How Rick Carlisle’s handling of Rodrigue Beaubois cost the Mavs a playoff run.
by Ben Collins
With 9:10 left in the 4th quarter of the Mavericks’ season-ending 97-87 loss to the Spurs, Reggie Miller asked the question that Dallas talk radio has been sounding, without response, since January.
“How long does Rick Carlisle let Rodrigue Beaubois sit on the bench?”
And he continued to ask, over and over again, why a scorching-hot Beaubois was sitting with his 16 points and 5 rebounds, while Jason Terry, and his two points on 1-7 shooting, got 9 minutes of 4th quarter burn.
“How long does Rick Carlisle let Rodrigue Beaubois sit on the bench?”
Oh, Reggie, Reggie, Reggie. If you only knew. Dallas has been wondering this for a long, long time.
If there was ever proof needed that coaching mattered, look only to Rick Carlisle’s handling of the Dallas Mavericks. His team had the talent to go at least to the Western Conference Finals. Carlisle prevented that team from doing so.
I consider myself to be a fair sports fan. I’ve been in locker rooms for a long time now. I smell like Old Spice and Gold Bond permanently. It’s altogether unpleasant, and in hot cars during the summer, at least one person will say, “Ugh, oh my God, what is that smell?” But it’s allotted me a lot of perspective.
I know who the nice guys are. I know the “bad guys” are only that because they’ve been provoked beyond all reason. As much as it’s marketed that way, the NBA is not filled with superheroes and, in turn, it has no malicious anti-heros aiming to ruin the day of 28 other cities throughout the country.
Most players play hard (save a few, like Jerome James) because they care about their reputation. Any pseudo-hatred of fans by any player is just that: Pseudo-hatred, all in the name of competition. Coaches always have reasons for the things they do, and they are noble almost all of the time.
Glad we got that out of the way.
Rick Carlisle did not have a valid, non-hubris-related reason to not play Rodrigue Beaubois during this season or during these playoffs.
There have been t-shirts made. Dallas sports talk radio has been exploding with calls since early-January asking why Beaubois isn’t afforded more minutes. There’s even been a not-so-P.C. catchphrase regarding Beaubois’ relative bench enslavement dubbed, “Unleash French Cuffs.”
It appears that Carlisle held back on playing Beaubois only because he saw Beaubois in practice every day, long before these talk radio callers and t-shirt makers, and still was not the first one to come up with the idea to put him in the rotation.
Carlisle’s case certainly fails the eye test.
Allow me to glow a little, to shed myself of the Haterade in which I’m currently drenched. The best way to describe Beaubois’ game is blurry. He makes Tony Parker look slightly gimpy. He has one of the fastest 40’ times in the history of the draft. He can penetrate and finish with both hands. He has almost comically springy hops — he was Jason Kidd’s primary alley-oop target all season, anyway. Did I mention dude has range? He shot 52 percent from the floor, 41 percent from 3, and 81 percent from the free throw line this season.
The stat test is far more damning.
The player in front of him on the depth chart at the backup one — and sometimes, shockingly, at a stumpy 5-11, at the backup two — was JJ Barea. He was the only rotation player on the team with a negative plus-minus for the season, and it wasn’t even close. Barea was -41 on the floor on the season. To put that in perspective, no player on the Oklahoma City Thunder — rotation player or not — had a lower plus-minus than -32 for the season. That was BJ Mullens. The Thunder finished with five less wins than the Mavericks.
Beaubois was +35 from the floor for the year. That includes his stints as an exclusive garbage-minutes player.
Need more? Beaubois scored 40 points against the Warriors on March 27, the third highest-total of any rookie this year. Barea’s career-high, in 178 more career games than Beaubois, is 26.
Two weeks later, Beaubois was back to consistent DNP-CDs. Barea — whose primary maneuver at either guard position is to aimlessly penetrate, fail to draw doubles and stunt the offense — was back to stealing shooting guard and point guard minutes away from Beaubois.
