percentage, but they are making a high number as well. The Warriors average 8.5 made 3-pointers per game, which ranks fifth in the league, and they have made 10-or-more from deep on 14 occasions.

Yao Ming
underwent a successful surgical procedure on Jan. 6 to repair a stress fracture of the medial malleolus in his left ankle. Yao is expected to miss the remainder of the season. Chuck Hayes sustained a moderate to severe right ankle sprain during practice on Dec. 30. He is expected to be sidelined 2-4 weeks before resuming regular basketball activities. Aaron Brooks aggravated his left ankle sprain at Denver (Jan. 3) that he originally sustained at San Antonio (Nov. 6). Brooks is listed as day-to-day.

In the last 12 games (7-5), the Hornets are outscoring their opponents 46.9-44.4 in the second half, winning nine of the last 12 second halves.

Memphis leads the NBA in points in the paint for a second consecutive season, pouring in 48.0 points inside after scoring 51.4 points inside in 2009-10.

The Suns have dropped two-straight and six of their last seven games overall. The Suns are 1-3 (.250) with all three new additions in the lineup. Vince Carter made his debut Dec. 29. The Suns are 2-6 (.250) since their blockbuster trade Dec. 18, including a 1-5 (.167) mark with the three new additions (Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus) available.

Portland has won eight straight games at the Rose Garden, last losing more than a month ago (Nov. 26 vs. New Orleans). The run is the NBA’s third-longest active home winning streak (San Antonio, Atlanta) and Portland’s longest since winning 12 straight at the Rose Garden (Jan. 24-March 9, 2009). The Trail Blazers wrapped up a third straight sweep of a home stand with a 100-85 win on Jan. 2 vs. Houston. The Trail Blazers are now 12-3 at home, equaling their 15-game mark from 2008-09, when Portland won its first seven contests at the Rose Garden. The Trail Blazers also started 12-3 in 2007-08. The last time Portland won more than 12 of its first 15 home contests was 1990-91, when the team started 14-1. The Trail Blazers have scored at least 100 points in nine of 15 home games while reaching the mark six times in 21 tries on the road. The Trail Blazers are one of only three teams in the league that have already played at least 21 road games entering games of Jan. 7.

The Spurs finished 13-2 (.867) in December and 14-1 (.933) in November, which are the best November-December and franchise history. Overall, the Spurs have compiled 13 wins in a month eight times and at least 14 wins in a month seven times. The Spurs' .933 winning percentage in November is the second best winning percentage in any month (with 10 or more victories) in team history.

Rookie Jeremy Evans is making the most of his playing time. Of his 21 field goals so far this season, the 6-9 forward from Western Kentucky has recorded 13 dunks with over half of the slams (7) coming from alley-oop passes from Earl Watson.

Post date: Friday, January 7, 2011 - 18:41
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-eastern-conference-notes/heating-under-40

News, notes and nuggets from the teams of the Eastern Conference.

The Miami Heat held Milwaukee to only 39.7 percent shooting from the field on Jan. 4, marking it as the 11th time this season Miami has held an opponent under 40 percent shooting from the floor as they improved to 11-0 in those contests. Additionally, the Heat has won its last 18 games in which it has held its opponent under 40 percent shooting from the floor.

After a 3-5 start this season at Philips Arena, the Hawks have won their last nine home contests to improve to 12-5. Since the start of the 2008-09 season, Atlanta has recorded a 77-22 (.778) mark on its home court.

Rajon Rondo recorded 22 assists, 12  points, 10 rebounds and six steals against San Antonio on Jan. 5. According to Elias, Rondo became the first player in NBA history to hand out as many as 20 assists, grab 10 or more rebounds and record at least six steals in one game since the NBA started keeping track of steals in the 1973‐74 season. Rondo joined Larry Bird (four times) as the only Celtics players to register a triple‐double against San Antonio and he joined Magic Johnson (Oct. 26, 1980) as the only NBA players to post a triple‐double with as many as six steals against San Antonio.

The Bobcats enter their Jan. 7 game ranked third in the NBA in blocked shots per game (6.28), with Tyrus Thomas (1.59), Nazr Mohammed (1.17) and Gerald Wallace (1.15) each averaging at least one block per game. So far this season, the Bobcats have recorded eight games with at least 10 blocks, which trails only the 2009-10 season (9) as the highest single-season total in franchise history.

The Bulls are 21-4 this season when they hold their opponents under 100 points and 2-8 when they allow 100 or more points.

New York is 20-14 after 34 games, which is their best start to a season since they started the 2000-01 campaign 22-12. The Knicks are 17-6 (.739) over the last 23 games after starting the season 3-8. Last season, they didn’t hit the 20-win mark until a Feb. 26 win at Washington (21st win Mar. 3). They are six games above .500 this late in a season for the first time since the end of the 2000-01 campaign when they were 48-34. New York was 14-20 after 34 games last season and 15-20 after 35 games. The plus-six win increase is fifth best in the NBA.

John Salmons has scored in double digits in the past nine games and in 13 of the past 15. Over the nine most recent games, he leads the Bucks in scoring with 17.9 points and has shot 51.5 percent (17-33) from 3-point range while pulling down 3.2 rebounds and handing out 3.4 assists.

On Jan. 3 vs. Golden State, the Magic had eight players score in double figures, tying a franchise record. It marks the sixth time in team history that eight players scored in double figures during the same game. The last time was Jan. 27, 2009 vs. Indiana. When Orlando has five players or more score in double figures it is 15-3. When the Magic have six or more score 10-plus points, they are 9-1.

Forward Ed Davis and sophomore DeMar DeRozan have excelled over the last five games (Dec. 28-Jan. 5) for the Raptors. The team’s most recent draft picks have combined to average 29.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and shot .513 (58-for-113) from the field. DeRozan currently ranks sixth among sophomore players averaging 14.2 points per game, while Davis ranks fourth among all rookies with 5.9 rebounds and third with a block per game.

After averaging 22.1 points and 8.3 rebounds during the final 32 games of the 2009-10 season, Andray Blatche is picking up where he left off.  Blatche is currently averaging career-highs in points (16.4 ppg), rebounds (8.0 rpg) and free-throw percentage (.781). Blatche has scored 20 or more points in 10 contests and has seven double-doubles.

Post date: Friday, January 7, 2011 - 18:35
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-power-rankings/remember-spurs

For the first time since week 6, the San Antonio Spurs return to the top position in the Athlon Sports NBA Power Rankings.

Despite dipping down below 100 points in three of its last four games (average 105.6 this season), San Antonio continues to win. The Spurs have lost just once since Dec. 1 — a 123-101 defeat at Orlando.

They move from the third spot to the top spot, supplanting Southwest and state rival Dallas, who they defeated 99-93 last week. The Mavs fell to No. 4 after losing three of four before disposing of our lowest-ranked team, Cleveland, on Jan. 1 to end the skid.

Miami has moved into the No. 2 spot and still have not lost a game since a 98-96 defeat on Dec. 20 against Dallas — a six-game span.

Boston fell to No. 3 with a  3-2 mark over the last week — losses coming in back-to-back games against Detroit and New Orleans.

Chicago rounds out the top five as winners of five in a row since a Christmas Day loss to New York.

It's a ho-hum week for games between top 10 teams in the Athlon Sports NBA Power Rankings.

San Antonio and Boston square off for the first time this season when the Spurs travel to Beantown Jan. 5.

Dallas tries to right the ship when it plays host to No. 9 Oklahoma City Jan. 6. It will be the third meeting of the season; the Mavericks have won the first two by eight and 10. Dallas will also try for the season sweep when it plays host to No. 6 Orlando on Jan. 8. The Mavericks won the first meeting 105-99 on Dec. 21.

