Hello all, Im back for my usual Sunday afternoon Pacers Digest posting.
Today I want to discuss the preseason games, and how coaches and players use it in different ways. I've been reading everyone's thoughts on our first 2 games so far, including UB's and Peck's takes on the games, and wanted to start a discussion about what preseason is really used for, and what if anything it really means.
From my perspective, I can tell you that I think most people I read on here are getting way too worked up, both positively and negatively, about what you are seeing.....in some cases your eyes are playing tricks on you in some ways. You guys and gals need to all take a deep breath and relax......
There are many examples of preseason hysteria being meaningless in not just the NBA but in every other professional sport. Rational people can recognize this, but yet many of those who know it intellectually forget it when it comes to their own teams. How many of you remember now who had the best record or the most home runs or the best batting average in spring training this season in baseball? How many of you could tell in spring training that the Tigers would end up in the World Series?
In football, the Colts annually look like crap in the preseason, yet always seem to be one of the best teams in the NFL.....and my local IU Hoosiers didnt look that good in their short scrimmage Friday night, but Im not all that worried about it. Basically, there is little a fan can take from preseason games about either a particular player, or a coach, or basically anything you see. This is true in both a positive and negative way.....just because the Jazz looked pretty decent against us the other night, doesnt mean they should start printing playoff tickets in Salt Lake City already does it? Of course not....and we shouldn't be panicking in the streets either.
As a coach, you arent looking to win these games at all, you are trying to pare down your roster, identify the strengths and weaknesses of your own players, and maybe find out some info on your opponents for later use as well. You do your best to show your opposing coaches very little of what you plan to do when the games are real, you always hold back alot of your best plays and strategies.
For individual players, during games that count your goal as a coach is to always put each individual player in the best possible position to succeed. However, in preseason its quite likely that you may try and do the very opposite thing....in fact, you may intentionally put guys in tough spots, to see how they react to adversity or lack of success. You may play a guy in the preseason out of position, just to see if he can handle that role if you need him to in an emergency sometime in February. You may call plays that you are developing or working on, just to experiment and see if what you've drawn up in the summer will work in real life. You may even intentionally run plays you have no plans to use, just to throw off the opponents scouting and preparations. You may play odd combinations of players that you'd never consider playing as a group if the game counted, just to see what happens. You may try different pregame meals, different warmup procedures, different things during timeouts, different starting lineups, and anything else you want to do to just generate tape for study later, and to try a new approach. Preseason is just one big lab experiment for coaches, so please dont read too much either way in how they interact with each other, who seems to have what role, and how they disperse playing time....it all means nothing. What you are trying to do as a staff however, is establish a winning "mood" and atmosphere, and establishing boundaries, rules, and a method and enthusiasm conducive to winning. You need to get your players to buy into whatever it is you are selling and telling them. Only in that sense is preseason important to a coach, not the win loss record or the box score.
As a player who is established, preseason also has an different meaning. its the time to work on that new move you've been developing over the summer, its the time to try different ways to guard an opponent you will see again in December, and it may be time to pass the ball to a teammate in a tough spot just to see how he handles the ball or if he can make the shot. its a time for you to communicate with your coaches to identify who your game seems to mesh the best with, what plays and areas of the floor you prefer, and how best your coaching staff can utilize you. Its about gaining your timing with one another again, and getting to know your new teammates better. Its about getting used to the new basketball, any new rules and officials, new arenas, new fans, and in many cases finding a new home and schools and such for your family. Its about getting comfortable and focused on your health, and your attitude.
For a non established player, its about making the team....if not the one you are with, then another one in the league. Its about playing the right way, working hard, and doing your absolute most in order to keep your job. For almost everyone in the world, being an NBA player would be a dream lifestyle and life accomplishment, so doing whatever is necessary to keep or achieve that goal has to be paramount in your mind. At times in the preseason, its very possible and even likely that you may make plays or do things or try things that you wouldnt otherwise do if you were already on the team for sure. Maybe you take that tough shot attempt, maybe you try and make the spectacular pass, maybe you gamble and go for the steal attempt when you shouldnt.....there are a million different things that can sunconsciously cause you to play for yourself and not always for the team....and that doesnt make you a bad guy, its just the way it is.
Preseason is for all of that you guys.....the results and the wins and losses, the scores and the stats, they all are meaningless. Don't worry so much about how we look offensively, or how each individual player looks, or whatever.....it doesnt mean anything positively or negatively.
Everybody relax and enjoy basketball again, and quit worrying about everything. After about 15 games or so, then we can make a preliminary judgement, anything before that is just too short a sample.
JMO, as always.