Armstrong: Five thoughts including Raptors' Lucas and more

Jack Armstrong
2/11/2013 3:15:42 PM
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It's All-Star Week and teams are hitting the 50-game mark in their seasons. Here are a few thoughts on some NBA topics.         

1. JOHN LUCAS (Raptors): Terrific game on Sunday night for his team in their win over the Hornets. Made all five of his threes in the game and was a big reason why the sluggish Raptors found a way to get their second win in a row.  A scoring-minded point guard who plays with tons of enthusiasm, he comes into games ready to roll and is surely going to get his shots up. With the departure of Jose Calderon, Lucas has been put on the spot as the primary backup point guard with mixed results. Love his attitude and team focus. He did a nice job last year for the Bulls when called upon. I'm sure the Raptors will be looking around for a more traditional pass-first point guard to compliment him and Kyle Lowry but in the meantime you'll see him out there - he's got Coach Dwane Casey's confidence and that's what counts.          

2. PAUL PIERCE (Celtics): What an incredible night Sunday vs. the Nuggets, with a triple-double (27, 14 and 14) in their three-overtime victory against the hottest team in the NBA. The Celtics have been terrific in the absence of Rajon Rondo and when you're lucky to have a proud and talented veteran of his stature in your lineup that you can shift more responsibility to, you're in good hands. Sure, Pierce has lost his fastball on some nights when you watch him but not for lack of trying and when the games are big and the opponent an elite one, you can count on him to show up and compete and produce.

3. ANTHONY DAVIS (Hornets): Saw him Sunday night vs. the Raptors and quite frankly he looked like a guy who has hit the rookie wall.  He had no energy or zip in his game. I love his potential as a rebounder and shot blocker and his offence will continue to sharpen as he figures out the NBA life.  Right now, he looks like a guy that's tired.  That's understandable, considering his slender frame. Improved strength and stamina will be imperative as he moves along in his career and I'm sure that will happen.  He's had a nice rookie season (12.6 PPG and 7.3 RPG/ 1.8 blocks PG / .520) and I think he's got a chance to be a very good player as he bulks up and figures out the NBA grind.  Better talent level around him will help too. Not a surprise that he's going through growing pains - it will help and harden him for the bigger moments in his career.

4. ISAIAH THOMAS (Kings): Nice to see a guy who was the last pick in the 2011 NBA Draft continue to not only stick, but play well.  I enjoyed his performance vs. the Rockets when he got 23 points and six assists and was a perfect 13-for-13 from the free throw line. He's an energetic defender who pushes the pace as the point guard and backs down from no one. What he gives up in size, he makes up for with a huge heart. He's figured out what works for him and goes with it. There will be nights where he's overmatched or simply wears down, but for a 60th pick - good value there.

5. JOSH SMITH (Hawks): Rumours swirling that the Nets are trying to make a run at him before the trade deadline. He's a free agent after the season and Atlanta has to figure out if they want to re-sign him to a major contract. He wants near the max. Do they move him? He impacts the game as a shot blocker, defender, and is a high-energy offensive guy. He's matured, to a point, and yet you still have doubts whether he's a guy you can trust being there for you every night. Interesting decision for Hawks GM Danny Ferry. The Nets, on the other hand, are more than willing to bring on more talent and money, and appear to be a team that's willing to deal with luxury tax issues. He can play both the three and four spots.  Obviously, if the Nets swing for the fences here, they've got to make sure they can re-sign him. An interesting story to follow.

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