The fantasy season is over for the most part but the NBA news cycle never ends, and that’s what I love most about this league. Wednesday wasn’t loaded with news by any means, but let’s quickly recap the biggest storylines to keep you in the loop ahead of the playoffs.
Victor Oladipo’s bad luck continues
The Heat announced on Wednesday that Victor Oladipo will undergo season-ending surgery on his right quadriceps tendon. It’s yet another massive blow to Oladipo who has had nothing but issues for the last few years. He ruptured the same right quadriceps tendon back in 2019 which was deemed a “rare injury” that required ‘intensive recovery,” as he ended up missing the entire year. He’s managed to play in a total of 52 games since then and has looked like a shell of his former self.
The timing is what makes this a disaster though, as the Heat will be without him for their playoff push and Oladipo is heading to free agency with a ton of uncertainty. He turned down a 4-year, $80M extension with the Pacers and later a $45 million extension offer from the Rockets, and now I’d be shocked if he got a fraction of that. Already 29 years old, Oladipo was a player that relied heavily on his athleticism to get to his favorite spots but he looked like he was running in quicksand for the last couple years and his efficiency tanked like the Thunder, shooting under 41% from the field.
Tyler Herro has had a very underwhelming season for the most part, and injuries have certainly been a factor, but the Heat will need him to recapture some of that bubble Magic if they have any shot of making a deep run. The signs for Herro have been positive lately, as he’s heating up with 21.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.3 dimes and 4.0 triples on 67(!) shooting over his last three.
The latest on Robert Williams
Coach Brad Stevens said on Wednesday that Robert Williams received a cortisone shot for his turf toe injury earlier in the week, but it didn’t make a big difference. This is an injury that requires ample rest for improvement, and that’s not a luxury the Celtics have this close to the playoffs. My read on the situation is that Williams will be held out for the remainder of the season, and I could see Boston keeping a tight handle on his minutes for the foreseeable future.
Injuries have continuously stalled his breakout campaign, but the future is bright for this fantasy stud — he’ll end the season as a 6th-round value on a per-game basis in only 18 minutes per game. That is just an absurd stat and I can’t wait to end up with a lot of shares of him in fantasy drafts next season.
LeBron James sits out once again
LeBron was considered “likely” to play on Tuesday but ended up sitting both games of the back-to-back. Apparently James has been moving really well at practice, and coach Frank Vogel indicated that the Lakers were just being super cautious. And you have to think that the opponent in Houston was a factor as well, as they only had 7-8 players available, most of whom wouldn’t be recognized by casual NBA observers. The Lakers have probably accepted that they will most likely be playing in the play-in game, which is something LeBron is a big fan of (wink), so getting to the playoffs at full strength is their only concern right now.
That’s most likely why Anthony Davis sat out Wednesday too, as the groin tightness that popped up after playing 43 minutes on Tuesday got much worse when Davis took a look at the schedule… He’s fine and was simply rested.
James Harden returns!
Unfortunately, it wasn’t soon enough to help fantasy managers, as most of our seasons ended one or two weeks ago. The Nets will just be relieved that they have the chance to ramp him up for the postseason, and they are obviously thrilled that he didn’t suffer a setback like the last time. He certainly didn’t seem limited or rusty, dropping 18 points with seven rebounds, 11 assists, three triples, two steals, two swats and four turnovers in 26 minutes. «Not to brag or anything, but I’m really good at this game,» Harden said postgame.
One underrated aspect of Harden’s return is just how well he optimizes Nic Claxton, as the second-year center struggled mightily in the last few weeks. With Harden increasing the tempo and with his playmaking ability back on the court, it was no surprise to see Claxton go off for 18 points, five rebounds, one steal and two blocks in 22 minutes. «It was beautiful playing with James again,” Claxton said. This is a player who led the Nets in net rating by a wide margin earlier this season, so if this is the type of Claxton we’re going to see in the playoffs then I honestly don’t see how they don’t walk away with a championship. And don’t be surprised if DeAndre Jordan is completely out of the rotation deep into the playoffs.
Serge Ibaka nearing a return?
Ibaka is listed as “out” for Thursday’s game but all signs point to him returning before the end of the regular season. He’s been sidelined with what the Clippers are calling “lower back tightness,” something I find hard to believe since he’s been out since mid-March. Regardless, he won’t be returning to his usual role, as Ivica Zubac has thrived in his absence and has already been named the starter the rest of the way.
“I found out about [remaining the starter] a while ago, but it doesn’t change anything really for me,” Zubac said. The big man has been a pretty reliable starter in real life and in fantasy since the change, posting averages of 10.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.6 dimes and 1.0 blocks with the starting five this season. Zubac broke out in the playoffs last season when he matched up well with Nikola Jokic, so I’m excited to see if he can make another leap.
Kristaps Porzingis looks great
Kristaps Porzingis (right knee) returned from a seven-game absence on Wednesday, scoring 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting to go with five rebounds, one assist, two triples and one steal in 22 minutes. It was the bad knee that sidelined him recently which is obviously a huge red flag ahead of the playoffs, so here’s hoping he can actually stay healthy for once.
Porzingis also addressed his relationship with Luka Doncic after Marc Cuban said on a radio interview that the two of them have had some “dust-ups.” “I’ve never had any problems with my teammates off the court, I’ve always gotten along very well with them,” Porzingis said. “I don’t know what (team owner Mark) Cuban was talking about. I try to be as professional as possible, do what I have to do and be a soldier for the team.”