TSN's Jack Armstrong offers his thoughts on Dwyane Wade's physical status, Jonas Valanciunas well-deserved rookie honour, the abilities of Jerry Sloan, Tony Parker's leadership and Andrew Wiggins.
1. DWYANE WADE (Heat): I'm a bit concerned with what I'm seeing with Wade's knee condition. He looks like a guy that's playing at 60 per cent and favoring the pain. Listed as questionable for Wednesday's game vs. Bulls. I have no doubt that even without Wade they can beat the Bulls either Wednesday or in Game 6 in Miami. Without Deng, Hinrich and Rose, the Bulls look like they've hit the wall. The key for the Heat will be having Wade feeling a bit better and being more productive in order to be able to win the eight hardest games they'll have to win this season and that's the Eastern Conference Finals and NBA Finals games.
2. JONAS VALANCIUNAS (Raptors): Second Team All-Rookie. Congrats. Well-earned and well-deserved. He's got a long way to go but I firmly believe when you look at his draft class, he's one of the guys in the group that still has major room for growth. He's a dedicated and passionate player. He's going to get stronger, smarter and most importantly more skilled offensively. He'll figure out NBA defensive schemes a little better each year he plays and he has no 'back-down' in his game. A step in the right direction for him and a deserving honor.
3. JERRY SLOAN: The Hall of Fame coach is being mentioned for jobs again this spring and good for the NBA if he comes back. I've known coach Sloan since I spent a week at his training camp back in 1990 in Salt Lake City when I was the head coach at Niagara University. This guy is as sound in every respect of teaching the game to be played the proper way and as good a leader and man as you'll find. Some smart and very lucky organization is going to be grateful they hired him. I know he's 71-years-old; so what. I think I know basketball pretty well but I'll defer to Hall of Famer, Jerry West, who knows a ton more than me. Check what he did when he was the President/GM of the Memphis Grizzlies. He hired another man I know quite well, Hubie Brown (Niagara University graduate) as his head coach at an extended age. What happened? He got the Grizzlies pointed in the right direction as an organization. NBA Coach of the Year in 2004. It's all about having the right basketball man. Sloan is outstanding. Maybe it's a 2-3 year run but you will be much better off after it. If I had a choice to pick a coach (I'd want a guy with a proven track record as a head coach), I'd have two guys on my list: Sloan and Stan Van Gundy would be the guys I'd be recruiting like crazy. These guys will turn around and fix the team you root for. They know what they want and know how to go about getting results. They set the high standards that good organizations have when they succeed. Van Gundy and I coached together in 1987-88 at Fordham University and he is excellent. He did a terrific job in both Miami and Orlando and has many years of other head coaching experience as a NCAA coach.
4. TONY PARKER (Spurs): 25 and 10 vs. Warriors Tuesday night. Your team is on the ropes a bit and you need to just take over and be the 'man'. He did it again. He plays in a small market and sometimes goes under the radar but he's consistently one of the best in the game. His ability to make difficult shots and make others better is at an elite level. Love his change of speeds and pace as he plays. Talented but more importantly smart and crafty.
5. ANDREW WIGGINS (Kansas): Ben McLemore leaves for the NBA and an even more talented guy moves onto centre stage in Lawrence, KS. (Awesome place. Coached a game there vs. the Jayhawks in the mid-90's. If you ever get a chance, it's worth your while to attend a game at Allen Fieldhouse). Good fit for him. Thrilled for the Canadian. I'm sure Kansas games will be 'Must Watch' events all across Canada. Should be fun.