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Al Horford playing 28 minutes in the NBA playoffs and other inexcusable coaching decisions

Al Horford playing 28 minutes in the NBA playoffs and other inexcusable coaching decisions

Al Horford playing 28 minutes in the NBA playoffs and other inexcusable coaching decisions



The Hawks' best player registered 28 minutes due to foul trouble. Yet Al Horford finished with just three fouls. Ugh.


2013-04-23

You'll find something like unanimity among the advanced metric crowd that measuring the impact of NBA coaches is difficult. Many have attempted to stick a number on it, but there's hardly anything approaching consensus regarding a measure that accurately reflects coaching quality. Even wins are problematic, as Doc Rivers' career suggests.
Maybe we're just going about this all wrong. Instead of trying to measure what coaches bring to their teams, we should focus on what coaches take away and implement a "do no evil" philosophy to coach judgment. So this morning, instead of praising Frank Vogel for giving Paul George a long leash despite a rough shooting afternoon, we would simply issue a demerit to Larry Drew for what Peachtree Hoops' Jason Walker writes about this morning.
[W]ith 5:29 left in the first half, Lance Stephenson would put himself in the path of a transitioning Horford around midcourt in an effort to slow the Hawks big man down. Horford would put his arm on the Pacer wingman and then Stephenson flailed wildly, enticing referee David Jones to call an offensive foul away from the ball.
It shouldn't have been a foul. [...] It was Horford's second personal foul and Larry Drew decided the risk of Horford picking up a third foul in the first half was too great to his team's success and he benched him for the rest of the half.
Oh, the fallacies of such fraidy-cat strategery.
Horford sat, the Hawks' momentum was blunted and the Pacers won. And Horford finished with three fouls for the game.
This is a persistent issue with some coaches, but Drew might be the league's top offender, with Horford as the victim. It makes no sense on so many levels! Horford is not remotely foul prone -- he averaged 2.2 per game while playing 37 minutes a night this season. Drew has been his coach all year. He has seen first-hand that Horford can defend really well without fouling.
Drew pulled Horford with five minutes left in the second quarter, so there were 29 minutes of game left. Even if Horford had three fouls at that point, his performance all season long indicates he would pick up two or fewer fouls the rest of the way, even if he played all 29 minutes remaining plus a five-minute overtime period. At two fouls, which is where Horford was when yanked, he would have had to pick up fouls at more than double his normal rate while playing the entire second half and one overtime to foul out.
I think you take that risk when the alternative is sitting your best player. After all, the worst thing that could happen is that ... your best player would have to sit! You know how awesome people get sandwiches named after them? This move is not awesome and it should be called The Larry Drew.
Drew, of course, is not the only coach who makes mistakes. Here are some other inexcusable decisions that require demerits in our Kierkegaardian coaching value system.
* Playing seemingly random rotations game to game. We'll call this The Keith Smart.
* Installing a complicated new offense despite a Rolls Royce roster featuring two of the best offensive players ever, one highly-skilled 7-footer and a dominant center. The Mike Brown.
* Antagonizing your star player. The P.J. Carlesimo.
* Playing an injured player beyond his medically determined minutes limit and getting into a fistfight with your boss. The Vinny Del Negro.
* Trusting your team defense to assistant coach Chuck Person. The Reggie Theus.
* Keeping your best player on the bench because your second-best player plays the same position. The Kurt Rambis.
* Suspending your best player without buy-in from your boss. The Paul Westphal.
* Destroying your entire franchise -- front office to players and back -- in a post-game presser. The Doug Collins.

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