Crawford And Smith Lead Second Unit To Battle The Fatigue Factor
There are quite a few on-going debates regarding the biggest influences on the 2011-2012 condensed season. One of the most prominent is the fatigue factor. Will it really be that big of a deal? All the teams are playing the same schedule, right? If it’s such an issue how do you overcome it?
The answers to these questions are complex, and may not be fully answerable until the full season and post season have played out. Only then will we truly know what this grueling season is defined by. But for now, seventeen games in, fatigue is starting to look like it’ll take center stage.
Being tired is by no means an excuse for wins or losses, because let’s face it, we all know everyone is facing the same challenges. So instead of being an excuse, fatigue is wearing a new hat. It’s an opponent. One with the potential to suck hope out of any team that doesn’t face it with a proper strategy.
One of the options to combat the dreaded fatigue factor is depth. A card the Trail Blazers played perfectly tonight in their 101-89 defeat of the Sacramento Kings to give the starting unit much some much needed rest.
The better part of sixteen games have been carried by LaMarcus Aldridge, a dominant power forward worthy of All-Star accolades. Night-in and night-out he propels the team. On the long flight home from Detroit following a six-game road trip he had a heart-to-heart with former Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford.
“We had a great talk on the way back from Detroit,” Crawford said “He’s like, ‘If you start playing like you’re capable of you can get me more rest. Right now I’m playing 40-something minutes a game, taking a beating.’
“So him being that honest with me, and coach McMillan, talking to him. All those guys I was able to say, ‘Okay, Jamal, stop playing like crap. Clear your head. It’s time to just go. It’s time to play.’”
Understanding the plight of team-leader Aldridge, Crawford did what he does best, he led the second unit—the group of talented players who could be the key to success in a season haunted by the dreaded foe of fatigue.
Crawford’s leadership off the bench caught like wildfire with his teammates. Craig Smith filled the void left inside by a resting Aldridge scoring ten points and pulling down seven rebounds, behind Crawford’ game-leading 26 points.
“Smith has been a calming effect for us. A guy who we’ve been going to here lately and he’s been making good plays,” Head Coach Nate McMillan said. “He’s been able to allow us to rest LaMarcus, been somewhat of a go-to guy. We kinda got that balance with that second unit now.”
Just as important as the scoring punch was the minutes burden. Crawford played 32 and Smith played 21. With the second unit holding to the standards set by the first they were able to limit every single starter to under 35 minutes. Aldridge rested for all but 28.
As the Trail Blazers head into the second game of their first back-to-back-to-back set the rest is ever crucial. And as one of thirty teams gutting out a compacted 60-game season, McMillan and the Trail Blazers will play their cards to beat fatigue by developing two strong, talented and deep units.
Tonight they did just that. Two units came. Two units played. And two units shared measurable rest. As a tool to combat fatigue and the success it may bring, McMillan put it best, ”If we can get that group, both groups, playing good basketball on both ends of the floor we should be hard to beat.”