TSN's Jack Armstrong offers his thoughts on Andrew Bynum, Al Horford, the Toronto Raptors, the atmosphere for the Portland vs Miami game, and the long list of injured players.
1. ANDREW BYNUM (Cavs): Grow Up! You're a professional athlete. These are your prime earning years. Don't mess it up. For the life of me I can't comprehend how guys don't realize that there is no other walk of life that they're going to make the kind of money they make and have the fun they do being a pro athlete. Once it's gone, it's very difficult to recapture what you blew. Sure, maybe he has other off-court interests; you've got a long life to enjoy those. Capitalize on what you're doing now and don't be silly. It's a shame: talented guy who needs to get with the program.
2. AL HORFORD (Hawks): Significant blow to Atlanta's season losing one of my favorites in the league. He was having another steady season at 18+ ppg and 8+ rpg. That's hard to replace. Thank goodness they signed Paul Milsap (17 and 8 per game) as a free agent this past summer. They're going to have to ride him a bunch in the post area; he's more than capable. The nightly loss of Horford will be a big hole to fill though considering the lost Josh Smith's athleticism and scoring ability this past off-season. The Hawks are still a capable team that will be in the playoff hunt. It will just get harder to maintain that third spot in the East Standings.
3. TORONTO RAPTORS: I'm afraid to snap my fingers right now for fear they'll come out of the zone they're in at this stage. They've been really fun to watch and the energy, effort, and commitment to team has been top-notch. I've got my fingers crossed it continues; it's been an enjoyable stretch of hoops to say the least. The Raptors have a really difficult stretch of games coming up however, take a good look at the schedule. The travel will be frequent and the rest/prep time will be minimal. The true test for this group will be whether they can handle some of the adversity that's ahead. If they play the way they're playing right now, they can hang with anyone. There's still plenty of time for GM Masai Ujiri to evaluate his team and make decisions in a calculated, big-picture way to determine whether he wants to buy, hold or sell. You need to see guys get put through the ringer a good bit to see what you've got and just as important you need to evaluate what each team in your conference has and doesn't have to determine how you want to build your eventual contending team.
4. PORTLAND/MIAMI: Not sure if you caught the Heat/Blazers game on Saturday night or even caught the highlights but wow! The energy in the arena in Portland, one of the three best playing atmospheres in the NBA (OKC and Golden State are the other two), was off the charts. The action on the court was equally good. Sometimes when you're around pro sports you can get a bit cynical once in a while. When you see the level of passion and love for the sport and competition that both teams had it gives you goose bumps. The great teams and great players have incredible pride and a wonderful makeup. Thanks to the players on both teams for giving folks their money's worth.
5. INJURIES: Last week we had Russell Westbrook and Al Horford added to the long list of elite players with significant injuries this year. There are a lot of theories as to why it's happening. I'll just say this: I'm firmly convinced that players are overtraining and not allowing their bodies enough rest/recovery time. In addition, many players hire their own workout guys in the off-season with their own theories/approaches that tend to differ from what they hear from their teams. I don't like that pattern. I'm a huge believer in 'perfect practice makes perfect.' When you train improperly or utilize varying training methods at different times you're exposing yourself to greater harm. In season, teams need to be more conscious of reducing the amount of time players spend on their feet. It's all about quality vs. quantity. Am I a bit concerned? Yes. Balance and moderation have got to be looked at more rather than obsessive overkill. Don't mistake activity for achievement!