TSN's Jack Armstrong offers his thoughts on Pau Gasol, the improving Raptors, Eric Gordon, Rajon Rondo, and tough times for the Bulls in Chicago.
1. PAU GASOL (Lakers): There are rumours out of L.A. that the Lakers are open to moving the big man. He and Coach Mike D'Antoni don't see eye to eye about his role and how he needs to be utilized in the offence. He's a wonderfully talented player yet when I was in L.A. eight days ago for the Raptors game I was surprised to see how little explosion and pop he had in his game. He played with little passion/force and for a guy that's getting paid big money that's inexcusable. Yes, you don't like your role but don't pout about it. Play through adversity.
2. RAPTORS ARE BETTER: Watching Toronto the past two games vs. Philly and at Chicago, this is a better team. More traditional playing inside/out, much better ball distribution, role definition and balance in the offence. In addition, the second unit has a little more pop in it with Patterson, Vasquez and Salmons along with Tyler Hansbrough. It will be interesting to see with this development to see the approach of GM Masai Ujiri to the trade prospects as they pertain to Kyle Lowry and I'm sure folks will be calling about Amir Johnson who has a very reasonable contract and produces consistently. Both guys would be valuable pieces for contending teams. Do you sell, hold or buy? Fascinating stuff.
3. ERIC GORDON (Pelicans): His team has had a nice season at 11-11 so far. More importantly, he's played in all 22 games. He's had injury issues over the years and many questions about his durability and love for the sport as well. He's been very effective at 16 ppg and shooting a reasonable 44 per cent field goal percentage and 39 per cent three-point percentage so far. Coach Monty Williams has done a nice job bringing this young team along and showing patience. Having Ryan Anderson back in the mix with his brilliant shooting and toughness helps. How they ride out the Anthony Davis injury will be huge yet the presence of Gordon consistently has been a pleasant compliment to this growing team.
4. RAJON RONDO (Celtics): Cleared for contact yet probably a few weeks to a month away from playing. They're in first place in the Atlantic Division. I'm sure GM Danny Ainge is just thrilled with that. What do you do? He'll be a huge trade piece for them when he's ready to go or do you play him when he's ready? He's a terrific competitor and player and instantly makes a team much better. The minute he's healthy and ready to go the offers for him will come pouring in and I'm sure Ainge hears daily from fellow GM's kicking the tires about his availability. Keep an eye on this one.
5. NATE ROBINSON & MARCO BELINELLI (Nuggets, Spurs): Was in Chicago on Saturday for the Raptors game and I feel awful for Derrick Rose and the Bulls fans. The building was silent and dead - the fans are in mourning about the direction of their team. The more I watched their team I kept saying to myself that they've got so little offensive creativity and explosiveness that they're going to labour to score and win consistently. They miss Robinson and Belinelli big-time. Both can score and create their own shot and opportunities for others. With all due respect to DJ Augustin, it's going to take him some time to get comfortable and to find his confidence. Not sure what the direction GM Gar Forman wants to take this thing yet but based upon what I've seen of this unit of late they're so offensively challenged they are in trouble. You can defend until you're blue in the face - you still gotta put the rock in the basket. Shows how fragile this business is. Two years ago they were the up and coming team in the East, and now they're barely staying afloat.