Boston and Chicago will also meet for the third time this season when the Celtics travel to the Windy City on Jan. 8. The Celtics won the first two meetings — the first by five, the second by 12 — both of which were in Boston. The Bulls have the second-best home record in the Eastern Conference at 14-3 entering the Jan. 4 game with visiting Toronto.

The No. 8 Lakers and No. 10 New Orleans Hornets meet for the second time in nine days when L.A. plays host this time. The Lakers won the first meeting 103-88 on Dec. 29 in New Orleans.

There are also a few fringe match ups between those teams just outside the top 10 against top 10 teams.

The No. 13 Knicks have certainly had their fair share of high-profile games over the last three weeks. It started with back-to-back losses against visiting Boston and Miami to end an eight-game winning streak, picked back up with back-to-back home wins over Oklahoma City and Chicago before another set of back-to-back losses to Miami and Orlando on the road.

New York gets its chance again this week. It plays host to the Spurs on NBA TV Jan. 4 and closes the week with a Jan. 9 visit to the Lakers.

No. 11 Denver, winners of four in a row, will try to make its way back into the top 10 with a week that includes the Clippers and Kings on the road before closing out against No. 10 New Orleans at home Jan. 9.

After a 5-5 split of the top 10 the last two weeks, the Western Conference reclaims the lead this week with a 6-4 edge.

— Corby A. Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - 18:40
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-fantasy-dime/rudy-rudy-rudy

There are many ways to play fantasy basketball — rotisserie, head to head, lineups that can be changed any time and lineups that lock just prior to Monday night’s tip. With that in mind, Athlon Sports will give you the Fantasy Dime each week. These are 10 things to assist you before you have to lock in that lineup for the week.

Brandon Roy's knee is going to be an issue all season long — or until the Trail Blazers decide to shut him down for the year. That leaves Rudy Fernandez to perhaps be the fantasy beneficiary.

The shooting guard has played no less than 20 minutes since Dec. 15 and in those eight games he is averaging 13.5 points with 2.1 3s a game on 48 percent shooting from the field. He's even contributed over three rebounds (3.1) and assists (3.3) during those eight games to go with 1.1 steals. The Blazers have four games this week, and Fernandez would be a good add. He is available in 85 percent of Yahoo leagues where he has just shooting guard eligibility, but is a pretty good multi-category contributor right now.

Injuries have beset Ryan Anderson this year, but he's healthy at just the right time for the Orlando Magic and your fantasy roster, too.

He has played no less than 19 minutes in the five games since his return from a foot injury and averaged 12.5 points, 1.8 3-pointers a game and six rebounds in that time. With not much to back up Dwight Howard and Brandon Bass battling a knee injury that may or may not sideline him, minutes are in store for Anderson. The Magic have four games this week, and Anderson should be a good play. Hedo Turkoglu could go to the 4 as well, but it's worth the gamble to give Anderson a shot in your lineup.

With Chris Kaman (ankle) still having no timetable for his return, DeAndre Jordan continues to be worthy of a roster spot for the L.A. Clippers.

In his last two outings, Jordan has blocked six and seven shots apiece to go with 12 and five on the boards and six and 14 in scoring department. He's also shot 8-of-9 from the field combined in those two games. Jordan is owned in just 28 percent of Yahoo leagues, and if he can keep up just 75 percent of this effort he's worth a spot.

One problem he has this week: the Clips only play two games. But with Kaman not appearing to be returning anytime soon, it's never bad to have a productive center on the roster.

This one is pretty simple: Rajon Rondo is back for the Celtics so Nate Robinson should be off your roster.

Robinson was a spark for fantasy rosters the first couple of games he stepped in for Rondo, but is not consistent enough to stay on your fantasy roster with Rondo back. Boston coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday's return, if he could get Rondo 40 minutes he would; Rondo played 34. He dished out eight assists in his return. Robinson hasn't dished out that many assists since Nov. 22 when he had 10, and that is the only time Robinson has had more than six this year.

The Celtics play four games this week, so maybe you keep Robinson if you think Rondo could relapse or if four games is too many to log a ton of minutes upon his return. But I doubt it. Move on from Robinson.

Charlotte forward Gerald Wallace is having ankle problems again. He will not play Monday against Miami and may not play the Bobcats' other two games this week. The injury sidelined him for five games from Dec. 15-27 before returning for two games to end the year. He was his old self when he was in the lineup — averaging 14.5 points, nine rebounds and a steal in the two games. Hopefully for "Crash" owners, this won't become a common occurrence.

Veteran Shawn Marion will probably be the hot pickup of the week if he's not already on a roster (he's owned in 65 percent of Yahoo leagues). With the news, or the possibility the news will come that Caron Butler's knee injury will shelve him for quite some time, Marion becomes a hot commodity for the Mavericks.

Marion (thigh) just returned from one-game absence himself, but instantly went to the starting lineup because of Butler's injuries. Marion is the backup for both Butler and the injured Dirk Nowitzki (knee), so he should get plenty of PT this week and in the near future.

Marion was already averaging 27 minutes, 10.2 points and 6.5 boards this season. In five starts this season, Marion averages 30:30 per game with 15 points, 5.6 boards, 1.4 assists, 0.6 blocks while shooting 62 percent from the field.

Indiana's roster rotation has to be one of the most frustrating in fantasy. There's Darren Collison/T.J. Ford at the point, Brandon Rush/Mike Dunleavy at the 2 and now it's Roy Hibbert/Jeff Foster at the center.

Hibbert came off the bench for the first time this season when the Pacers lost to the Knicks Jan. 2. He played 16 minutes despite his replacement Jeff Foster fouling out in 22 minutes of action.

Maybe it's not that big in the grand scheme as it was reported coach Jim O'Brien made the switch for the defensive matchup. But there are a lot of defensive matchup lineup decisions being made in Indiana and it makes setting a fantasy lineup involving Pacers quite a task. And when the team scores just 96.8 points per game, perhaps its best to start moving away from all Pacers until (if ever) a consistent lineup is set.

Andrew Bynum
got his third straight start since returning from injury when the Lakers were drilled by the Grizzlies on Jan. 2. In his three games as a starter, Bynum is averaging 11.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.

I mention Bynum for two reasons: If he is still available for some crazy reason, go get him. Second, what does this mean for Lamar Odom who had been starting in his sted?

Odom's averages of 15.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game will certainly take a hit. His minutes are still up there for now — 30:56 and 28:08, 30:56 and 30:33 in the three games since Bynum took over as starter. But be ready to take a hit and, like me, be thankful that he produced like an All-Star for the first 10 weeks of the season as a late pick and hope he can give glimpses of that over the next 15 weeks.

Seems like there's always a new Toronto player producing each week. I guess it tends to happens when you are one of the 11 teams in the league that are scoring over 100 points per game (while also giving up 104.4).

This week it seems to be DeMar DeRozan. He has started every game this season, but really taken off since a Dec.19 game against the Lakers as a consistent, multi-category producer.

In those six games, DeRozan has averaged 21.8 points on 52 percent shooting from the field and 80 percent from the stripe. He has also added 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and one steal a game.

The Raptors have four games this week — two against defensive-minded Chicago and Boston but another two against not-so defensive-minded Cleveland and Sacramento.

DeRozan's available in 46 percent of Yahoo leagues, and with guard-forward eligibility is a solid add.

Robin Lopez
is the starting center but recently acquired Marcin Gortat is getting the minutes in Phoenix. Perhaps it is because Lopez is coming back from injury or the Suns just want to see what they got in the trade.

