View Full Version : QOD - Do Too Many Starters Lack Passion For Game?

12-05-2006, 06:59 PM

QOD with Conrad

Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2006

Q. Overall, this is a much more likable team than the last two seasons; I like how they play hard. However, there is a difference between playing hard and playing with passion. Most of the starters appear to have a serious lack of passion for the game of basketball, or at least the situation they are in. Why are they starters? There are obvious players on the second unit who play with passion whenever they hit the floor. It gets old watching the second unit come in and bring us back, only to have the starters inserted again to do the job that they do. (From Don in Los Angeles)

A. This one's going to be tough for me because I don't have a statistic I can fall back upon to illustrate my point. This is a discussion of a subjective observation of an intangible, which is kind of like trying to catch smoke with your hands. You can try all you want but all you get is smelly. But this is a superb question that deserves a stat-free attempt at an answer. Perhaps the most consistent problem the Pacers have faced this season has been the lack of a successful starting lineup. Whether they go small with Danny Granger or big with Jeff Foster, the Pacers have constantly dug early holes that leave them playing uphill the rest of the game.
A little hole isn't a big deal; the Pacers often play better when they're a few points behind because the natural tendency with a lead is to relax. But when you're regularly facing double-digit deficits before flipping the switch, you've got issues because by then it's usually too late. Monday night's game against the Lakers was a prime example. The Pacers were spectators for the first three quarters. Not even an injury that sent Kobe Bryant to the bench for good early in the third quarter could light their motivational fires. Finally, the second unit put together some stops and they made a nice run in the fourth quarter. Nice, but ultimately futile.
But is passion, or lack thereof, the root of this particular evil? To be sure, Jamaal Tinsley has perfected the ability to look utterly disinterested; whether that accurately reflects his mindset or is just a facade only he knows. Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington both play with fire most of the time but occasionally let their emotions and moods affect their respective games. Jermaine O'Neal plays with intense pride and has played at a very high all-around level; his Achilles heel has been occasionally allowing lesser opponents (like Kwame Brown) to outplay him simply by being more motivated. Foster's in the lineup specifically because of his passion.
While it is true guys like Darrell Armstrong, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Danny Granger and lately Maceo Baston have really stood out in contrast because of the amount of energy they bring into the game with the second unit, does that mean any or all would play the same way with the first unit? It's a completely different mentality, readying yourself to play 30-40 minutes per night as opposed to 10-20. The second unit burns hotter and more intensely because it can release all of its energy at once. What the Pacers must figure out is a way to fan the first unit's flame. I think the right combination of players has been found. What must be cultivated is the proper collective mindset. And, frankly, a little more passion wouldn't hurt, either.