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It's Too Early to be Benching Players

Nitpicking always seems reach its heights in the fallout of the first game of a season, whether its the start of the preseason or the regular season.  There's already been some talk about some areas that need improvement, but there's one coaching decision that from Tuesday's game that left me scratching my head.  

Normally, it's hard to nitpick player rotations in the preseason since coaches are just trying to feel out players strengths and weaknesses, especially for Flip Saunders, since he's in his first season as coach.  At this point of the year, it's silly to get hung up about whether Player X should have gotten more minutes than Player Y.  However, handing out 3 DNP-CD's in a preseason game makes me raise my eyebrows.  Benching Paul Davis and Vincent Grier is understandable.  The only reason either one is with the team right now is to provide some extra bodies to use through training camp and the preseason.  Neither one has a guaranteed contract and they should be gone long before October 29th.  

What isn't understandable is why Mike James received no playing time on Tuesday, despite not having any injuries.  Sure, he might not end up receiving regular playing time once the season starts, but what's the point in cutting off his minutes already?  Even if he doesn't figure into the team's plans this season, he's still filling a roster spot and odds are, they're going to need to help out in some way or another this season.  We all know the team's history with injuries.  Odds are, the Wizards are going to need Mike James to play some spot minutes at some point this season.  Even if injuries don't beset the team, the team still need him to give his best in practice to provide competition for the other players on the team to stay at their best.

By not even giving him minutes against Memphis, Flip isn't giving Mike any incentive to continue to play hard in practice or keep preparing in case he's called upon later in the season.  Say all you want about keeping a professional attitude and all of that, it's not easy to go to work every day and stay motivated after you go and have a strong performance at camp, only to be rewarded with a warm seat on the bench.  A few minutes of playing time on Tuesday would've gone a long way to show that the coaching staff appreciated Mike's efforts and want him to keep up the good work, even if they don't envision him getting much playing time.  By not even giving him playing time in a game that has no bearing in the final standings, the coaching staff is essentially telling him that he's a lost cause before the season even begins.

Maybe Mike James is a lost cause and I'm just wasting my breath here.  Still, I can't help but think that giving Mike James a few minutes of playing would have gone a long way in keeping his spirits up and giving him a reason to keep giving his best effort.  Even if the team's only plans are to use him in a salary dump move or buy him out at some point in the season, keeping him happy and motivated only increases his trade value and gives the team a better return on their investment while he's still a part of the team.  By not giving him minutes because the team doesn't feel he's worth the time, the team dooms itself to self-fulfilling prophecy.