Either way, Gortat has seen no less than 27 minutes in the last four games, averaging 11 points and 6.3 boards in that time. Lopez, in that time, is averaging four points and 2.3 boards having played no more than 13 minutes. Channing Frye, who has forward-center eligibility, averaged 31:36 minutes of action in December, but has seen games of 19:!6, 28:10 and 18:25 in his last three outings.

Just by deducing numbers, the Suns seem to be shining on Gortat. You should, too as Phoenix plays three games this week.

— Corby A. Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Monday, January 3, 2011 - 18:10
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-power-rankings/mavericks-back-top

Dallas resumes the top spot in the Athlon Sports NBA Power Rankings this week after Boston had held the No. 1 ranking for the last two weeks. The Celtics, who saw their 14-game winning streak snapped on Christmas by the Orlando Magic, go down to the No. 2 spot.

Dallas, which had been on top the two weeks before the Celtics took over, has won five in a row and nine of its last 10.

San Antonio and New York dominate the key games this week between top 10 teams in the Athlon Sports Power Rankings.

The No. 2 Spurs play host to the No. 6 Lakers on Dec. 28, travel to No. 1 Dallas on Dec. 30 and play host to No. 7 Oklahoma City on Jan. 1.

San Antonio had its 10-game winning streak snapped by Orlando on Dec. 23. This will be the first meeting this season between the Lakers and Spurs, the second with Dallas (the Mavs won 103-94 in Dallas on Nov. 26) and the second with Oklahoma City (the Spurs won 117-104 in Oklahoma City on Nov. 14).

The No. 10 Knicks will get a chance to avenge their loss to Miami when the two meet Dec. 28. Miami won the Dec. 17 outing in New York, 113-91, holding the Knicks under 100 points for the first time since Nov. 27. New York has since gone 2-1 with wins over Oklahoma City and Chicago in its last two games.

No. 4 Miami, which had its 12-game winning streak snapped by Dallas on Dec. 20, has scored victories over Phoenix and Lakers since then.

The Knicks will then head to Central Florida on Dec. 30 to take on an Orlando Magic team that has won its last three after a four-game skid. The ninth-ranked Magic got those wins against San Antonio, Boston and New Jersey. This will be the first meeting of the year between the Knicks and Magic.

There are a few fringe matchups of teams within Athlon's top 10 this week against teams in the 11-15 spots.

No. 13 Denver plays both of the teams just behind it in the power poll. The Nuggets play host to No. 14 Portland Dec. 28 and play host to No. 15 Houston on Jan. 3.

Meanwhile, Portland, which enters the Denver game 6-4 in its last 10 outings, will return home Dec. 30 to play host to No. 5 Utah. Portland is 10-3 at home this season. The Jazz handed the Blazers one of those three losses when they won the first meeting at the Rose Garden (103-94 on Nov. 20), but Portland just defeated Utah at its place Dec. 27 (96-91).

Other fringe games see the erratic New Orleans Hornets, ranked 11th, playing host to the Lakers Dec. 29 and then traveling to Boston Dec. 31. It's the first time the Hornets will clash with L.A. and Boston this year in games involving three teams that started the season equally hot.

The No. 12 Atlanta Hawks, winners of three of the last four, travel to Oklahoma City Dec. 31.

After having the upper hand for the first seven weeks of the season with a majority of its teams in the Athlon Sports Power Rankings top 10, the Western Conference has seen the Eastern Conference make a push the last three weeks. The conferences each have five of their teams in the top 10 for the third week in a row. The Western Conference had seven in the top 10 three times in the first seven weeks and six the other four weeks before the split.

— Corby A. Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 - 13:01
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-fantasy-dime/which-sun-will-rise

There are many ways to play fantasy basketball — rotisserie, head to head, lineups that can be changed any time and lineups that lock just prior to Monday night’s tip. With that in mind, Athlon Sports will give you the Fantasy Dime each week. These are 10 things to assist you before you have to lock in that lineup for the week.

Trades, injuries and a brief emergence have made the wing spot for the Phoenix Suns a confusing one for fantasy players.

Mickael Pietrus and Vince Carter came over in the trade from Orlando two weeks ago. Carter has not played yet due to a knee injury and should be on the shelf for a couple more weeks. Pietrus has started to emerge in the last couple of games. Meanwhile, Jared Dudley, who has shooting guard and both forwards eligibility in Yahoo leagues, was a stud for three games before falling off the map Sunday.

Pietrus played 27 minutes in Sunday's loss to the Clippers, hitting five 3-pointers, shot 64 percent from the field, 100 percent from the stripe and added three boards. Dudley had two of those games before falling off Sunday — hitting seven 3s on Dec. 23 and three on Dec. 20 to go with 12 and five on the rebounding end.

It's a hard call to make which one will emerge and how long will the production be there before Carter comes back. Pietrus might be settling in and Dudley might go back to the reserve role where he was averaging 20 minutes in 25 games.

The Suns have three games this week against Philadelphia, Detroit and Sacramento. If you can take a run at both, give it a shot; if you can't, I would lean toward Dudley and his triple eligibility.

Detroit's Ben Gordon has taken over the starting 2-guard role for the Pistons, and nothing is really different than how he played as a sub. The 2004 first-round pick has played the last three games as a starter, averaging 12 points (a 25-point game along with a seven- and four-point efforts), shooting 14-of-34 (.411) from the field and 5-of-13(.385) from beyond the arc.

For the season, Gordon is averaging 11.7 points, 1.2 3s a game on 45 percent from the field and 39 percent from beyond the arc.

The Pistons play three games this week — Charlotte, Boston and Phoenix — but Gordon has done nothing as a starter or reserve on a consistent basis to be considered a reliable fantasy option this season.

So John Wall returned from injury Sunday night after missing five games (knee). The rookie came off the bench to play 19 minutes, score four points, dish out four assists and four turnovers to go along with six rebounds. The 22-percent shooting effort didn't help, either. He has played in 16 of 28 games so far this season, leaving fantasy owners wondering if they can count on him. Well, if he's in the lineup, his talent dictates he has to be in your lineup.

Kirk Hinrich has certainly held down the fort rather well in his absence. Hinrich has scored in double figures in the last five games, averaged nine assists and 4.4 rebounds in that time. His shooting percentages are above 40 percent on most nights. He's healthy, consistent and still worth being in lineups regardless of Wall's availability.

The Wizards have four games this week — Houston, back-to-back against Indiana and New Orleans.

Chauncey Billups
also returned from injury (wrist) last week and showed no signs of being hampered. He scored 24, 30 and 24 points in his last three games on a combined shooting percentage of .541 (20-of-37) and was perfect from the stripe (27-of-27).

Meanwhile, Ty Lawson, his backup, continued to produce as well. In the three games since Billups' return, Lawson scored 14, 19 and 22 points in over 31 minutes of action on average. He continues to shoot high percentages for the most part and contribute the minimal rebounds and assists to remain in real and fantasy lineups.

The Nuggets play three games this week — Portland, Minnesota and Sacramento — and both point guards should remain in your lineup or any lineup.
So Wall and and Billups are back. When is Boston's Rajon Rondo returning from his ankle injury? The Celtics play four games this week, and he might be back Tuesday night against Indiana.

Nate Robinson has continued the trend of backups holding down the fort, albeit not spectacularly enough to warrant lineup consideration once Rondo returns. He has averaged 12 points on a miserable .352 from the field with 3.8 assists and three rebounds on average.

