On Pro Bball Report last week: Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas DeMar DeRozan and Kobe Bryant All-Star discussions, Lou Williams struggling, James Johnson gets serious, Celtics and Cavaliers set trade market prices, the availability of Tobias Harris, Wilson Chandler and Thaddeus Young, Knicks Quincy Acy shines, Elijah Millsap signs, Larry Sanders walking away, Raptors NBA Player-of-the-Month, the Hawks dominate and more.
The outspoken support of Head Coach Dwane Casey and even the unexpected backing of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not be enough to make up a current 100,000 vote shortfall unless Raptors fans take heed during the team’s six game homestand.
“I do, I do follow (All-Star voting),” Valanciunas said. “It means a lot to me. I want to be there if that’s possible. I am eighth in the frontcourt, so I still have a chance. (Fans) giving that effort and showing that love for me, that’s amazing. I like it and I feel support from outside and that’s great, that’s what we need. That’s what I need as a young player.”
“He was playing like an old man,” Head Coach Dwane Casey explained. “The slow man’s game, not getting too high off the floor and that’s where he is in his career now. He is smart, he is under control and he brings a calming effect to our team. He has gone from a young man to a man.”
It should be obvious to even the most ardent Kobe Bryant fan that the 16-time All-Star and future Hall-of-Fame guard is no longer the dominant player he once was. Coming back from two serious injuries at 36-years-old has left Bryant a shell of his former self, but that hasn’t stopped his legions of supporters from voting en masse to make him an All-Star starter once again at the expense of the NBA’s leading scorer James Harden.
Part of the myth of Lou Williams is his instant offense off the bench and it’s true – some of the time. Williams wins teams games because he can provide that spark, that instant offense, but he doesn’t do it every time or against every defender. However, since DeMar DeRozan went down with a groin strain, Casey has increasingly turned to the veteran Williams to pick up some of the lost scoring punch with mixed results.
“When you are winning everyone is having fun and when you are losing, it’s time to get back to the serious page of doing things the right way, staying locked-in in the locker room and just doing the little things right,” Johnson said.
Throw out all of your preseason expectations for this NBA season, no one in the Eastern or Western Conferences should be feeling all that comfortable about making it to the Finals this year. The result has been a very good market for players that could – stress could – have an impact on the final standings and provide a team the edge once the postseason rolls around. Highly coveted first round draft picks are becoming the grease that moves deals along to completion. The future is now once again.
Harris and the Magic did not reach an extension this past October, making him a free agent in July … do the Magic want to risk a price tag north of $12 million a year for Harris or could he return something significant for a team that’s not terribly better than they were last season. Given where the Magic are in the standings it seems unlikely that they sit out the trade market, especially with so many teams shopping for parts and the Magic having some to sell.
Chandler is having a good season in Denver. For one thing, he hasn’t had a significant injury (dare we say yet?) He is averaging 14.2 points and 5.9 rebounds in 31.6 minutes and hitting on better than 35 percent of his three-point attempts. At 27-years-old with 7 years of NBA experience under his belt, he has been around. Chandler is a young veteran player and Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey likes veterans – what coach doesn’t?
Why this young veteran is even on the sad sack Wolves is something of a mystery, but the rumors of potential interest from Toronto shouldn’t be. The Raptors know this former Sixers forward well and he might just be the fix they are looking for to shore up their lineup.
“Nothing changes for me, I’m not a guy that needs the ball to be effective,” Acy said. “I just try to give (the ball) to (Carmelo Anthony) in spots that he likes. I am still learning how he likes to play. I am just trying to get in position to gets rebounds in this offense because I am just out there trying to figure out where I am supposed to be and then I got to go rebound. It’ll come with time.”
“I just had a son,” Millsap said. “I want to be an inspiration to my son and my younger brother. I want to be the guy that inspires other guys. I want to maximize my ability and continue to get better and try to get to the NBA.”
Bucks center Larry Sanders hasn’t been playing for Milwaukee recently for personal reasons and the situation appears to be getting pretty serious – serious enough that Sanders may be prepared to walk away from the 4-year $44 million extension he signed with the Bucks that kicked in this season.
For the month of December, the Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry became just the second player in team history to be honored as Player of the Month.
The game marked the return of the Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan who hadn’t played since injuring his groin at home against Dallas on November 28. DeRozan scored an easy 20 points in 28.8 minutes on 9-14 shooting.
The Atlanta Hawks right now are the best story in the NBA. Friday night in Toronto, the Hawks came into the Air Canada Centre and schooled the Raptors to a tune of 110-89. The win was their 11th straight on the road, adding to their franchise record, and their 11th straight overall. The last time the Hawks won 11 straight was back in the 1997-1998 season.
• Big Stories From The Previous Week
When a team has been residing at the top of their Conference for nearly the entire season, there shouldn’t be too many hopes and wishes for the New Year. However, things could always get better if President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri could apply his magic touch to this roster one more time.
The bane of Head Coach’s Dwane Casey’s defense has been giving up offense rebounds after a tough defensive stand. The Raptors are 26th in the Association at grabbing available defensive boards at 72.7 percent. Only the guard heavy Suns and the offensive-minded Mavericks are worse among +.500 teams.
Fields has the highest salary of any player on the Raptors who isn’t part of the regular rotation and that big expiring contract could make him a key piece in any trade President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri might make in an attempt to upgrade the team’s roster.
Caboclo only played 5 minutes and 14 minutes in his next two games with the Mad Ants and scored 0 points. He was a DNP-CD in Thursday’s game vs the Oklahoma City Blue. It would be fair to ask if Caboclo was wasting his time in Fort Wayne?