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Defending Brendan

It's customary for people to side with the coach when he gets into a feud with a player.  It's very strange to me how this happens.  There's an inherent instinct in fans' minds that invariably assumes the player--who's making millions of dollars to play a game--is the whining baby, and the coach the unlucky figure that has to deal with it all.  Even though coaches also make millions of dollars, they are seen as somehow being more authentic.  

This rule doesn't always apply, but unless the coach has a proven track record of alienating his players, he tends to get the benefit of the doubt.

In the case of Brendan Haywood and Eddie Jordan, it goes both ways.  The assumption by many, however, is that Brendan's the bad whiny baby that has no right to complain about his minutes.  

But is this really true?  Does Brendan Haywood really have a right to complain?  The Secret Weapon says yes, and uses tons of phenomenal statistical analysis to prove it.  (Via True Hoop).  

It basically says that the very things that bring Haywood down (energy, physicality, etc.) in the eyes of Jordan are completely subjective things that aren't backed up by the numbers.  Over the last five years, the Wizards have been a significantly better defensive team with Haywood in the lineup, even though his traditional individual stats are not as good.  The post also reminds us that forcing missed shots--which Haywood does far better than Etan Thomas--is much, much more important than grabbing rebounds, which Thomas does slightly better.  

But here's the money graph, to me.  

The relationship between minutes and performance was more than four times stronger for Haywood than it was for Hayes (20.1 minutes per game), and double that of Daniels (22.0 minutes per game) or Stevenson (29.6 minutes per game).  Perhaps most interesting, the relationship between Haywood's performance and his minutes was triple that of the man who replaced him in the starting lineup.

To put this in plain English -- Haywood was far more likely to be benched for poor play than any of his teammates.  The converse, of course, is also true -- that Haywood was also more likely to be rewarded for good play.  The fundamental point, however, is clear: the numbers show that Haywood's playing time this past season was contingent upon performance in a way that was different from his teammates.

This may not be proof of unfair treatment, but it is suggestive of it.

This is precisely the argument Haywood's detractors use.  They say he's inconsistent; great one game and crappy the next.  This is very unfair to him, because nobody else on the team is treated on the same scale.  If there's one person who should, it's Jarvis Hayes, but in the last few games, he was receiving consistent, uninterrupted minutes.  Same with DeShawn Stevenson.  Why is Haywood different?

This doesn't quite answer the question of whether he should be traded, because I do think he could yield a good young defensive wing that could offset his ability to force misses.  What it does tell you, however, is that Haywood has a point.  He does get treated unfairly by Eddie Jordan.