With four games this week, the Celtics might ease Rondo back into the lineup. Plus, with games against the Pacers, Pistons, Hornets and Raptors it is not world beaters Boston is playing. So Robinson should still get his for one more week. Throw both in there, see how Rondo plays this week and then probably move on from Robinson once Rondo is good to go.

Jonny Flynn
is still being eased into the Minnesota rotation as the team's point guard. Since returning Dec. 14 from his hip injury, Flynn has not registered a start and has played no more than 23:52 in a game. He has been in the teens minute-wise five of the seven games. In those seven games, he is averaging 6.1 points, 3.7 assists and 1.7 rebounds on 42 percent shooting from the field.

It is felt that he will eventually get that starting gig back, but eventually is not this week. Luke Ridnour has done a solid job, including a season-high 23 points in the Dec. 26 outing against Cleveland on 58 percent shooting from the field (7-of-12, inlcuding 5-of-5 from 3), 100 percent from the stripe(4-of-4) to go along with six assists and five rebounds.

The Timberwolves play three games this week — New Orleans, Denver and New Jersey — and Ridnour should either stay or get in your lineup until the Flynn minutes are situated.

This one is as easy as it gets. The Dallas Mavericks are one of the league's best teams this week and they get to play five games. So five games in a week should mean everyone gets some fantasy love.

If you are on the fence for some reason about Jason Terry, Caron Butler or any other contributor to the Mavs, even the fringe guys, everyone might be worth a look.

They take on Oklahoma City, Toronto in a back-to-back, San Antonio on Thursday and then close with a back-to-back against Milwaukee and Cleveland.

Charlotte's category stuffer, Gerald Wallace, will miss his fifth straight game with an ankle injury when the Bobcats take to the floor Monday against Detroit. Charlotte has just three games this week, and Wallace is reportedly eyeing a Friday return against Golden State — the team's last game of the week. Needless to say, keep "Crash" out of the lineup this week.

Andrea Bargnani
(strained calf) is expected to miss Toronto's three-game road trip this week (the Raptors return home against Boston Sunday).

Amir Johnson (back) is expected to be a game-time decision for Monday's game against Memphis. The team will also be without Sonny Weems (back) Monday.

So, working backwards, use Linas Kleiza at the guard-forward spot in place of Weems. Kleiza can be a multi-category contributor with his 11.3 points, 4.6 boards, 45 percent shooting from the field and one 3 a game.

Julian Wright should get the time for Johnson. He has averaged 12:18 of action this year with 3.7 points, 1.8 boards and 1.1 assists.

Rookie Ed Davis (19:06 mpg) or Joey Dorsey (11:18 mpg) are expected to start in Bargnani's sted. Neither would be plays any other week than perhaps this week with so many injuries to the Raptors' squad.

Golden State center Andris Biedrins has missed four straight games with an ankle injury. Louis Amundson has started the games in his absence, averaging 4.3 points and four rebounds. Even if Biedrins returns for the team's game against Philly Monday night or the three-game road trip to Atlanta, Charlotte and Miami, he's really only good for rebounds on a consistent basis.  

With injuries to other centers or power forwards that have center eligibility across the league, it's probably better to go find another option this week instead of Biedrins. As the 35th best center in nine-category leagues, it also might be time to cut bait with Biedrins altogether.

— Corby A. Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Monday, December 27, 2010 - 18:45
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-western-conference-notes/okc-doubles-down

After starting the season a perfect 8-0 when Thabo Sefolosha scores in doubles figures, the Oklahoma City Thunder finally ended up on the losing end despite 11 from him against the Suns Dec. 19.

Last season, it was Nenad Krstic who possessed the magic touch for the Thunder. During the 2009-10 season, the Thunder went 27-3 in games in which Krstic scored 10-plus points.

Sefolosha, who is averaging 6.3 points, 5.4 boards and 1.6 assists for the Thunder in nearly 31 minutes of action this season, has been held to one- and six-point performances in the Thunder's last two outings. They went 1-1 in those two games, including a loss to the New York Knicks in their last game.

However, along with the correlation of double-digit performances from Sefolosha normally equalling wins, the Thunder (20-10) are equally as impressive coming off a loss. The Thunder are 8-1 this season in games after a defeat and they will play host to Denver on Christmas Day. OKC is 10-5 at home, while the Nuggets are 5-5 on the road.

The Nuggets dished out 22 assists against San Antonio on Dec. 22, marking the 13th time this season that Denver has posted 20 or more assists as a team. On the year, the Nuggets are now 13-5 when recording 20-plus assists (including 10-2 at the Pepsi Center).

Dorell Wright
has started all 28 games this season, averaging 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.3 steals in 38.9 minutes per game. Wright averaged 7.1 points last season in Miami, and his 7.5 point increase ranks first in the NBA among players who have appeared in at least 15 games this season.

Clippers forward Blake Griffin recorded his 23rd double-double on Dec. 22, scoring 24 points and grabbing a career-high 18 rebounds. Griffin’s 23 double-doubles is the second highest in the NBA (Kevin Love, first with 25). Griffin now has registered a double-double in 17 straight games, the longest streak in the NBA this season and now the second longest double-double streak for the Clippers in the last 24 years. Michael Cage recorded 19 straight from Dec. 10, 1986-Jan. 16, 1987. Since the 2001-02 season, Griffin’s 17-game double-double streak is the sixth longest in the NBA.

Entering the Lakers' Christmas Day game vs. Miami, Derek Fisher has played in 442 consecutive regular season games dating back to April 15, 2005, the longest consecutive games streak among all active NBA players. Fisher moved into the top position after Portland’s Andre Miller (632) missed the Blazers game against Phoenix (Dec. 7) due to NBA suspension. Additionally, Fisher has started 320 consecutive regular season games dating back to January 15, 2007, tops among all active players by more than a season’s worth of games (second is Houston's Luis Scola). Former Laker A.C. Green holds the NBA record for most consecutive games played with 1,192 dating from Nov. 19, 1986-April 18, 2001 while a member of the Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat.   

Early in the season, Memphis has been involved in some tight finishes. The Grizzlies are tied for second with Charlotte in games decided by three points or less. Memphis is 4-4 in such games. Denver leads the league with nine games decided by three-points or less. The Grizzlies have also gone into overtime on four other occasions, including a double-OT game on Nov. 5 at Phoenix. Memphis is tied with the Detroit Pistons for the most overtime games this season.

The Timberwolves completed their longest road trip of the season Dec. 20 with an 0-6 record, capped by their sixth 20-plus-point loss of the season after a 113-90 defeat to the Clippers. Prior the horrific ending, Minnesota had lost the previous four games of the road trip by two, five, six and nine points. They returned home Dec. 22 to play host to the Utah Jazz, one of seven teams in the NBA with 10-plus road wins, and managed to keep it respectable with a 112-107 defeat.

When Marcus Thornton scores at least 10 points the Hornets are 6-1 this season. In the last two games, Thornton is averaging a team-best 19 points on 16-of-25 (.640) shooting, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range (.714). He is also averaging 4.5 boards, and 1.5 steals. The back-to-back double-digit performances marked the first time since the season opener vs Denver and the next game vs. San Antonio that Thornton has scored 10 or more points in two straight games.  

The Suns played their fourth straight game against a 20-win team on Thursday night when they played host to the Miami Heat. There are just seven 20-win teams in the entire league currently. The Suns fell 95-83, and are 1-3 in those four games against 20-win teams — Dallas, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Miami. The schedule certainly lightens up in regards to 20-win teams. The next four games for the Suns are the Clippers, 76ers, Pistons and Kings, which have combined for 34 wins compared to the 100 the last four opponents had won.

