Thursday, November 20, 2008

Giving a team something positive off the bench

In UNLV's season-opener last Saturday, freshman DeShawn Mitchell (pictured here) never made it off the bench.

But when the Rebels were only up by three at halftime of their game against UT-Pan American team on Tuesday night, UNLV coach Lon Kruger turned to the 6-foot-5 Mitchell, who'd played just five minutes in the first half.

Mitchell provided the energy the Rebs needed, scoring 12 points to finish with 14 points in 14 minutes as UNLV downed UTPA, 73-48. UNLV scored 46 points in the second half, 19 more than they'd produced in the opening half.

Mitchell said after the game: "It felt good to be that spark plug for the team."

Along these lines, I saw where Bruce Bowen wasn't a starter the other night for the first time in eight seasons. He'd started in 555 games for the Spurs.

It didn't impact his play. Bowen finished with a season-high 13 points to help SA beat NY.

Said Bowen: “As a competitor, you may not want it to happen. It's a matter of just being as professional as you can, and not allowing those things to affect you from the standpoint of not withdrawing from the team. Coaches have reasons for doing things, and it's important for you to trust in the things they're trying to get accomplished.”

In Utah, Andrei Kirilenko, a starter in all of the 72 games he played in last season for the Jazz, now comes off the bench. In 10 games this season, Kirlenko's not started a single time.

UNC coach Roy Williams described guys who come off the bench as players "who can come in the game and give you something positive -- immediately. There's got to be a niche they can have that when they come in the game, where you know some part of your game is going to get better."

According to Coach Williams, the key is ensuring that players understand the ultimate goal:

"We try to sell the idea of having a chance to win a national championship, of being the best team, and we try to recruit kids that enjoy winning. And when we get them, we try to show them how they can be extremely important, and it may not be by starting. Just because a guy doesn't start doesn't mean he's not extremely important to your team. We do try to show him, tell him, make sure he understands it and still give him the time to be important in the games."