Armstrong: Five thoughts on Raptors, Dumars, Nash and more

Jack Armstrong, TSN
4/9/2014 2:02:40 PM
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1. TORONTO RAPTORS AND THE PLAYOFFS: After watching the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat game Tuesday night and once again witnessing the Nets beat the Heat, I'm convinced that the best course of action for the Raptors will be for them to make sure they do everything in their power to secure the third seed in the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division title. I want no part of the other current bracket (Heat/Nets/Chicago Bulls).  I'll take my chances with the Washington Wizards or Charlotte Bobcats in the first round, though, either of those match-ups isn't a walk in the park, either. If you can win a series, and that won't be easy, and the current standings hold form, I feel confident that the Raptors could play a very competitive series against the Indiana Pacers. I'm not saying they would win that series - the defence has to really improve down the stretch here and get back to early-mid-January form - but it would be quite compelling. There are five games left. Win all of your games and you write your own ticket. Stumble and the help will have to come from others and that's never a position you want to be in.

2. JOE DUMARS (Pistons): Rumours are swirling that he's going to step down as the team's president and GM and I'm not a bit surprised. Too many coaching firings and going all-in on guys like Ben Gordon, Charlie Villaneuva, Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings sealed his fate in Motown. He had a terrific run in the early 2000s as the elite team in the Eastern Conference, but you see it often with coaches and GMs - you lose your fastball and get stale in your approach/creativity and you lose your way. He's a good basketball man and some time away will reinvigorate him and I'm sure he'll be back at it again down the line.

3. MIKE D'ANTONI (Lakers): Watching some of his recent games, he looks like a beaten man and someone who knows that his fate is sealed in LA. D'Antoni is an outstanding offensive coach who has had to deal with numerous injuries and drama there. At the end of the day, it's a results-oriented business and when you evaluate his run in Denver, New York and LA, it doesn't look good. On the other hand, his teams in Phoenix - thanks in large part to Bryan Colangelo's personnel moves - were awesome and entertaining to watch. Does he get another shot? I'm not sure, but I do know that he's very capable if you give him a solid roster. If it ends there, I think he'll be heard from again, at least as an assistant coach for a head coach looking for a guy who can upgrade his offence. He'd be a guy to talk to if he'd consider being in that role.

4. INDIANA PACERS: Heard coach Frank Vogel's interview where he said that being the top seed in the East was the "goal", but the "priority" is to be playing well down the stretch and be healthy/sharp heading into the playoffs. Well, what a change in approach. They've been obsessed with being the top seed since training camp. Now it's about trying to rebuild your team's collective psyche, which won't be easy, but is doable. The talent is there to win the East, but the chemistry is off-kilter and Roy Hibbert needs a reality check. He is a defensive player who can block shots and rebound on both ends. Do what you do well, that's your strength, and play to it. He's a quatenary or quinary offensive option in the grand scheme of things when he's on the floor. If they get him to buy into that, they'll be fine. Paul George and David West must have the ball in their hands a majority of the time, plain and simple.

5. STEVE NASH (Lakers): Congrats on becoming number-three on the NBA's all-time assists list last night. I watched the game versus the Houston Rockets and felt for him playing injured and in pain. It's ice to see him out there, though. What a career. He'll be a Hall of Famer. It'll be interesting to see if he's back next year for the Lakers for the final year of his contract, but it's been a great run either way. 

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