Three of Rudy Fernandez’s four highest scoring games this year have come in the last three contests, where he has averaged 19.3 points. He scored a career-high 26 points on Dec. 17 vs. Minnesota.

Along with putting up more points this season, the Spurs are averaging their highest assists totals in 15 years. Currently, the Spurs are averaging 23.9 assists per game, which ranks third in the NBA. It is the highest assist per game average since the 1995-96 season when the Spurs averaged 24.9 assists. Individually, Tony Parker averages seven assists per game, Manu Ginobili (4.9). The Spurs season-high for assists in a game this year is 32 which occurred on Nov. 20 vs. Cleveland.

Post date: Friday, December 24, 2010 - 14:21
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-eastern-conference-notes/welcome-back-back

By the numbers, the Atlanta Hawks have had one of the most difficult schedules in the NBA so far this season. Atlanta and Cleveland have played the most back-to-backs (10) in the NBA this year. Atlanta is 5-5 on first night, 8-3 on second night; Cleveland is 2-8 on first night, 4-7 on second night.

The Hawks (19-12) opened their season with a pair of back-to-backs in their first five games, winning all five. They also played a six-game slate from Dec. 3-10 where it was nothing but back-to-backs, and they posted a 4-2 record during that stretch. Atlanta has won the back end of its last four back-to-backs and five of its last six.

Atlanta begins another back-to-back Sunday when it travels to New Orleans and Milwaukee, but doesn't have another pair of back-to-backs until a Jan. 17-21 run that will ironically end with New Orleans.

Additionally, the Hawks, Miami and New Jersey are the only teams in the Eastern Conference to have played at least 30 games so far this season.  

The Celtics are currently on a 14-game winning streak, their fifth such streak since the start of the 2007‐08 season. The longest streak was a franchise‐best 19 games from (Nov. 14-Dec. 23, 2008).

The Bulls are 15-3 this season when they hold their opponents under 100 points and 2-6 when they allow 100 or more points.

Richard Hamilton
came off the bench at Toronto Wednesday night to score a game-high 35 points, becoming the first player in Pistons history to score 35 or more points twice as a reserve. He shot 13-of-20 from the field and recorded career highs in 3-pointers made (6) and attempted (10). Hamilton holds the club record for most points by a player off the bench with 38 scored at Milwaukee on Feb. 7, 2009.

LeBron James’ 30-point triple-double (32 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) at New York on Dec. 17 was the 17th triple-double of his career in which he registered at least 30 points. That marks the most 30-point triple-doubles over the last 25 years in the NBA. It also surpasses Michael Jordan and ties Larry Bird and Magic Johnson on the NBA all-time list for triple-doubles with at least 30 points scored, and James is now only four shy of tying Wilt Chamberlain for second place on the NBA’s 30-point triple-double all-time list. Additionally, James became just the fifth New York Knicks opponent in the last 20 years to have recorded a triple-double at Madison Square Garden. The last opponent to have 30 points in a triple-double in MSG was Chuck Person in 1986.

The Bucks have held eight of their last nine opponents under 100 points and have gone 5-4 in that span. Seven of those nine foes were held under their season average going into the game. Orlando scored 85 and averaged 99.3, Miami 88 and 100.7, Indiana 95 and 100.7, Houston 91 and 105.3, San Antonio 92 and 106.4, Utah 95 and 100.2 and L.A. Lakers 79 and 106.4.

New York is second in the NBA with 6.66 blocks per game after coming off two straight seasons in which it ranked 29th (2009-10) and 30th (2008-09) in the league. The franchise never led the league or finished a season ranked in the top five in blocked shots since the stat began being tracked in 1973-74. The Knicks' best finish was sixth in 1989-90 with an average of six blocks per game. Through 29 games, New York recorded 193 blocked shots — a total that took 45 games to reach last season (Jan. 28 vs. Toronto). The Knicks blocked at least six shots in 20 of their first 29 games after hitting the mark 17 times in 82 games last season. Amar’e Stoudemire (seventh, 2.10), Wilson Chandler (16th, 1.62) and Ronny Turiaf (26th, 1.27) all rank among the NBA’s top 26 in blocked shots.

Dwight Howard
has recorded three consecutive games with 20-plus rebounds going into Thursday's game against San Antonio. It marks just the second time in his career that he has accomplished the feat (Dec. 28-31, 2007). The last player with 20-plus rebounds in four straight games was Ben Wallace, who had five such outings from March 12-20, 2003.

Since scoring 100-plus points in five straight games from Nov. 2-10 — the longest span since a six-game stretch from Dec. 14-27, 2005 — the Sixers have scored 100-plus just six times over the past 21 games (93.3 ppg; 1,960 total). Philadelphia has scored below 90 points in three of the past four games and 10 times overall this season (3-7 mark; 3-17 in 2009-10). The Sixers are 6-6 when scoring 100-plus points and 5-12 when scoring below. On the flip side, opponents have scored 100-plus points just four times over the past 18 games (92.6 ppg; 1,667 total) after doing so six times the first 11 games of the season (103.2 ppg). Philly is 11-8 when holding opponents below 100 points this season and 0-10 when giving up 100-plus. Last season, the 76ers were 19-19 when holding opponents below 100 points and 8-36 when the opposition topped the century mark.

Nick Young is providing the Wizards with some offensive power this season. Young is averaging a career-high 14.8 points per game. The fourth-year pro has scored 20 points in a game 12 times this season (nine times off of the bench which leads the NBA). Young scored 30 points against the Lakers Dec. 7 and nailed a career-high six 3-pointers in that contest.

Post date: Thursday, December 23, 2010 - 19:23
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-power-rankings/celtics-remain-no-1

After giving the Eastern Conference its first top-ranked team of the season last week, the Boston Celtics have held on to the spot for Week 9's Athlon Sports Power Rankings.

The Celtics defeated New York, Atlanta and Indiana last week as part of their current 13-game winning streak.  

The top four from last week all remain as the top four.  in the same spots. Dallas, winner of nine of its last 10, remains at No. 2. San Antonio, winners of nine in a row, still hold the third spot. Miami, which had its 12-game winning streak snapped by Dallas on Monday, is still No. 4.

The Lakers and Jazz flipped the Nos. 5 and 6 spots, L.A. moving into the five-spot as winners of eight of its last nine games.

The Orlando Magic, who had been a top-five team a majority of the season, fall out of the top 10 for the first time this season. However, after a major overhaul of the Orlando roster due to trades last weekend, the Magic will have to get their chemistry together before making the push back up to Eastern Conference elite.

And there's no time like the present for the new-look Magic to get started.

They are currently mired in a three-game losing streak and losers of seven of their last eight. Orlando's schedule this week is probably the toughest schedule any team has had this season in relation to the Athlon Sports Power Rankings — and last week was no cake walk, either.

After losing to Denver, upstart Philadelphia and No. 10 Atlanta, the Magic get Orlando Tuesday night, San Antonio Thursday and Boston on Christmas Day. As the Magic begin to develop a chemistry with this roster they can at least take solace in the fact that all three of this week's games are at home where they have won nine of their 16 games.

Christmas Day is certainly where the marquee matchups of the week are. But before we get to the NBA's big day there are also two games on Wednesday that are intriguing. No. 8 Oklahoma City Thunder travel to Madison Square Garden to take on a Knicks team that was riding high this time last week.

The No. 12 Knicks faced Boston, Miami and Cleveland, and what was an eight-game winning streak before Boston has turned into a three-game skid entering the OKC game. It is not going to get any easier for New York as the next 10 games are a gauntlet — OKC, Chicago, Miami, Orlando, Indiana, San Antonio, Phoenix, Lakers, Portland and Utah.

