Happy Monday! Lots to talk about in the NBA. Here's a quick look at a few topics catching my eye around the League.
1. MIKE D'ANTONI (Lakers): I think we were all convinced that it was Phil Jackson once Mike Brown got whacked. I guess Phil's demands were a bit much for the Buss family. I'll say this, if D'Antoni thought he had pressure in New York coaching the Knicks, taking this job is a totally different ball game altogether, particularly with the fact that you're getting the job and Phil Jackson isn't. Wow. He did a terrific job in Phoenix and not so good in New York and Denver in his other head coaching stints. When he has talent, he's a terrific offensive innovator who puts his guys in excellent spots to succeed. For most coaches, that should be the case. It wasn't the case with Mike Brown, who I like immensely but this wasn't a good fit for him, nor was he for them.
There are a few issues for him to deal with: Dwight Howard is a free agent on July 1. They better win; if not, does he want to deal with drama like this over the long-haul? The bench play is lousy; can they get him some help here? D'Antoni's style of play is predicated on having a bunch of three-point shooters to open the floor up for pick-and-roll options and penetration. Again, can a few shooters be added here to help? Now it's on the players to produce and GM Mitch Kupchak to fix some issues. Will be fun to watch.
2. SMALL FORWARD SPOT (Raptors): When you look at the 3-spot for this team with close to $11 million locked into Landry Fields and Linas Kleiza, the question has to be asked: are you getting enough return on your investment? Add Alan Anderson and Dominic McGuire to the mix at minimal salaries and the big picture here is the fact that this is still a position that has challenges on this team. Rookie Terrence Ross has lots of potential as one of the wing players in the future. I think you can argue that his ceiling is higher than all of these guys long-term. Is he ready to play major minutes against first-unit players in this league right now? Not so sure particularly after four non-playoff seasons and the attempt to improve and be in the hunt for that last playoff spot. Either way, somehow or some way this spot has to become at least consistent for them to be decent. Right now, injuries (Fields and Anderson) and in the case of Kleiza (excused family absence) are holding back the development of this spot. Big challenge here - is there a solution in place? Not sure. Could hold them back. Just be solid, steady and decent, whomever plays.
3. JAMAL CRAWFORD (Clippers): Want a guy with pretty good skills who can score for you and still make good plays overall? Then this is your guy. Is he a bit of a gunner? Yes, but he can score. Period. As a second-unit guy he was a good pickup for the Clips. Not sold on him as a starter at this stage of his career but for a team that needs a little veteran scoring punch off the bench, he's not a bad gamble. He'll be a decent guy in the locker room and knows the ins and outs of the league and will be professional. Makes sense to me.
New York Jets @ St. Louis Rams Gets suspended for two games and fined for a verbal altercation with Spurs broadcaster Sean Elliott. Is this kid for real? I think he's got immense potential but there comes a point where you just shake your head and wonder, "Will the light ever come on fully?" Someone needs to get to this guy and talk some sense to him (I'm sure he's had tons of folks try) and get him to recognize that he's got a chance to have a very good career if he gets it together. I really like his game but I'm concerned with his immaturity. If he doesn't get it together, he'll be your classic head case that will bounce around from team to team with coaches and GM's taking a chance at him due to his potential, and the chance of lots of folks losing their jobs due to the risk not being worth it. Enough is enough. Grow up, shut up, produce, be professional and help your team turn it around. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
5. CHASE BUDINGER (T-Wolves): Knee Injury. He was playing quite well this season and has good shooting touch as well as very good athletic ability with a solid overall floor game. Tough break. Seemed like an ideal style of play for him playing for coach Rick Adelman and now this. If you're the training staff in Minnesota you're working OT big-time. Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, JJ Barea and Brandon Roy (how much does he have left?) are all injured. This team when healthy has the vibe of a playoff team or at the very least a tough out every night but how long can they hold on and deal with issues like this?