This morning's blog post from Sekou Smith (partially) addresses the issue of Zaza Pachulia's playing time last weekend. Yes, this morning is December 3rd. The game referenced took place November 29th. These are the first words published regarding Zaza's DNP in that game:
Lost in the euphoria of the Hawks’ finally snapping that five-game road losing streak in Washington the other night was Zaza Pachulia’s absence from the playing rotation.
With rebounding games of 18 and 17 sandwiching three subpart efforts, a few of our of most loyal FOBs (Friends of the Blog) suggested that our favorite Georgian big man might be in the process of being phased out of the rotation.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Young JaVale McGee is the reason. With the Wizards going with their nimble rookie big man exclusively, and not bruiser Etan Thomas, Hawks coach Mike Woodson said he decided to play the matchup game and try and beat the Wizards with his smaller group.
There is still a sum total of zero words published regarding what now, one must assume, was a coach's decision to sit Pachulia for the final 15 minutes of the November 28th game in Toronto. To recap:
With 3:32 left in the third quarter, Zaza Pachulia went to the bench. The Hawks were up 2, in no small part thanks to the 8 offensive and 9 defensive rebounds Pachulia had already grabbed. By the end of the third quarter, the Hawks would be down by 4 points. In the fourth quarter, the Hawks would never regain the lead. As a team they would grab, in the fourth quarter, just 7 defensive rebounds. Toronto would grab 15 fourth quarter rebounds, 4 of them offensive. Pachulia would never leave the bench.
I've been thinking a lot recently about the relationship between bloggers and the teams they cover. Specifically in terms of how access to players and coaches* could improve what I do here. I'm still uncertain. There are unquestionably skills that proper journalists possess which I do not. Unfortunately one of those skills does not seem to be a curiosity as to why certain, specific decisions are made by a head coach during a game. I say this with full empathy for the time pressure to file a game story on deadline. Still, if there's time to half-address the most significant coaching decisions of the prior weekend in a blog post, why not address the decisions in full?
There are questions I want to ask Mike Woodson after almost every game. I don't wish to ask them to be confrontational. I'm a native Kansan. I was raised to feel a pathological need to act politely. I want to ask these questions so I don't have to make assumptions about his decisions. I don't want my biases to unduly influence my description of the game. I'm going to have opinions about his decisions. I want them to be based on the truth.
*Practically, the Toronto game is an admittedly poor example. Circumstances would have to be radically different for me to cover a road game in person.
There's a significant difference between getting out-rebounded 15 to 7 in the fourth quarter of a game you lose by 5 points because your starting center is unable to play or getting out-rebounded 15 to 7 in the fourth quarter of a game you lose by 5 points because you choose not to play your starting center despite him having grabbed 17 rebounds in 24 minutes through three-and-three-quarters quarters.
Unfortunately, no one with the means to ask which of these scenarios is relevant has done so. Or, if they have asked, they have not deemed the response worthy of sharing. I'm frustrated.