Also on Wednesday, the Spurs play host to No. 9 Denver. The two teams met on Dec. 16 as the Nuggets fell 113-112 at home.

Back to Christmas Day. There are five games on the NBA schedule, all televised on ABC/ESPN.

No. 7 Chicago, which is down Joakim Noah (hand) and a concussed Taj Gibson, travels to Madison Square Garden to tip off the day. The Knicks, behind 16 3-pointers, won the first meeting in Chicago 120-112 on Nov. 4.

Boston travels to Orlando in a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics are the hottest team in the league, while Orlando's roster readjustment issues have been addressed.

Miami travels to the Lakers for the third game of the day. This was the one everyone was waiting for when the schedules were announced. Many people, myself included, thought the Lakers would barely have a blemish on their record when they reached this game. And many others, myself not included, thought Miami would be well on its way to surpassing 72 wins by Christmas Day.

Neither has happened. The Lakers are 21-7 going into the Dec. 21 game with Milwaukee. They have really put it together over the month of December, answering a four-game losing streak by winning eight of their last nine.

The Heat were in the same boat — why aren't they running roughshod over everyone? It took some time for the roster to mesh, but they entered December 10-8 and will go to Phoenix Dec. 23 at 21-9.

Denver, which has no trouble scoring as evidenced in its average of 117.2 over the last five games, will travel to Oklahoma City for the second-to-last Christmas Day game. The Thunder are averaging 107.2 points per game over their last six outings.

Closing out the NBA's Christmas festivities are Portland, which enters the week as the eighth-best team in the Western Conference, going against Golden State, which couldn't even claim to be eighth-best in the Eastern Conference. The two teams just met on Dec. 18 with the Trail Blazers winning 96-95.

Finally, on Dec. 27, the Thunder play host to Dallas for their second meeting of the year. Dallas won the first meeting 111-103 on Nov. 24. OKC begins this week off a 113-110 loss to Phoenix, which snapped a five-game winning streak for the Thunder.

— Corby A. Yarbrough on Twitter to send any comments or questions

Post date: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - 17:01
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-fantasy-dime/magic-fantasy

There are many ways to play fantasy basketball — rotisserie, head to head, lineups that can be changed any time and lineups that lock just prior to Monday night’s tip. With that in mind, Athlon Sports will give you the Fantasy Dime each week. These are 10 things to assist you before you have to lock in that lineup for the week.

A three-team trade involving the Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards went down over the weekend and of course that means a shakeup for the player who was traded, the rest of the roster for the team he is coming to and the rest of the roster for the team he departed.

First, for Orlando, which did all the dealing, welcomes four new players (Yahoo eligibility in parenthesis).
Jason Richardson (SG/SF) from Phoenix — Was the Suns' leading scorer and shouldn't slow down in Orlando.
• Hedo Turkoglu (SG/SF/PF) from Phoenix — Had his best numbers in previous Orlando stop.
• Earl Clark (SF/PF) from Phoenix — Has no fantasy value as of now.
Gilbert Arenas (PG/SG) from Washington — Will still come off the bench.
Second, is Phoenix, which received three players from Orlando.
Vince Carter (SG/SF) — Being with Steve Nash can't be all that bad.
Marcin Gortat (C) — Could vie for the starting center job.
Mickael Pietrus (SG/SF) — Solid defender and 3-point shooter.

Third, for Washington, is the one-for-one trade with Orlando.
Rashard Lewis (SF/PF) — I wouldn't expect much outside of 3s.

There are plenty of opinions on how it will affect the players traded and how it will affect what's left on the rosters of the three teams involved. So here's half a Fantasy Dime, a Fantasy Nickel if you will, to give you all the angles of the trade.

With the news that point guard Brandon Jennings will be out 4-6 weeks with foot surgery, Keyon Dooling is expected to step in. The 10th overall pick in the 2000 draft, Dooling has played just 17.3 minutes per games this season, scoring 5.2 a game on .356 from the field, .310 from beyond the arc and .864 from the line. He averages two assists and one rebound. For his career, Dooling averages 19:30 minutes per game, 7.1 points and 2.2 assists. On top of that, the Bucks are the worst scoring team in the league at 91.6 points per game. So keep the Bucks' scoring woes and Dooling's career averages in mind before you run out to the waiver wire and add him.

Anderson Varejao
was the fourth-best player in nine-category leagues. In four games, the Cleveland forward-center averaged 37 minutes and 15.7 points while shooting .563 from the field and .917 from the stripe. He also posted 12.7 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.7 assists and a steal over the last week. He is still available in 33 percent of Yahoo leagues. The Cavs play three games this week.

Ty Lawson
was the 12th-best player in nine category leagues last week as he filled in for starting Denver point guard Chauncey Billups. While Billups is expected to return midweek, Lawson should still be a safe play this week. He is still available in 74 percent of Yahoo leagues, and if you have a deep enough bench he is certainly worth holding on to. Lawson averaged over 35 minutes in four games over the last week, scoring 18 points per game with 7.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and just 1.0 turnovers. The Nuggets play three games this week against San Antonio, Oklahoma City and a resurgent Philadelphia, so they will need all the offense they can get.

Kyle Lowry
has filled in nicely for Aaron Brooks at the starting point guard spot for Houston. Lowry was the 13th-best nine-category player last week. He averaged over 33 minutes during the four-game stretch, scoring 14.3 points, dishing out 9.3 assists, collecting 2.8 steals and dropping in 1.8 3-pointers a game. Brooks returned to action Dec. 19 and will eventually resume his starting role. The Rockets have just two games left this week, so using either Lowry or Brooks is not suggested if you have better options. But keep an eye on Lowry, available in 44 percent of Yahoo leagues. He has started 19 of 23 games for the Rockets this season for Brooks who has been out since Nov. 6 with an ankle injury. Houston was 0-5 with Brooks as a starter.

Reggie Williams
posted the 23rd-best nine-category week in three games played for Golden State. The guard-forward played over 38 minutes a game, averaging 20.3 points on 3.0 3-pointers a game with 5.3 boards and 3.7 assists. WIlliams also shot .538 from the field and .714 from the stripe. He is still available in 51 percent of Yahoo leagues for a Warriors team that has three games this week — two at their home court against Houston and Portland and one that might as well be when they travel to Sacramento Dec. 21.

Washington's Kirk Hinrich, who has eligibility as a point and shooting guard in both Yahoo and ESPN leagues, is available in 51 percent of Yahoo leagues and 59 of ESPN leagues. The time to go snag Hinrich is now if you haven't already. Constant injuries to rookie guard John Wall, along with his dual eligibility, should have had Hinrich on your roster weeks ago. But now with Wall out indefinitely due to a knee injury and Gilbert Arenas traded away, the minutes are going to continue to be there for Hinrich. He is scoring 10.6 a game on .447 from the field and .850 from the free throw line to go along withh 4.9 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals.

Mehmet Okur
has returned from his Achilles injury, but the Utah Jazz are easing him into the rotation. In his two games back, the center has logged 11 and 13 minutes. He averages 29 minutes, 13.8 points, 7.1 boards, 1.7 assists for his career, but it is not known how he will be used in the Jazz frontcourt. The acquisition of Al Jefferson in the offseason and the play of Paul Milsap gives Utah a formidable starting inside presence as it is. But solid centers are scarce in fantasy basketball, whether they are coming off the bench or not. Monitor Okur's progress. He is available in 89 percent of ESPN leagues and 60 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Robin Lopez
also returned from injury for the Phoenix Suns. He missed 14 games with a sprained MCL and PCL. Lopez has company in the form of Channing Frye and the newly acquired Marcin Gortat at the center spot for the Suns. Lopez was averaging under 20 minutes prior to the injury, but has played no less than 21:52 in his three games back. He is available in 47 of Yahoo and 78 of ESPN leagues, so like Okur, monitor how he, Frye and Gortat work for Alvin Gentry's Phoenix squad.

