• Last-minute fantasy basketball pickups heading into the playoffs

    Is your fantasy team riddled with injuries? Need some depth to make that final push for the playoffs in your fantasy basketball league? Here is a list of four players that are more than likely still available in your league and could immediately contribute to your squad as you head into the fantasy post season:

    Gerald Henderson, SG, Charlotte Bobcats

    Henderson is averaging more than 16 points in his last 10 games and is shooting right around 45 percent from the field. You can also count on Henderson to contribute solid numbers is the assist and rebound category. In addition, he has seen an increase in his minutes played in the last 10 games, so fantasy owners can be sure that he will have plenty of opportunities to continue putting up impressive numbers. Anyone that wants to add Henderson will have to act quickly, as he is now owned in 37 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 48.9 percent of ESPN leagues.

    Jason Thompson, PF, Sacramento Kings

    In his last 10 games, Thompson put up 13.6 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game, which is a significant increase in production. If you are looking for a
    player who can provide consistent rebound production and put up more than 10 points, Thompson would be an excellent choice. It looks like
    the secret may be out on his increase in production, though. He is now owned in 43 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 51.1 percent of ESPN leagues.

    Antawn Jamison, PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    The veteran power forward is only averaging 8.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game for the entire season, but with Pau Gasol out with a foot injury, Jamison’s averages have sky-rocketed. In the last six games he has averaged 15.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. With Gasol expected to be sidelined for the rest of the regular season, Jamison would be a solid pickup for anyone looking to gain some extra point production off the bench. Jamison is owned in 32 percent of Yahoo! leagues and only 13.9 percent of ESPN leagues.

    Andre Miller, PG, Denver Nuggets

    Miller is averaging 9.1 points and 5.8 assists per game this season. Whether you need a backup guard or a utility player who will consistently contribute points and assists, Miller would be a great addition to your squad. He is only owned in 45 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 36.1 percent of ESPN leagues.

    Other Solid Pick-ups:

    Elton Brand, PF, Dallas Mavericks (averaging 9.2 points and 7.9 rebounds in February)
    Derrick Williams, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves (scored 17-plus points in his last five games)
    Al-Farouq Aminu, SF, New Orleans Hornets (great pickup if you need a lift in blocks and rebounding)
    Carlos Delfino, SG/SF, Houston Rockets (averaging 10.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game this season)

  • Surging Stars looking to climb the Western Conference ranks

    I’ve been journeying around the NHL for the last few days, so I thought it would be nice to head back to Texas for a little while, with an update on the Dallas Stars.

    And they might be the hottest 10-8-2 hockey team in the world right now.

    The offense is repeatedly lighting the lamp – they’ve scored three or more goals in 12 of their last 13 games. The defense has elevated its play in the last couple of weeks, lowering its goals against average and increasing its physicality. The power play is shaping up, and the team has started to turn away from its usual hunger for the penalty box. Everything has been clicking the last few of weeks, except for one very important thing: goaltending.

    But the cavalry is on the way for the Stars. Kari Lehtonen is expected to make his return Thursday night against the Edmonton Oilers in Dallas. The team has needed his presence desperately since he went down with a groin injury in a Feb. 15 game at Vancouver. Lehtonen owns a 7-2-1 record with a 2.12 GAA and a .934 save percentage. Compare his numbers with the combined ones of platoon backups Cris Nilstorp and Richard Bachmann (3-6-1, 3.50 GAA, .872 save percentage) and you can clearly see what the Stars have been missing the past few games. The bottom line is that while the offense has been scoring in bunches, far too many pucks have also been getting by these goaltenders. The Stars were just 3-2-1 in the six games without Lehtonen, and they should be fortunate for that result. When you are giving up 3.5 goals per game it is almost impossible to win consistently.

    With their No. 1 goalie back in net, the Stars have a great chance to shoot (pun intended) up the Western Conference standings. Since the start of the season, they have been one of the league’s deepest offensive teams, characterized by production from guys on all four lines. But now the younger players – Cody Eakin, Antoine Roussel, Reilly Smith, and Brenden Dillon have really stepped up their production. They are all getting a nice chunk of ice time every night and are being put into advantageous spots in the lineup that help showcase their abilities. I haven’t even mentioned the Stars’ best player, Jamie Benn, who at 23-years-old is also one of the youngest players on the team.

    The Stars’ recent surge has them ranked in the top 15 league-wide in every offensive category, with the defense also improving. Coach Glen Gulutzan has done an excellent job of mixing his lines with veteran leadership and youthful talent. This effective combination has been the reason behind Dallas’ hot play as of late.

