The major topics on this board recently (and almost always) seem to be:
1. How good are the Pacers?
2. Do they care about defense?
3. What the heck is JOB's offense doing?
4. Why is / isn't Player X playing?
The opinions on the board, of course, represent the full spectrum of answers...from the highly insightful 'What defense?" and "We suck" analyses to actual attempts to analyze the pick-and-roll defense...from "all we do is jack up threes" to "I have no idea what we were trying to do there"...from "go with the small line-up," and "Luther Head should start" to 'small ball is an abomination" or "JOB loves Troy and will play him no matter that he is the worst defensive player on the team," or "Roy is being ruined by not starting."
OK, maybe that's not a full spectrum of opinion, but it is pretty much the spectrum I've been reading here lately.
I posted a comment / question in the Eight Points, Nine Seconds blog post-game analysis of the recent loss to the Macericks. I said:
.....maybe I missed it, but I didn’t hear anyone say we need to take it to the basket more, and quit settling, or immediately choosing, the long jump shot. They should say that. They should do that. But I don’t hear any comments that tell me they’re even thinking about it. Would that thought be against some JOB philosophy? Do we have to make the 3s drop first, then we can attack the basket? But not until then?
Tim Donahue, our Count55, took the trouble to post a rather lengthy reply (much appreciated), in which he said that, contrary to popular opinion at PD, he felt that the great majority of JOB's focus was the defense. Here's the link:
It made me want to do a little analysis of JOB's approach to basketball and coaching, and to see how it is actually playing out with our team in the early days of the current season. I am not the basketball analyst that many on this board are, but I can read, so I went looking for quotes past and present to try to clarify our current state of affairs, and JOB's thoughts. I've tried to organize these by topic, and by chronology (oldest to newest) within the topic areas. Obviously, these are not all the quotes that exist, but I think they fairly represent JOB's views within each topic.
Eric Matz (Indianapolis): In your previous NBA coaching stints, which season do you feel, personally, you did the best job, and why?
Jim O'Brien: It's a good question, I think we had fairly solid years each time I was a head coach, but my first full year with the Celtics was probably the best, when we went from 27th in the league in FG defense to third and not only did we make the playoffs after a long drought, but we won two playoff series where we were probably underdogs in both series. We grew alot in one year, so that would probably make that our best year.
"He tells us the offensive end is ours, the defensive end is his," O'Neal said. "We have to play the way he wants us to play [defensively]."
(article removed) http://www.philly.com/dailynews/spor...ldnt_stay.html
"It is kind of complex," says Pacers associate head coach Lester Conner. "Take the pick and roll: When we are defending the pick and roll, it's not just two guys defending it; the whole team has responsibility."
"Some of the things we do here are contrary to other [teams'] defenses," explained O'Brien. "It took time to pick it up in Boston. It took time to pick it up in Philadelphia. Once they get it, they will learn to trust each other -- and they will get it."
Jim O'Brien: There are a number of things. No. 1 is to create a better tempo that will have us attacking before the defense can set themselves. Rick Carlisle is a good set offense coach, but I prefer a higher tempo and will challenge our team..on a miss shot and a made shot...to get the ball across halfcourt in three seconds, which should prevent the defense from setting themselves, so we'll be more unpredictable than we were in the past.
One of the big things in having a team being successful with the three-ball, is having a coach committed to it. We don't want to take bad three-point shots, our definition of a good three is when we have a standstill open three-pointer.
Ike's minutes, like everyone else on the team, will be based on his performance.
"The whole plan throughout the preseason was to pretty much play the team that we had success with at the end of last year," O'Brien said, "but we weren't healthy enough to do that."
Coach Jim O'Brien had no problem calling out Hibbert and Solomon Jones after the game. O'Brien's didn't like that they only combined for three rebounds. He expects more out of his two centers. The two have to produce if they expect to get extended minutes now that Troy Murphy is back and Jeff Foster is expected to be back at Charlotte on Sunday. -- Mike Wells
Rotation and Returning Players:
"That's a luxury to be able to do that," O'Brien said. "As always, guys that deserve to play will play. It's that simple. That's not a decision I really have to spend a lot of time thinking about. What it gives the coaching staff is some unbelievable options."
"The idea is that as we're getting these guys acclimated, we (also have to) win some basketball games," O'Brien said.
"Our rotation is being thought about," O'Brien said. "For me to tell you that I am comfortable with the rotation right now, that would be inaccurate. It's a combination of guys coming from the inactive to the active list.''
All The Above:
"There definitely will not be a slower tempo," O'Brien said. "We played statistically at the third-highest pace in the NBA and had the second-most possessions and I know when we're playing our best we're a difficult team to guard. So it has nothing to do with our offensive tempo.
"It comes down to utilizing a little deeper rotation, maybe a 10-person rotation and having the players know that our staff, and I would say the players themselves, will lean heavily toward the defensive end when it comes time to evaluating who should play and who should not."
So where are we really now?
It seems clear to me, though you may disagree, that we are seeing the same JOB approach this year, as last year, as we would have seen if we watched his Philly and Boston years. He wants a certain style of defense which is a bit complicated, and when it clicks and gets stops, it lets the offense push the ball. We are then more likely to find a disorganized opposition defense, and to find an open early shot. Because the defense is more complicated than the offense, it gets the most work in practice.
It also seems clear that the goal is to win, to get into the play-offs. We're not going to play rookies and 2nd year players just to develop them at the price of a worse record. And I don't think that's driven by JOB. Bird has been very clear about our play-offs goal for this year. If we fired JOB tomorrow, the post-season would be the new coach's goal.
For our player rotation, O'Brien would like a ten-man rotation if he can get it. He wants to allocate minutes as they're earned, with stress on defensive effort.
Complicating that, however, has been our constantly changing pool of available players...and who the players were that were not available. (When Travis Diener becomes available again, it's unlikely to cause critical rotation decisions. When the returning player is Dunleavy, Foster or Murphy, decisions must be made.)
Finally, the return of players to the active roster is not the end-state the coach has to base his rotational decisions on...it's only, finally, the beginning. We are only now at a point where the coach can make a judgement as to which combinations of players are most effective. He can't say right now that Earl Watson and Dunleavy would be a better 1-2 than T.J. Ford and Brandon Rush, because they've never played together. You can't go with the starting five of our win streak if you want to add Dunleavy to the starters, or maybe if you're the coach and you begin to see a fall-off in performance from one of those players. Until recently (based on recent JOB and Dunleavy quotes) the Pacers haven't even really been able to field two full squads for practice. So, it's just going to take some time...maybe the length of this road trip? longer?...before we see a rotation begin to solidify, I think.
And then, and soon, I truly hope we find a solid rotation and stick with it, because the players need that stability. The obvious disarray we've often displayed on offense this season speaks to the effects of constant line-up changes more than anything else, as I see it.
Inevitably, some folks here at PD are going to be disappointed when their favorite player is not in that starting unit. And that will seem like the perfect place to start criticising when we lose a game. But maybe they'll be somewhat mollified if we start winning with regularity again.