[Editor's Note - Joseph Billiot begins at The Bird Writes with a look into coaching a shooter's psyche. Follow him on Twitter - @jdbillio]
We are two games into the season; time to over-react about everything we have seen so far! Well, maybe not... Turns out, the Pelicans won a game against a not so good Orlando team and lost a game against a damn good Dallas team. Still, I have seen one thing in particular from Monty Williams that concerns me.
From what I have observed through the first two games, Monty still struggles to read his players. As a fan it is frustratingly hard to watch. During the Orlando game, Monty surprised me (and just about the entire NBA) when he decided to play Jimmer Fredette and Austin Rivers together. It didn't work out, but I was proud of Monty for taking a chance.
My admiration quickly turned back into despair.
Orlando Goose Egg
In the Pelicans’ first game against Orlando, Jimmer Fredette went 0-6. Most of those shots were taken between the midpoint of the first quarter and the start of the second quarter. Needless to say, when you shoot 0-6, you are having a pretty bad night.
At one point, I watched Jimmer miss a wide open three-point shot, stand there (instead of getting back on defense), and yell - all while flailing his arms about in the air. To say the least, Jimmer was clearly frustrated by his play. I imagine he was saying something similar to this:
Did Monty take him out? Give him a chance to let him regain his composure, and then send him out later in the game to try again? Nope. Monty let him play for a few more minutes. Then, after Fredette's confidence was all but obliterated, Monty pulled Jimmer and sat him on the bench until garbage time.
Typically, I wouldn't be critical of Monty’s approach. If a shooter has a bad game, coaches typically have two options: (1) Let the shooter shoot through the slump or (2) sit the player until the next game. Monty chose the former strategy. It didn't work, but that is not his fault.
However, after the game, Monty remarked that he needed to shorten the bench -- no doubt alluding to the less than desirable play of Jimmer Fredette and John Salmons. What little confidence Jimmer could have salvaged from the game was stomped out by Monty.
As it turns out, Monty may have inadvertently put himself between a rock and a hard place.
No Backup Option
In the Pelicans’ first game, and for most of the preseason, Eric Gordon performed admirably. Flash forward to Saturday night’s game against Dallas and Gordon was nothing short of a disaster. (That was the nicest phrase I could think of to describe how EG played.) Gordon scored zero points on six shots, committed four turnovers (one of which helped swing the tide of the game), and added just one rebound and assist each.
Fans all over the interwebs and at the game were practically begging Monty to pull Eric Gordon. But Monty couldn’t. Why? Because the backup SG on the team, Jimmer Fredette, had not put up a single shot or positive statistic all night. Jimmer didn't even try, all hope for Jimmer TIME was lost.
Fredette didn't attempt a single shot all night. Hence, Eric Gordon continued to play... and play.. and play... until Monty mercifully pulled him and went big with the vaunted Asik-Davis-Anderson-Tyreke-Holiday line up. (Something I predict we will see more of as the season goes on.) It was too little, too late.
Inserting Jimmer into the game for Eric Gordon wouldn't have resulted in the Pelicans winning the game. In fact, the way Fredette and Gordon were playing Monty would have been better off putting in the ball boy. (No seriously - Sub me in coach!) Still, it concerns me to see the player, Jimmer Fredette, who is supposed to be a scorer off the bench put up a zero, nada, goose egg, in the field goal attempted column.
Many have suggested moving Gordon to bench and Jimmer into the starting lineup. That won't work. Put simply, if Gordon or Fredette played that bad during any other game, Monty shouldn't even bring them off the bench.
The only answer is for Monty to restore the confidence of Jimmer. The bench is too thin and frail for Jimmer to pass up open shots; much less avoid shots altogether. If the Pelicans want to make the playoffs Jimmer will have to become a useful bench scorer.
The Pelicans play Memphis tonight, a team with a grizzly front court. If the Pelicans don't hit more shots from the perimeter, they won't win this game. Plain and simple.