Kobe versus LeBron always a treat

January, 28, 2008
It is always fun when Kobe plays LeBron. Always. I always think it's too good to be true, that something is going to go "Curb Your Enthusiasm"-wrong or something. An injury to either, a blowout, or ... something to ruin the drama a Kobe Bryant-LeBron James matchup has. On a non-descript winter Sunday, no less; the sandwich Sunday between conference title games the Super Bowl. Now that's great scheduling.

LeBron won the battle that counts -- the Cavaliers won by four -- but Kobe did more on an individual level. With 33 points, 12 boards, six assists, 18 free throws (13 made) and 10-of-21 shooting from the field, it was standard Kobe-level brilliance that LBJ essentially matched (41-9-4). But duh, they're always going to be brilliant. Personally, I'm a fan of the Luke Walton's (nine points, five assists and rebounds, four steals, one turnover), and ... OK, so not much else. We miss you, Andrew Bynum, because this would be a perfect podium to talk about how the players other than Kobe and LeBron can contribute. Good job killing that angle, guys.

But I do like Luke Walton. Have for a while. Again, roto leagues only, but he's pretty nice with his jack-of-all-trades thing going on. Didn't have the best of months in January, but the further out he gets from his ankle injury, the better. And hey, if Kobe decides he wants to score more with Bynum out, Walton has no problem handing him the rock and benefiting from the assists.

The Magic are back, except it really doesn't count since they beat the Celtics while Kevin Garnett was on the sidelines. Seriously, Garnett not playing?! It was just his ninth missed game since 2002. Not much to comment on the fantasy side that wouldn't be redundant.

Thabo Sefolosha: two more steals. Two per game since getting into the starting lineup. Steal are tasty and valuable. And he can only go up in, well, every single category not named "steals."

The Suns shot 41.6 percent from the field and won by 11 because the Bulls were off (34.7 percent). Or I guess they call that good defense. But when Kirk Hinrich scores 31 and your team still only scores 77 points, total, against the Suns ... Defense is nice and all, but just saying.

Mo Williams had 25 points on 22 shots (along with making nine of those shots, he had five assists and rebounds, three steals and six turnovers). That poor assist-to-turnover ratio is enough to make you think he misses Michael Redd, despite the increased shooting opportunities. Which segues right into me telling you to ignore Royal Ivey (17 points, six assists and three steals); Redd should be back soon.

Guess how many fouls Andrew Bogut averaged in his breakout month. Okay, well, it's not really that exciting of a number -- 3.3 -- but unsurprisingly, it's the lowest number in his month-by-month splits this year. When young big men cut the foul rate and prove it's not a fluke, that's when you start pouncing on unsuspecting owners who think they are just selling high.

I love to see double-digit assists with just one or no turnovers. Anthony Johnson, thanks: 11 assists, zero turnovers. Johnson is that decent third point guard who chips in double-digit points, 5-to-6 assists, and 1-2 steals any given night. They so often end up getting overlooked. Don't fall into the trap of underrating league-average contributors like Johnson.

So Al Jefferson goes off for 40 and 19. Good stuff, winning your team the game and all, but where does that leave me? You can't not mention something like that, but it's almost as if mentioning Jefferson's game is as trite to the fantasy hardcore as it would be careless not to mention it. And I don't know about you, but I always turn my nose up when I see Rashad McCants getting playing time. More turnovers than assists, and outside of scoring-related activities, can't do anything that makes you want to get excited about him. I like my run-of-the-mill NBA games to be filled to the brim with interesting fantasy subplots, not littered with Rashad McCantses.

Until Carmelo Anthony gets back, I'm checking on my boy Linas Kleiza with every box score. Ten points, nine rebounds and three steals is a pretty nice "off" night, no? 'Tis a shame Kleiza hit just 2-of-8 shots and had five fouls; maybe the latter contributed to the former, or vice versa. But, it was nearly 40 minutes of playing time despite the fouls. You'll also make note of the tight rotation from the Nuggets, with just seven players seeing significant time. Carmelo's due back any day, so don't get comfortable, but Kleiza's always one of those bubble, just-waiting-in-line guys that I like.

One of the many things I love about fantasy sports is the opportunity to re-live some old man-crushes. Luis Scola is only a couple of months old in the timeline of man-crushes -- a failed one at that -- but I am always up for seconds, thirds, fourths ... well, fantasy sports really doesn't have a limit. But give Luis Scola nearly 40 minutes and watch the Argentine pride shine through: 18 points, six boards, three assists. Okay, maybe not the best line against a mediocre defensive team, but staying on the court (four fouls) and Carlos Boozer shooting just 4-of-14 from the field helps Scola's chances, too. Toss in 32 minutes (and a double-double) a game earlier and Scola has entered the watch list, and even worth picking up if you have one too many Luke Waltons. (Hey, I like the guy, but come on.)

It's not looking good for Nick Collison, who, with four fouls Sunday, now has 13 fouls in his past three games. Not good news when your starting job just got taken from you by a player you may very well be better than. Don't let Collison string you along; take your lumps, be happy with all the double-digit rebounding games you didn't truly deserve, and move on to the next Collison. Maybe Luis Scola.

Nate Robinson had 22 points and eight assists in 27 minutes (thanks to five fouls). I'm not the biggest fan of the small, tweener shooting-guard type, but Robinson's lack of turnovers (4.7 assists to 1.4 turnovers in 30 minutes per game this January) make him intriguing. Numbers like that get you more playing time, but a lot of it is Robinson's fault, too, as he fouls a lot (3.4 per game this month). As if Isiah needed more reasons to find time for Jared Jeffries.

Oh, and Andris Biedrins grabbed 26 rebounds thanks to the porous front-court effort of the Knicks. Only David Lee (13) had double-digits in rebounds for the Knicks and it seems like he always does that. But seriously, the Warriors? Biedrins is like the only rebounder on the team; they are likely the worst rebounding team in the NBA.

Adam Madison is a fantasy basketball and baseball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Adam@TalentedMrRoto.com.


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