By Andy Roth
New York, NY (Sports Network) -
The first week of the New Year is in the books. Let's take a look at what
caught my eye in my latest take on the NBA.
NEW YORK KNICKS
The Knicks have their eyes on the wrong potential free agent of the Denver
Nuggets. With Wilson Chandler playing at such a high level and the Knicks
having such a big hole in the middle, team president Donnie Walsh should have
his sights set on Nene Hilario, whom, like Carmelo Anthony, can opt out of his
contract at the end of the season.
If the Knicks did a sign-and-trade for Anthony, there's a very good chance
there would be even less depth to a roster that is already considered thin and
it wouldn't solve their problem at center. For example, if the Knicks packaged
Chandler and Landry Fields in the deal, they would have a major hole at
shooting guard and still not have a quality starting center.
Getting a legitimate big man would allow head coach Mike D'Antoni to play
Amar'e Stoudemire and Wilson Chandler at their normal positions and
automatically make the Knicks a better defensive team. Signing Hilario over
Anthony would cost the Knicks considerably less money, and give them a lot more
flexibility to give the team the added depth they desperately need.
After looking early on like it would be a lost season, the Grizzlies have put
themselves back in the playoff hunt. Not only are they putting up a lot more
W's, but they've done it against some of the league's upper echelon teams.
In the opening week of the New Year, the "Griz" had consecutive wins over the
Lakers, Thunder, and Jazz. The win over the Lakers was their second this
season. Memphis has also beaten Dallas and Miami.
O.J. Mayo thinks the Grizzlies commitment to playing defense is the reason for
their turnaround. "We've got a lot of scorers on offense and a lot of offensive
firepower. We thought if we put as much effort on the defensive end as we did
on the offensive end, we could be a heck of a team defensively."
Phoenix basketball fans better appreciate a warm, winter climate, because it
doesn't look like there's going to be too many good times on the court for its
team. The Suns are 3-7 since pulling off the big trade with the Magic, and I
see no reason for optimism at this point for this franchise.
The Suns' best players are also their oldest ones and father time will catch up
to them sooner rather than later. Steve Nash (16.8 ppg, 10.5 apg) will be 37 in
February and Grant Hill (14.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg) is 38. Vince Carter (33), who was
acquired in the six-player deal with Orlando, is clearly past his prime, and
it's unlikely he'll be back in Phoenix next year with his contract up at the
end of the season.
There's been plenty of speculation about dealing Nash, but that's all it seems
to be. Lon Babby, the Suns' president of basketball operations, has repeatedly
referred to Nash as "the sun. the moon and the stars" of the franchise, to make
the point that his point guard is here for the season without definitively
The Suns might have an empty arena if they dealt Nash, but it also might be in
the best long-term interest of the franchise to do just that, if the price is
While the Suns have struggled badly since their trade with Orlando, the Magic
are a revitalized team. Prior to the deal, the Magic lost five of their last
six games and the offense simply looked pitiful, averaging just 89.1 points per
game during that stretch. But since the trade, putting the ball in the basket
has looked easy for the Magic, having averaged 107.6 points per game during
their current nine-game winning streak. A big assist has to go to Hedo
Turkoglu. And "assist" is the key word, because Turkoglu has had plenty of
those in his second stint with Orlando. The 6'10" point-forward has given the
team something they've lacked since his departure; someone who can create easy
shots for his teammates. Turkoglu is averaging 6.4 assists in 11 games with the
Magic, including an eye-opening 17 in the most recent victory in Dallas on
A lot of teams may have been disheartened or thrown in the towel having to deal
with all the bad luck and major injuries the Trailblazers have had to deal
with, but that hasn't been the case in Portland. In the opening month of the
season the Blazers learned Greg Oden would be lost for another year and Brandon
Roy's chronic knee problems have limited his effectiveness and time on the
court, having already missed 15 games. Roy's latest issues with his knees have
had him sidelined since mid-December and his return is a big question mark at
But despite all this, the Blazers remain very competitive, and find themselves
currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with a 20-18 record.
After starting out the season 8-11, Portland has won 12 of its last 19 games.
The play of LaMarcus Aldridge has been a big key to the Blazers playing as well
as they have lately. With so many great power forwards in the league, Aldridge
doesn't get much ink, but he's really playing at a very high level and has
elevated his game even further during Roy?s latest absence. Over the last 12
games he's averaged 25.7 points and 10.8 rebounds, with the Blazers going 8-4
during that stretch.
You can certainly question DeMarcus Cousins' maturity, or lack thereof, but
there's not much doubt that the kid has skills and it's really started to show
lately. Over his last six games the rookie center has averaged 21.1 points per
game on 55% shooting. Prior to this run, Cousins had shot just 40% from the
floor and it was a statistic he was not happy with. So what has spurred the
recent improvement? Kings coach Paul Westphal cites patience and technique for
the improved accuracy.
"I think that in practice earlier in the year he didn't really appreciate the
value of repetition at game speed. And now those shots look a lot more in
rhythm because he's practicing in rhythm a lot better. I think he realizes the
pace of the game and there are a lot of opportunities and he doesn't have to
show everything he's got every play."
Cousins, who was the fifth overall pick in the draft, has the potential to be
the best player in that draft not named John Wall.
Andy Roth covered the Knicks for NBC Radio and AP Radio for eleven years and
was an NBA Columnist for Celtics Pride Magazine for two years. He's covered
many of the major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA
Finals, U.S. Open Tennis and Golf.