  • The argument for banning baseball collisions: MLB should follow NFL’s model on player safety

    After Buster Posey broke his fibula and tore three ligaments in his ankle in 2011, I expected Major League Baseball to take measures toward protecting their players and prevent what happened to Posey from happening to anyone else. However, as seen with the recurring bone-crushing collisions at home plate every year, the MLB has not acted.

    This controversial topic gained steam this week after two current MLB managers and former catchers, Mike Matheny and Bruce Bochy, both stated their beliefs that MLB should ban the baserunner’s option to slam into the catcher at full speed when attempting to score a run. According to Matheny, Bochy and ESPN senior baseball writer Buster Olney, change to the rule is “not a matter of if, but when.”

    Last year during Posey’s NL MVP campaign, Bochy told him to avoid blocking the plate at all costs because the Giants could not afford to lose the best hitter in their lineup. Posey got extremely lucky that his collision with Scott Cousins in 2011 did not have a more severe impact on his career. The Mets handled the situation similarly with their promising catcher, Travis d’Arnaud. Coaches decided to forbid him from standing his ground at home plate. He has already injured his knee once, and as a catcher, another injury would not bode well for the longevity of his career.

    Player safety should take precedence over everything when it comes to the sports and entertainment business. Some might argue that collisions add to the excitement of the game and is a financial incentive because it attracts more fans, but I don’t buy that argument for a second. Catchers who support the proposition to ban collisions at home might ask their opponents, “Have you ever been blind-sided by a 220-pound athlete running at full speed?” Most football players sure have, and these collisions at home plate are horrifically similar to the jarring hits banned in football. I believe baseball should and will follow the NFL’s example but the time table of implementation is anyone’s guess.

    I can’t help but wonder if Posey had not returned from his injury by winning the NL MVP or had he not returned to baseball at all, whether or not the MLB would have chosen to take action at that point. Perhaps in this case, the phrase, “...until someone gets hurt” could be translated to “…until someone’s career ends.”

    Yesterday, Olney tweeted a very interesting side of the argument. The tweet read, “An evaluator I talked to loosely pegged the dollar value of one attempt at blocking home at $125,000, vs. '12 value of Posey to SFG -- $36m.” (via @Buster_ESPN)

  • Longhorns at the NFL combine: Marquise Goodwin helps draft stock with a 4.27-second 40-yard dash

    After missing practice time to participate in the 2012 Summer OIympics and enjoying a productive senior season, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin now hopes to be selected in the 2013 NFL Draft.
    After missing practice time to participate in the 2012 Summer OIympics and enjoying a productive senior season, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin now hopes to be selected in the 2013 NFL Draft.

    Of the eight draft-eligible players from the University of Texas, only three participated in the NFL combine: Marquise Goodwin, Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro. While Goodwin and Vaccaro turned out top performances in the combine workouts, all three are projected to be taken in the NFL draft by NFL.com.
     

    Goodwin finished second in the broad jump at 132 inches and recorded the best 40-yard dash time at 4.27 seconds, just .03 seconds off the record set by Chris Johnson in 2008. Goodwin’s athleticism comes as little surprise after his success as a track and field athlete brought him three NCAA outdoor long jump titles and a trip to London for the Olympics. NFL organizations will not pass on the opportunity to acquire the fastest 40 in the draft, but with no major success as a wide receiver, there is little guarantee Goodwin will be selected in the early rounds.
     

    Okafor participated exclusively in the bench press workout, putting up 21 reps of 225 pounds. Although he finished 17 reps short of the top performer Margus Hunt, Okafor is still a high-round pick, with first-team All-Big 12 (2011) and 4.5 sacks in the Alamo Bowl on his resumé.
     

    Vaccaro recorded the best 20-yard shuttle time in 4.06 seconds and finished twelfth among safeties in the forty at 4.63 seconds. Vaccaro was a draft prospect a year ago, but after returning for his senior season he has established himself as a potential top 10 pick and perhaps the first safety selected.
     

    With the Longhorns’ Pro Day coming up on March 26, these players will have one more opportunity to turn heads and have their names read out earlier in the Radio City Music Hall come April.
     

  • OT Josh Cochran out for spring after sustaining leg injury Wednesday

    Junior offensive tackle Josh Cochran will be out for the spring after sustaining a lower leg fracture during Wednesday practice, Texas head athletic trainer Kenny Boyd said Wednesday evening.

    Cochran started in all 13 games last season as a sophomore, playing both right and left tackle. His aid to the Texas offense earned him first-team Freshman All-America honors by Yahoo! Sports. As a freshman, he played in 12 games with seven starts, the first at Oklahoma State.

    When Cochran will return is unclear, but he should be recovered in time for August practices, Boyd said.

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