The Charlotte Hornets welcomed back Kemba Walker to their lineup on Wednesday evening. In 16 minutes off the bench, Walker posted 6 points, 2 assists, and 1 block in 16 minutes. It wasn’t the game we expect out of Walker, but he was going to be limited to 9 minutes per half and Coach Steve Clifford stuck to his word. Don’t be surprised if Walker continues to be on a minutes’ restriction and come off the bench through the weekend. It will take Walker a few games to get back into game shape.
Mo Williams started Wednesday’s game and continued his strong play of late, putting up 20 points and 8 assists. With Walker back, Williams will inevitably lose playing time. However, Williams should still hold some value. He’ll be a fine play through the next couple games, while Walker is on a minutes’ restriction.
Even when Walker supplants Williams in the starting lineup, Williams can still provide threes, assists, and points off the bench for deeper leagues. In 22 games off the bench this season, Williams has averaged 8.6 ppg, 5.3 apg, and 0.8 3PT FGM. The numbers are significantly lower than his starting numbers (18.1 ppg, 7.9 apg, and 2.4 3PT FGM), but assists are hard to come by.
Just when the Hornets think they are back to full strength, another player goes down with an injury. Al Jefferson left Wednesday’s game, after feeling something “pop” in his leg. Fortunately on Thursday, the MRI on Jefferson’s right calf and knee was negative. For now, Jefferson is doubtful to play Friday and plans to meet with doctors to determine how long he’ll be out. More should be known after the weekend.
With Jefferson sidelined, Bismack Biyombo will get the start at center. He’s still very raw offensively, but can provide plenty of rebounds and blocks. In 13 starts this season, Biyombo has averaged 8.1 rpg and 1.5 bpg. Jason Maxiell will also get an increase in minutes off the bench, but isn’t worth a look in fantasy.
Tim Duncan exited Tuesday’s game early, after injuring his elbow in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ win. He was diagnosed with a hyperextended elbow, but the Spurs don’t expect Duncan to miss any time. He was able to play on Thursday night and played quite well, posting 18 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 blocks. Quite the stat line for a guy who was supposed to be injured. Some of that was helped by overtime, but I wouldn’t worry about Duncan anymore than we usually worry about his playing time under Coach Pop.
Derrick Rose was seen taking shots before the Bulls’ game on Monday night against the Grizzlies. He said that there is a “good chance” that he will return this season, but didn’t offer an exact timetable. Personally I would hold onto Rose for now, but this late in the season, I understand if you’re contemplating dropping injured stars. If you’re struggling to make the playoffs and need the extra roster spot to get in, then you definitely have to think about dropping Rose. If you’re definitely in the playoffs, then you can afford to hold onto Rose for another week in hopes that better news comes out.
Dwight Howard, who hasn’t played since January 30, resumed basketball activities last week, but unfortunately remains without a timetable. Howard hasn’t reported any pain in the workouts thus far and even said that he was feeling more “explosive” than he felt earlier in the season. The Rockets expect him to return to the court in the next two weeks, barring any setback.
Kevin Durant was re-evaluated on Thursday and should return within a week or two, according to Coach Scott Brooks. Durant had minor surgery to replace the screw that was inserted in his right foot in October, which was giving him discomfort. With Durant out, Russell Westbrook should continue to pick up the slack.
Despite reports that Blake Griffin could return as early as this past Sunday, he is still out through this week. He’s unlikely to play on Friday night, but has a chance to play this Sunday. Unfortunately, we heard the same news last week so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Isaiah Thomas sat out Wednesday’s game against the Grizzlies with back soreness. He’s expected to be out until at least next Monday’s game. He hurt his back in this past Monday’s game, after landing awkwardly while driving to the basket. It’s a tough blow to owners because Thomas was dominating since the trade to the Celtics, averaging 20.8 ppg, 5.0 apg, and 2.5 3PT FGM in the month of February. As long as Thomas is out, Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, and Marcus Smart should see an increase in minutes.
After sitting out Wednesday’s game with an ankle sprain, Brandon Knight is doubtful to play on Friday night. He left Monday’s game early after coming down awkwardly on the ankle. X-rays were negative, but he was seen in crutches during Tuesday’s practice. The Suns haven’t announced a timeline for his return so consider Knight day-to-day for now. Marcus Morris started in Knight’s place on Wednesday, posting 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists on 3-12 shooting.
Lastly, Joakim Noah sat out Wednesday’s game with knee soreness, but expects to play on Friday against the Hornets. Noah is injury prone, but it sounds like a day of rest more than anything serious.