TSN's Jack Armstrong offers his thoughts on the Toronto Raptors GM target Masai Ujiri, the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, Jeff Hornacek's hiring in Phoenix, the Heat's ability to win on the road and the talents of Tony Parker.
1. Masai Ujiri (Nuggets): The reigning NBA Executive of the Year and former Toronto Raptors assistant GM is the target of the Raps for their new GM search. I'm sure we'll know something in the near future. He's a sharp guy and, in his time with the Raptors, he stood out to me as a guy who had a nice future in this game. His work in Denver has been outstanding. He'd be a good fit in Toronto if he decided to make the jump. I'm not a bit concerned about the former relationship (which was excellent) with president Bryan Colangelo. I see Masai as his own man who will be respectful to not only Bryan (I see no issue here either from the other end - Colangelo knows how hard the job is and will be supportive, professional and respectful) but anyone he comes in contact with; that's his nature. He's a gentleman but don't kid yourself, in every way, shape or form, this will be his show if he decides to make the move. He'll run it as he sees fit and that's what you've got to do, it's your name on the product that appears on the court so you make all the calls. He'll be calling the shots.
2. Dwight Howard (Lakers): Let's just get this 'Dwight-Mare' out of the way and say here are the four legit contenders for his services: Lakers, Rockets, Mavericks and Hawks. The latter three have created cap space and/or will move pieces to make it work if he wants to come on board. No clue figuring how this will all shake out. The one consistency of late with Howard has been his inconsistency as a person. Wonderful talent and I think he'll be much better next season after getting through the back surgery rehab. Whomever gets him will have to deal with his immature/petulant ways yet will have a guy the next five years that can still be a dominant force.
3. Jeff Hornacek (Suns): Will serve as the head coach in Phoenix after a very good playing career and a stint as an assistant coach in Utah. You look at the system that Jerry Sloan, Frank and Scott Layden and Kevin O'Connor put into place with the Jazz over the past 25 years and you have to marvel at what's been accomplished in such a small market like Salt Lake City during that stretch. No NBA championships but a steady winning and playoff presence; one of the most consistent franchises in pro sports. Hornacek both played and coached there and I'm sure learned/absorbed lots of the teachings of how to do it the right way. With a young team in Phoenix and multiple draft picks on the horizon, he's going to have to be firm and hold young players accountable, yet have the ability to be an outstanding communicator with today's athlete. With patience, this could be a solid fit.
4. Miami Heat: It's funny, watching the game Sunday night, the thing that most jumped out at me was the fact that great teams love the challenge of playing on the road. It appeared to me that the Heat were close-knit and loving the task at hand. Watch their bench; all for one and one for all. LeBron schooling Paul George in the post was priceless; took him to the woodshed. New component of LeBron's game that makes him such a lethal factor, particularly when you play on the road and need paint points. It will be interesting to see how the Pacers defend him in the post in Game 4. Can't stay single coverage on each possession, he'll carve them up.
5. Tony Parker (Spurs): Look at his playoff stats: 22 ppg - 7 APG - 4 RPG - 45% FG - 35% -3PT and you have your answer as to why the Spurs are one game away from going back to the NBA Finals. Tim Duncan has been very good in clutch moments, yet he's not the player he once was. Manu Ginobili is a wonderful scorer but doesn't do it with as much consistency as he used to. Have no fear, Parker is here. Steady and spectacular as well. Love his deceptive change of speeds and vast array of shot making maneuvers. Crafty and efficient. He totally gets what's expected of him. Masterful and another example of how important it is in today's NBA to have a point guard who can truly impact the game in so many ways. His skills are top-shelf and his basketball smarts is sensational.