The cloak-and-dagger of NBA starting lineups seldom has been more intense, and one example of that played out in Charlotte Sunday afternoon with the Milwaukee Bucks.
In what increasingly is becoming standard operating procedure around the league, Bucks coach Jason Kidd opted not to share his starting lineup with reporters during his pregame interview period about 90 minutes before tipoff. But word that he would be sitting point guard Michael Carter-Williams and forward Jabari Parker leaked out between then and required official announcement for lineups (one hour before tipoff) prior to Milwaukee’s road matinee against the Hornets. That turned, for a brief time, the process into a part of the story almost equal to the move itself.
Longtime Milwaukee beat writer Charles Gardner did a little forensic investigating to track the source of the info:
Not that long ago, it only occasionally happened that a coach might turn cagey when asked about his starting five. Almost all of them did it from time to time, a few of them did it frequently – think former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau – but now many of them do it almost as part of their pregame routine. Maybe technology has changed things, with the speed with which opponents can react – with streamed video breakdowns, for instance – turning those 30 minutes or so into a competitive edge.
Regardless, the meat of the move was Kidd changing up 40 percent of his starting lineup in response to the Bucks’ miserable recent play. Milwaukee had dropped five of six games and seven of nine heading into Charlotte, giving up more than 100 points seven times in those nine games. After riding an improved defense to a 26-victory improvement last spring (from 15-67 to 41-41) and a playoff berth, the Bucks rank 26th in effective field-goal percentage (.521), last in DRtg (113.0) and 29th in pace (92.7).
Carter-Williams, in his past seven performances, has averaged 3.6 turnovers to 3.7 assists and 9.1 points, while shooting 43.1 percent from the floor and 63.2 percent from the foul line. Jerryd Bayless, who started in MCW’s place Sunday, has been better both individually and in running the Bucks’ attack.
Parker, in his comeback from last December’s torn ACL injury, actually had perked up a little statistically: 10.3 points in 25.0 minutes while shooting 53.8 percent in his last eight appearances. The No. 2 draft pick from 2014 – whose starting spot was filled by O.J. Mayo – also was playing his way back on monitored minutes. That had some wondering if Kidd was providing Carter-Williams a little cover, rather than singling him out for a solo benching.
But it sounded as if Kidd’s decision involved more than just stats: