Be Seein’ You… Yeah, I Hope Not Sporadically
By doing the Daily Dime Live chats on ESPN.com, I run across fans of the most random players. There are fans that are infatuated with seeing Sean May succeed in the NBA. There are fans that want Jon Brockman to be a starter or wanted Sergio Rodriguez to be the future point guard of the franchise. And of course, there are tons of fans that want to see Omri Casspi’s minutes be a steadfast 36 per night with rotations down to the exact same second every game.
Fans and fantasy basketball owners are growing continually frustrated with Paul Westphal’s substitution methods and random acts of playing time. And in reading Sam Amick’s piece today, they’re not the only ones:
“It’s hard. Every (general manager) and every coach wants consistent results. That’s all anybody wants in this league, a consistent player, consistent results. But any time you have an inconsistent system, it’s hard to ask for consistent results, and I think that’s where a lot of guys’ frustration is right now.”
That was a quote from Sean May who went on to talk about how guys are up and down because of the inconsistent starts and playing time. There are a few different ways to approach this situation. 1) This is a young team so it’s fine playing around with their minutes to see which combinations work and which ones don’t for the future. 2) This is a bad team so the inconsistency in the playing rotations isn’t putting them in a position for consistent success. 3) Guys are going to be down if their minutes are inconsistent because ultimately their livelihoods are at stake if they have a down year.
I’m more inclined to look at the first option in this situation because I keep viewing this season as nothing more than figuring out which ingredients you need to for your championship soufflé. It might be difficult to come to grips with this idea (especially for season ticket holders) but this season doesn’t matter at all. It’s just a footnote in the playoff contending team’s media guide that is being written with each franchise-building move around Tyreke Evans. When Tyreke is terrorizing some fan base in the Western Conference Finals in five years, is anybody going to care that the Kings won a third of their games this year? No.
But still, you have to deal with the frustration of inconsistent playing time right now and that can cause awkward team issues. There is one guy this season that hasn’t had to deal with inconsistent playing time and that’s the 20-year old that nobody believes is a 20-year old. Tyreke Evans has had whatever playing time he needs out there when he’s been healthy. Why is that? Because he’s the franchise savior and you give the franchise savior whatever he wants.
I don’t think it’s a matter of Tyreke calling his own playing time by any means, either. But the more playing time and in-game situations he faces, the more likely he is to grow quicker and become a better player. So why isn’t this true with the rest of the team?
Look at the Top 10 used lineups of the season according to 82games.com:
Do you notice the one that was the most successful in terms of plus/minus and win percentage? It’s the one we all assumed the Kings would start the majority of their games with when we were figuring out this team in pre-season. The lineup of Tyreke at the point, Kevin Martin at the shooting guard, Andres Nocioni at the small forward and Jason Thompson next to Spencer Hawes in the middle seemed like the Kings best lineup and it was.
Now obviously injuries curtailed that lineup from being used on a consistent basis once Martin went down with his broken wrist. But even before that, Spencer Hawes had to EARN his way back into the starting lineup. By then, the wrist was broken for Martin and the Kings were thrust into the Tyreke Evans era.
(Also, for those of you claiming Tyreke isn’t a point guard, how can you tell when their two worst most used lineups involve Tyreke as the point man in one and the shooting guard in the other? There is no definitive evidence yet.)
I think Coach Westphal has done an admirable job with the team and finding which pieces work and which pieces don’t. Has he been perfect? Absolutely not. The inconsistent playing time for guys like Omri and Donté doesn’t make sense when they could be flanking Tyreke for the next 10 years. You need to figure out what you have with each young guy now – when the seasons don’t matter – so you know if they’re building pieces on the court or building pieces in a trade that nets you a more important player.
Rewarding players is key, especially with young guys, because they need to see that their hard work is paying off. I think Westphal has done that in the way he’s given starting positions out this season. However, when you have a guy like Donté or Omri start hot in the first quarter and then barely see the second quarter, you start to side with the frustration of fans and the players themselves.
Consistency will eventually come for this team but until then, everybody will need to learn to accept certain inconsistencies.