FIVE QUICK NBA THOUGHTS:
1. DEMAR DEROZAN (Raptors): Hopefully, he's back sooner rather than later. He'll be missed by his team - obviously. He's such a competitor. After getting hurt the other night, he kept trying to play on his injured foot. He loves the game and I'm so impressed with his progress over the years. DeRozan is a mature and serious young man. There is a reason above and beyond his physical ability why he's a good player; he has worked incredibly hard on his skills, his strength and conditioning and is a student of the game. It would be nice to see him make the All Star game. In the meantime, Raptors really need to buckle down defensively and find scoring and consistency in other areas, could be a challenge. Big one tonight here in New York City vs. the red hot Nets.
2. SHAUN LIVINGSTON (Nets): When you watch the Raptors tonight it is always nice to see a guy who has fought back from a devastating injury to have success. When he was a young player with the Clippers, Livingston had a chance to be a special player in this league and then it all got derailed. He has made a difference with Brooklyn, being a sound defender who sets the tone for his team. In the absence of Deron Williams, his leadership was critical for Coach Jason Kidd turning this team around. Not a flashy player yet his smarts, toughness and consistency are a big part why the Nets are surging right now.
3. SPENCER HAWES (Sixers): Hawes has really developed in the past few years into a steady Post player. His rebounding instincts are solid while his back to the basket game has improved. He is also a capable face up shooter. He passes the ball quite well from both the low and high post and is a good fit in a team's attack. When I saw him as a young player at the University of Washington and when he was on the Sacramento Kings, I didn't envision him to have this upside. He's really carved out a nice niche in Philly.
4. JAMAAL CRAWFORD (Clippers): Raptor fans got to see first-hand why Crawford is probably the best sixth-man in the NBA right now. He dropped 37 points on them, but more importantly he had an amazing 11 assists as well. What a luxury for Doc Rivers brining him off the bench. He changes the game completely when he comes in. You better check him from behind the three-point arc and his dribble moves are tantalizing. He's bounced around a lot and I've never understood why - he's always been a good player. Clips are lucky to have him. He'll steal a playoff game or two for them.
5. AL JEFFERSON (Bobcats): Sure, they spent above market value to get Jefferson but in a market like Charlotte, which has had a rough go of it lately, you have to acquire talent somehow. He's been a good player for them. 19 points per game and 10-plus rebounds per games as well, while shooting 48 % has really helped their team. He's in terrific shape and has been quite engaged in the rebuilding process. He plays with a terrific front court partner in Josh McRoberts, who does all the little things while Jefferson racks up the points and boards. If the Bobcats add perimeter shooting, (they're awful in those categories -bottom eight in field goal and three-point field goal percentage) it will really open things up for their team in future years. You can never have enough shot makers.