The Warriors Trust Their Rookies
With the Warriors up 3, 2 seconds to go, there was a funny sight on the (nationally televised) court. Though the game was still on the line and Dallas could inbound for a 3-point try, three rookies shared the floor for GSW. One of them, Kent Bazemore, had recently been called up from the D-League. He’s currently averaging 3.5 minutes per game, and he’s mostly known for his hilarious bench celebrations. Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green also calmly strutted about the hardwood. Perhaps it’s no shock to see a lottery pick like Barnes out there, but Draymond is a second rounder. In theory, this was the kind of situation where a “rookie mistake” might give away a sealed up game.
And honestly, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see four Warriors rooks on the floor. Festus Ezeli started most GSW games this season, but he’s been bench-bound since Andrew Bogut got back. My suspicion is, were Bogut not available to “scarecrow” the inbounder, Festus would have been that dude.
I asked Mark Jackson about the unusual rookie situation and he responded this way:
“I got 15 guys that I believe in…I don’t look at them as three rookies. I look at them as guys who put in a lot of time to give me a chance to win.”
These are the instances where I posit that Mark Jackson’s belief in belief influences events–for the better in this particular situation. Faith is sways you towards illogical decisions, or at least, that’s how a secular person like myself often sees it. In the case of Jackson, though, I believe (there’s that word again) that his faith sways him towards a logic that few other coaches even consider.
Coaches have their own religion, some of it well founded, and some of it hokum. “Don’t play rookies” might be one of the Ten Coaching Commandments. It’s an edict Jackson’s quick to ignore, because he believes that his faith in these rookies will translate to better play.
Mark Jackson is blasé on a style of rookie usage that might terrify some other coaches. So are his players. When I asked Kent Bazemore if he was surprised to be there, the response was, “Not at all.” Harrison Barnes also seemed to think the situation mundane, when asked about it. This is just how it is in Golden State. Rookies are trusted and they respond.
The approach doesn’t exactly jibe with how Mark Jackson was perceived as an announcer. The conventional wisdom on Jackson was that he was a spouter of conventional wisdom. As a coach, he’s building something of an iconoclast track record. Using Bogut to hound the inbounder while playing an umbrella defense at the 3-point line is but another example:
Thats the first time I’ve seen a team defend like that in that situation, it was brilliant.
— Haralabos Voulgaris (@haralabob) February 1, 2013
Per another Andrew Bogut play of note, he had the block of the game when he swat-stripped Brandan Wright with 6 seconds left. It was very close to being a foul (all strips run the risk of getting called as such), but Bogut just went for the kill shot, even though free throws would have given Dallas the lead.
Bogut’s defense intrigues me because he doesn’t quite shadow players from the side like Ekpe Udoh did. The new Warriors big man likes to hold his ground and attack opponents head-on, in a confrontational manner. I asked Bogut about whether he feared fouls, thinking that a lack of such a fear might explain his style.
Instead, Bogut seems to explain his style as one impervious to the fear of getting dunked on. For a big to be an effective defender, he must consistently risk humiliation. For the Warriors to imbue their rookies with confidence, they must risk the humiliation of one failing the team in a big spot.