Around the League

Mike Fratello joins the Wheelhouse to discuss the season so far for the Nets, how Jason Kidd has done as a head coach, Mark Jackson as the Warriors coach, the Steve Blake trade and Jason Collins.

On the Road with Mike

Inspired by the 2014 Winter Olympics, I took to the ice at the Serpentini Arena in Lakewood, Ohio and got some partner skating pointers from the 1996 U.S. Figure Skating Championship silver medalist and 1998 Olympic team alternate Tonia Kwiatkowski. No falls for the Czar!

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After my lesson, I schooled a young pupil in the intricacies of world class hockey.

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Fratello’s Fantasy Pick

Utah Jazz v Denver NuggetsWhen the Utah Jazz selected 6’8” Gordon Hayward ninth overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, they were expecting a solid player with a high hoops IQ who could score, board and dish. But they probably didn’t anticipate that the 23-year-old would become their squad’s leader in his fourth pro season.

The Indiana native spent two years at Butler University under coach Brad Stevens. In his sophomore season Hayward was named the West Region’s MVP in the NCAA Tournament. He led the Bulldogs to the national championship game, where he missed a game-winning, buzzer-beating, half-court shot that bounced off the rim and backboard.

The Jazz, at 19-33, have endured a tough schedule in the brutal Western Conference. Hayward has competed in 47 of Utah’s 52 contests thus far and leads his team in scoring and floor time with 16.3 ppg and 36.3 mpg. He also averages 5.6 rpg, 5 apg and 1.4 spg. And Hayward has season highs of 13 rebounds, 12 assists, 4 blocks and 4 steals.

Hayward is a career 82% from the charity stripe, and his scoring numbers have improved in each of his seasons with the Jazz. Hayward scored a career-high 37 points in a win against the mighty OKC Thunder on January 7th. He added 11 boards, 7 dimes and 2 steals in the upset.

Utah is having a down year with little or no chance of making the playoffs. Hayward’s name has been brought up in trade rumors recently. If he is dealt to a new team, the change of environment could add to his production. If he remains in Salt Lake, he’ll be putting up chunky numbers to show Jazz executives that he’s a max-level player in this off-season.

Either way, Hayward would be a solid pick-up for any fantasy GM trying to bolster his roster with approximately 40% of the regular season remaining.

Gameday Dish

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles LakersThe Oklahoma City Thunder, owners of the best record in the league at 42-12, come to the Staples Center this evening to take on the 18-34 Los Angeles Lakers.

The Basketball Gods have been merciless on the storied franchise, and it has taken a horrible toll. The 16-time NBA Champs have lost 21 of their last 26 games.

The Lakers now sit in a virtual tie with Sacramento for the Western Conference’s worst record. In addition, coach Mike D’Antoni’s squad has lost their past six home contests.

With a loss tonight, this Lakers group will set a mark for the most straight home defeats. The franchise has not endured seven consecutive losses since moving to SoCal in 1960.

Injuries have plagued The Lake Show this season. Los Angeles continues to play without five of its key performers: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Nick Young, Jodie Meeks and Xavier Henry. Jordan Farmar has also missed 19 of the last 20 games, and Steve Nash will be sidelined yet again after exiting against Utah due to issues with his leg and back.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Portland Trail Blazers

When the Purple & Gold played Tuesday night, they were bludgeoned by the woeful Jazz, 96-79. Eleventh-year center Chris Kaman led the team with 25 points and 14 boards.

The Lakers and Thunder last met on December 13th in the Sooner State. KD and company drubbed LA 122-97, outscoring the Lakers in every quarter. Durant, now the clear frontrunner for the 2014 NBA MVP, went for 31 points, 8 boards, 5 dimes and 4 steals in the one-sided affair. It was just Kobe’s third game back from injury, and he scored only 4 points, but managed to dish out 13 assists. Pau Gasol had 14 and 7 boards in the loss.

The surging Thunder have gone 14-2 over their last 16, including a 98-95 hard-fought W in Portland on Tuesday night. KD was his usual unstoppable self, hitting for 36 points and 10 boards. Second-year SG Jeremy Lamb came off the bench to add a crucial 19 points on 8-11 shooting.

Tune in to TNT tonight at 10:30 PM ET to see if Los Angeles, playing the unfamiliar role of struggling underdog, can stop OKC’s winning ways and prevent a dubious home loss mark.

Ukraine and the Czar

After the World Cup draw in Barcelona, Spain I traveled to Kiev for the 2014 Ukraine Cup. Prior to the championship game on Sunday I ran a coaching clinic with four of my assistants, and we had about 160 attendees. Then we watched Budivelnik beat Donetsk for the Ukraine Cup title!

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Photo courtesy of Oleksiy Naumov.