Social psychologist Robert Cialdini wrote the very insightful book ”The Psychology of Persuasion,” and in it he explains the why behind the decisions we make.
Cialdini examines our daily automatic responses to certain stimuli – you know, the actions we do that necessitate no thought whatsoever, like saying ‘yes’ to a small, cute kid panhandling for our loose change so that she can go on a school trip to Florida or something. He calls it the “click-whirr” syndrome.
“Click and the appropriate tape is activated; whirr and out rolls the standard sequence of behaviors…”
It’s not giving in to the small, cute child that’s perplexing some Pacers fans this year. But it’s the knee-jerk “Oh, no! Where’s Copeland!?” reaction when Indiana plays and the curious exclusion of forward Chris Copeland from the rotation becomes clear.
Every game, every time coach Frank Vogel looks down his bench to send in a sub, the Copeland worries fill my Twitter feed. Like a prerecorded track, several fans continue to voice concerns that something must be wrong if Copeland continues to sit on the bench.
In a sense, this is understandable – after all, the Pacers quickly scooped up Copeland in the free-agent signing period and Vogel has effusively praised Copeland’s skill set. So why, after spending the money and lauding the man, is he not playing? After the Pacers’ Saturday night win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Copeland addressed his current position while keeping a team-first attitude.
“I’m just a small piece,” Copeland said. “We have great team, so it’s just one of those things.”
On Saturday night, Copeland played his first minutes of the regular season with the Pacers comfortably ahead late in the fourth quarter. Usually the “We Want (Insert Player’s Name Here)!” chants are reserved for the fan favorite reserve who’s handcuffed to the bench but has very little skill. But on Saturday night, the G2 Zone started the “We Want Copeland!” chants around the final three minutes of the game for a guy the Pacers majorly coveted in the offseason.
Though Vogel believes that Copeland is a threat to stretch the defense and shoot the three every time he’s on the floor, he has also consistently grouped Copeland in with the frontline. Copeland experimented at the small forward position during the final preseason game in Dallas. However right now, Copeland – a “spread four” or power forward – is the fifth big on the team behind Roy Hibbert, David West, Luis Scola and Ian Mahinmi. There simply are not minutes a’plenty for “the fifth big.”
So, on Saturday night, I asked Copeland if he has talked to Vogel about his playing situation…
“Yeah, we spoke but that’s for us,” Copeland said. “That’s between me and him but I would say we just got a great team. At the end of the day, it’s just deep. On such a deep team, it’s hard.”
Then, I posed the question on such a deep team, what can Copeland do to crack the rotation?
“No idea. No idea, honestly,” he responded. “But we’re winning so it ain’t really about me. I just got to work hard and - just work hard.”
Copeland’s responses on Saturday align with his earlier statements at the start of the preseason. On Oct. 2, Copeland talked about the allure in playing with the Pacers.
“I’m a competitor. I want to play. If I can play 48 minutes, I’d love to. That’s just who I am. But I’m also grateful for the opportunity and grateful to be a part of a team that I think is going to win the championship this year. Straight up. Flat out. With me playing or not playing. I’m just glad to be here. It doesn’t mean I’m demanding minutes. I’m not that type of guy, I’m just here for whatever you ask me to do.”
Also, Copeland said this in regards to what he felt his role would be:
“My role was a big factor in my decision, my role on this team. I don’t really know how the season is going to go as far as minutes and what they really ask me to do. But from what I was told in the recruitment process, I would be used for what I do here. I think having a bigger role was something that was very attractive to me.”
“(Management) made it clear that this would be a great opportunity for me. I haven’t regretted it. I’m very happy. No matter what happens. We have a deep team, if I don’t play as much as I might have hoped, I’m still happy to be here. Just to be a part of this. This is going to be a special year for us.”
Back to Saturday night, Copeland wanted to make a point: the team is winning, so his playing time is an insignificant footnote. Copeland even did not want to use the early part of the season as an excuse why he hasn’t cracked the rotation.
“I don’t want to say it’s early like maybe things will change, we’re winning,” Copeland said. “I hope things keep rolling because it’s a great group of guys. I hope - i just wish … the best for everybody in the locker room. We’re rolling and let’s keep it that way.”
He’s not injured. He’s not complaining. He’s just not playing. So… no click, whirr.