With the Draft Lottery on tap and the Conference Finals underway, TSN's Jack Armstrong offers his five thoughts on the Raptors hopes, the play of the Heat and Spurs, the future of Vinny Del Negro and the Trail Blazers' search for a new GM.
1. NBA Draft Lottery: Say a quick prayer. Maybe the Raptors get lucky and move up. Anthony Davis? - dream come true; top 3 - happy. If not, wouldn't be surprised if they package the pick and try to swing a trade. Can't be young with 'potential' forever. Need some proven pros in Toronto to help you win games. Will be interesting to see how everything shakes out after the draft order is decided.
2. Boston-Miami (Game 2): Lots of complaints about the referees from the Celtics - a few questionable technicals, Yes. Bottom line though, they got their tails kicked and were outplayed. All this talk about physical play from the Celtics - remember one thing - the league/officials won't let them cross the line nor will the Heat. They've shown that they've got some grit to them and they're seven wins away from a championship. They're not going allow themselves to get 'punked' by an opponent that they respect, but far from fear.
3. Spurs Clinic (Game 2): How cool was that? Wonderful ball movement and team play. The Thunder were a step behind on a ton of possessions and the ball was going to the right folks in the right spots. The Spurs don't panic and they know/respect each other's talents and don't hesitate to keep the ball moving. The third quarter hackfest by OKC was a desperate move to slow the pace and make the Spurs beat them with free throws. I'm sure we'll continue to see some of this from Scott Brooks if similar problems continue. Bottom line, I still think we're going to see the best from the Thunder in the next two games and we'll have a series but if the Spurs continue to function with the kind of flow and continuity they have currently on offence, they'll be tough to beat.
4. Vinny Del Negro (Clippers): Still think he's got a ways to go as a tactician but when I look at how far he's come in his four years as a head coach with no prior experience, I think he deserves another opportunity. His teams play hard for him and respect him. The pressure to perform on an even greater scale next year will be higher and he'll have to produce more W's and go deeper into the playoffs or the call for a 'proven head coach' will grow even louder. He survived for now and deservedly so - the next part is harder and if I'm him, I'm spending lots of time studying my own team's tape and more importantly talking with some elite retired coaches about ways to be more creative and make better use of the talents at his disposal. Keep growing as a coach - that's imperative. If not, you don't survive. The wolves will be at the door next season.
5. Portland GM Search: Reportedly down to three names for the job (former Hornets GM Jeff Bower, Pacers GM David Morway and Clippers GM Neil Olshey and they better get it right. Bottom line, president Larry Miller has to prove that he knows what he's doing here and can pick a solid basketball man, provide support in every way, shape or size and then stay out of the way. Owner Paul Allen provides great financial support but there needs to be a commitment to stability and support/belief in the GM in this job. Too much change and knee-jerk reaction to issues. The franchise has been devastated by the injuries to Greg Oden and Brandon Roy - very difficult to recover from that - but you need to get that behind you and come up with a patient/long-term plan. Tough for a GM to operate without that type of culture.