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Stan Van Gundy talks player minutes, criticism of resting guys

Aug 26, 2013, 2:04 PM EDT

Stan Van Gundy AP

Stan Van Gundy still is speaking his mind.

The former NBA coach and now employee of NBC Sports (doing some college color commentary, among other things) doesn’t get why so many coaches are getting fired, he still is tight with Dwight Howard, he doesn’t really think the media can impact a team (unless the team lets it), and he thinks about some of the bigger-picture issues in coaching.

Among those is the minutes players play, and the criticism coaches get for playing guys too much or too little. Speaking with Ethan Sherwood Strauss for TrueHoop Van Gundy went on a little rant about minutes and the perception of it.

The second thing that’s curious, could be in all sports is supposedly now, if we go back 30 or 40 years, maybe only 20. Supposedly now, our athletes are better, they’re bigger, stronger faster athletes.

We’ve got better training, OK. We’ve got better nutrition. We’ve got all this technology. Our travel is a lot better. They’re not traveling commercial. Everything is set up better, and yet, they’re not capable of playing the minutes or pitching the innings that guys did 30 or 40 years ago! I don’t get that. And it’s not like players are hurt less now than players in those years. Those guys used to play every day. They played 82 games, they played 40 minutes a game. Now, supposedly all these great improvements we made, our athletes aren’t capable of doing that….

One of the knocks when I was working for Pat Riley was, “Oh, his practices were so hard. You go to him, it’s going to shorten your career.” Then I look around and say, well, Patrick Ewing played a damn long time. Charles Oakley played a damn long time. And Derek Harper played in his 30s and played a long time. And Mo Cheeks. And it’s, “C’mon!” Where’s the evidence of this?

Van Gundy points to Gregg Popovich resting guys but having the knowledge that his team and players are going to make the playoffs — he has a luxury to do this that Rick Carlisle in Dallas or Rick Adelman in Minnesota may not.

I think one of the key things not discussed is the level of play and the smaller margin for error.

I’m not saying today’s players are better than the guys 30 years ago, but when the Lakers and Warriors (or Knicks and Sixers or whatever) played back then both teams were tired and if the shooting percentage dipped or the game slowed down a little it was just kind of accepted as part of it. Now, that drop off could and would be exploited by an opponent and leads to a loss. And if the guys are worn down come the playoffs it will show up fast.

So the reduced minutes is less about “can you make Kyrie Irving play 40 minutes a night?” and more “at what point does a fatigued Irving not play at the level he needs to for this team?” If he is tired at the end of the game and the other team’s star is fresh, who wins a close game? I’d be curious what Van Gundy would say about that argument.

But it’s situational and varies player to player, team to team. There are no rules here, which is why fans and media will always second guess coaches. Fair or not.

  1. herkulease - Aug 26, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    The answer always comes back to money. 20-30 years ago star MLB starting pitchers didn’t have some $150+million contract, neither did NBA players with their monster contracts.

    When you have that kind of money invested in a guy teams want to get the most out of them. Thus the decline in pitches thrown by the starter before being yanked and minutes played.

  2. spursareold - Aug 26, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    The playoffs are a lot longer now. Back in the Celtics dynasty era, there were only two playoff rounds. Most of the travel was on or along the East coast, too.

    If you need proof that rest is good and overuse is bad, look no further than Don Nelson. He played his guys HUGE minutes, and his players aged out early.

    Hardaway only played 13 years, and was never the same after missing a year with knee surgery. In his last 9 seasons, he only played 80 games 3 times, and over his last three seasons, combined, he didn’t play 80 games.

    Mullin had 7 high usage seasons, followed by playing 46, 62, 25, and 55 games.

    Contrast that with Duncan making first team All NBA in his 16th season, and Parker making second team All NBA in his 12th. Managing minutes is a smart thing. Your minutes are going to fall one way or another. I’d rather have my guy playing 75 games at 30 minutes than try to play him 35-36 minutes, and have him only play 50 games.

    • jimeejohnson - Aug 26, 2013 at 8:58 PM

      I love a nap on a rainy day. Rest is good.

  3. hdsnake867 - Aug 26, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    SVG is “still tight with Dwight Howard?” Stan is delusional. Why would he even want to admit to that? No one wants to be tight with the Dwightmare. He’s a human stain.

    • raidmagic - Aug 26, 2013 at 8:58 PM

      That’s your take away from the article….interesting.

    • jimeejohnson - Aug 26, 2013 at 8:59 PM

      More of a massive spill.

  4. antistratfordian - Aug 26, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    Maybe it also has a lot to do with the value of players today vs their value 20-30-40 years ago? The amount of money involved is incredible.

  5. katra2logic - Aug 26, 2013 at 5:23 PM

    Are there any samples of Wilt Chamberlain’s DNA around?

    • jimeejohnson - Aug 26, 2013 at 9:01 PM

      In L.A., anything’s possible.

  6. HD - Aug 26, 2013 at 8:19 PM

    Besides the minutes played during what about rest during the summer? Last year there was the Olympics. Now marquee stars spend a lot of time and energy, endorsing products, going to India, China in the off-season. Probably Blake and Chris concentrate as much in their commercials as on the court, just kidding. Being in San Antonio is relaxing and the media lets the players rest. Years ago NBA players would relax and recover after the season, now the star players are on stage 24/7, 365 days a year.

  7. sophie1150 - Aug 26, 2013 at 10:41 PM

    Agree with Stan 100%. Today, NBA players are big babies and way over paid. They play for the NBA so why are they playing during the summer? If they want the big bucks (no one deserves that much), then man up. If they get seriously injured, bye bye. Plenty are happy to take your place.

  8. northstarnic - Aug 26, 2013 at 11:54 PM

    It’s simple, athletes these days are entitled babies who, while possibly more skilled, in the physical game would have gotten their asses handed to them back in the day. Not true in all four major sports, but definitely in the NBA.

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