“Marcus, I get the impression that you do not think this team is a contender yet. Do you think a Nellie team can win a title, and what do you think it would take?” — Jim
I do think they are a contender — for the playoffs. One of the last spots, at that.
No way is this team a contender for the title. And, no, I don’t believe Nellie is a championship coach. His gimmicky style has yet to produce a title. His never-ending search for a mismatch always leaves his teams lacking on defense and rebounding.
What will he need to get it done? Almost the impossible: five guys with tremendous offensive skills, including at least two big men with size, who can also defend and rebound. That’s a lot to ask.
A perfect example came in the playoffs. With his team getting pummeled inside, he refused to play his beefiest players for fear that it would hinder his offense. That series vs. Utah was close, too. They came a rebound or two away from stealing a couple of games in Utah.
But his mindset is so offensive oriented (not that he doesn’t preach defense, he does, just after he preaches offense), he never seems to be able to sacrifice it. You mean to tell me Foyle couldn’t have contributed anything in that series? With the way Boozer played in Game 4, you don’t throw Adonal out there, your best defender, to at least try to slow him down?
Nellie probably didn’t even consider it because he wrote him off a long time ago because he doesn’t have offensive skills. Would he not use a player that has only offensive skills but not defensive? Of course not. But he won’t use a defense-only guy. Especially a big man.
Meanwhile, coaches like Gregg Popovich milks Bruce Bowen, Phil Jackson used the heck out of Dennis Rodman. Larry Brown and Flip Saunders would never think about taking Ben Wallace out of the game though he only plays one end of the court. Mike Brown, when it was best for the team, played Eric Snow in the Eastern Conference Finals, though Snow is a liability on offense and Daniel Gibson is a much better scoring point guard.
Coaches that are really successful emphasize defense. They understand that the playoffs slow down, jumpers stop falling, and at some point or another, you have to get a stop and a rebound.
While Nelson’s style is fun, it’s not made to survive in the playoffs. For that, someone else will have to add to the system he’s installing now. Notice Dallas didn’t become legitimate until Avery’s defense-first mentality took over.
It’s that philosophy that leads me to believe he won’ win a championship.