The funereal gloom and doom that constantly surrounds this team truly amazes me. Can none of us bear the weight of a loss here and there? Must the constant reflex to bitch about Sam begin so soon? Are we all a bunch of Michelle Carters?
I get that there is so much to over-analyze, so much to second guess, so much to assert in the face of inconclusive evidence. But I don’t get why that has to lead to a sense of futility. Now Let me say right off that I don’t know shit about basketball, in any kind of relative terms. My greatest challenge in playing the game was keeping the ball from bouncing up into my face and flattening my wire-rimmed glasses, and I almost never succeeded. But I have managed to bend the frames back into shape well enough to watch a whole lot of ball. My love for the game has grown the more that I have seen, and the more that I love it the more I hope to know something about it. But knowing proves very elusive most of the time.
And it’s that elusive quality that makes it unfair for myself, and I think many others, to suggest that Sam Mitchell is lacking in terms of basketball knowledge. Now I know that many people have a solid understanding of various aspects of the game, have maybe coached a little, played at various levels, absolutely know something about some fundamentals. There’s no way a guy like me who doesn’t know squat is going to be able to say, “cheer up and shut up and watch some of the good stuff that’s happening” to any effect, other than risking more bent frames. But what the hell, why not do so anyways?
I like what Sam is doing. There I said it. Please keep reading anyways. I am able to see some of that elusive knowledge there inside his balding head. From game to game it can be hard to see. I yell at the TV myself. I see Jamario shooting 3’s and Kapono driving into the lane, and no that doesn’t feel quite right. The pace has been slow and good defense has not been converted to a lot of easy offense. And then at other times the good defense disappears altogether. There have been a lot things that happen that have little to do with coaching though. That’s always been the way I look at the game, and it still is. And in the big picture I really like how he has effected this team so far.
Anyone notice how good Bargnani
has been used? Humps? - the dude is even making passes, and nice, smart passes. Bosh? Still getting better, and fighting like he knows he’s got something to fight for. JO? It’s not easy bringing another star into the roster, but it’s been seamless here. Moon? He had his chance, and he showed that he cannot drive to the basket without going fetal at the first sign of contact. Now he’s in the position of having to fight for playing time, and really - what could be better? Kapono is actually proving his worth in spite of some maddening tendencies not to shoot. Even the lackluster backups to Jose have had good stretches where they’ve extended leads. So what’s the criticism that makes it so obvious that Sam has to go? Well clearly he has accumulated a lot of little failings over the years. Let me just put forward the idea of the big picture puzzle that I sense he is putting together.
These guys are simply not playing in the same fashion as they did in the past. They are no longer a jump shooting team. And better than that - they are making other teams resort to J’s over more preferrable options. Remember when that was our team playing out of a certain sense of desperation all to often? Now we look and see a team that has a winning record on the road. On the road! And they battled with two top tier teams - on the road! To me that means something in the NBA. This team looks to me like a team that can walk on the court and play from a position of strength right from the tip-off, and then execute down the stretch. Much has said about the swagger, an incredibly meaningless term, even for a guy that knows nothing. I think this team simply has a growing sense of awareness of its own strengths, both mentally and physically. And if that continues, and maybe peaks at around the right time, and not last week like it probably did with the Hawks, but the week before the playoffs begin, then there’s just no place for gloombots.
Yes I said if, and that’s a dangerous word. But I’m not going to be convinced that there is not much of a chance for this team to pursue something bigger than a round one loss. It’s all about seizing the chances as far as I can tell from all of my watching over the years. And more importantly, those chances need to be anticipated ahead of time. Take a look at how JO flashed into the lane all alone for a split second last night, while Bosh
held the ball at the top of the key. We can say that Bosh
missed the opportunity to hit JO with the pass and get that easy basket, but didn’t he really just not recognize what was about to develop ahead of time? Give him another few weeks, and all the players a few weeks more again, and these guys are going to start to get a feel for what is going to happen with each other, and be ready before they have to work with just a fleeting moment. One moment will start to flow into another on both ends of the court. I’m thinking maybe that’s what timing, and developing good patterns and good habits is all about. It’s more about feeling and seeing and doing, almost all at once, than it is about knowing. Or maybe that is the best representation of knowing - I can’t say. When it’s not there it can look ugly and bring some poor results that will need to be made up for somehow, and usually in ways that none of us will like much. But when it’s there it’s gold, and that is what I think Sam has been mining for ever since he arrived. Sure he preached hard work and effort for some time, but deep down he’s always wanted to be able to take that next step, where consistent execution makes everything actually seem effortless.
And there has been enough of that effortlessness to really get me excited now. I’ll sit tight and hope to see the consistency develop, and I sure as hell won’t be looking to BC to fire the coach while that is starting to happen.