We've all seen the amazing phenomenon over the last couple of seasons, where Blazer teams of various compositions come together to weather the storm of injuries and being perpetually undermanned. The results have been amazing. Players that you would never have imagined could have stepped up in a big way (Juwan Howard), others seem to have only been waiting for a chance to show what they had all along (LaMarcus). McMillan's coaching coupled with the desire of a depleted team to not lay down and be walked on has been great to watch However, I'm seeing a trend that isn’t encouraging.
Call me crazy; maybe I’m way off in my interpretation, but it has been a consistent problem in the last few years that the team has a tendency to push themselves only when they feel they have no other choice. In other words, with a depleted roster, in order to even compete guys have no choice but to step up and push themselves out of their comfort zones, demanding higher performance from themselves and each other. Yet when a full complement of players is available, many of them seem to coast and do not give the same effort, rather they seem to relax and depend on those around them to pick up the slack.
Marcus and Roy came back in last night's game and the rest of the team seemed to move slower, decisions weren't as crisp giving Atlanta the ability to adjust on defense almost effortlessly and the whole thing became an ugly disjointed mess.
I know the media is saying that it takes time to adjust the team to working with more bodies, but really that seems a very weak excuse to me. The team is not unfamiliar with Brandon Roy's game, neither are they a stranger to Marcus Camby. Yes, Gerald Wallace is significant new piece, yet his performance last night didn't seem to my mind at all forced or an imposition on what the rest of the team wanted to do.
What I'm seeing is a cultural issue: The team relaxes when everyone is available, the concentration isn’t there, and the urgency is gone. They are relying too much on everyone around them instead of doing what they’ve done when they had limited resources.
I don’t blame McMillan though; what is the guy to do when individuals give him Jekyll and Hyde performances? The rotation gets screwed up because one or more of the guys aren’t doing what you’ve come to expect from them and Nate takes them out of the game. Next, everyone is trying to figure out their role as all of a sudden they’re in the game during a period or playing a position that they’re not used to. It really is a cascading problem that has no easy solution.
Anyone that has struggled with their own attitude or self-discipline will know that pushing yourself to do what you don’t want to is always the correct solution, but conversely it can be the absolute hardest thing in the world to accomplish and transform within yourself. At times it takes losing and losing big over a long period of time to really drive the point home; that regardless of what I expect from everyone else around me, the only thing I can control and what I am ultimately responsible for is my own effort, energy and desire for success.
Perhaps the addition of another tough-minded veteran in Gerald Wallace will help some of the younger guys like LaMarcus, Batum, Rudy and Matthews make that transition in mindset. I know one thing, pride and “swag” are not going to get them all the way.
Time will tell. As much as dependence on those around you can be a good thing for a team, it is something I think the team is going to need to grow past to get to their potential. How that will look in implementation I have no idea. And while Nate McMillan has been the only coach that could get what he’s gotten out of the players individually when they needed it most, his eagerness to pull guys when they aren’t performing may just be the wrong recipe for the next step of their growth to a team that is willing to sell out regardless of who they have around them.
Am I crazy? What do you see in this situation?