Happy New Year! Hope each and every one of you and your families have a wonderful 2014. All the best! A few quick NBA Thoughts.
1. PATRICK PATTERSON (Raptors): He's impressed me with his toughness and skill level. He's got a nice face up game and works hard to establish positive post position inside. He's also a strong and steady interior defender who fights for every inch in the paint. Between him and Tyler Hansbrough, head coach Dwane Casey has a good 3 and 4 with the depth in terms of his front court rotation. Patterson knows the game well and is a smart player. He's in the right spots and has good awareness of what needs to get done out there.
2. KELLY OLYNYK (Celtics): 21 points and four rebounds along with five assists and two blocks yesterday. That's nice to see; he's battled injury which is always difficult for rookies in missing necessary practice and game time. They're going to throw him out there every game since rebuilding is the approach in Boston this season; when he gets extended minutes, he impresses me. He has good skill and feel for the game.
3. KYRIE IRVING (Cavs): Fingers crossed that the MRI results are OK for him. He's such an enjoyable and creative player to watch. I spoke about this on Monday: we've had so many injuries to some of our elite level players which is sucha shame. The Cavs have been a bit of a disappointment this season and he's that bright spot that you tune in to watch and know that he'll wow you with his ball handling, passing and scoring punch. He's had njury issues in the past and you always worry about guys that are injury prone when you're trying to build a team.
4. PAU GASOL (Lakers): It's amazing when you evaluate trade rumours these days. So often it's about the contract attached to a guy's name rather than the guy himself. He's linked with former teammate Andrew Bynum in a deal with the Cavs. Maybe the Cavs think he's still got a lot left in his game and want to see it for themselves while dumping Bynum. From what I see this year from Gasol, he needs a change of scenery. It's obvious that he doesn't feel comfortable with Mike D'Antoni's system in Los Angeles while D'Antoni has struggled to connect with him. Probably better for both sides if he's moved. Gasol is a big ticket guy yet he's got a lot to play for as we look at the long term. Where there is smoke, there is fire. Something's brewing.
5. TAJ GIBSON (Bulls): He has really impressed me with his improvement in his low post skills. I saw him last night in Chicago; he's made a significant commitment to do a better job of establishing deeper post position to counteract his lack of major size and length in the lane which is critical for him. He has a great motor and with the Bulls desperate for more offensive productivity and consistency he's a candidate for more minutes. Carlos Boozer can be inconsistent on some nights and Joakim Noah is a high energy guy with limited post moves; opportunity could be knocking further for him as they search for answers.