Tuesday was supposed to be a night of returns for the Los Angeles Lakers, but just as they were welcoming back point guards Steve Nash and Steve Blake, they lost Jodie Meeks and Jordan Hill to injuries. With the Lakers playing again on Wednesday, fantasy basketball owners will need to scramble to the waiver-wire to ensure they have a full lineup.
The good news for the Lakers — and for fantasy owners — was that for the first time in 39 games, Nash was back running the point for the purple and gold. He was supposed to be on a strict 10-16 minute limit, but ended up playing 25 minutes because of all the injuries. The two-time MVP racked up nine assists and scored seven points (3-6 FG, 1-2 3PT), to go along with one rebound and one steal.
Overall, Nash contributed far more to the box score than anyone could’ve imagined, but owners shouldn’t expect that kind of production on a night-to-night basis. Coach Mike D’Antoni is fickle when it comes to his rotations, and he’s already stated that it’s unlikely Nash will play in the second game of back-to-back sets. Consider that, plus the fact that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and it makes sense to watch Nash from a close distance — for now.
It was nice getting Nash and Blake back (who also had a scary injury moment of his own), but losing Meeks will prove to be costly if he has to miss an extended period of time. Other than Pau Gasol, and maybe Kendall Marshall, Meeks has been arguably the best player for the Lakers over the past month. The fifth-year pro out of Kentucky is having his most productive season as a pro, but his owners will be without his services for for at least the next few games.
It’s a tough blow for fantasy owners. In the month of January, Meeks averaged 18.9 points, 1.9 steals and 2.6 three-pointers, making him the 29th-ranked player on Basketball Monster.com during that time period. His injury occurred just 1 minute 26 seconds into Tuesday’s game, when he landed awkwardly on the foot of Timberwolves’ forward Corey Brewer.
In a tweet issued Tuesday night, Lakers’ beat writer Mike Bresnahan confirmed everyone’s suspicions — that Meeks indeed suffered a sprained ankle and that he would miss the rest of the Lakers’ road trip, which includes games on Wednesday in Cleveland and Friday in Philadelphia:
X-rays were negative for Jodie Meeks, but he won't play the other two games this trip because of sprained ankle.
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) February 5, 2014
Conceivably, Kendall Marshall would pick up some minutes in Meeks’ absence, but D’Antoni would never do something that logical. Marshall played just 21 minutes on Tuesday, scoring five points and handing out three assists. With Nash possibly sitting out on Wednesday, Marshall could find himself back in the starting lineup next to Steve Blake, who somehow deemed himself okay after rupturing an eardrum during Tuesday’s game. Had Manny Harris‘ 10-day contract been renewed, he may have been a decent waiver-wire add after his 19-point outburst vs. the Wolves.
The Lakers can’t catch a break right now with their backcourt, and it now seems to be rubbing off on their big men. Jordan Hill was expected to garner most of Gasol’s minutes while he is sidelined with a groin injury, but he too was injured in Tuesday’s game — and by friendly fire, no less. Apparently Chris Kaman elbowed Hill in the head, causing a cervical strain and a headache, which is pretty much the Lakers’ season in a nutshell.
Robert Sacre (100 percent available in ESPN.com leagues) had a nice game as the de facto big man for the Lakers, racking up 14 points and four boards in 31 minutes. Sacre is worth a look in deeper leagues, as the Lakers play the Cavs and Sixers in their next two games. Cleveland and Philly are 26th and 29th in fantasy basketball vs. opposing centers over the last month.