Happy New Year! Hope each one of you have much success, happiness and good health in 2013. All the best! Let's take a quick look at a few NBA Topics.
1. RAYMOND FELTON (Knicks): Out for a month with a fractured finger. Major blow to this team that has been one of the neat stories in the league. He's played quite well in place of Jeremy Lin and has given them great direction and leadership in the back court. His defense is solid and he and Jason Kidd were consistent. How the Knicks manage this situation over the coming weeks will be critical for them as they hold onto the no. 2 spot in the East.
2. ROYCE WHITE (Rockets): I feel for this guy who suffers from anxiety disorder due to his fear of flying and also OCD. Now he won't report to their D-League team and has made some strong comments towards the organization that drafted him in the first round when others didn't want to take the risk on him. He was a terrific talent at Iowa State, but he offers his team nothing at the moment making disparaging comments and not playing. Moving towards the point of no return for both sides and then what? Who knows. Never dealt with anything like this when I coached and few have. I hope for White's sake he gets it together because his team and the other 29 NBA teams will move on and a potential solid career will go by the wayside. As much as you want an organization to make accommodations for you--ultimately, you're an employee and you've got to show that you can produce and meet them, at the very least 50 percent of the way, if not further.
3. DWIGHT HOWARD (Lakers): His former coach, Stan Van Gundy recently was quoted as having concerns that Howard still isn't right physically with his back condition and overall condition. I totally agree. Watching him play, he doesn't look like the same player or guy who was such a dominant force for the Magic. I know it takes time to adjust to a new city, teammates, coaches, etc., but he clearly looks like about 70 percent of the player he once was -- forget the numbers. For the Lakers to truly make a run in the West, he's got to get back to being an incredibly impactful guy. Somehow, someway, this has to work. If not, he could be walking out the door as a free-agent on July 1.
4. P.J. CARLESIMO (Nets): An opportunity at his fourth crack as an NBA head coach with the termination of Avery Johnson. This team has underachieved, yet they're not as good as the hype attached to their story this year. The fact that you move to a new arena and area doesn't qualify you to be a contender. Yes they got Joe Johnson, but he's been a disappointment. The strength of this team should be its back court of Deron Williams and Johnson. Carlesimo's biggest task will be to get these two guys on the same page and playing at a whole different level.
5. TORONTO RAPTORS: Unbelievable! Have won seven of eight and looking good and really confident. They're only 3.5 games back from the eighth playoff spot with over four months left to play. Go figure, after an abysmal 4-19 start. Can they do it? They've dug themselves an incredibly difficult hole to get out of and it won't be easy. I'll tell you what though, if they play with the defensive energy that they've shown of late and keep sticking together and sharing the ball in order to get really good high percentage shots, they can play with anyone. Not saying they can beat anyone -- they still have challenges, but they'll give themselves a chance every night to hang in there with any opponent. The schedule finally settles down after 19 road games in 31 dates to start the season. Unpack the bags, get in a rhythm and improve with the additional practice time that will exist in the coming weeks. The time to grow, mature and get to another level is here. I give credit to Kyle Lowry for being so team-oriented and selfless. I see total "buy-in" right now -- encouraging development. This has been the most baffling season to figure out in my 15 years as a Raptors' broadcaster. Not sure where it's all going to go, but right now, it's fun to watch. They believe in what they're doing and most importantly, each other.