Holiday greetings to all and Merry Christmas! On December 25th, the NBA tips off for real with five games and it should be a blast. Here are five brief thoughts on the NBA.
1. JEFF GREEN (CELTICS): What a tough break for him and the Celtics. Thank goodness this was detected and will be fixed. Major loss for them. Considering the fact that playing 66 games in a span of 120 days will be brutal, when you look at the C's and their veteran team and the true need for quality second unit play, this could be trouble. The margin of error for Doc Rivers' team just got a bit smaller. Playoff team? No doubt, a good one. Championship Contender with this current roster at the end of a crazy marathon? I don't see it.
2. BARON DAVIS (NY KNICKS): If he's healthy and he's right (HUGE ifs with this guy), he's a good get for the Knicks. Great opportunity for him to play again in a big market and he knows the career is winding down. I've never been a fan of his constant lack of conditioning but there is no doubt he can play and, more importantly, he knows how to run a team and make others better. He's a clutch player and good competitor. I think the pressure and expectations of NYC will bring out the best in him.
3. REFEREES: I was at the Celtics-Raptors game at the ACC on Sunday. Lots of whistles for a number of various infractions. Be patient with these guys. As crazy as this sounds, they've got to get back in game shape and rhythm as well as the players. They haven't blown a whistle since last spring and getting the feel, timing, mechanics, communication, anticipation and judgement back will be a hit/miss proposition for some, if not many. Won't be pretty for a while.
4. LAMAR ODOM (MAVS): I still can't for the life of me understand why the Lakers moved him for so little. He's a really good player with wonderful versatility and feel for the game. Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy (lots of pressure and expectations in LA) better be ready to play at a high level. That guy Kobe Bryant won't be a pleasant guy to be around if you don't produce. Really curious to see how this will play out. By the way, if I'm the Lakers, I have to be concerned with how Derek Fisher will hold up in this condensed season. He's had a good run and I really wonder how effective he can be defensively at this stage. Yes, he'll run the team and make open shots but can he keep anyone in front of him anymore, particularly on multiple game nights in short period of time? I can hear the word 'Help' being used often on the old blow-bys!
5. TWO-WAY PLAYERS: When I watched Dwane Casey's debut in Toronto on Sunday, that is what I saw and appreciated from his team. You want to play? You're going to give championship calibre effort on BOTH sides of the ball. He's laying the correct foundation that will pay off for him in Years Two and beyond when the talent level improves. He's only the second Raptors head coach other than Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkins (who was past his prime when he got to Toronto, good man who I respect) to have NBA head coaching experience. In my opinion, that will help him and that matters in a situation like this. He's paid his dues and is a good basketball man who has the strength of his convictions yet will adapt/adjust when need be.
Big adjustment for guys like Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Bayless, Johnson's, Calderon, etc. is to be able to get your conditioning/durability and mental toughness/focus level UP to a professional/championship effort level. You COMPETE on EVERY play: NO plays off. This ain't summer league or some pickup game. Time to play like a man. Show up every day and play the game hard and carry yourself like a pro. NO Excuses. They'll probably/likely be more L's than W's but, if by the end of April, these guys know what 'Raptors Basketball' is and what the standard of expectation/performance is, then Years Two and beyond will get a whole lot better as the Draft/Free Agency/Trades begin to turn this thing around.