The 2013-14 season was supposed to be the next step toward proving Greivis Vasquez could be the trusted leader of a team.
Three months after finishing second in the NBA Most Improved Player voting, Vasquez was traded by the New Orleans Pelicans to the Kings as part of the sign-and-trade for Tyreke Evans. That lasted 18 games before Vasquez was shipped to Toronto in a seven-player deal that sent Rudy Gay to Sacramento.
Vasquez now finds himself backing up Kyle Lowry for the Raptors, who turned around their season in January and are playoff bound.
Vasquez has played better as the season has progressed, due largely to improved health. Vasquez joined the Kings after offseason ankle surgery and was never fully healthy in Sacramento.
I feel great now, Vasquez said. Since the second half of the season started, Ive been showing what I can do and getting better. The playoffs are going to buy me more time to show what I can do.
Vasquez has continued to shoot better of late (49.1 percent in his last five games) and is moving better as the Raptors approach the postseason. Those playoff games could prove to be valuable for Vasquez, who will be a restricted free agent if the Raptors make him a qualifying offer after the season.
Vasquez was second in the NBA in assists last season at 9.0per game, a big reason the Kings wanted him.
Im a little upset because I couldnt really show the fans what I could really do, Vasquez said. Last year, I led the league in total assists and was playing at a high level, and I wanted to do that in Sacramento.
Vasquez averaged 5.3 assists for the Kings and relished the chance to be a leader. He also knew he wasnt at his best.
Thats a discussion I had with Coach (Michael) Malone even before I got traded, Vasquez said. He knew the second half of the season was going to be my season. Ankle surgery was not easy. Training camp was rough because I was in and out (of practices) and trying to jump back into an NBA game. Im not Russell Westbrook, who can hurt his knee and come back and do a 360 (dunk). Im just a different type of player.
The Kings discussed a contract extension with Vasquez early this season but didnt reach an agreement. The team didnt want Vasquez rushing back in his quest for a new deal and took a wait-and-see approach.
The Kings front office still thinks highly of Vasquez, who has praise for Kings ownership and Malone.
Isaiah Thomas will be a restricted free agent in the offseason, and the Kings face the possibility of losing their starting point guard if he, like Evans, receives a big contract offer the Kings arent inclined to match.
The Raptors have decisions to make on Vasquez and Lowry in free agency. Lowry will be an unrestricted free agent.
Would Vasquez consider a return to Sacramento if there was interest?
I really like Coach Malone. I have a great relationship with him and the coaching staff, Vasquez said. (Principal owner) Vivek (Ranadive), they treated me like a first-class franchise. I have no complaints; its just part of the business. If they consider me and Im a restricted free agent, anything can happen.
Vasquez still has the kind of mentality the Kings want more of in the franchise winning trumps personal glory.
Thats a concept as an NBA player you have to understand, Vasquez said. Youre not playing for points, youre playing for playoff runs. Thats where you get your money.
Vasquez will be looking to get his money and a team he can lead to wins.
Blake Griffin has been criticized for various flaws, most notably his lack of a post game.
But Griffin should be given plenty of credit for helping keep the Clippers near the top of the Western Conference, especially during Chris Pauls 18-game absence due to a shoulder injury.
After averaging career lows in points and rebounds last season, Griffin is averaging a career-high 24.1 points along with 9.7 rebounds. Griffin also is shooting a career-best 69.6 percent from the free-throw line.
Indianas normally reliable defense has failed of late. During the Pacers three-game losing streak, opponents are averaging 106.3 points. That includes giving up 109 in a 22-point loss at Charlotte. The Bobcats average 95.5.
Weve gone through so much this year, and were not going to let gossip get in the way of what were doing. Bulls center Joakim Noah to reporters in Chicago, not directly addressing an ESPN report that he made a recruiting pitch to the Knicks Carmelo Anthony to join the Bulls for a chance to win an NBA championship.