The best coaches know how to pick their spots. When to praise, when to criticize, when to ride the hot hand of guys off the bench and when to get the starters back in to keep a run going.
Honestly, the last couple days I have no idea what Indiana’s Jim O’Brien is thinking. None.
Let’s start with Roy Hibbert, the third-year center who would probably win Most Improved Player if the vote were taken today. Hibbert’s offensive efficiency has gone up while he has taken on more of the load, he is giving the Pacers almost three more points and rebounds a game than he did last season, and his defense in the paint is the reason the Pacers are anywhere near .500.
So O’Brien, what did you think of his performance so far this season, Steve Aschburner of NBA.com asks?
“I think that Roy would say – and I certainly share this belief – I don’t think he’s having a very good season,” O’Brien said to a surprised cluster of reporters before the Pacers’ game against the Bulls at United Center. “I think that he can play at a much, much higher level right away than he’s doing right now.”
I get it, tough love and all. Push him because he can be even better. But that can be done with rewards thrown in. “He has really stepped up his game this season and established himself as one of the building blocks here in Indiana, but I know what he is now just scratches the surface of what he can be.” You know, something like that. Acknowledge the steps taken before bringing out the cattle prod.
Then in the game Monday night, the Pacers were in a close one with the Bulls and the subs did a good job. Starter Brandon Rush along with James Posey, T.J. Ford, Solomon Jones and Dahntay Jones made a little 5-0 run to start the fourth and it looked like this one was going to go down to the wire.
But then midway through the fourth Tom Thibodeau brought back his key starters — Luol Deng, Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer. O’Brien brought back Roy Hibbert for 2:51 then took him out again. He subbed Mike Dunleavy in for Dahntay Jones. And that was it. No Darren Collison or Josh McRoberts. You know how Collison feels about this.
The Bulls closed the game on a 19-4 run over the final six minutes. During that run the Pacers made no changes. The Pacers lost by 19.
Pick your spots. Pick your spots.