Greetings from Phoenix, AZ! It's an off day here with the Toronto Raptors. Actually, a bit chilly here today with a bunch of clouds - no poolside prep for me. Here are Five NBA Thoughts for you.
1. WESLEY MATTHEWS (Trail Blazers) - I saw him on Friday night vs the Raptors. He'll never be the best player on the floor yet he won't be the worst either - far from it. Think about it; he came out of Marquette undrafted. A great get for Utah GM Kevin O'Connor (one of the unheralded GM's in the NBA) and then signed as a free agent for Portland. Good lockdown defender who competes hard and does everything offensively relatively well. Just goes to show that there are good players out there who don't get the hype and get the high draft pick that cannot only play, but help you win. Case in point!
2. DEANDRE JORDAN (Clippers) - Wow! Saw him yesterday - he's a beast! By the way, he's a second round pick - another example of good scouting by a team. He runs the floor great for a big fella. He blocks and alters shots, he rebounds on both ends and he'll finish at the rim. He's tough-minded and has an intimidating presence. He needs to improve his FT% - it's less than 50% - but beyond that he was a good pick and re-signing by the Clips. I would love him on my team any day of the week.
3. STAN VAN GUNDY (Magic) - I gotta tell ya, beyond the big fella - Dwight Howard - this is a flawed and incomplete roster with very little quality depth. In spite of the entire media circus surrounding Dwight Howard and his childish acting out on a few occasions, things have remained stable in Orlando. Why? They've got a terrific coach. I used to work with him when we were assistant coaches together during the 1987-88 season at Fordham University and have stayed friends with him ever since. Friendship aside, the man can coach each phase of the game, and do it well. He surrounds Howard with shooters, excellent ball movement and they guard you better than you'd think. Do I think they're deep playoff material? No, not talented enough. But pound-for-pound, he gets as much out of his teams as anyone on a consistent basis. He actually gets Hedo (Raptors fans, you remember him?) to play to his potential. If I were ever a GM and needed a coach and he was available, I'd hire him in a heartbeat.
4. LA LAKERS (10-8) - If the season were to end today (thankfully it won't) the Lakers would be the 10th seed in the Western Conference and out of the playoffs. Talk about surprising. Do I see them bouncing back? Sure! Do I see them with the current roster able to compete late into June? Doubtful. Issues galore exist and not sure how they improve their club with limited trade pieces unless they want to shop Pau Gasol again or they can pull off the Andrew Bynum-Dwight Howard trade. The desperation and pressure are going to build there and it will be interesting to see if they are willing to be bold and make major moves or try to go with minor tweaks and hope for the best. Time is ticking for Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher is fading. Tough decisions lie ahead.
5. TORONTO RAPTORS, MUST WIN TIME - Catching the Suns tomorrow here in Phoenix coming back from a five-game road trip playing the Raptors on a back-to-back after they play at Dallas tonight. A perfect time to catch them. Games at Utah on a back-to-back and at Denver & New Jersey won't be easy. In my opinion, the most winnable game on the schedule. They gotta get it and change the losing vibe around the team. A sense of urgency has to be there from the start. The team has been tough to watch play in the first quarter. They can't continue to play from behind, it doesn't work for a team as limited as Toronto. Amir Johnson-Ed Davis-DeMar DeRozan-James Johnson - they need to see some consistency and productivity. They need a lot more from each. Enough about each guys potential - produce!