Monday, June 2, 2008

A 10 Man Team vs 3 Individuals

Do people remember the great Hubie Brown and his 10 man rotation anymore?

It was only 4 seasons ago that Hubie was NBA Coach of the Year, Jerry West was NBA Executive of the Year and the Grizzlies with their unorthodox rotation were the talk of the NBA. Hubie's 10 man rotation involved two 5 man units interchanged almost simultaneously with both squads playing approximately half the game. Hubie was supposed to prefer having only two players on the bench unhappy about playing time to the normal four players. It took the Grizzlies from the laughing stock of the NBA to a 50 win season in less than two years.

Of course the glory days didn't last long in Memphis. By Thanksgiving the following season Hubie was gone and the team was in a slow painful fall back to a losing program. Oh sure, it didn't happen right away. Memphis made the playoffs for two more years but the embarrassment of three consecutive sweeps in the playoffs and three coaching moves over the next four seasons doomed what was supposed to be a promising beginning in Memphis.

But what caused Hubie to leave? Was it really health issues as the city was told? Over the years certain rumors have come out that there were troubles behind the scenes with certain players and the coach. Three players in particular were rumored to hate the 10 man rotation and were the real reason Hubie quit the team. Those players supposedly were Jason Williams, James Posey and Bonzi Wells. The three wanted more playing time and an end to the 10 man rotation. It has been also rumored that Hubie demanded all three be traded during training camp so get rid of their negative attitudes.

Looking back over the last four years one has to wonder why?

The three players that were among the biggest beneficiaries of the 10 man rotation have done little since to warrant their demands for greater playing time. Prior to Hubie's system Jason Williams was viewed as an unschooled playground player who couldn't work within a system. James Posey was a journey man who was supposed to be good defensively but not worth much more than an average NBA contract if that. Bonzi Wells was a troubled talent who couldn't follow team rules and was a huge distraction on his teams. Under Hubie they became respectable players who were considered among the elite in the league.

All three players were gone a 9 months later. Two have gone on to win NBA Championships with their new teams but has their play on those teams warranted the mutinous behavior they exhibited in Memphis?

I believe not. Take a look at what has happened to these players since leaving the Bluff City.

Jason Williams' feud with the Brown's became very public when he verbally attacked Brendan Brown on the sidelines during a game against the Mavericks. His trade at the end of the season came as no surprise to most people. The Heat won the NBA championship the next season as JWill's minutes went from 27.4 mpg in Memphis to 31.8 mpg in Miami. However he also missed more games that season to injury than any season he played in the NBA. In fact JWill has averaged more minutes per game every season in Miami (31.8, 30.6 and 28.1) but has played fewer minutes in each year (1874, 1865 and 1886) than he did in any season under Hubie (2407, 2115 and 1952).

Has the increased wear and tear be having an adverse effect on his body? His passing skills surely haven't decreased but his assists per game fell as well in Miami despite the presence of two bona fide scorers in Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O'Neal for most of his time there. His shooting percentages went up but his flair seems to have fallen away. He no longer runs up and down the court making no look passes to cutting players or hoisting up a three point shot in mid-stride. Gone is White Chocolate. Instead the Heat have a slow, conservative PG who doesn't defend well. JWill will be an unrestricted Free Agent this summer but there is little interest in him anymore.

James Posey had been the team MVP the season before Hubie quit. However he came into camp out of shape and injured. While his problems with Hubie didn't become public until much later but many reasons have been put forth for his unhappiness including the playing rotation, the totalitarian approach advanced by Hubie and Brian Cardinal's contract to name a few. His move to Miami was seen as a chance for Posey to prove he was more than a half a game role player.

That opportunity never developed. Posey never averaged 29 mpg in Miami and saw his production curtailed dramatically. Apparently it wasn't Hubie's system that kept Posey from playing more minutes either. Unlike JWill, Posey's minutes have dropped despite playing a greater number of games than his last season in Memphis too. So he is healthy but just not being chosen to play more. It appears that Posey's breakout season had more to do with Hubie's system than despite it. Posey was a free agent last season and signed with Boston but for less than the MLE.

Bonzi Wells is the exception. He hasn't won an NBA Title since leaving Memphis and in fact has never settled on a home since leaving the Grizzlies either. He did average a career high in minutes played per game his first season in Sacramento but he only averaged 32.4 mpg and he missed 30 games do to injury. Then came one of the worst decisions ever made by an NBA player. Bonzi turned down a lucrative contract by the Kings and found that not only was that his best offer, it was the best offer by a large margin. Instead of a 5 yr deal worth $37 million Bonzi signed with Houston for two years and less than $4.5 million total. Bonzi Wells game disappeared with the Kings contract. He has not averaged the 21.9 mpg he averaged his last season in Memphis over the last two years and failed to average 20 mpg this past year which was split between Houston and New Orleans.

