Kobe ready to carry fantasy teams again

March, 14, 2012

The Los Angeles Lakers took down the Memphis Grizzlies in a 116-111 double-overtime thriller Tuesday evening. Kobe Bryant played nearly 52 minutes and churned out a casual 34 points (11-for-25 FG, 11-for-12 FT), with five assists and nine boards in the process. Only a player of Kobe's ilk could crank out numbers like that on a nightly basis without warranting headlines, but he has been playing at this level for so long that we've grown used to it. Another thing we've grown used to seeing from him in the past is finishing the fantasy season with a flourish. Could that be in the cards this season? Is there actually room for improvement?

There already have been signs that he's ready to take it to another level. He took 25.6 shots and averaged 31.2 points per game in January, but those numbers dropped to 22.8 shots and 26.0 points per game in February. In seven March games, though, he's back up to 25 shots and 31.0 points per game.

Whether the Lakers trade Pau Gasol or add other pieces, I expect Kobe to put the Lakers on his back and carry them the rest of the regular season. Look for some epic scoring games, huge free throw totals and plenty of steals, dimes and 3-pointers as he tries to claim his second NBA MVP award. The ego is there, the opportunity is there, and we know the skills are there. Obviously no one is sleeping on Kobe; just don't forget that he's capable of taking your fantasy team to the title with a big finish to the regular season.

Looking back

• We're getting a delectable look at what the Toronto Raptors backcourt would look like if they end up trading veteran point guard Jose Calderon. With Calderon still sidelined because of an ankle injury Tuesday, Jerryd Bayless reeled off 20 points (6-for-13 FG), with four 3-pointers, seven dimes and four boards. I still feel like they'll lean more on Bayless down the stretch, even if Calderon doesn't get traded by tomorrow's deadline. He's one of the better sleepers out there right now, especially since it appears unlikely that Calderon will return for Wednesday's tilt against the New Jersey Nets.

Marreese Speights played a whopping 49 minutes in the Memphis GrizzliesLos Angeles Lakers. He finished with 25 points (12-for-20 FG), five assists and seven boards. It was another quality night from Speights, but it could be the end of his run of success, because Zach Randolph's return appears to be imminent. Z-Bo could be back in the mix as soon as Friday against the Raptors.

Joe Johnson's knee appears to be feeling better, judging by the 26 shots he chucked up last night. He hit half of them and finished with 34 points and six 3-pointers. Hopefully this is a sign of what's to come the rest of the season. I'm skeptical about the 30-year-old's knee, though, and recommend selling high on him after this performance.

Looking ahead

• The tight hip flexor that forced Manu Ginobili from Monday's game has left him as a game-time decision for Wednesday's tilt with the Orlando Magic. Considering his inability to get -- and stay -- healthy, use him at your own risk even if he does play tonight, then trade him before it's too late.

• A strained Achilles has cost Spencer Hawes 27 of the past 28 games, but he's set to return to the hardwood Wednesday night in the Philadelphia 76ers' matchup versus the Indiana Pacers. In fact, he's expected to jump right into the starting lineup. It's not clear how many minutes he'll play right away, but considering how hot he was to start the season, he shouldn't be on the waiver wire in any leagues at this point.



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