A method to the madness: Scott Skiles on habits and young players
The complaining. Oh the constant complaining about minute distribution among Milwaukee Bucks players. Hardly a day goes by where Scott Skiles isn’t criticized for not playing Tobias Harris, John Henson or even Doron Lamb quite enough. Fans in general, especially those of a team that hasn’t seen a lot of success in quite some time, we’re an impatient bunch. I mean, we (and by we I especially mean me) are ready to rule out the Brandon Jennings-Monta Ellis back court after … 51 games played together.
I suppose that’s what one season advancing beyond the first round of the playoffs in 24 years will do.
So when we see a young player that we think could make an impact, we want to see him play as much as possible, as soon as possible. The best place for him to learn how to be a pro is on the floor, right?
That’s where things get a little gray.
We’re privy to games obviously, and the media gets the opportunity to talk to coaches and players before and after games, but most of us don’t even scrape the surface of actual interaction with the majority of players or coaches on a team. To be blunt, we have little idea of the actual dynamic of a team. Sure, we can assume that Tobias Harris is a hard worker based on things that the organization has said in the past and on what we see out of him on the bench or when he’s on the floor, but we have so little insight into his practice habits.
On the heels of John Henson’s second stellar game of the season, Scott Skiles had some interesting things to say to Charles F. Gardner after Thursday’s practice:
“If you care at all about a guy reaching his potential, it isn’t can he go out and have a good game on a given night. It’s working on a guy’s habits and teaching him how to be a pro, how to prepare himself. There’s a lot that goes into it if you’re thinking long-term for John or Doron (Lamb) or Tobias (Harris) or any of our young guys.
“Then you hope that when they get opportunities, they can go in and be productive. If they can and they’re moving in the right direction in other areas, they’ll keep getting a chance.”
Combine this with something Henson said after his 20 point, nine rebound game against the Spurs:
“To be honest, I think sitting out and getting these DNPs, especially watching Larry (Sanders) and how he’s progressing and scoring in the offense … really help me see what I need to do to be successful.”
It’s possible that Skiles knows what he’s doing. And he said as much earlier this year too. When peppered with questions about the development of Larry Sanders he alluded to all of the games Sanders was sitting for and all of the work he had to put in to earn his spot in the rotation as possible factors in his improvements.
I know we all want to see development accelerated as fast as possible, but I typically trust that a coach that spends virtually all of his waking hours with a team has a better idea of what buttons to press with them than people who have never met any of the players do.
I’m not saying Skiles logic is or always will be infallible, but I am saying that I typically tend to defer to a coach and trust that he’s sitting players out for some reason other than a personal hatred for young players.
As much as anyone, I want to know if Harris and Henson can be long term impact players for the Milwaukee Bucks. And I realize that the only way we’ll figure that out is by watching them play some minutes that actually matter in real, live NBA games.
But if Sanders has taught us anything, it’s that we have no choice but to be patient and hope that the organization has a handle on things.