FD Guest Lecture: Chains of a King
In honor of Amir's starting slot, we've called on Matt Watson to give a brief history of all the reasons he supposedly wasn't starting yet. Then, cop the FREE AMIR shirt to celebrate.
Also, don't miss Dr. LIC on our people, and please participate in our DonorsChoose drive.
Flip Saunders, November 11, 2007:
“Thirteen years ago, I had Kevin Garnett and at that time he was the first guy to come into the league from high school in like 20 years. Amir has gotten more publicity this year, a guy who’s never played, than Garnett did that first year, and here’s a guy who was the first high school guy in 20 years.”
Reading this makes me feel silly. Here I was driving Amir's bandwagon last year and I apparently missed his Sports Illustrated cover. Can someone mail me a copy? Before KG was drafted, I remember NBA general managers insisting "that Garnett had more talent and ability than any of his peers," and coaches saying, "Garnett's got everybody going, "Whoa.' A lot of people say he has a Connie Hawkins and Julius Erving flair."
Amir, on the other hand, spent his summer of restricted free agency sorting through
Chris McCosky, November 12, 2007:
On another issue: Let’s back off of Amir Johnson for a bit, OK? I don’t know what some people expect from this kid, but he’s not Magic Johnson. He’s not ready to be in the regular rotation and contribute 25 to 30 minutes a game. He’s not going to be ready all year, is my guess. This isn’t the Pistons’ version of Cameron Maybin. Nobody’s ever said he was the greatest prospect ever to come through the pike. He was the 56th pick in the draft, taken right out of high school. He wasn’t the first overall pick. He’s an extremely athletic but extremely raw kid. He is active and he can finish around the basket. He can block shots and run the floor. But other than that, he’s still finding his way (on the court and off it). For now and for the foreseeable future, he’s the 11th or 12th man this year getting mostly just spot minutes.>
He's not KG and he's not Magic, he's just some scrub who's "extremely athletic," "active," "can finish around the basket" and "block shots and run the floor." But that's it! Why in the world would you want to see the Pistons give a guy like that playing time?
Flip Saunders, February 28, 2008:
"You have to give Amir credit for keeping on fighting. He didn't give up on things even though Maxie was playing well, getting lots of accolades. Amir just kept on fighting through things, and when he got an opportunity, he's taken advantage of it."
Um, that's actually good to hear. When Amir plays, good things happen -- keep giving this guy some burn!
Flip Saunders, two days later, following a loss in Utah in which Amir didn't play:
“But we made a mistake — we should have played him. We got in a situation where they were making such a run, and we thought at that point it was too late. First thing I said afterwards was, ‘We should have played Amir, and we didn’t.’"
Considering you just admitted how well Amir has played, yeah, giving him a DNP was a head-scratcher. But at least you realize your mistake, right?
Flip Saunders in the same article:
“We have people who are saying, ‘Start Amir.’ But they don’t know that Antonio McDyess has been one of the leading rebounders in minutes played in the NBA over the last month. You can’t always look at superficial things.”
AGH! You should have stopped while you were ahead. What's more superficial than looking at the splits for just one month? For the season, Amir Johnson averaged 14.7 rebounds per 48; McDyess, 14.0/48. If you don't want to play Amir, talking about rebounds isn't that smart ...
Flip Saunders, March 5, 2008 after signing Theo Ratliff:
I think we're committed to staying with the rotation that we have and see where that takes us," said Saunders. "But I think what we do have is we do have other players that, if things aren't working, maybe you have a little bit of a shorter leash … If our bench gives us in the playoffs what they're giving us right now, we're going to play them. Our hope is that they're going to be able to continue to do that."
For the months of March and April, Johnson's per 48 numbers: 11.2 points, 13.9 boards and 4.8 blocks to go with 55% shooting. And now, Ratliff's: 10.7 points, 10.3 boards, 4.0 blocks, 10.3 boards to go with 45% shooting.
Saunders, being a man of his word ... completely dropped Johnson from his playoff rotation. Johnson played a grand total of 43 minutes in the postseason, including just seven minutes beyond the first round. Ratliff, on the other hand, played 131 minutes.
Granted, it's a little silly to project a guy's per 48 numbers when he played a grand total of 43 minutes, but for the sake of comparison, here they are: Johnson averaged 23.4 points, 14.5 boards, 3.35 blocks on 75% shooting; Ratliff averaged 5.9 points, 9.9 boards, 4.0 blocks and 50% shooting.
Clearly, Flip's rotation was a meritocracy.