Armstrong: Five thoughts on Anderson, Cousins, and more

Jack Armstrong
1/7/2013 6:39:12 PM
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We're a few weeks away from the Midway Point of the NBA season. Things are starting to shape up (both good and bad) in all 30 NBA cities and the Contenders are starting to separate themselves from the Pretenders. Let's chat some NBA Hoops.

1. ALAN ANDERSON (Raptors): Gotta tell you, he's a better player than I thought. I liked him when he got here last season. Thought he was a solid/fundamentally sound role player. He's better than a role player. He's a guy that can contribute good minutes each game either as a reserve or a starter. He's a really smart player who has a knack for getting his game off. Crafty handler of the ball who changes speeds well and has good instincts overall. A good teammate and leader. Bottom line, a good get for the Raptors.

2. OKC THUNDER DEFENCE: Much improved from the last time I saw them in November. They've got incredible quickness and length and man-oh-man, do they use it. Terrific getting back in transition. They make you run your stuff 5-on-5. Excellent ball pressure and containment of the dribble. They bust through screens, communicate well and do an awesome job closing out on shots. They make you totally uncomfortable. You can clearly see when you watch them that they have played in big games against elite competition. They defend and play overall at an another gear/level. Impressive.

3. LAKERS: Dwight Howard - injured and out for a while. Pau Gasol - concussion. Somewhere, former head coach Mike Brown is counting his money and laughing. I'd say it's probably not a good idea to reserve a spot with your folding chair for the victory parade in June. What a mess. The song says "It never rains in California". Incorrect. It's pouring. Lots of folks will be jumping off the bandwagon.

4. DEMARCUS COUSINS (Kings): Lots of rumours flying around that he's being shopped. Boston Celtics are a main contender for him. Raptors Fans: Is this a guy you want to play against four times per year in the Atlantic Division? He crushed them big time on Friday night in Toronto. Does he have issues? Yes. Is he a big-time talent? You betcha. If he ever gets his act together he can be a multiple-time All-Star. Wherever he goes, he had better have terrific internal leadership in the locker room to mentor him and an incredibly strong support system in place to help him and hold him accountable. He can be a star. Can also be a guy that never "gets it" and gets lots of GM's and coaches along the way willing to take a chance on him, fired. Risk versus reward move.

5. RAPTORS THIS WEEK: Home vs. Philly, Charlotte and Milwaukee. Felt that they needed to go at least 4-2 on this homestand. Currently, 1-2. Gotta get the next three games at home. All games that they can win. If this team is going to be in the playoff discussion in the final segment of the season, these are games that have to be had. Winning eight of nine was a wonderful story and stretch. With that comes expectations. This team is capable of getting back in the hunt. They must capitalize on the schedule - no excuses. If this season is going to turn, it has to turn in the near future because you start running out of games/time and the number of teams you have to pass gets to be an issue. This will be a very interesting and pivotal week. All conference games - you control your direction/destiny.

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