Mixing things up can keep long season from getting dull for players, coach.
The challenges facing an NBA head coach go far beyond in-game strategic decisions like which play to call, which substitution to make, which adjustments to demand in the intensity of each 48 minutes.
With all kinds of off-day practices to worry about, film sessions to carry out, shootarounds to get through it is just as important that a coach be innovative, that preparation doesn’t become too monotonous, that he keeps his players engaged and interested in finding ways to improve.
It is not an easy task, especially in the final third of a long, drawn-out regular season. The Toronto Raptors’ Dwane Casey will be spending a part of his all-star break trying to figure out what to do.
Maybe it’s different practice plans, different travel arrangements, different game-day approaches; everything is on the table even if a couple of days completely off would be most welcome.
“Everything we’re doing now is adding a few more set plays, more wrinkles in what we’re doing, thinking about the big picture at the end of the year because that’s what we’re going to be measured on,” Casey said earlier this week.
“How we can continue to get better, keep things fresh, keep players fresh? I’ll spend all next week thinking of different things we can do to end up. So I’ll be away from it but not too far away from it.”
Casey might not go as far as Golden State’s Steve Kerr did this week when he turned over coaching and play-calling duties to his players during a ridiculously easy 46-point victory.
Kerr didn’t do it to mock anyone or disrespect the Suns or the game, he did it because coaches need to be innovative.
“I don’t think it’s something we would do often, but I think it’s a good exercise,” Kerr said after the move. “It’s a nine-month season. ... This is every single day for seven, eight, nine months depending on how your team does. And so everything gets pretty monotonous.
“I think you’ve got to do your best in the NBA to keep things light and loose and occasionally throw the team a curveball. So I can see doing it again one time, a couple times. We’ll see.”
Coaches understand the need for fresh approaches to the same old days and, often, the same old games. Casey said might not go as far as Kerr (“It works for certain teams, for his team, an older team, a veteran team, a successful team. I don’t know how much it would work for a young team, that has trouble keeping up with attention to detail,” he said) but the Raptors coach has toyed with similar ideas on off-days.
“It’s funny because I told Kyle (Lowry) a while ago that he could run a film system way before this,” he said. “We haven’t done it yet. You’re looking for anything to keep guys focused.”
Lest anyone think Kerr handing over parts of a game to his team is something revolutionary, Casey recalls George Karl doing something similar when he was on Karl’s staff in Seattle more than a decade ago.
“I remember we allowed Gary Payton to officiate a practice. He loved to crack on the coaches in practice, so we let him put a whistle on. He was the worst official. He had no officiating etiquette,” Casey said. “But you’re just doing different things to keep guys focused, whatever it takes. It’s different for different teams.”