FIVE QUICK NBA THOUGHTS:
1. LANDRY FIELDS (Raptors): He is looking much more comfortable each time I watch him play. That's a good development for a guy that had injury issues/surgery to deal with last year. He lost his shot mechanics and, in many ways, his confidence. His shot release is still a bit slow but in time it will get better. He'll have to be conscious of that when he takes perimeter shots and make sure he has time to set himself up and get it off. His shot preparation will be very important. He's a smart, team oriented player and does all the 'little things' that coaches love and has a winning personality/approach. Too often folks focus on the contract - it's not his fault that he got the deal he was offered, and who wouldn't take it? Bottom line for the Raptors, to compete for a playoff spot this year they're going to have to find some consistent productivity from their second unit (an area of concern right now) and Fields is a guy that you hope can be ready to contribute.
2. REGGIE JACKSON (Thunder): Talk about a guy who's on the radar this year in OKC. With the trade of James Harden and the free agent departure of Kevin Martin to the Timberwolves, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will need some heavy perimeter support to make up the difference and keep their team at a high level. In his third NBA season out of Boston College, this is the year you have your fingers crossed his level of play is elevated and reliable. He's got solid versatility in his game, has decent shot making ability and he'll compete for you on the defensive end. Now it's all got to come together and quick. Usually in the third pro season you find out an awful lot about a guy with the growth of his skills, strength, and basketball IQ. You focus on his dedication and overall makeup and whether he's got what it takes to take that next step. Time has arrived and he's going to get a shot each night. Take advantage.
3. LA CLIPPERS: The Clippers have decided to cover the Lakers' Championship banners and retired numbers when they play their home games at the Staples Center. This has caused quite a stir and to be perfectly frank it should have happened the day they started playing games at the arena. They've been the JV team in LA for too long and they owe the Lakers organization and their former greats absolutely nothing. They're a tenant of the arena just like the Lakers and can do whatever they'd like when it's their building. It's their money and their time. I always wondered why they would ever even acknowledge the other team. This is competition; it's ruthless and that's the way it would be if the shoe was on the other foot, that's for sure.
4. CHARLIE VILLANUEVA (Pistons): Villanueva will be starting his ninth NBA season next week and the question is if he'll ever play at a consistently productive level as a pro. He's coming off two poor seasons in Detroit where he averaged 7 ppg and 3.5 rpg while shooting an abysmal 38% from the field for a lousy team. Are you part of the solution or part of the problem? I'll never forget a conversation I had with an NBA College Scouting Director when he was a player at UConn. He said that Villanueva would end up playing for at least 4-5 NBA teams and be one of those guys that you'd be fascinated by his skills and potential and yet always be frustrated that you never got the high level nights enough. After former Raptors GM Rob Babcock drafted him in controversial fashion he's had stints as well with the Bucks and now the Pistons. I like him, he's a good guy and not a problem player, yet he's just not getting it done. At age 29, it's time. Now or never.
5. THOMAS ROBINSON (Blazers): Robinson is in his second season and already on his third NBA team after playing his rookie year in Sacramento and Houston. Is this another guy who will bounce around and not fulfill his potential? Honestly, I don't know yet. He averaged an underwhelming 4.8 ppg and 4.5 rpg in his rookie year; that's not going to make anyone happy for a lottery pick out of Kansas. I liked him in college yet I was a bit concerned with his size and still unpolished game. He reminds me of Truck Robinson (I'm dating myself!) who had a good career (15 and 9) in his best days with Washington, Phoenix and New York. He needs to focus on being a terror on the glass and the other stuff will work itself out. He'll get a shot at good playing time in Portland and Blazers fans will hope the light comes on this season and he takes that significant jump as a player.