Coaching Ain’t Easy…
The life of the die hard NBA fan is difficult.
When one’s favorite team wins a nail-biter, it’s the ultimate state of euphoria, as emotions take over and excitement reigns supreme.
When the preferred team wins comfortably, its fans are happy, but see it as taking care of business, a nine-to-five of sorts if you will.
Things obviously flip flop with losses. A narrow defeat at the buzzer leaves the team’s loyal followers puzzled, irritable, confused and prone to making excuses for reasons why the other team escaped with a victory this one time.
A loss where the outcome rarely seemed in doubt brings anger, the calling for heads to roll and a host of other emotions that rarely illicit a response without swear words.
In other words, several fans live and die with their teams, and thus cannot always see it objectively; which is what head coaches typically do.
It’s extremely easy to point out all of the errors that coaches make throughout the course of games, but rarely do they get praised for making great adjustments, uncorking a good tactical advantage or basically just not screwing things up.
For instance, two nights in Detroit, the Golden State Warriors raced out to a 19-7 lead against the Pistons on the strength of the play of their starters. Stephen Curry came out looking to get his teammates going while David Lee was assertive early on.
Steph drove into the lane and found Ezeli a few times, while Lee was more than comfortable driving from the baseline to get into the paint for scores. In addition, Ezeli was a beast defensively, muscling Greg Monroe and forcing him into misses by contesting shots hard and also rotating to the other Pistons players and doing the same to them.
But with the NBA season being a long 82-game grind, Mark Jackson would eventually have to go his bench, and that occurred at the 2:39 mark when Jarrett Jack and Andris Biedrins entered the game.
The Pistons made a run and the once double-digit deficit became a one-point game by the time the first quarter ended.
Jackson waited until the 4:24 mark of the second quarter to insert his “best” five-man unit of Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Lee and Landry — it varies from one contest to the next, because the Dubs are at times better when Jack is playing instead of Barnes — and they helped the Warriors take a two-point lead at halftime.
Considering that the group produces 108.1 points per game over 48 minutes per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool, one can only wonder why the Warriors’ coach waited so long to insert this lineup.
Here’s where a fan and a head coach could potentially see things differently.
The fan wants his team to go all out to win every possible game, whereas the head coach has to literally think about the scope of all 82 games. Indeed, playing Andris Biedrins isn’t about just throwing him out there, it’s also about looking ahead into the season and making sure that he understands that the coaching staff still has some confidence in him; and that should he be needed due to injuries or foul trouble, they won’t hesitate to turn to him.
Jackson’s decision is not without its consequences though.
If David Lee is going to play the majority of the game and super sub Carl Landry is going to get a lot of playing time, the end result is that the odd man out is often going to be Ezeli.
His work on the interior makes it quite difficult for teams to score against the Warriors because he is in fact an intimidating presence despite being a rookie. NBA.com’s database tells us that Warriors opponents produce 99.1 points per game per 48 minutes on 44.3 percent field goal shooting with the big man on the bench, as opposed to 93.4 points per game per 48 minutes on 41.9 percent shooting with Ezeli on the court.
For the sake of context, the Chicago Bulls allow 90.9 points per game (best in the association) while the Indiana Pacers surrender 40.8 percent field goal shooting to opponents (best figure in the league).
So what gives?
Well, with Thompson and Curry struggling to convert from the floor for most of the season, the starting five just hasn’t been able to produce enough points. Thus, Jackson’s decision-making process is usually at the mercy of his backcourt.
Last night, Ezeli continued to anchor the paint defensively in the third quarter, but the Dubs backcourt caught fire and combined to score 29 of the Warriors 39 points in the period.
At this point, it’s clear that either Lee or Landry has to be on the court for the team to be successful, but Ezeli might very well see more time if his perimeter teammates play better.
These are the decisions that Mark Jackson faces every single night as it pertains to Festus Ezeli, Andris Biedrins and even Draymond Green to some extent. Let’s give him some credit for at least figuring out this part of the equation during Andrew Bogut’s absence.
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