Perhaps the one thing we can take away from this road trip thus far (besides the inconsistency) is that there's a clear rotation. We have a very good idea of when each player will enter the game, and more importantly, what each player will do while in there.
Don't let this significance fly by you. Here's what we were saying at this time last year.
I think this has been Eddie Jordan's biggest improvement as a coach. Roger Mason, in particular, has been handed a defined role, and he's responded to it. Similarly, Eddie's done a good job with Songaila all season. Earlier in the year, Eddie cut Songaila's minutes, but not too much to completely bury him. The message for Songaila to pick up his play was clear, and now, he has.
Ironically, if we can fault Eddie for anything, it's that he's become too predictable with his subs. Mason and Songaila are playing really well, but their increased minutes have come at the expense of the young guys, particularly Andray Blatche and Nick Young. Blatche played 10 minutes yesterday after playing just two against Seattle, while Young played only 10 and six minutes in the last two games after not playing until garbage time against Portland.
I'm a big Blatche fan, but there's a reason his minutes have slipped. In March, he's shooting just 41 percent from the field while scoring and rebounding at a much lower rate than his breakout February. Those March numbers have also been declining as the month goes on, and with Songaila's play picking up at the same time, it's understandable that Blatche has been buried. I do think Blatche should get 10-15 minutes a game playing with Songaila behind Brendan Haywood, but either way, it's not a big deal.
Young, though, is more confusing. Before he suffered a minor heel injury, the dude was starting to break out. Besides the 22 points against Milwaukee, Young played well against the Clippers and Cleveland, only to see his minutes completely eliminated against Orlando before the road trip. Then, once he got hurt, he lost his spot in the rotation as Roger Mason shot the lights out against Seattle. Young certainly needs to get stronger (he was stripped about 5 million times against Sacramento), but he has played much more under control, and I've been impressed with his defensive improvement. Considering none of our guards right now (AD, Stevenson, Mason) are consistent enough to put together tons of strong performances, playing Young more should be a priority, especially if it means fewer minutes for Stevenson.
The problem is, what happens once Gilbert returns? That leaves five guards to split 96 minutes, and you know Gilbert needs at least 20 of those. You can't cut Mason's minutes, and AD still needs to play because he runs the Princeton so well. DeShawn's also the only real two-guard of the bunch, so he needs to be a regular in the rotation, even though he should never play 37 minutes again. Where does Young play in that group? My guess is nowhere, and that's a shame, because he's made strides this year.
But make no mistake, the fact that we even have a rotation is a big step forward, and it'll help tremendously in the playoffs. Kudos to EJ and the guys for developing that.