TrueHoop: Zach Lowe
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Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton are some of the most productive lower draft picks ever. Do they get playing time because they're so productive, or are they so productive because they get playing time?
As I've mentioned, I've been stepping up my Twitter game, for better or worse.
Honestly, I'm digging it. It's a place where smart people debate hoops around the clock. It reminds me a little of the early days of the TrueHoop comments, when the vibe was a little like the bar scene in "Cheers." (Sometimes these days, the commenting vibe all over the web is a tad more "Rambo.")
But last night, for the first time in the last several-hundred tweets, I really chafed at that 140-character limit. Basically, I couldn't figure out how to make my point that quickly without acting like a jerk.
Thankfully, ink is free on TrueHoop and now I can explain a little better.
Zach Lowe (he of CelticsHub fame) wrote a great story for The New York Times' blog making a case that, relative to draft position, the Hornets' rookies Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton are among the most productive picks ever.
The Times' Howard Beck tweeted about that, and my initial response, by Twitter, however, was that those guys have something amazing that most lower picks do not: A coach who is really motivated to make them look good. After Byron Scott was fired, Jeff Bower became not just the guy who picked those players, but also the one who hands out the playing time. That's a powerful combination.
Now, let me be clear: the players have done the work, and earned all that time. Collison and Thornton have earned everything they have -- any team would love to have those guys. What's impossible to say is how many other players picked late in the draft have also done that work and would also be fantastic with the kind of coach's support, and minutes, that those two enjoy. They got an opportunity a lot of players don't get, especially those drafted outside the lottery.
Lowe is right to call them some of the most productive rookies drafted that late. But a wholly different thing is to call them the best players drafted that late, because without a coach's support and playing time, it's almost impossible to tell what most late-drafted players would have done.
Beck replied that he thinks, by and large, players get the playing time they deserve. It seems like a pretty simple thing, though, really. Players who produce get time, and players who don't produce sit. Some other tweeters jumped in and pretty much accused me of disrespecting those Hornet rookies, which is the last thing I'd want to do.
If I agreed with Beck's assertion, though, this is something I'd be able to discuss meaningfully in 140 characters.
But player development experts I've talked to at length are unanimous that one of the best things one can possibly do to help a rookie's career is to bless him with the confidence of a supportive coaching staff and minutes to get used to the NBA game -- and very few players get that. Just a week ago an elite player development coach told me that every single player in the NBA can play, and it's really just a matter of opportunities and coaching and the team.
David Thorpe has been making similar points for years. He talks all the time about "the royal jelly." Literally, that's what worker bees feed a chosen baby bee to make her the queen. But it's also, says Thorpe, what coaches and others can feed players to help them achieve their potential. A lot of it has to do with building confidence. Throughout his career, Thorpe has been accused of hyping up his players up and giving them big heads, to which he replies, jokingly, "guilty!" Thorpe is convinced that "the royal jelly" can and has fundamentally changed the careers of countless players. The gold standard of helping a player evolve, he says, starts with playing time.
"Playing time is the first part," says Thorpe. "A coach's support is another thing -- it helps you grow as a player if you know you're not going to get yanked the first time you miss a shot. That gives you the confidence to be creative and expand your game. And then the final aspect of the ideal set-up is coaching you up on the new things you're adding to your game. A great recent example of this was Trevor Ariza with the Lakers last season. In the spring, everyone was wondering why they'd let him shoot all those 3s. It wasn't productive. But they needed him to be able to do that, they let him do that, they didn't yank him for doing that, and they coached him how to do that better. And in the playoffs he was amazing at that and helped them win a championship."
It's almost a joke. There are, almost literally, a million blogs about the Boston Celtics. That team, for whatever reason, has been very well covered by the blogosphere since the outset. The big daddy has long been CelticsBlog, but from PerkisaBeast to Red's Army, the bench is deep and talented.
The TrueHoop Network needed a blog in Boston, so we read them all, and were pleased.
But in all that research, we (by we I mean mostly Kevin Arnovitz) also came across a collection of great writers who loved the Celtics, but for whatever reason weren't writing about them regularly. So we floated the idea. How about starting ... that's right ... another blog about the Celtics?
And they did. The GM/point guard of the team is Bryan Roy, but he's getting great contributions from Zach Lowe and Brian Robb, and there is talk that the team could grow from there.
Celtics Hub is already keeping on top of breaking news, delivering analysis, and even doing some heavy lifting, for instance, by going through the archives to isolate the finest clutch performances of Paul Pierce's recent career.
It's a new team with a lot of promise, and I couldn't be happier to have them as part of the TrueHoop Network.
Welcome, Celtics Hub.