Our always-hot rookie, Blake Griffin, will be participating in the dunk contest this year. Clear your schedules accordingly. Okay, onto the other rookies — besides Griffin, Wall and Fields — who are doing things (both good and bad) in 2011 thus far:
DeMarcus Cousins — He’s been up and he’s been down, but 2011 has gotten off to a solid start for Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins. After finishing off 2010 with a 29-point, 16-rebound performance in a thrilling victory over the Memphis Grizzlies — a performance that got overshadowed by that spectacular 48-foot game-winning shot that teammate Tyreke Evans hit to save the day — Cousins kicked off the new year with 16 points and eight rebounds in a loss to the Nuggets. He followed that up with phenomenal 28-point, eight-rebound, six-assist game against the Suns as he spearheaded a fourth quarter run to lead his team to victory. The Kings outscored Phoenix 29-16 in the fourth with Cousins scoring 13 of his 28 in the quarter. He was 11-for-17 from the floor and 6-for-8 from the free throw line. He was balling on a night when Evans struggled, shooting just 2-for-12 from the floor, coming up big when his team needed him. While the Kings lost to the Hawks on Tuesday night, Cousins played 35 minutes and scored 24 points to go with seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. The 20-year-old who sometimes acts like the kid that he is, appears to slowly be growing up — on the floor, at least.
Greg Monroe — Another player hopefully turning the corner in 2011 is Detroit’s Greg Monroe. After starting off slowly, Monroe has found his spot in the rotation. Now, to make things happen while he’s on the floor. Against the Lakers on Tuesday night, the Pistons lost in an ugly one, but Monroe recorded the first double-double of his career, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Of course, just a day earlier against the Jazz, he only had two points and two rebounds. Consistency is the key when it comes to young players finding their way in the NBA, but Monroe’s performance against the Lakers is one he should be able to tuck in his back pocket as he continues to try and produce.
Honorable mention: Shout out to Ed Davis for averaging 5.9 rebounds in 20 minutes of action each night.
Armon Johnson — After earning a pretty solid reserve role in the rotation for the first quarter of the season, Portland’s Armon Johnson has slipped off the face of the earth. With Patty Mills stepping up and making the most of every opportunity given to him as the Blazers battle their seemingly routine rash of injuries, Johnson has fallen out of the rotation and has not even touched the court for the last three games. After appearing in the first 17 games of the season, Johnson has recorded 10 DNP-CDs in Portland’s last 19 games, mostly because of his inability to take care of the ball. His season average has dipped to eight-and-a-half minutes per game and he’s averaging just 3.3 points and 1.4 rebounds per game. Johnson is now the forgotten man in Portland. It could be worse, though. He could be teammate Luke Babbitt with a rookie-low 1.3 point-per-game average.
Evan Turner — I know. How can he be on the “Not” list again, especially after being on the flipside last week? Consistency is the theme of the week and since 2011 began, Mr. Turner has not been consistent with his last two games of 2010. Turner scored seven points in a Sixers loss to the Hornets, but was just 2-for-14 from the floor. Rough night. He followed that up by contributing two points and four rebounds in a victory against the Wizards where he was just 1-for-5. Turner’s got to find a way to be aggressive and put points on the board. When your shooting guard can’t score … well, just take a look at the Sixers record. They need him to figure out his way sooner rather than later.
We’ve got two match ups to watch this weekend. Might not be who/what you were expecting, but is anything the norm in this column? Not when you’re trying to keep it interesting.
Sixers @ Pistons, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET — With Greg Monroe on the hot list and Evan Turner on the not list, let’s see how this one shakes out. Will Turner be able to gain some confidence offensively and shake off his last two performances? Can Monroe continue to earn minutes from his coaching staff and keep producing? While this game as a whole might be a little hard on the eyes (and head, if we’re being honest), it’ll be on my “to-watch” list because Turner’s play has irked me and I’m dying to see him turn the corner for good and start piecing together strings of positive games.
Kings @ Raptors, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET — After the Raptors blew a huge lead against the Kings in a road loss earlier this season, they’ll try to get payback on their home floor on Sunday afternoon. With the way DeMarcus Cousins has been rolling, he’s pretty much a must-see rookie at this point. This time around, the Raptors will have their rookie, Ed Davis, in the middle as well. Which team will come away victorious and will Davis and the Raptors be able to deter Cousins?