TSN's Jack Armstrong offers his thoughts on the skilled and efficient Kevin Love in Minnesota, if Danny Granger gets bought out by the 76ers, discussions of a four-point line, the steady and dependable Robin Lopez with the Blazers and Kirk Hinrich's help in the Bulls' resurgence.
1. KEVIN LOVE (Timberwolves): Another monster game Tuesday night vs. Phoenix with 33 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists and he goes 3-6 from 3-point range. He's been off the charts lately and just dominates games in so many ways. You look at him and he doesn't have great explosiveness or lift in his game yet all he does is work you over. Incredibly skilled and efficient and he's very strong. Plays the game at the right pace and sees the game a few frames ahead of most. Former GM/coach Kevin McHale got ripped for selecting him out of UCLA but as we can all see now, one great big man knows another. He saw something in this guy that few others saw. Everyone knew he was good - not just this good. The fact that he's made a serious commitment to his conditioning and diet has taken his game to a whole new level.
2. DANNY GRANGER (76ers): Everyone in the NBA will be keeping an eye on what happens with the buyout negotiations here. He's got until this weekend to get it done and be on another roster for the March 1 deadline so he's eligible for the playoffs. The big question is; does he do it? He gives up his 'Bird Rights' if he agrees to the buyout which takes away some of his potential earning power as a free agent this summer. In addition, he can be a nice bargaining chip for Philly in a sign-and-trade this June/July. If he hits the open market, he'll get lots of offers. Obviously, injuries the past few years (averaging only eight ppg and shooting a woeful 36 per cent) have really impacted him and he probably won't be right until next fall but is worth the risk if he becomes available in the next few days. Clock is ticking and it's ticking real fast.
3. FOUR-POINT LINE: Is this a Hoax? Like the Justin Bieber protest in Atlanta? Really? Look, I'm a fan of widening the court a little bit - I've said it on the air many times that we see guys stepping on the sideline way too often, but a four-point shot - maybe I'm too old fashioned or out of touch but I really don't want to get that extreme. Enough guys in the league right now that have a hard enough time making free throws let alone adding a gimmick like this.
4. ROBIN LOPEZ (Blazers): When you reflect on great under-the-radar pickups in the summer, this has to be one of the best. What was New Orleans thinking here? He's been an ideal complement to LaMarcus Aldridge and has allowed the All-Star to play at his natural four-spot. He's been the anchor for their defence and has posted nice numbers at 11 ppg and nine rpg while getting close to two blocks a game. He's been steady and dependable and plays with wonderful energy and enthusiasm. Obviously, not an A-list talent but if I had to grade his performance for the Blazers, I'd give him an A for the impact he's had in transforming their team into one of the fun stories in the league along with the Suns and the Raptors as surprise teams.
5. KIRK HINRICH (Bulls): Don't let the numbers deceive you (nine ppg and shooting only 38 per cent while averaging only 4.3 assists per game) compared to his career accomplishments. This guy is a winner and is healthy again and a big part in the resurgence of his team. Outstanding defensive player who competes really hard every night. Knows how to run a team and does whatever you need when you need it. Ideal role player in their system and his energy and relentless style is typical of their organizational culture. Really respect this guy and what he brings to the table each game. Yes, limited in many ways but if you really sit and watch him you gain a greater appreciation for his contribution to the team. Numbers are nice to look at and a judgment tool for many but it's also about how a guy meshes with his teammates and compliments their games and sacrifices his for the greater good. He understands what it means to be a team guy first, last and everything in between.