The Big Picture: I promised myself I wouldn't compare my assistant coaching of 8 and 9 year-olds in a YMCA league with coaching NBA players, but I had an experience this weekend too vivid not to recount and apply to the Bobcats.
It's a league rule that the five best players, regardless of position, play together in the first and third periods, the remaining five players play together in the second and fourth periods, and then anyone can sub in and out in the fifth period. The two other coaches and I determined pretty early on who our four best players were, but we were somewhat torn between which of the next two boys would be on the A team. We waited a long time to make our decision, after the sixth of our seven pre-season practices, and through two games, I'm confident we correctly chose the better player. However, there's another kid on the B team that's been absolutely... Tearing. It. Up. We totally missed it.
This kid is our second-smallest, always finishes last in our footraces, he never looks like he's trying hard, and he's at the goofy end of the spectrum during practice. But through two games, I'm pretty sure he leads our team in blocks, points, steals, and -- if we measured it -- PER by a large margin, to the point that we started running plays for him in the second game and are considering moving him to the A team. He hits jumpers. He makes layups. He's got a good handle for an 8 year-old. And he moves crisply during our set plays. Again, through two games, he's been a revelation, and I'm legitimately shocked that I didn't see it earlier.
All that's to say that this personal experience is a reminder that NBA coaches make decisions that we don't understand because it all makes sense to them at the time. It seems obvious to me that Gerald Henderson deserved 1,000 minutes his rookie year, and Derrick Brown deserves 700 minutes this year, and that the coaches are screwing up, epically. And they may be! It's possible that my limited information is limited in such a way that I'm not bothered by the noise of personal interaction and biases.
But in the end, it's not a matter of who's right and wrong, because the process of doling out playing time and experiences changes the results, and what may have been "right" in an alternative universe in which Henderson got his 1,000 minutes and established himself as a ten-year starter in the league may no longer be "right" now that he's spent a year on the bench.
We have no reason to believe Larry Brown just wanted to stick it to Henderson; he was just doing what seemed to make sense at the time. We have no reason to believe Paul Silas is trying to cripple the Bobcats' chances of succeeding by 2014 by benching Derrick Brown; he's weighed his options and determined this is what's best. It's up to us to use logic and reason, and point to the information we have, challenging others to rebut our conclusions based on that information, to best understand our team.
Musical Interlude: Carolina Chocolate Drops -- "Hit 'Em Up Style"
Key to Victory: The Philadelphia 76ers aren't exactly good, but neither are they terrible. They've got the same kind of uninspiring defense as the Cats, though they have the skills to lock down when they really put the effort there. They've also got an anemic offense, though over the course of the season, it's been better than the Cats' (ORtg: 105.4-102.0).
Here's the thing, though: since Silas took over, the Cats have exceeded their season average ORtg against every non-top-5 defense. New Orleans, Boston, Chicago, and Miami have all shut down the Cats, but they were able to break out against those lesser teams, and I expect them to do the same against a middle-of-the-pack defense like Philly's.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Since 2004, Peyton Manning's playoff record is 6-5. Tom Brady's? 5-5. Funny how brilliant quarterbacks still need great defense to win playoff games.