One of the things that Bob Hill has done as head coach is to immediately commit our two young stud centers; to give them a chance to play, succeed, and grow. It is good for the future of our team, and we have been winning lately as well. As a fan, I think this is great. We used two first round picks to acquire these guys; and for awhile it seemed that neither of them were in the teamâ€™s plans for this year. At one point Robert Swift and the NBDL were mentioned in the same sentence; Petro got some chances earlier in the year, and then fell out of favor. To see them now and to be able to watch the growth curve is very enjoyable. Petro has been having some nice games lately with Robert nursing injuries; Robert was playing defense on Chris Webber in a tight game in the 4th quarter last night. There is no better way to become the players we think they can become, than to get on the court and gain the experience.
One trend that I have noticed with these two guys is the repeated tendency to allow several rather â€œunheraldedâ€ opponents to have career games against them. I think I was vaguely aware of the trend previously, but it really came to the surface in a string of recent games. In the Minnesota game, Mark Blount was bombing away to the tune of 23 points and 8 boards last week; yet he only averages 9.4 and 4.7. Next came the Laker game where Chris Mihm scored 20 points and 13 rebs., while his season averages are 10 and 6. Last night, Steven Hunter exploited the middle for 20 points, 7 rebs. And 6 blocked shots! Hunter averages roughly 5 and 3, and a bit less than 2 blocks per contest.
The good news is that Seattle won all three of those games. When I investigated this trend a little more thoroughly I found that this is more than coincidence. Jake Tsakalidis had a career game earlier this month when he rang up 17 points and 15 boards on us. We did not win that game. Other centers of little renown have done well against us well. Guys named Zaza Pachulia (17/8), Andris Biedrins (16/8) and Nenad Krstic (18/11). PJ Brown and Eddie Curry had very nice games as well, but they are a little more high profile than the rest of the list.
I expect that with the age and experience level of Swift and Petro that the stud centers like Yao and Shaq are going to do well against the Sonics. I can even see the Chris Kaman inching into that â€œeliteâ€ status and understand his being very effective in the Clipper game as he was. But this earlier list of guys has really been ringing up big numbers as compared to their season averages.
I suspect that this is partly growing pains. I read earlier in the year that the goal for our two young guns was a combined double double per game. They are right on target, averaging almost exactly 10 and 10. Bob Hill and the staff set realistic goals, and the guys are achieving them. I just have to wonder if with a full training camp, summer league and more coaching that we will see this trend become less frequent. I never played the game competitively or coached, so I donâ€™t know if the problem lies in individual techniques and positioning, or if it is the defensive scheme as a whole. Perhaps the fact that Nick Collison is out with injury may make some of the pairings less favorable. I would be thrilled to see Robert and Petro develop defensive prowess and a â€œtake no prisonersâ€ attitude near the rim like we witnessed in the playoffs by Jerome James (of course, he was playing way over his season averages too).