From time to time I’ve heard concerns that Woody is running his main guys into the ground and I know that’s been his rep. So let’s look at the minutes per game for J.J., Smoove and Al before I point out how those numbers might not even be the most important consideration in the matter.
J.J.’s minutes are down slightly, from 39.5 last season to 38.1 this year–the fewest he’s averaged since he was a bench player for Phoenix in 2002-03. Smoove is playing 35.1 minutes per game, same as last season and down from his workload in his third and fourth seasons. Horford’s minutes are up to 35.2 from 33.2.
(Marvin and Bibby aren’t really in the discussion anymore. Marvin is getting the least burn since he was a rookie. Bibby’s minutes are at a career low, less than Jamal’s.)
OK, those are the overall minutes for the Big 3, but what about the monthly splits? Is Woody riding his Big Three more as the playoffs approach?
For J.J. and Al it depends on how many minutes they log the rest of the season. Al’s minutes took a big jump from January (35.3) to February (39.2) but are way down in March (33.7). J.J.’s average minutes increased in January (38.1) and February (40.1) but are back down in March (37.8). Smoove’s minutes have been pretty constant through January (38.1), February (38.1) and March (39.3).
You can always look through the game logs and raise an eyebrow about the minutes here and there. Recent examples include J.J. playing 42 minutes at Miami after he played 37 minutes while sick the night before. Josh played 45 vs. Golden State and then 40 at Miami, where he didn’t seem to have his usual focus and energy(though Smoove doesn’t have the same age and injury concerns as J.J.)
But players’ work rate outside of games might be as (or even more) important to wear and tear than what happens the rest of the time. How often do they practice? How long are the sessions? And how intense are they? I don’t have any way of objectively measuring where the Hawks rate in those areas–I only get to see the latter part of full practices and usually they are just shooting or walking through plays by then. But my feeling is the practices have shortened and from talking to Woody they’ve tended to be lighter workouts.
The subject came up the other day when Woody noted the Hawks had a good, hard practice on Wednesday before they headed to Washington. Being a coach and all, he lamented that he can’t put the Hawks through those kind of sessions more often.
“I can’t beat ‘em up like I did in the early days,” Woody said. “I’m serious. Ask Smoove. I used to give them no days off. We would practice every day. They used to hate me for that. I’ve learned to back off.”
Smoove says it’s true.
“(Blank) no we didn’t get a day off,” he said. “Especially when I was a rookie, we would come in when the veterans had days off. And we would come in an hour-and-a-half early and do a full practice, three-man weaves and everything. And then we would go out and do the second practice (with the veterans).”
And did they hate Woody for it?
“Hell yeah,” he said.
Woody knows he can’t do it like that anymore. That could matter more than the minutes logged by his horses, at least as it relates to physical wear and tear over the long term.
– Peep my story on Josh’s emerging leadership.
– Ken has the Pistons game tonight.