FIVE QUICK HOOPS THOUGHTS
1. DAMIAN LILLARD (Blazers): Caught his act in Toronto on Sunday versus the Raptors. Man, this kid can really play. Love his game. Excellent vision, wonderful change of pace/speed, good creativity, explosive first step and smarts. He shoots it well from behind the arc and is a crafty screen and roll guy. Has taken a nice step in year two and the best is yet to come. Point guards who can get in the lane at will and make others better are a must in today's NBA and Portland's got a guy that's a keeper. As Raptors' Terence Ross (picked two spots after Lillard) mostly watched from the bench, Lillard was a load for his team to deal with. The luck of the draft - the Blazers got themselves a significant piece to build/turn their team around with. He's Legit.
2. OMER ASIK (Rockets): Things are getting testy in Houston with Asik demanding a trade and hanging his head about the arrival of Dwight Howard. With this situation deteriorating by the day, it will get harder and harder for GM Daryl Morey to get significant value for him because teams will know that you're stuck and you have to move him and that lowers what you have to give them back in return. Asik's immature reaction to the events have made it more difficult for him to get moved. Get your head up and be a pro and go out on the court and play your tail off and you'll get your wish. If not, Rockets are stuck taking back pennies on the dollar and will be boxed in. Not pretty.
3. LANCE STEPHENSON (Pacers): This man is going to get paid this off-season. He's a free agent at the end of the year and his value is increasing day by day. He plays with great energy and determination and his overall skill set has improved beautifully. Averaging close to 14 points per game, as well as over five rebounds per game and five-plus assists per game. Really impressive and the fact that he's shooting the three Ball so well at 45 per cent is opening lots of eyes. I said this last year about Paul George and I'll say it now about Stephenson; the best thing that ever happened to him and the Pacers has been the injury absences of Danny Granger. It's truly allowed these guys to play through mistakes and have to carry a significant role early in their career and its paid huge dividends. The Pacers' scouting staff deserves lots of credit for coming up with this second round gem, as well as for guys like George who was a 10th pick. The most underrated aspect of winning organizations is having great scouts who have the 'knack' for evaluating/projecting and picking players. Another diamond in the rough while other organizations can't even get out of their own way.
4. KLAY THOMPSON (Warriors): Averaging close to 21 ppg and playing lights out right now. Look at his shooting numbers: - 51 field goal percentage and 55 three-point field-goal percentage. This man has wonderful shooting mechanics and has figured out how to get his game off with the dribble and can help you in the transition game as well as in the slower half-court style. When you watch a guy polishing his skills and getting the rough edges off his game it's neat to witness and we're seeing it here. Becoming one of the better young two guards in the League. A talented guy, yes, but more importantly he plays the game with the proper tempo and there is a method to his approach. I'm a fan.
5. ZACH RANDOLPH & MARC GASOL (Grizzlies): Memo to coach Dave Joerger: stop listening to those goofballs who are whispering in your ear about pace of play and shooting more threes. I love these guys who think they're smarter than everybody because they come up with all these fancy mathematical formulas to explain their clueless theories. I'm a huge believer that for every ounce of intelligence you have you better have a pound of common sense to go along with it. They'll be the same ones to fire you when the win-loss mark doesn't work out. Slow it down and pound the heck out of folks. On Sunday, I watch them punish Sacramento (I know--it's the Kings) in the paint for a combined 41 points and 18 rebounds. Your team's strength is power basketball; rebounding, defense and winning ugly. Play to your strengths. This isn't a beauty contest. Sure everyone wants to run up and down and shoot threes and entertain. Beauty to me is finding a way to win games and that means hiding your weaknesses and playing up your advantages. Open your eyes and trust your gut and pure instincts and realize the reality of what you're working with. Don't outsmart yourself.