FIVE QUICK NBA THOUGHTS: Happy Monday! Pretty exciting Super Bowl and busy/fun sports day with the Toronto Raptors playing the Miami Heat on Sunday. Here's a quick look at a few NBA topics.
1. TOM THIBODEAU (Bulls): How many of us had the Bulls at 29-18 at this point without one of the Top 10 players in the NBA (Derrick Rose) missing ALL of the 47 games? I doubt any of us did. Consider the fact that they've had stretches where Rip Hamilton, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and now Kirk Hinrich have missed games. Very impressive. I've known 'Thibs' for over 25 years when we were both college coaches and I gotta tell you that I'm happy for him. He got his shot after paying his dues for a long time as a college coach and NBA assistant and has proven that he's an elite coach. This season - in particular without Rose - he has shown it even more.
2. KEVIN GARNETT (Celtics): Some rumours flying around about KG and the L.A. Clippers. After this season, he's got two years and $23.5 million left on his deal. Risky to take on that money? Yes, but on the other hand, if you're a team that's really close and contending for a title you're going to get a guy who still guards, can consistently produce and makes 'winning plays'. He'll add a 'championship intensity and focus to any locker room. I'd say GM Danny Ainge will get more than one call about him. For teams that are 'really close' you've got to be willing to swing for the fences and worry about the Luxury Tax/Cap later if you've got a legit shot. You owe it to your fans and your current players/coaches.
3. JONAS VALANCIUNAS & TERRENCE ROSS (Raptors): At 17-31, I think we're all quite realistic that the Raps are a long shot at making the Playoffs. They've got Detroit and Philly in front of them for Boston's eighth seed so they've got lots of work to do. It will be very interesting to see how head coach Dwane Casey handles the minutes of Alan Anderson and Aaron Gray during the final 11 weeks of the season. If they don't make an amazing run in the next few weeks to legitimately get in the Playoff discussion with all due respect intended to both Anderson and Gray (I like both guys a ton and respect their games) he'll likely have to significantly reduce their minutes and push more minutes on the two rookies to get them a little more seasoning in preparation for next season. Obviously, they have to play very hard and earn their minutes, which both guys do with regularity - if that's the case - it will be important for the long-term benefit of the franchise to develop these guys and unfortunately Anderson and Gray will probably be the ones that lose out. A trend to follow.
4. ERSAN ILYASOVA (Bucks): I've said it a number of times in the past - I'm a fan of this guy. He had a lousy start to the season after signing a big extension this past summer but look at his numbers the past 10 games (17.4ppg and 8.4 rpg / 49 per cent field goal rate, and has shot over 44 per cent from three-point range this season) and you see a guy who is coming into his own. I really wanted the Raptors to make a run at him this past off-season but there were questions of whether he could play the three spot. He's a good player who finds his way onto the court. He's more of a 4/3 but he's more than capable of helping you win. I'm probably dreaming here (I'm sure I am), but if Bucks GM John Hammond picked up the phone and called Raps president/GM Bryan Colangelo about Andrea Bargnani, I would do everything in my power to get this guy in return. He rebounds, plays hard and has a motor and puts up numbers that Bargnani has put up in the past - he would be an upgrade in my opinion. Ever happen? Doubt it, but always nice to think (dream) out loud. Wishful thinking, I guess.
5. GREG ODEN: Boston, Indy, New Orleans, Charlotte, Dallas, Miami and Cleveland are all kicking the tires on this front. Make sense? Complete sense in my book to explore what is going on here with his rehab. If you're going to take a risk this is one worth taking. Will he ever live up to his potential that we saw at Ohio State before all the injuries arrived? Likely not but even if you get 70 per cent of his potential out of him, he's still a more than serviceable NBA post player. There will be lots of chatter surrounding his name in the coming weeks.