FIVE QUICK HOOPS THOUGHTS
1. RUDY GAY (Kings): Bottom line, it didn't work out the way Raptors fans had hoped it would. I give GM Masai Ujiri credit for recognizing that this was a contract and a playing situation that was going to hamper the development of the franchise and individual players and made his move. I love coach Mike Malone but I feel for him. Good Luck trying to get Derrick Cousins and Rudy Gay thinking about the needs of teammates when they're such proud/competitive guys who believe they can score on anyone. I personally like Rudy Gay; he's a first-class individual who carries himself in a nice way. He's a good man. On the court, he has some limitations and he'll have loads of pressure on him in Sac-town to live up to the big money. If he cuts down on turnovers, starts to attack the basket with greater determination, tightens up his shot selection and trusts his teammates abilities and is willing to give them the ball it can work for him. A lot to ask, though. I like this trade for the Raptors; both on the court and with the cap flexibility.
2. GREIVIS VASQUEZ (Raptors): Like this addition. They have an option on him in the offseason and also could move him before the trade deadline to add another piece. He's a guy who will give the ball up and is a nice pick and roll player. Plays with energy and enthusiasm. I have no problem if he and Kyle Lowry (he could be dealt as well with his expiring contract) play at times together on the court. Like the leadership, play-making, ball handling and passing that two lead guards give you and it's a nice luxury to have. The Raptors needed to improve this area and they did. As crazy as this sounds, the Raptors could very well be better with these new four players than the previous mix. That won't go over well with 'Tank Nation'.
3. AMIR JOHNSON (Raptors): Good to see him flying around the court and playing with such passion and productivity. He was awesome Sunday night in LA. He will benefit from the trade. He thrives as a roller in the screen and roll game, and he's so efficient in the lane that when you give it to him in there you feel really confident that he'll make the shot. Considering all the chippies that Rudy Gay missed in the lane as well as all of his turnovers, I feel quite confident that with the redistribution of touches to guys like Johnson that Raps will have better chemistry and ball movement. Obviously, Gay is a really talented guy yet many times, less is more.
4. KOBE BRYANT (Lakers): Looked really rusty and a ways away from his normal level. It's going to take a while. Normally you don't see an eight turnover 2-9 FG percentage performance from him and I doubt you'll see that in a few weeks. In time, as he gets into rhythm and in game shape, his game will gradually come back. That's a major injury to come back from in less than eight months. Not easy, yet when I think of great players/competitors, he's at the top of the list. In 4-6 weeks from now he'll be back to/close to his normal self.
5. JEFF HORNACEK (Suns): Love the job he's doing in Phoenix. His team plays really hard and they play together and share the ball. He has incorporated a style of play that suits the philosophy that they'll use in their pursuit of players that fit their model. He's gotten complete 'Buy-In' and has done as good a job as any coach in the league so far this season, based upon the talent at his disposal. Always really important for a fist year head coach to lay the foundation for how he wants his team to play and look. At 20 games in, he is succeeding deservedly so