One of the things that Pete Carroll did to return USC to the college football elite was open up the competition — the best player plays. Seniority be damned. Doesn’t matter if you’re a senior, if the freshman is better, he gets your spot. Seems logical, but it is shockingly rare in sports, as coaches like to go with what they know, what they trust. They fear risk.
Welcome to game six of the Dallas Mavericks San Antonio Spurs series. It’s an elimination game for the Mavericks, but they don’t react like that and come out cold and flat. They were down 22-8 after one quarter.
Rodrigue Beaubois was at the heart of what changed that. The French rookie (born in Guadeloupe) had sparked the Mavericks comeback from down 19 when he entered the game midway through the second quarter, scoring eight points in the half (just six minutes of play). It was enough to get Carlisle to start him and sit Shawn Marion to start the half. Dallas kept storming back and eventually took the lead, Beaubois kept scoring and creating chances. He was the fastest guy on the court — he is always the fastest guy on the court — and with the ball in his hand he changed the game.
Then he sat for a rest to start the fourth quarter. And sat. And sat.
Beaubois was out the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter. Jason Kidd scored one basket (his first of the game) in that time and Jason Terry was invisible.
That is when the Spurs broke a close game open again. That is when the Spurs won the game and the series.
And throughout the land, every Dallas fan asked the same thing: Où est Rodrigue Beaubois? Where is Beaubois?
Then again, Dallas fans have been asking that for months. What Carlisle did in this game mirrors what he did all season – he didn’t trust the rookie when he had All Star and Olympian Jason Kidd, sixth man of the year Jason Terry, plus veteran JJ Barera.
Those guys ran the offense better, Beaubois tended to break out of it. Those guys defend the pick and roll better. Giving the kid minutes meant taking minutes away from guys who have proven they could do it, or taking minutes away from Caron Butler or Shawn Marion. Those are some big name veterans.
Just like game six, when Beaubois did get some burn the kid just put the ball in the bucket — he trailed only Dirk Nowitizki on the team in points scored per minute when he played. But he sat and sat and sat.
In the final six weeks of the season, Beaubois started to get some chances. He played almost 20 minutes per game at he end and was scoring 13 points per game on 56 percent shooting in March.
But when the playoffs came, Carlisle went to his veterans. The guys he trusted, the guys who had done it before. Beaubois handled it like a veteran himself in quotes to the Dallas Morning News:
“Everybody told me to just try to be ready and when they called my name, I just played my game,” Beaubois said, after scoring 16 points in 20 mostly-electrifying minutes Thursday…
“You don’t think about it,” he said. “Like I said, it was coach’s decision. I think everybody tried to play very hard and did a good job. It’s OK. But when he called my name I just wanted to push myself and try to win the game. That’s it.”
I get the trust of veterans, the little things they do much better, but at some point, maybe in those early losses to the Spurs when the Mavericks were the team that looked old and lifeless, Carlisle should have gone to Beaubois. Easy to say after the fact, but we were saying it then, too.
Bottom line – it’s a coaching culture thing, and something Carlisle needs to look in the mirror about. You have to go with what works, not what should work. Beaubois worked. And Carlisle clearly trusted his veterans more. Beaubois may not have changed the outcome of the series – Dallas had a lot of other issues – but we will never know. And that is the shame.