So the three players most displeased with the 10 man rotation and limited playing time under Hubie Brown have averaged fewer minutes since leaving the Grizzlies while seeing dramatic increases in games missed do to injury. Bonzi is also a free agent this summer but interest seems muted at best currently. All three have experienced greater playoff success since leaving the Grizzlies but their actual playing time has decreased as has their influence on the teams they play for.

Maybe the problems were inevitable. Call it character flaws from the players combined with a demanding taskmaster of a coach but should anyone be surprised that Bonzi Wells, Jason Williams and to a lesser extent James Posey would cause problems for their old school coach?

Still one has to wonder how much better the Grizzlies would be today if Hubie had not had to fight the battles he did.

And one also has to wonder how much of the lessons learned from that time will apply to the rumored players rebelling against coming to Memphis for workouts?

BallHype: hype it up!

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow! This entry is a surprise.

No it's not. Just the continuation of the villification of JWill, Posey, and Bonzi by chip.

Chip Crain said...

Villification?

I doubt that anyone can deny that those three players had a huge impact on Hubie retiring and their main complaint was playing time. Looking at their minutes since the move you have to wonder why they complained so much. Their minutes were greater in Memphis than they have been since leaving.

Anonymous said...

Yes, villification (I wonder if we'll ever see you use the word "mutinous" in describing Pau Gasol?). So they and everyone else had the ability to look into the future and see what their minutes would be on a different team? You are trying to say that facts not yet in evidence are relevant when in fact they aren't.

Besides, your argument is immediately undermined by your own admission and acknowledgment that JWill's minutes went up in the year Miami won a title.

You go on to say that JWill's minutes avg. is greater ("In fact JWill has averaged more minutes per game every season in Miami (31.8, 30.6 and 28.1"). But then you contradict yourself by saying, "So the three players most displeased with the 10 man rotation and limited playing time under Hubie Brown have averaged fewer minutes since leaving the Grizzlies."

So what was the point in this entry? Nothing except dredging up old targets to take another shot.

Dan said...

Wow, your inability to read is just shocking. Read the final part of the sentence you quoted:

"In fact JWill has averaged more minutes per game every season in Miami (31.8, 30.6 and 28.1) but has played fewer minutes in each year (1874, 1865 and 1886) than he did in any season under Hubie (2407, 2115 and 1952)."

So what was the point of that blog comment? Nothing except bashing the writer.

August West said...

What rumored revolt? Can a out of town fan get a hyperlink?

New_sacred_cow said...

I think our team, the way we are building it, would be great to go back to the 10 man rotation. Strong offensive 1st team and fast defenders as the 2nd team.

Anonymous said...

Hubie was the Grizzlies franchise. I mean he is the whole reason we went to the playoffs despite marginal talent on the team. Also, does anyone think that maybe he retired because Jerry West was going to try and make Hubie put his son on the team (which is outrageously ridiculous) but Hubie wouldn't take any crap from anyone so he just walked away. Well that and all of the other things mentioned in the article. I sure do miss Hubie

Chip Crain said...

'does anyone think that maybe he retired because Jerry West was going to try and make Hubie put his son on the team (which is outrageously ridiculous) but Hubie wouldn't take any crap from anyone so he just walked away.'

I think you are partially correct. Hubie wouldn't take lip from anyone and his relationship with Jerry was strained but that has been reported to be due to Jerry's refusal to trade JWill, Bonzi and Posey in the pre-season when their attitudes first surfaced not because of any fear that Jerry's son would be forced to be on the team. Especially since Jerry's son was only a freshman at West Virginia this past year.

Rob Mahoney said...

I thought this was a great post; I had never thought about the effects of the 10-man rotation in relation to these players injuries.

But equally important: what if butting heads with Hubie (or the Grizzlies?) causes some sort of Karmic imbalance?

Chip Crain said...

We avoid Karmic references on this blog after the Sharon Stone debacle.

Anonymous said...

Dan, your inability to read is shocking.

"In fact JWill has averaged more minutes per game every season in Miami (31.8, 30.6 and 28.1".

"So the three players most displeased with the 10 man rotation and limited playing time under Hubie Brown have averaged fewer minutes since leaving the Grizzlies."

You're falling into the Chip trap of subtly distortion, in this case the argument shifts to compare apples to oranges . The argument he laid it is about avg. minutes. Those two statements I've highlighted above - both of which are direct quotes from Chip - contradict each other.