Marcus Thornton
was supposed to be a nice sleeper for the New Orleans Hornets this season. Then Marco Belinelli earned the starting 2 guard spot to start the year, the Hornets went on a winning tear and Thornton seemed lost in the mix for the first quarter of the season. But he started to turn it on last week — scoring 19 points and playing nearly 24 minutes on back-to-back occasions. He cooled off Dec. 19 with three points in 13 minutes played in a close loss to Detroit. Thornton can be the occasional spark off the bench, which is where he has been all season, but that spark has also seen 10 occasions in which he saw no minutes and eight others where he didn't register at least 12 minutes of action. He's another monitor and hope that he lives up to his potential as the season wares on.

You'd never sit him unless you have better options or in a one-center league, but I just need a place to overreact about the underperforming Marc Gasol. I drafted Gasol as my first center in a two-center league in the fourth round of the Athlon Sports draft. I was so secure that he would follow up his 2009-10 season of 28 double-doubles that I felt confident that the only legitimate frontcourt partner he would need was JaVale McGee. I took a flier on McGee in the eighth round, not expecting him to be the dependable one — 9.6 points, 8.4 boards and 2.4 blocks. Gasol is averaging 11.6 points 7.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and has just four double-doubles. He has shot .273, .125, .333 and .250 from the field in the last four games. In the month of December alone last season, Gasol averaged 14.5 points and 10.1 boards. McGee has seven double-doubles already this season, shoots a higher percentage from the field and has turned it over 18 fewer times. I'm not giving up on Gasol, but they are not the numbers I expected from a player I thought was going to raise his game to another level this season.

— Corby A. Yarbrough on Twitter to ask any questions or make any comments

Post date: Monday, December 20, 2010 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-western-conference-notes/elite-pgs-face-again

The Miami Heat visiting the New York Knicks tonight will grab the headlines, but the highlight matchup of the night will be that of Deron Williams and Chris Paul.

When Paul's New Orleans Hornets play host to the Utah Jazz and Williams it will be the 16th meeting between the two point guards, drafted third and fourth overall in 2005. Williams, who was the No. 3 pick, has seen his team win 12 of the 15 meetings, but the two have matched up statistically in those 15 games.

Williams averages 17.1 points per meeting on .546 shooting from the field and .488 from 3-point range, to go along with 8.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds. He has recorded at least 10 assists in 10 of the last 11 meetings, and grabbed four consecutive double-doubles when facing Paul.

Paul scores 15.7 points on .416 shooting from the field, .222 from beyond the arc to go with 8.9 assists and 3.2 rebounds per meeting.

Williams is currently sporting a five-game streak of 20-plus points and has scored 30-plus in his last three outings. He is averaging 28.9 points in 52-percent shooting from the field and nine assists in his last five games.

Paul, who scored his 7,000th career point Dec. 10, has scored 20 in two of his last three and in double digits in all but three of the team's 25 games this season, made 56 of his last 58 free throws and is the only player in the NBA season to have eight games with five or more steals.

This will be the second meeting between the two teams this season. Utah won 105-87 in Salt Lake on Nov. 24. Williams had 26 points on 9-of-18 shooting (4-of-5 from 3-point range and 4-of-4 from the line) to go along with 11 assists, five steals and three boards. Paul had 17 points with one 3-pointer on 4-of-8 shooting with nine assists, five steals and three rebounds.

Unfortunately, it is just the matchup of these two teammates that won gold while playing for Team USA squad at the 2008 Olympics — and perhaps the limited minutes return of Utah's Mehmet Okur — that makes this one interesting to watch. The Hornets have won just four times to seven losses since the first meeting, while Utah has won seven of 10 since the Nov. 24 victory.

DALLAS: The Mavericks’ defense has been a huge key to their success this season, but scoring 100-plus has certainly helped. With a 103-98 victory over Portland on Dec. 15, Dallas improved to 13-0 on the year when recording 100-plus points in a game. In the 13 wins, Dallas has shot .492 from the floor, .360 from 3-point range and .811 from the line. The Mavs have held their opponents to an average of 94.9 points and .440 shooting in those 13 100-point efforts. The Mavs were 35-7 (.833) when they scored at least 100 points in a game last season. Only six opponents have recorded 100-plus points against Dallas this season. Dallas is 4-2 in those games.

HOUSTON: With a 118-105 win vs. Sacramento Dec. 14, Houston became winners of its last six home games. The Rockets have now put together a home winning streak of at least six games in each of the past five seasons. It stands as Houston’s best run since accomplishing a similar feat from 1996-97 through 2000-01. Houston's win over Sacramento moved it to 5-1 this season when scoring 100 or more points at home. Overall, the Rockets stand at 107-15 (.877) all-time in games when they hit the century mark at Toyota Center.
Forward Rasual Butler played in his 190th straight game on Dec. 15 in Philadelphia. Since the start of the 2008-09 season, Butler is one of just e NBA players to appear in every possible regular season game possible, joining Derek Fisher, Russell Westbrook, O.J. Mayo and Jarrett Jack.

L.A. LAKERS: Kobe Bryant, whose Lakers play in Philadelphia Friday, has played 26 games (22 starts) against his hometown Sixers, averaging 22.8 points per game.  In January of 2006 against Philadelphia, Bryant established a new franchise record for 3-point field goals without a miss, connecting on all seven of his attempts (10th time in NBA history with a minimum of seven attempts). He finished the game with 48 points, one shy of Jerry West’s Lakers series record of 49 points established in February of 1968.  Additionally, Bryant earned the first of his two MVP honors at the 2002 All-Star Game held in Philadelphia.

MEMPHIS: When Zach Randolph goes for at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, everything seems to come together for the Grizzlies. With Randolph averaging 23.6 points and 15.1 rebounds on .588 shooting in his seven 20-10 games, the Grizzlies are 6-1 (compared to a 6-13 mark otherwise). All-time, the Grizzlies are 31-16 when Randolph scores 20-plus points and snares 10-plus boards. He has averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds in four of his 10 NBA seasons, including last year with Memphis (20.8 points, 11.7 rebounds) in his first All-Star berth. Randolph has gone off for at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game twice this season and has passed Shareef Abdur-Rahim for the most 20-20 games in Grizzlies history (four) with his six career 20-2 performances.

OKLAHOMA CITY: The Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook tandem is currently the highest scoring duo in the league, averaging 50.8 points per game (Bryant and Pau Gasol of the L.A. Lakers rank second with a 46.5 point per game average). If both players were to hit the 24-plus point per game scoring clip at season’s end, Durant and Westbrook would join some elite company. In the last 10 years only the duo of Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson in Denver (2006-07) and Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in Los Angeles (three seasons; 2000-02) have each finished the season averaging 24-plus points.

PHOENIX: The Suns have used six different starting lineup through 24 games this season after using eight in 82 games last season. So it might not come as a surprise that the Phoenix bench has scored 23 or more points in every game this season. The Suns last opened a season with 24 straight 23-point bench efforts during the 1996-97 campaign (29 straight); the franchise record is 42 during the 1994-95 season.

