FIVE QUICK NBA THOUGHTS
1. DERRICK ROSE (Bulls): Had a major knot in my stomach when I heard about his knee injury. Feel awful for him. He's one of my favourite players to watch. It's a significant blow to him and his team. There is no doubt that the Bulls, based upon their remaining players, outstanding coaching and the winning atmosphere in their organization, will still be a Playoff team. There will be some big discussions for GM Gar Forman to have with president John Paxson and the Reinsdorf family as to which direction to take this thing. Without Rose, they're not a championship contender. With the pending contractual free agency issues on the horizon with Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng it will be fascinating to see if they buy, hold or sell. High stakes are involved here and lots will happen there in the Summer of 2014. This injury sets off a potential chain reaction that will send some competitive ripples around the Eastern Conference.
2. WESLEY MATTHEWS (Blazers): Portland is red hot and he's been outstanding at the off guard spot. He is shooting the lights out from behind the arc at 52 per cent and is an excellent finisher off the bounce and in transition. The former second-round pick was a bold free agent signing a few years back and he's paid huge dividends. Forget where guys are picked. Can they play and do they have a winning vibe about them? He's got both. Good get.
3. DJ AUGUSTIN (Raptors): Has had a tough start to his run with the Raptors but it was great to see how prepared he was when Dwane Casey inserted him in the second half vs. Washington on Friday night. A pro all the way. Two huge assists and a dagger three-pointer. He made huge plays that swung the game in his team's favour. I see lots of guys pout and hang their heads and act like babies when things don't go their way - it's nice to see a guy who keeps an even keel and in spite of the challenges he was having is not going to let it get him down. I'm quite impressed by that. The Raptors backup point guard situation needs stability. Maybe those limited minutes against the Wizards will get him on track and give his confidence a boost. The Raps need it.
4. MARC GASOL (Grizzlies): He's out indefinitely with a knee injury. Loved the pickup of Kosta Koufas from Denver in the off-season. Nice opportunity for him to play big minutes alongside Zach Randolph. Former Raptor Ed Davis will get some run as well - it's a defining time for him since the Grizzlies didn't pick up his contract option. With all due respect to both of these guys, Gasol is the much better player yet at this time of year if you can get guys like this to fill in and produce then you become a stronger team later in the year when you're at full strength. They'll miss the high-low action that he brings to their team along with his physical/tough play.
5. RAPTORS HOME STAND: Toronto has three more games this week at the ACC before heading out west. Brooklyn will be desperate for a W, the Heat are a tough match-up for the Raps and then Denver will bring its up-tempo act into town. Can I sign up for a 2-1 week and an 8-8 mark as they head west? I would take that right now if I could. Build the momentum and confidence early in the season and it carries over over the long haul. Lay the groundwork and foundation now.