TSN's Jack Armstrong offers his thoughts on the Christmas Day extravaganza, including the Nets' struggles, the improvement of Serge Ibaka, the feisty Mario Chalmers, the performance of Chandler Parsons and the lane presence of DeAndre Jordan.
1. BROOKLYN NETS: I know Brook Lopez is a good player but come on now. The Chicago Bulls didn't have Derrick Rose and Luol Deng wasn't suited up and they get their tails kicked at home. What I see is a team that's disjointed and just not on the same page in terms of what the plan is. Injuries and the lack of practice time with a healthy group have been factors no doubt but when I see inconsistent effort and lack of fire/passion, then I wonder. I think we all thought this team would be so much better. Now what? Tough decision for GM Billy King. They've gone all in with this group and it will be a difficult fix.
2. SERGE IBAKA (Thunder): Each time I watch him, I'm more and more impressed with what I see. He's continuing to improve his game and has become a very nice third piece to compliment Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Plays the game very hard. Relentless in his rebounding effort, finishes in the lane and has become so much more confident in his face-up game and jump shot. He was so raw when he first entered the league but not anymore. It's a true testament to his work ethic.
3. MARIO CHALMERS (Heat): Doesn't get a lot of attention on this team yet he's a feisty perimeter defender and gets the ball to the right places at the right time. Is a guy that can hurt you with the 3-point shot and loves the big moment. Perfect complimentary fit for this club. You don't need to run a lot of plays for him and the style of play is good for his game. Has a really good motor and compete level and playing with such great players has taught him to slow down and concentrate on making the smart play which he does with better consistency.
4. CHANDLER PARSONS (Rockets): Never thought he'd be this good as a pro when he came out of the University of Florida. Not a big, strong guy and when you look at him, he's far from a physically imposing figure yet at an explosive/demanding position, he's more than held his own. His performance yesterday against the Spurs was one of pure efficiency and productivity with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists. He makes you guard him from deep (5- 3 Pointer's) and has a neat change of pace with his ball skills. Plays the game at a controlled speed yet with superb energy and awareness. A keeper.
5. DE ANDRE JORDAN (Clippers): He gives his team the lane presence that is so important to win consistently in the NBA. Gets 13 rebounds and six blocks against the Warriors and takes only terrific high percentage shots in the lane, usually on offensive rebounds or off of Chris Paul penetration for dunks. As we get into the playoffs in April, I'll be curious to see if Doc Rivers continues to play him major minutes, particularly late in games with his shaky free-throw shooting. Rivers has made it a point of emphasis to play him and boost his stock and compliment him and it's paid dividends in an improved player. With coaches leaning towards playing small and adding skill to the court in bigger games, this will be an interesting dynamic to watch develop.