PORTLAND: Every player to start a game for the Trail Blazers this season has recorded at least one double-double. At least two different players have recorded a double-double in five games this season — LaMarcus Aldridge (9) and Marcus Camby (7).

SACRAMENTO: Kings radio play-by-play announcer Gary Gerould called his 2,000th Kings game on Dec. 8 when the Kings played host to Washington. Gerould has been the “Voice of the Kings” since the team arrived in Sacramento (1985) and is among the top five in longevity among NBA broadcasters.

— Corby A. Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Friday, December 17, 2010 - 18:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-eastern-conference-notes/it-takes-formula

In the Milwaukee Bucks' 10 wins this season there has been a consistent formula.

At least one player has 15 points, five rebounds and five assists or blocks. Brandon Jennings leads the team with six of these games, Andrew Bogut and John Salmons each have two, and Ersan Ilyasova has chipped in with one. In Monday's win that snapped Dallas' 12-game winning streak, Jennings had his fourth double-double of the season with 23 points and 10 assists, and he grabbed five rebounds.  

Of note on ending the Mavs' streak, it is the fifth time in Bucks history that they have ended a run of at least 12 wins. The most famous instance came when Milwaukee ended the Lakers' NBA-record 33-game winning streak on Jan. 9, 1972. The Bucks also ended 12-plus game streaks by the Celtics (1973, 12), 76ers (1983, 14) and Spurs (2007, 13).

ATLANTA: Josh Smith is seventh in the NBA in blocks per game (2.19), and third in total blocks (57). He already has five games with five or more blocks — the Hawks are 5-0 in those games — after recording just four such games last season. Atlanta is 13-3 this season when he records multiple blocks in a game.

CHARLOTTE: The Bobcats enter Wednesday's game with Memphis with a franchise record of 197-319 through 516 games. Charlotte is four shy of reaching 200. Of the seven expansion teams since 1988, the Bobcats have a chance to be the second-fastest to 200 wins, behind only the Magic, who reached the mark in their 460th game.

CHICAGO: Derrick Rose is currently the only player in the NBA who is averaging 25 points and eight assists per games this season. Last season, Rose was the first Bull to average at least 20 points and six assists since 1991-92, when Michael Jordan (30.1 and 6.1) and Scottie Pippen (21 and 7) each posted those averages.

CLEVELAND: The Cavaliers rank No. 1 in the NBA in bench scoring, averaging 43 points per game. Cleveland's bench has outscored its opponents in all but eight games this season. On the year, the Cavs bench has outscored their opponents 43-32.9 per game.

DETROIT: Pistons rookie center/forward Greg Monroe started his first career NBA game in Minnesota Dec. 10 and grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds. The last time a Pistons rookie grabbed 15 rebounds was Nov. 15, 1995 when Theo Ratliff pulled down 15 against Seattle.   

INDIANA: In his first 16 games of the 2010-11 season, Mike Dunleavy blocked just six shots and no more than one in any outing. In the last six games, however, Dunleavy has rejected nine shots and blocked two in four of the last six games.

MIAMI: The Heat are in the midst of a nine-game winning streak, their longest of the season. It's the longest streak for the franchise since winning nine straight from March 20-April 7, 2010. Miami has won all nine by double digits, besting its previous streak of six straight double-digit wins that came Feb. 11-Feb. 23, 1999. The last NBA team to record nine straight double-digit wins was Cleveland (Nov. 22-Dec. 9, 2008). The Heat's current streak of 10-plus-point wins is one shy of the NBA record. That record is held by Houston (2007-08), New Jersey (2003-04) and Washington (1946-47).

NEW JERSEY: Anthony Morrow had made a 3-pointer in 21 straight games before Tuesday night. The sharphsooter played just 33 seconds in New Jersey's loss to Philadelphia and did not get a shot off. He strained his hamstring and will reportedly be out 2-3 weeks. Only two other Nets have ever had a streak of at least 20 games in which they made a 3-point field goal (Jason Kidd and Kerry Kittles).

PHILADELPHIA: Despite a record of 9-15, the Sixers have actually scored 12 more points than the opposition this season and have 55 more field goals made but 103 fewer free throws made. Philadelphia, Indiana and Houston are currently the only teams with losing records that have a positive scoring margin.

TORONTO: Through 25 games, the Raptors' offense ranks eighth in the league in scoring (102.4) while shooting .465 (965-of-2,076) from the field. Fast-break points have played a major part of Toronto’s offense, as they rank first in the league at 19.8 points, accounting for 19.3 per cent of Raptor points.

WASHINGTON: Through the first 23 games of the season, JaVale McGee is averaging career highs in points (10.1), rebounds (8.5) and blocks per game (2.3). McGee has grabbed 10 or more rebounds in nine games this season and has blocked at least one shot in 21 of 23 games played. The third-year center has posted seven double-doubles on the season. McGee ranks second in the NBA in games with four or more blocks with six.


Post date: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 16:51
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-power-rankings/east-finally-top

Well, it only took until the first quarter of the season was over plus an additional week for the Eastern Conference to finally place a team atop the Athlon Sports Power Rankings.

And it just so happens to be the new hottest team in the NBA as the Boston Celtics, winners of 10 in a row, assume the No. 1 ranking for Week 8. Dallas, the previous No. 1, had its 12-game winning streak snapped Monday night against visiting Milwaukee. The Mavericks slip to the No. 2 spot with their 19-5 mark, four of those losses coming on their home court.

The 19-4 Celtics put their top ranking up against the Eastern Conference's second-best team over the last 10 games when they travel to Madison Square Garden Wednesday night to take on the New York Knicks.

The tenth-ranked Knicks are riding an eight-game winning streak and have lost just once since Nov. 16. That is where their season took a turn for the better. After a 3-8 start to the season, including a six-game losing streak that ended Nov. 17, New York has reeled off 13 wins at an average of 114.4 points per game. Defense is still a question mark as the Knicks have surrendered 107.2 points per game during the 13 wins.

Meanwhile, the Celtics are scoring 100.7 points per game during the 10-game winning streak while allowing just 86.1. Only twice during the 10 games has Boston surrendered over 100 points — 101 to Philadelphia and Toronto.

So it should be a classic matchup of offense versus defense. Boston did score a 105-101 victory when the two teams met Oct. 29. New York has been idle since Sunday's 129-125 home win over Denver, while the Celtics have been off since defeating Charlotte 93-62 on Friday.

There's no reprieve for the Knicks after Boston leaves the Garden as the No. 4 Miami Heat arrive there for a Friday tilt. The Heat are also 9-1 over their last 10 games. The blowout in LeBron James' return to Cleveland certainly seems to have sparked this team as it is in the midst of a nine-game winning streak and has won by an average of 15 points in the six games since the 28-point victory over Cleveland. The Heat will welcome LeBron's former team into Miami on Wednesday before traveling to New York for Friday's game.

The only other matchup of top 10 teams from this week's Athlon Sports Power Rankings comes on Monday when Miami plays host to Dallas. The Mavericks are the last team to defeat the Heat, scoring a 106-95 win in Dallas Nov. 27.

There are four games between teams on the fringe of the top 10 against those inside the top 10.

No. 11 Atlanta, 5-2 since Joe Johnson went out with an elbow injury to start the month, travels to Boston on Thursday. The Hawks also play host to No. 9 Orlando Monday. This will be the third meeting of the season between the Southeast Division rivals; they split the first two.

Orlando, 6-4 in its last 10 games, travels to take on No. 12 Denver, 7-3 in its last 10, tonight on NBATV.  Denver plays host to No. 3 San Antonio, 8-2 in its last 10, on Thursday.

— Corby A. Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 14:15