It's the day before the NBA's trade deadline and TSN's Jack Armstrong offers his thoughts on Amir Johnson's return, Randy Wittman's influence on the Washington Wizards and what may be in store for Kyle Lowry and Rajon Rondo.
1. AMIR JOHNSON: Nice to see him back in the lineup Tuesday night in Washington DC. Played with great energy and purpose. It's amazing when a guy gets those few precious days to recover what it does to the bounce in their step and overall game/confidence. They need him big time in the final 29 games and the fact that he missed the two games prior to the All Star break due to injury could end up being a blessing for their team. When he and Terrence Ross are going good, this team can compete at a high level with anyone.
2. RANDY WITTMAN: I said it Tuesday night on the telecast and I'll say it again. A coach has to get run from a game to light a fire under his team - that's a joke. The ultimate motivation and leadership has to come from the players. More leadership is needed in that locker room. The Wizards have more than enough talent to not only be a playoff team, but a winning playoff team. Felt bad for Wittman. Coaches get the blame all the time. I get that - been there and done that - yet at some point to take that 'next' step it truly has to be a conscious decision on the part of your core players that you're going to be a good team and not allow yourself to be outplayed at home.
3. RAJON RONDO: Love the hard bargain and market that GM Danny Ainge is trying to create for him. As he gets healthier, his play will improve significantly. On the other side, it's pretty evident that Rondo will be playing for another team in the next few days - or at the very latest a year from now. He wants to play on a winner and it will take a little longer in Boston for that to happen.
4. KYLE LOWRY: Watch him in the third quarter last night? He was brilliant. How does a guy establish his value in a contract year? Play big when your team needs you the most. Believe me, GMs and scouts are watching and realize he's doing it on a winning team that's one of the pleasant surprises in the league and he's a big reason why. Whether it's with the Raptors or somewhere else, it will all work out if he continues to play at this high level. The obvious concern is after he gets a significant contract will his level of play stay the same and/or improve to justify it or will it dip? That's the toughest thing to gauge for decision-makers. These final regular season games and potential playoff games will help set the bar for him. So far, he's setting himself up very nicely.
5. JARRETT JACK: His name is involved in trade rumours and he'd be a good pickup for a contender. His former team - the Warriors - really misses his clutch play and great leadership skills. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to impact the climate in Cleveland as well as he did in Golden State. He's more of a complimentary player and when he's in that position he's quite effective. Can play both guard spots and makes the good high percentage play. Will be interesting to see if he sticks around, considering the Cavs have won five in a row and are right back in the playoff race in the East.