While most of the NBA world has been concerned with how the Knicks are playing so well and why the Lakers are, well, not…three doghousehold names are emerging as difference-makers early in this season.
If you’ve tuned in to a Hornets game this year to checkout #1 pick Anthony Davis, you may have noticed rookie point guard Brian Roberts coming off the bench. You may also be wondering…when did New Orleans draft him? Well, they didn’t…nobody did, back in 2008. After four years at Dayton, Roberts took his talents to Israel. After a season there he spent the next three in a very competitive German league, improving his game. This past summer he turned a nice showing in the Las Vegas Summer League into a training camp invitation in New Orleans. Then, about the time that Hornets brass realized that Austin Rivers wasn’t an NBA point guard, Brian made the team as the backup to Greivis Vasquez. His scoring ability is a welcome addition to the Hornets backcourt, with averages of 7.5 points and 2.5 assists. Roberts even poured in 17 points last Sunday at Denver. The rookie is head coach Monty Williams’ kind of guy…..tough, smart, and humble.
Some of you may be wondering what ever happened to P.J. Tucker, a Raptors rookie six years ago. Well, he’s back in the NBA…and he’s much bigger. The 6-6 Tucker may be listed at 225 lbs but he looks more like 240. At Phoenix Suns training camp in San Diego, a colleague of mine was quick to ask “hey, who’s that big man taking shots.” I responded…oh, that’s swingman Tucker? Even I was caught off guard by his girth. There was once a time when every NBA team had a Tucker or two…a beefy wing player you could sick on opposing scorers to help keep them grounded. These days, they’re few and far between. But P.J. has shown recently how much he can contribute to an NBA team. Just ask Lebron James…who had Tucker draped all over him recently in Phoenix and walked away with a newfound respect for him. Even Metta World Peace backed off a recent altercation with Tucker in Los Angeles. ‘MWP’ had to respect his chippiness…and must’ve reminded him of a young Ron Artest. Today’s lighter version, Metta, wanted no piece of this Phoenix freight train. The Phoenix Suns have rebounded from a slow start this season to hover around .500, and that directly coincides with Tucker’s increased minutes. He sparked a comeback win versus the Cavaliers at home to start this recent run of good play in the Valley of the Sun. He’s contributing a solid 5 points and almost 4 rebounds a night in just 18 minutes off the bench.
If you watch college basketball then you know exactly who Mavericks rookie Jae Crowder is…..he’s that guy from Marquette with the dred locks. If you don’t know him, then you probably make a Kenneth Faried joke everytime you see Dallas highlights. The two may share the same hair, but Crowder’s first name tells the entire story…..this guy has a “J” in every sense. Couple his nice shot with some hardcore one-on-one defense and Rick Carlisle may have found himself a future playoff performer. He’s averaging 7.7 ppg & 2.5 rpg, and just made his 5th start in 14 games. A little more experience and bit better handle could lead to Jae Crowder in the starting lineup for good.