Flip Saunders Is An Idiot
5/31/2006 - Pistons 107-109 Cavaliers - Down 3-2, ECF
We've been here before. Last year, when Dwyane Wade was suffered to run free:
I only just resisted titling this post "Is Flip Saunders An Idiot?" because it seems clear that a man who is paid more money than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes can't be all 'tard, but... there's a strong chance Flip Saunders is an idiot in some sense. If you did a Family Feud-style survey with the question "Who Is Going To Defend Dwyane Wade in the conference finals?" survey would say:
- What are you talking about? You want a mango? I am from France. (37)
- Um... I don't know his name, but probably the guy who looks like a heavily abused Stretch Armstrong doll? (34)
- Tayshaun Prince, you idiot. (31)
The third opinion would be given to you by anyone with even a smattering of NBA knowledge all the way up to, say, Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant, players of Wade's bionic shooting guard ilk who have run up against Stretch and who -- if not exactly stopped -- have been decently contained. Tayshaun is popularly regarded as the Kobe-Lebron-McGrady-Wade stopper, one of the few players in the league with both the size and the quickness to stop the NBA's unstoppable. Only an idiot or an expert would do anything other than stick Tayshaun on Wade and forget about it.
As you can see, I did not escape titling this post with something raw, possibly unfair, but JESUS CHRIST SO VERY TRUE IN ALL WAYS EVERY WAY ALL WAYS FOREVER AAAAAARGH.
The world is Lebron agog this day and not without reason, but can we get some condemnation up in here? Flip Saunders displayed the same sort of miraculous ignorance football coaches do when they screw up game-ending clock situations during nearly the entirety of Lebronfest. He was complicit in Birth of a Superstar, inexplicably refusing to double for much of the fourth quarter and overtimes. When he did bring a double, Lebron would pass out of it and the Cavs, being the non-Bron Cavs, would turn the ball over. There are mice that can figure out that when there are two buttons, one of which dispenses a shock and the other a tasty treat, you press the treat button. If there was any justice, Saunders' incompetence would be just as legendary as Lebron's performance.
Consider this: on the last Cleveland possession, Ilgauskas, Gooden, and Daniel Gibson had fouled out. Larry Hughes' foot had held him out the entire second half. On the floor with Lebron were Donyell Marshall, Anderson Varejao, Sasha Pavlovic, and Eric Snow (or Damon Jones? I forget, does it matter?). Saunders' brilliant idea: put a point guard on the guy who had scored the last 23 points and give him no help whatsoever. This was also his brilliant idea -- except it was Tayshaun Prince left alone -- on the final two Cavs possessions of regulation, both of which ended in thunderous Lebron dunks.
I mean... what can you say? I decided to repress the sputtering rage by sleeping on it and then writing about the game, but here it is. Sputtering Rage says "hi, honey, I'm home," takes off its hat, talks about what a hard day he had -- lot of work in Detroit today, lot of work -- and settles in for a nice long rest that is 75-80% likely to start in the next few days and last for the summer. It's back, and I can only delete so many sentences that contain elaborate punishments for Saunders and his Charlie Weis-like ability to get far too clever for his own good. A sampler:
- Forced to eat own organs.
- Locked into party chit-chat with tools who came up with Heineken ad campaign that runs incessantly all hours of the night and day on TNT.
- Elaborate scenario staged wherein he is drugged, and carefully made up to look and sound like Bill Walton -- sort of "The Hot Chick" except "The Worst Person On The Planet" -- until on the verge of self-immolation, say, 10-15 minutes
- Forced to watch his favorite basketball team coached by Flip Saunders.
It is inexplicable how this guy and his lip-chewing inability to do anything right in the playoffs is a respected NBA coach. Don't even get me started on Rasheed's substitution pattern.
Dammit, too late: what the #&$! was with Rasheed's substitution pattern? During the first eight minutes of the game he had played great defense and was 3/4 from the floor. He was in rhythm, on a roll. Chris Webber picks up a second foul with eight minutes gone, Saunders yanks both starters and leaves Rasheed on the bench until there are four minutes left in the half. He rested his best post player, a guy who was in rhythm, for an entire quarter when his second best post player had been ejected at the end of the first. Then the Pistons start going well and Rasheed gets yanked six minutes into the second half. Inexplicable. After the first removal, Rasheed would hit one shot the rest of the night. There isn't a basketball fan on the planet who would do something that stupid.
So, yeah, Lebron was pretty freakin' impressive. Yes. He's kind of good at the basketball. But even Lebron has trouble dealing with traps and doubles and can be dealt with unless you are too busy chewing your lip to think.
Last year, when it finally clattered to a halt:
Riley watched the tape, devised a plan, and obliterated the Piston offense. There was not much of a riposte from Saunders other than to look on grimly.
The Heat were a soft team when they struggled through the opening portion of the season, but Pat Riley is a hard man. The Pistons were a hard team under Carlisle and Brown, but Flip Saunders is a soft man. And thus goes a series.
Since I can only burble aggravated nonsense this morning, I guess that has to stand.
FLABMOJAN! GRUNDLEFLOX THE AXERAOJ. ZING ZING ZING!
Tayshaun was looked pretty gassed to me - LeBron was just blowing by him. Flip put the quicker Billups on him to force him into being a jump shooter, LeBron's weakest skill. That basically worked - except LeBron couldn't miss at that point. Remember, Detroit wins that game if LeBron doesn't hit those crazy 3s from 25 feet.
The help defense was slow late in the game. You can't blame that on Flip, though. The traps were increasingly ineffective and you still need someone on the ball who can keep his man in front of him. Chauncey did that when Tayshaun was no longer able to ...
Which also explains, in part, why Flip was resting Sheed, his best help defender and rebounder. Given the game went to triple overtime, the plan backfired somewhat, since Sheed still ended up a step slow at the end of the game.
I also think Detroit was staying home a bit to avoid leaving perimeter shooters wide-open. This might be arguable (the Bad Boys always believed you had to let the role players win the game, not the superstar), but given the way Gibson and Ilgauskas had been shooting, not entirely unreasonable.
Finally, regarding the whole "hard foul" issue, we seem to forget pretty quickly that McDyess had been ejected for such a foul earlier in the game. The officials were not going to stand for "sending a message." If you can get ejected for a Sideshow Bob flop, you're going to think twice before intentionally whacking "The King."
We need to just give the Cavs - and, not incidentally, our own Pistons - some credit. LeBron hit some amazing shots. If a few of those miss, Detroit wins, and we are talking about Flip's solid game management.
Similarly, the players also share a lot of blame, wasting possessions with poor shot selection and minimal ball movement. Maybe Flip doesn't really have control of this team, but they are supposed to be a veteran squad who don't need to be spoon-fed plays, LB-like, or ruled with an iron hand, Carlisle-like.
Whatever Saunders' faults, he's no idiot.
p.s. By the way, on Firefox, the comments run up against the margins ...