A lot has been made about the coaching decisions coming from the Suns bench so far in the Suns Spurs series. Most of the criticism has focused (rightly) on the late game play calls.
What has not been discussed and has likely had a bigger impact on the series is how the coaching staff has handled the Half-a-Hill situation.
During the regular season a healthy Grant Hill provided a huge boost to the Suns:
· Hill's perimeter defense was far better then his reputation. Grant has said that this is due to his focus on defense that comes from not being the #1 scoring option. He claims to have always been a good defender whose offense got the attention.
· Grant often covered teams’ best perimeter threats from LeBron James to Stephen Jackson. He was used late in games against speedy guards like Chris Paul and Tony Parker in the same way Shawn Marion used to. In game 2 against the Spurs we saw Diaw on Parker late in the game with some success.
· Offensively, Grant could slash to the basket in somewhat reckless fashion both in the half court but even more so on the break and when going well, he was a 50% mid-range threat from the floor. But most importantly Grant brought smart decision making and passing skills. Most of the best timed entry passes to Shaq came from Grant and not Nash.
It’s very unfortunate that Grant could deliver the entire season (excluding his appendectomy) only to come up lame now. There's no doubt his full presence on the floor has been sorely missed in the first two games of this series.
The decision that faced the Suns knowing that Hill was hampered by the groin injury (which he re-aggravated early in the 2nd to last game of the season) was whether to go with Grant or to rest him for a few more games.
We addressed this question (somewhat) sarcastically before game 2 - Is the Glass Half Hill or Full French?
It’s obvious that the Suns decided that Half-a-Hill was the better option. He started both games despite some strong signals before game 2 that he would not. He averaged 24 mpg and only 2ppg. He did not look good in those minutes.
I understand the coach believing in a guy like Grant and I understand his wanting to contribute.
In hindsight (which is the currency of the blogosphere) it was a mistake to play him in those games.
Resting Grant would have helped him recovery fully so that he could deliver 100% later in the series. And more importantly, an early decision to rest him would have given the team more time and focus to prepare for his replacement.
Coach D'Antoni now seems to agree ...two games too late
"It's really more important that he's 100 percent," D'Antoni said. "We just can't drag him along for 80 percent, 90 percent. He needs to get well, totally."
Who should start in place of Hill is another question altogether.
More likely then not, Coach D would have gone with Barbosa. I don't think there are many of us arm chair pundits that would agree with that call. That leaves Diaw or Giricek.
[Note by Phoenix Stan, 04/25/08 8:10 AM PDT ]
Debate is off. Coach D has spoken . He's the decider. (not us?)
If Hill is unable to play Friday, Raja Bell will slide to Hill's small-forward position, allowing Leandro Barbosa to start.
I guess zero points in 24 minutes earns you more minutes in this system.