As the season winds down, several teams are working to put that final piece in place that might make the difference. From my experience, this is a high-risk proposition.
Indiana added Evan Turner, hoping that he will change his spots. While an argument can be made that they needed a mature guy to play limited minutes and deepen an already deep rotation, they opted instead to roll the dice with the notorious knucklehead who is playing for a new contract.
Wouldn’t they have been better off keeping Danny Granger and all of his intangibles?
The fact that Turner has never shown that he can be a steadying influence has to bother the Pacers, if not outright scare them. In last night’s home loss to Golden State, Turner was a minus-14 in 18 scoreless minutes. It was a rare unproductive night for a bench that includes Andrew Bynum, whom the Pacers are taking a flyer on, hoping to get him playoff ready.
The Clippers added Granger and Glen Davis for that added size and scoring boost hoping to best Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Portland. The jury is still out on those two guys, and last night was an indication that their roles may be bit parts. Davis was a minus-13 in 9 minutes against Phoenix, compiling a horrid stat line of four fouls, two turnovers, no points, no shots and just one rebound. Granger played four minutes and missed his only shot, and the Clippers were outscored by seven points when he was on the floor.
Do these types of signings help or hurt in the long run?
In my personal experience, these late-season signings are very iffy propositions.
I remember one year in Milwaukee we brought in Adrian Dantley late in the season to add scoring punch. He was closer to the end of his career than the beginning and when he arrived, there were only 10 games to get him ready. I played with AD as a rookie in Utah when he was a league scoring leader and I love his game. He is a fierce competitor and a tough-as-nails scorer. But two things became obvious right away.
The first was that to allow AD to be effective, the offense had to run through him. We slowed down and struggled because none of our players knew how to play off him.
The second thing that happened was that former first-round pick Jeff Grayer was basically told that he was through, since AD was brought in to play his spot.
Our chemistry was disrupted at a crucial part of the season, and morale suffered. We ended up entering the playoffs with home court advantage and got swept in the first round, never really competing. It wasn’t Adrian’s fault; it was just too difficult to change the team at that point in the season.
Ironically, Dantley had been involved on the other side of this situation two years earlier with the Pistons. After helping the team build to a championship level, he was traded for Mark Aguirre halfway through the 1988-89 season while leading the team in scoring. The team was becoming the “Bad Boys.” That season they would win their first championship, even though Aguirre stunk up the playoffs. He never did find his rhythm that season, but the Pistons won anyway.
AD’s career never recovered.
The difficulty comes from a couple of places. The first and most important is chemistry. It takes a long time for a team to develop it. Late in the season, practices are limited and rotations are usually set. It is tough for a new player to come in and find his footing.
It is even tougher for a player who is used to being the star. He not only has to learn a new team, but also a new style as well. It’s actually easier for a role player to fit in on short notice.
So for the Pacers and the Clippers, the challenge will be to keep what they have working while adding a new dimension. It’s a pretty complicated trick.
And time is short.
The postseason is a pretty demanding time to find out if it works.
Danny Schayes is a retired 18-year-veteran of the NBA, a professional broadcaster and soon-to-be-published author now penning NBA columns for SheridanHoops. Follow him on Twitter.
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