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This Nocioni Stuff Scares Me

So far this season, Doug Collins has picked his spots to make changes. He likes to implement them when the team has a couple of off days, then he sort of trickles the news into the media, then the next time the team takes the floor, the change happens. Meeks into the starting lineup, Iguodala to point-forward are a couple of examples. Well, the meme over this break has been increased roles for Tony Battie and Andres Nocioni for the home stretch.

Andres Nocioni has played in four of the last five games. The Milwaukee and Sacramento games were both blowouts, so really nothing to read into his play in those games at all. Against the Clippers, Nocioni saw first-half minutes (and was spectacularly bad, 7 minutes, zeroes across the board only 1 turnover and 2 fouls, -11 +/-). Then in the Portland game, Nocioni played 22 minutes and wasn't terrible (10 points on 6 shots, but 2 turnovers). Of course, Iguodala missed the Portland game and Evan Turner was in foul trouble, so it's not shocking Nocioni got extra minutes.

Nocioni's minutes on the trip were understandable. Increasing his role going forward, though, really isn't. In the Lynam piece, the inference is that Collins has used Battie and Nocioni judiciously specifically to keep them fresh for the playoff run, and then the playoffs. In Battie's case, I sort of buy it. He's been nursing injuries for months, he's got a ton of miles on his legs, but most importantly, he does provide the team with much needed defense and rebounding off the bench. In his absence, Collins has leaned on Thad for heavier minutes at the four, and Brand for minutes at the five. He's probably had to overextend Brand, and adding Battie back into the mix will at least give him the option of staying big if the situation calls for it. His confidence in Speights is obviously shaken, again, and I suppose that's just a fact of life we're going to have to deal with.

In Nocioni's case, though, this isn't about Nocioni or what he brings to the table. His absence from the rotation hasn't been based on giving him rest, it's been about the team being better without him, and where the minutes have gone in his absence. Collins talked about shoring up his perimeter rotation, well, it was pretty well shored up. The positive spin of this move is getting more time for the tough veteran with oodles of playoff experience (22 games, none since 2007), but what this really boils down to is less of a role for Evan Turner.

If you look closely, it isn't hard to read between the line. The perimeter rotation is made up of Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Lou Williams and Evan Turner. Which of those guys is going to see his minutes cut if Nocioni is suddenly thrust in? Even if all we're talking about is a handful fewer minutes for Iguodala to keep his knee fresh, this is still a case of Collins not giving those few minutes to Turner.

If you want to see the glass as half-full, you could read these comments from Collins as a shot across Turner's bow, and maybe a more subtle one than coming out and saying Turner needs to step it up. Clearly, it's in the team's best interest if Turner demands whatever extra minutes there may be, because the last thing I want to see is Nocioni getting regular minutes. This season isn't just about getting to the playoffs, it's about getting to the playoffs and getting valuable experience for the young guys on this team who are a part of their future. If the mullet worms his way ahead of Turner in the rotation, well, I'm not sure how much development is going to be accomplished on the bench. Not to mention the fact that the team is probably worse off with Nocioni on the floor.

I guess we're going to have to wait and see how this plays out. Maybe Turner will read the tea leaves and get his act together. Whatever happens, I think it's pretty clear that Collins is disappointed in Turner and he's at least thinking about limiting his role.
by Brian on Mar 23 2011
Tags: Andres Nocioni | Basketball | Doug Collins | Sixers |