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Armstrong: Five thoughts on Nash, the Jazz, and more

Jack Armstrong
11/11/2013 4:41:36 PM
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FIVE QUICK NBA THOUGHTS:    

1. Steve Nash (Lakers): I watched the game Sunday against Minnesota and to see him have to leave the game due to back issues is concerning. He doesn't look like he has the same explosiveness in his game as in the past. Obviously everyone loses that step/pop as we get older but to watch him this season it's clear that he's far from 100%. He's had an amazing career and as I watch right now I wonder whether he'll be able to play at a high level and finish his contract with the Lakers through next season. Fingers crossed he gets well; it's never easy to watch an older star player deal with injuries at the end of their career.

2. UTAH JAZZ (0-7): Man, I feel bad for Coach Tyrone Corbin. The team he has to coach is far from capable of competing at a high level on most nights. This is going to be a long season for the Jazz faithful in Salt Lake City who have been used to a good or very good level of play for over the past 25 years. Everyone was on board with the Suns (5-2) and 76ers (4-3) as the 'Tank Nation' leaders yet they've been a pleasant surprise. After watching the Jazz in person and a few Suns and 76ers games on TV there is no doubt that Utah is the worst team in the NBA by far. I understand teams trying to clean up their salary cap and add future picks but this is tough to watch. I feel bad for the season ticket holders and sponsors paying full price for a totally inferior product.

3. STEVEN ADAMS (Thunder): It's not as bad as the grief I get from Raptors fans for their trading of the draft rights to Roy Hibbert (17th overall) for Jermaine O'Neal but I'm starting to have a few fans already ask me about this guy drafted 12th by OKC with the Raptors pick that was used to acquire Kyle Lowry from Houston. It's so hard to evaluate how a trade works out until you let the whole process work itself out over a period of years in relation to both Lowry and Adams. I will say that so far Adams has impressed me with his great energy, instincts and grit. His numbers are far from Earth shattering (6ppg, 6rpg , 1.3 blocks, 52% shooting) yet if you watch him he has really nice potential and will grow at a nice steady pace in OKC not having the weight of the world on his shoulders as a young player.  He was a good get for Sam Presti with the 12th pick.

4. STEVE CLIFFORD (Bobcats): Must be a day for Steves!  I hope and pray that he's ok and ready to go again. He's a longtime friend from my coaching days and we've texted back and forth since his health scare. He's an outstanding coach and terrific person and will do a nice job for the young Charlotte squad. As I well know, the coaching profession is a meat grinder and incredibly stressful, particularly coaching a young team with limited talent. Every one of these coaches, despite the opinions on the W-L record and strategies, works their tails off and yes, are well compensated but it's still a job that can break you. I'll never forget what former Utah Jazz President, GM and head coach Frank Layden said to me when I was coaching, 'Remember, the job doesn't love you back.'  Very true words and when I see Clifford, John Fox (Denver Broncos) and Gary Kubiak (Houston Texans) all experience health episodes I worry what the job/profession has become and whether the price truly is worth it. It's not an easy gig.

5. RUDY GAY & DEMAR DEROZAN (Raptors): Let me get this right out there in the open: they are NOT selfish players. Does the offence slow down and/or come to a stop when they get the ball? At times, yes. With Gay shooting 37 percent and averaging 17.6 field goal attempts, and DeRozan shooting 39 percent and averaging 16.6 field goal attempts, there are a lot of concerns about the fluidity and flow of the Raptors offence. They are legitimate concerns that I'm sure Dwane Casey and his staff is spending a significant time on to address. Offensive continuity is a huge challenge on every team and is a tough habit to crack. You watch San Antonio destroy the Knicks Sunday and you see a team where the ball moves and there is incredible flow. You watch the Miami Heat on most nights and the ball and player movement is picturesque. The Raptors have a ways to go to get there but they can. Both Gay and DeRozan are guys that love to probe and attack the defence with the dribble which I'm cool with. The area that both need to improve upon is identifying when to dribble it, pass it or shoot it, and they need to decide a whole lot quicker before the defence gangs up on them and their four teammates become spectators. Be decisive. The idea of using four, five, six, evenseven dribbles to create a shot when the other four guys on your team stand and watch and your opponent loads up on you forcing lower percentage shots has to be a no-no. Both are very talented offensive players that can get big numbers on their own and yet more importantly can, and know how to, do it within the confines of a more structured offence. I talk every night to coaches and scouts from opposing teams and the major theme with the Raptors is that at times these two guys make their team too easy to guard with the ball-stopping habits; habits that can and have to be broken. It's easier said than done yet this is a fixable issue. Both are good guys and team guys and want to win yet their style of play sometimes causes indecision by teammates. The improvement of the player and ball movement by the Raptors will lead to a much improved team. I have no doubt that if they improve this area they'll be a tough team for any opponent to defend and that's a benefit to everyone.




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