To rest, or not to rest?
It’s not exactly Shakespeare, but the dilemma currently being confronted by playoff-bound NBA coaches—whether to and how long to sit players out—certainly entails more than a little bit of drama.
Add the Golden State Warriors’ Mark Jackson to the list of skippers who say maintaining momentum is more important than a few more nights of R and R.
Jackson won't rest players when Warriors clinch playoff berth, because just making postseason isn't enough. They want best seed possible.— Rusty Simmons (@Rusty_SFChron) April 9, 2014
What’s not made clear is for whom, exactly, making the playoffs “isn’t enough.”
Is it the Warriors ownership? The players? Jackson himself?
With Golden State at 19 games over .500 in one of the toughest conferences in recent memory, it might seem silly for Jackson to be concerned with, of all things, his own job security.
But in a report by ESPN published Monday, Jackson himself said that his position might well not just depend on making the playoffs, but how far his charges go once they get there.
"My job will be determined on winning," Jackson said. "I'm fine with that."
Some have pointed to the recent reshuffling of personnel—the “reassignment” of assistant coach Brian Scalabrine, followed by the firing of another assistant, Darren Erman, on Saturday—as a sign that not all is well in Warriors land. To which Jackson naturally responded:
There's no friction at all. I humbly submit to you, if you've got a problem with me as a person, then it's your problem. I'm low maintenance. What you see is what you get, and I'm going to be a fun-loving, enjoyable guy that's easy to talk to. I have no issues with anybody in this organization, and it's been that way from day one.
Might the distracting discord be exactly what Jackson needs to prod his troops towards an unlikely run? Marcus Thompson II of the San Jose Mercury News thinks it might:
You could argue the Warriors are in this predicament because Jackson isn't good with expectations. You could make a case he was able to change the culture but isn't the guy to get this team to the next level. The Warriors as a franchise haven't handled the success of last season well. However, getting to this point might have provided the best environment for them to make some real noise in the playoffs. Their best hope is playing inspired, relying on their chemistry and maxing out. And Jackson is equipped to play that against-the-odds card.
Looking at the standings, the Warriors’ best chance of doing so might indeed be to stand pat at the No. 6 seed. Indeed, if the season ended today, Golden State would be matched against No. 3 seed the Los Angeles Clippers, against whom the Warriors are a respectable 2-2 thus far this season.
Slide down to the No. 7 or 8 seeds, however, the prospects get a bit more grim: Jackson and company are a combined 1-6 against prospective No. 1 and 2 seeds—and conference favorites—the San Antonio Spurs (0-4) and Oklahoma City Thunder (1-2).
Would winning a first-round series be enough to keep Jackson—who by all accounts is respected and well liked by his team—on the Golden State sideline? It’s impossible to say.
But if the cryptic opening tweet can be believed, using rest to jockey for playoff positioning is a card Jackson’s owner-dealers have essentially taken out of the deck.