Amar’e Stoudemire took to the court for the first time Tuesday since having surgery to remove fluid from his right eye six weeks ago, according to Paul Coro at azcentral.com. He had surgery on that eye back in February to repair a detached retina. Though Stoudemire was limited to shooting and conditioning on Tuesday, the Phoenix Suns head athletic trainer, Aaron Nelson, said he should be ready for pickup games in two weeks. Chances are, Stoudemire will be ready to go at the start of the season, and after a frustrating summer filled with recovery and trade rumors, expect STAT to have an even bigger chip on his shoulder this year.
- Mike Dunleavy appears closer to returning after having surgery on his right knee in March. Back then, he wasn’t expected to return until 2010, but there seems to be more hope of a return by the beginning of the season, according to Mike Wells at IndyStar.com. Dunleavy dunked for the first time Tuesday. When healthy, the versatile guard-forward is a key player for the Indiana Pacers and a potential top-25 fantasy player. Don’t knock him up your draft list just yet – if the team is careful with him, a 2010 return is still likely. Monitor Dunleavy’s progress and don’t forget about him just yet.
- Al Jefferson said he is “90 percent” recently, adding that “I know for a fact that I will be ready for training camp. I will be 100 percent, nonstop, I’ll go two-a-days,” according to Sid Hartman at StarTribune.com. The stud forward-center for the Minnesota Timberwolves missed the last 32 games of last season because of a right knee injury. is an absolute fantasy monster. His health is, of course, a major concern. If Jefferson really is 100 percent by the start of the season, it’s easy to make the case that he’s a top-10 pick. It seems very likely that Jefferson will be ready to go at full-speed by game one of the season, so feel free to place his name high on your draft list.
- Blake Griffin has practiced shooting while avoiding contact drills after straining his right shoulder last month, according to Mark Medina at LATimes.com. The overall first pick of this year’s NBA draft seems poised to put up decent numbers for the Los Angeles Clippers this season, and this little bump in the road shouldn’t hinder him at all. Don’t go crazy and draft Griffin too high, but he’s definitely worth a utility or bench spot on most fantasy rosters this year.
Agent Zero has probably fallen out of favor, and maybe off the radar for many fantasy basketball fans, especially those who have been burned by him in the past two seasons. However, early signs seem to indicate that Gilbert Arenas is healthy and ready to be the high-scoring, electrifying point guard for the Washington Wizards again. Steve Alexander of Rotoworld.com thinks that Arenas could very well be drafted in the third round: ”I think taking a gamble on him in the third round makes sense, as he could end up providing first-round value.” With a well-rounded, healthy roster this season, if Arenas is indeed healthy, he’ll be the reason why many owners smack their foreheads in the first month of the season. He seems like a prime candidate to be early trade bait if you’re more risk averse but decide to grab him early.
- Michael Redd only played 33 games last season before going down with a left knee injury, which required surgery. He hasn’t received much attention lately, but he may warrant a look in the middle to late rounds of most drafts. ”The doctors have told me that absolutely I will be able to come back stronger than I was before, if I rehab the proper way,” Redd said in an interview with the Journal Sentinel. There doesn’t seem to be a set timetable just yet, so don’t get your hopes up for a fully healthy Redd to be ready by the beginning of the season. At best, it seems reasonable to expect that Redd will be ready to come off the bench for the Milwaukee Bucks by the season opener. Redd could be a huge help to get your team into solid playoff contention. Don’t disregard him in your drafts.
- Marcin Gortat, the backup center for the Orlando Magic who got way more attention (and money) than he deserved this summer, has apparently suffered a back injury while playing for the Polish national team in London on Friday. According to a British blogger, Gortat is expected to be out for five to seven days. Back injuries tend to linger, especially bad ones, but Gortat seems to have dodged a bullet here. Still, if you are in a deeper league and are thinking about drafting the Polish Hammer, monitor this situation.
On Friday, Yao Ming decided to have major surgery on his left foot, which most likely signals the premature end of the 2009-10 NBA season. The surgery is similar to the one Zydrunas Ilgauskas had a while back. Yao is slated to go under the knife next week.
This shouldn’t be much of a surprise since this was the expected outcome for a while now. There is speculation that the injury-plagued Yao, 28, may be planning an early retirement from professional basketball, especially after the purchase of his former basketball club, the Shanghai Sharks. However, he insists that he will return to the NBA when he can.
From a fantasy perspective, this is big news. Yao, when healthy, is easily the most valuable pure center in the league, fantasy-wise. With centers already a rarity, fantasy leagues will likely see more reaching for centers than usual in this year’s draft.
For the Houston Rockets this news spells big trouble. When you look at their current roster, it looks like the 6-foot-6 power forward Chuck Hayes will likely have to step in and command some major minutes in the center position, where he’ll be vastly undersized. The 6-foot-7 Carl Landry and the 6-foot-9 Luis Scola, both forwards, will have to help out as well.
The Rockets, in anticipation of Yao’s absence, acquired the rights to Australian big man David Andersen on Wednesday. Andersen, 29, will be helpful if only because he’s 6-foot-11. He averaged 11.1 points and 4.1 rebounds with Regal FC Barcelona during the 2008-09 season. Those aren’t stunning numbers, and Andersen probably won’t see huge minutes right away, but at least the Rockets have someone tall to stick in at center from time to time.
- Hayes will see way more minutes than the 12:05 he averaged per game last season, so his production will benefit from Yao’s absence. He’s a tough player who will get rebounds, but his small size will work against him on many nights. Don’t lean on him too heavily.
- Landry will see more minutes than the 21:18 he saw per game last year, so expect his numbers to increase slightly. He’s an active player who isn’t afraid to mix it up inside and has shown that he can produce in limited playing time, but he’ll also be challenged by playing against bigger players more often.
- Scola will see more minutes than the 30:18 per game he averaged last season and he’ll likely benefit by seeing many more touches in the post. He also becomes the most skilled of the big men on the Rockets, which means that defenses will hone in on him a lot harder. His value may be stagnant. His points will likely increase, but so will his turnovers. Also expect his field goal percentage to take a hit.
- Andersen remains a mystery. Give him about three to four weeks before you judge his value. His value may rise as the season progresses.
- Brian Cook may see more playing time as a result of Yao’s absence, but his value remains minimal at best. He’s a shooter who won’t replace Yao’s post presence. Still, keep an eye on his minutes and production.
- Joey Dorsey, the second-year power forward, will see more minutes. He averaged 0.7 points and 0.3 rebounds in 2:06 per game last season. However, during five games in this year’s Summer League, Dorsey has averaged 9.8 points on 56.5 percent shooting and 14.8 rebounds per game. Those numbers can’t be ignored, especially with Yao now out for an extended period of time. Feel free to place Dorsey’s name on your list of sleepers this year.
- Trevor Ariza‘s value now becomes a lot more of a mystery. Yes, he’ll see plenty more minutes and shots now, but without a post player to demand attention and open up lanes and looks, Ariza appears to be a prime target for defenses to focus on. His shooting percentages will likely be weighed down by Yao’s absence.
- Shane Battier, who is at his offensive best when he spots up for open three-pointers, will see fewer of these opportunities with Yao gone. Expect his offensive value, already negligible, to take a hit.
- Rookie Chase Budinger, 6-foot-7, could see more playing time than expected this season, but should not be counted on for anything meaningful.