It can be an agonizing decision for a coach when he or she has a player in a slump. Do you let the player try and play through it? Or do you decide to let them sit out a game or two to take a mental break?
The choice becomes even tougher when it’s a team’s best player. Logic dictates that a player with a proven track record of success will eventually get over it. But is that fair to the rest of the team? Even if the team is still winning through that player’s struggles, shouldn’t other players get the chance to show what they can do when someone is underperforming?
The Houston Rockets were facing that exact challenge in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors. After leading the league in 3-pointers during the regular season, James Harden tied an NBA record in Game 5 by missing his 20th three in a row. He was 0-11 in the game, and missed his last nine in Game 4.
Harden had a simple rejoinder: “Who cares?”
It’s an interesting question. The Rockets won Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in the series, so clearly Harden’s teammates are picking him up. Plus, Harden is a defensive machine who can contribute in other ways. That’s fine for a sport like basketball, but what about in a sport with more one-on-one matchups like baseball? A player’s struggles at the plate could have an even greater negative impact.
So should a coach sit a player down, or at least tell him to alter his game? Or is that all wrong...is Harden right? If the team is winning and the player is contributing in other ways, should we care about the negative impact and how much playing time they get?
What’s your take?
Take 1: If you’re winning, it doesn’t matter
At the end of the day, it’s all about the W. Players deserve the chance to work it out, especially if they’re established performers. There is something to be said for chemistry and leadership. Even if a player isn’t making shots or getting hits, just being out there can help and influence the team. Coaches need to keep those intangibles in mind as well. Stick with what’s working, even if an individual isn’t clicking.
Take 2: Give other players a chance
If a team is winning, that’s a good problem to have. It’s a perfect time to give a struggling star player a rest and let some other players have an opportunity. Sometimes you’ll need the stability of your superstar, but in most instances, it’s an opportunity to see what else your team has. Let the player’s teammates pick up the slack and step up.
So is winning all that matters? If your team is winning despite the performance of your best player, do you stay with that player despite their challenges or do you see that as an opportunity for someone else to step up? Have your say in the comments below.
From GameChanger and Todd Kortemeier
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