On the rare occasion Barea would force a switch on a pick and roll with future Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitzki, Barea would wave off Nowitzki and attempt to beat the other team’s power forward to the basket, as if to say, “I’ve got it this time.” But what he meant was “I’ve got this every time.” And, trust me, he never had it.
It got so bad that teammates actively weren’t passing Barea the ball by the end of the year. When Nowitzki drew a double-team, he would usually shoot over the double rather than pass the ball to Barea, who would then dribble in circles.
The primary case for Beaubois detractors — as reiterated by some of the holier-than-thou ESPN columnists who never criticize coaches because they, for some reason, care what those coaches think about them — is that Beaubois is a bad pick-and-roll defender.
This is an overstatement, only made true by those repeating a talking point that only has validity only in its own pervasive rhetoric.
Beaubois’ pick-and-roll defense is sometimes bad, but it’s perfectly fine for a rookie. It would have been unkinked had the rookie been given minutes. Why? Because he’s not lost on switches. He fails to fight over them sometimes and leaves jumpshooters open. This is commonplace in Europe, where he last received consistent playing time, because shooters typically aren’t consistent enough from long-range to shoot over their pick. It isn’t like that in the NBA, and this is something that could’ve been revised over the course of the season.
Instead, Carlisle played Barea, who is consistently lost on switches, which is considerably worse. He also gave crunchtime minutes to Jason Terry, who was beaten so many times on backdoor cuts and down-screens in this first round series that I lost count. So this cannot be the argument.
What else? What else is wrong with Beaubois that he didn’t play this season? There has to be something else.
But there isn’t another excuse.
That’s it. There are no other reasons.
Some have said that he makes “rookie mistakes.” Rookie mistakes are, obviously, ironed out with time. Barea has been in the league for three years and is still making rookie mistakes.
Carlisle is the only longterm NBA coach I’ve ever seen to use his ego as his primary coaching tool in a pivotal rotation decision.
Mind you, I can find no evident personal reason as to why Carlisle didn’t play Beaubois. I doubt there is one. I can, however, point to history.
In 2003, Rick Carlisle failed to play rookie Tayshaun Prince despite the protestations of fans. In the first round of the playoffs, down 3-1 to the 8-seed Orlando Magic, Carlisle was stuck. His 6th Man of the Year Corliss Williamson had just gotten hurt and he had to fill minutes. He had to play Tayshaun Prince.
Prince played 33 minutes, scored 15 points and snared 6 rebounds, and the Pistons kept the series alive. That Pistons team wound up going to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Everyone else was right about a rookie then. One would figure that Carlisle, before getting himself in the same exact position as seven years prior, would’ve listened to literally anyone else conducting the eye test and the stat test.
I’m sure Rick Carlisle is a great and wonderful person. Outside of personnel decisions, players and media around the team sincerely admire the guy. But he has a problem with rookies that absolutely could cost him his job in the next few weeks.
Beaubois didn’t reenter the game until the Mavs had reached desperation mode with 2:44 left.
Again, it sounds silly to say this, having been around the NBA this long, one grown human being to another, but it definitely felt like Carlisle lopped Beaubois into the game, onto an already-beaten team, as if to say, “I told you so.”
Upon entering the game, he gave Beaubois the keys to the offense and told him to drive.
It certainly felt like this: “See? See? He can’t win this game for us, even if we give him the entire offense to himself.” Even though this rookie hadn’t played one meaningful playoff minute in his life before tonight, and Carlisle put him in with 2:44 left in the fourth quarter and in the middle of a Spurs run. Even though the Spurs had built up a virtually insurmountable eight-point lead by that point.
This season isn’t Caron Butler’s fault, because you toyed with his minutes. It’s not Brendan Haywood’s fault, because you toyed with his minutes. And it’s certainly not Rodrigue Beaubois’ fault, because you never gave him minutes to toy with.
This one’s on you, Rick. You made M.L. Carr look like Jesus Christ.