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The backup PG

In thinking about our roster for the upcoming season, it is easy to see that with the impending (hopefully) signing of Chris Wilcox, that we are basically two or three deep at nearly every position. Our backup shooting guard is not clearly defined yet, but I am sure it will be ironed out by opening day with some amalgam of Damien, Gelabale, or Denham Brown. It’s also possible that someone really blows their socks off in Summer League and training camp and takes that roster spot. The spot that has me most intrigued however is the backup Point Guard on our roster.

Most teams keep 3 point guards on their roster; however some teams elect to keep just two true PG’s if there is another player on the roster that can play the spot in a pinch, or if they carry a combo guard.

With the makeup of our group, we basically have two starting Point Guards in Earl and Luke. Both guards saw time exclusively in the fourth quarter, and with each other in a two PG lineup, however to keep everyone happy, Coach Hill continued to start Luke after Earl was acquired.

Backup point guard has been a bit of an enigma for the Supes for the last few years. Actually it’s been more of a rotating door. Between 1994, when Gary Payton began playing in excess of 35 minutes per game, and 1998, the backup point duties were handled by Nate McMillan predominantly, and Eric Snow to a lesser degree. The Point Guard stable was full of Thoroughbreds in those years. But when Nate retired, and Snow went to Philly after the ’98 Season, it ushered in the rotating door.

In ’99 we still had Gary Payton, but the backup duties fell to John Crotty, and Moochie Norris (It really makes you appreciate how few games Gary missed in his career). In ‘2000 we had Emmanuel Davis as the backup and Shammond Williams in the role of combo guard. Neither of them was terribly important because we had Brent Barry as the 2 guard, and he was an excellent ball handler. In ’01, the same three guys again. In ’02 we had Shammond, Earl Watson and Randy Livingston play 12, 15, and 13 minutes per game each respectively when Brent and Payton weren’t in the game. In 2003 it began to get really interesting. That was the year that we traded Gary mid season for Ray Allen, Kevin Ollie and Flip Murray. Our iron man PG was gone after 12 ½ seasons. We also acquired Kenny Anderson in a separate deal that year, and he saw action for 38 games. As my memory serves me, Brent Barry finished out the season as the PG alongside Ray, with Ollie getting most of the minutes as the backup.

Prior to the ’04 season we drafted Luke Ridnour (using the draft pick we received in the Payton deal) as our PG of the future. Kevin Ollie signed with Cleveland, but we signed Antonio Daniels as the backup, and Flip Murray showed us that he was a player, if not a point guard. In ’05, Luke became the anointed starter, but Antonio had his finest season playing 27 mpg as the backup PG and combo guard. The fourth guard, or the backup to the backup was Flip Murray, with a few cameo appearances by Mateen Cleaves as the 3rd true PG.

Last season is where the story really turned sour; at least the first half of the season. Antonio signed a big contract with Washington, and the combo guard position was handed to Flip, and Rick Brunson was signed as the backup point guard, and Mateen as the 3rd PG. It was, as we all know, disastrous. Antonio was sorely missed, Brunson missed nearly the entire season with injuries, and we were in the losing column quickly.

I remember the cry on the SC boards during last season about the need for a PG that can play defense; and what had happened to Luke’s confidence? Flip Murray was killing us etc. etc. Interestingly Bob Weiss actually gave Mateen a little bit of run, and I thought he played with spirit and determination. I still remember that Lakers game on a Friday night in November when he hit a big shot and was running down the court hi-fiving. I was thinking that perhaps he had earned more minutes, but coach never gave him much playing time after that. Interestingly, when Bob Weiss was fired and Bob Hill began to take charge, one of the first things he did was release Mateen. As we all know, we got Mike Wilks and Earl Watson in separate mid-season deals and finished out the season fairly strongly.

Mike Wilks doesn’t appear to be part of the team’s plans this year. We are set at the PG, and backup with Earl and Luke regardless of which is the starter, but there seems to be a definite spot for a #3 PG this year in the glaring absence of a combo guard on our roster. This could of course change if it is found that Gelabale is a great ball handler, but I have never heard that he has played the point.

In the just released summer league rosters we see three Point Guards: Paccelis Morlende, Yotam Halperin, and Kenton Paulino. I know nothing about Paulino, but I have read some reports on the other two, and I know that they were both 2nd round picks by us. “Patch” is supposed to be somewhat of a defensive stopper; Halperin is supposed to be very fluid, a great shooter with good size for the PG spot, but maybe just not as athletic.

It is likely that either “Patch” or Halperin will be given a real chance to make the roster based on the numbers game and the needs of filling out a roster. With Luke and Earl, that player will likely not see a great deal of playing time. If however Earl or Luke gets injured, we will again see the importance of the backup Point Guard.