Sometimes a person can be so good at what they do that they make whatever it is that they are doing look easy. Oddly enough, sometimes someone can also be so bad at what they are doing that they can make whatever it is look like it’s a lot easier than what it is.
I’ve never coached an NBA team before. I’ve never been a coach of any sports team on any level. I am far from the greatest of basketball minds. I won’t pretend to act like I know all of the ins and outs of what an NBA head coach’s job entails, but like many other people who observe the Grizzlies of late, I can’t help but wonder: Is it really that hard?
Samuel X. Cicci
Grizzlies Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff
Certain things seem like they should be simple. If a certain thing works, then let’s keep doing that until said thing doesn’t work, or, even better, starts to show signs that it is about to stop working soon. It also seems that with all of the advanced metrics available at any head coach’s disposal, that it would never be out of the realm of possibility to see, with even more great detail, what works and what doesn’t. Like, there are literally stats that show you what combinations of players work and which ones don’t.
I thought that the Grizzlies had moved past this. After two consecutive wins — against the Lakers on the road and then at home against the Cavaliers — it seemed as if head coach JB Bickerstaff had had an epiphany. It seemed as though he and his players were going to embrace Jaren Jackson Jr. more, and look to make him more of a focal point on both ends of the court. After a great game against Los Angeles, which included a step-back three-pointer to drive a stake through the heart of LeBron James, and a Cleveland game where Bickerstaff allowed Jackson to play through a not-so-good performance without pulling him, it looked like he was finally getting it.
But yeah …
The Grizzlies hosted Boston Saturday night, held a 17-point half-time lead, and led by as many as 19 points. Even so, the team found a way to lose, 112 to 103, in a game where, with a 14-point lead with 5:43 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Jackson was taken out and played only a little more than a minute for the rest of the way.
Dillon Brooks, who finished with 19 points, was the team's leading scorer when he was pulled early in the fourth quarter in favor of Garrett Temple. Actually, Brooks and Jackson were the team's leading scorers when both were pulled — which also coincided with Boston’s comeback and a 33-16 fourth-quarter scoring advantage.
Coaching is hard. I’m sure it is. Bickerstaff comes from a distinguished line of coaches who mentored him, including his father, but I swear coaching seems a lot easier than Bickerstaff has made it look, lately.
Bickerstaff has to hear the murmurings from the fan-base. I’m sure he reads tweets and columns like mine, as well as those of other local journalists. I’m sure he knows what's being said. It seems to me that if he got the same losing results while using all of his assets, namely Jackson and Brooks (and Jevon Carter), that fans and pundits would be more understanding. There would be less, “Well, if we only did this …” and more, “Well, we gave it all we had.”
Therein lies the problem: We haven’t been giving it all that we have. Too much of what we do have — and need, in my opinion — is remaining on the sideline when they're needed most.