Monday, January 30, 2012

Wondering About Beaubois

I really enjoy the sports debates that require note-taking so you can remember your own personal feelings at points in time. In 2009, you felt this way, but in 2010, you changed your mind and went the other direction. Then, last year, you realized you were right back in 2009 and went wayward in 2010. Sorry about that. But, now in 2012, you wonder if you were right back in 2010, after you were wrong in 2009 and before you were wrong again in 2011.

It all makes perfect sense, right? That is why very few of us should ever consider ourselves candidates for GM jobs.

There aren't many debates that change this often, but when they happen, you quickly realize that there are just some teams and athletes that we don't know enough about. And neither do the experts in the business that should know way more than media types.

Such is the case with Rodrigue Beaubois. Now, almost 24 years old, we are still trying to get a handle on the athletic wonder from Guadeloupe. Just 6'2 and well under 190 pounds, he is simply a player that is too electric to ignore and too inexperienced to fully trust with the ball in his hands. And yet, as a follower of Mavericks basketball, he is a perfect example of wanting to be extremely careful with a developmental player so that you don't do all the hard work so that his next employer can reap the benefits.

He is going through another one of those stretches recently that make you wonder if the sky is the limit. Since Jan 19th, he has been filling in for various absences from Jason Kidd and Delonte West and has been thrown into the teeth of some pretty competitive contests. During that 6 game stretch, he is averaging 24 minutes per game, with 12.5 points and an assist-to-turnover ratio of over 3 to 1. Most importantly, he is looking like he knows his place so much more since last spring, when the Mavericks threw him into the fire to see if he was "ready" to play a key role and hopefully replace much of the scoring lost when Caron Butler blew out his knee.

During that stretch he was lost. Offensively he did not see the game well and the drop off from a Jason Kidd-decision to a Beaubois-decision was too much for anyone to stomach. Further, when he had the ball, he did not often understand the difference between a shot and a good shot. He would try to split double teams on the pick and roll - a cardinal sin in the NBA - and find his way back to the bench. Defensively, he could dazzle with his ability to get steals and block shots, but he would often get switches wrong and frustrate his coaches.

By April, Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki met with Coach Rick Carlisle and asked him to pull the plug on the Beaubois experiment for now so that the team could round into shape for the playoff run and reinsert DeShawn Stevenson into the proceedings. It worked like a charm and a parade was planned about 60 days later. Beaubois never played a second in the playoffs last year, and the project that had so much upside that he had scored 40 in a night would have to be put on ice. During the summer, it was revealed that the foot-injury late in the summer of 2010 had ultimately slowed him down the entire 2010-11 season, long after he was cleared as "healthy". Screws in a player's foot can do that to a speedster.

So, following that stretch, many followers on the team lamented the fact that his trade value had dropped to point where it barely existed. This, just 12 months after people around the organization claimed that every call they received had been from the rest of the league trying to pry the young prospect out of the Mavericks organization. On draft night 2009, it appeared the rest of the league didn't know he existed and then within a few months, they all wanted him? And now his trade value went from through the roof to through the floor and the kid was still just 2 seasons into his career.

Is it possible all of this knee-jerking has been this severe? Did he go from anonymous to untouchable to refuse in 18 months? And if he did, at what point should anyone be ready to call out his ultimate path? I am the first to admit that I have offered contradicting opinions of his game. At times, he seems fearless and ready for the big stage, pulling the veterans around him through a tough patch and making plays on each end of the court that save a game. Other nights, he looks like a player who hasn't been playing basketball very long, lacking instincts and simple decision making skills that only arrive upon playing the game for years and year.

In another life, it would have been incredibly fascinating what a few years of college basketball would have done for a player like Beaubois and his development. Short of that, one wonders if he had been snagged by a lottery team, where winning is not realistic or fully expected, if he would have developed these skills quite quickly playing 35 minutes a night in Milwaukee or Detroit.

But, again, last night, you saw that he is improving. Those days in the gym with Kidd, one of the great decision makers in history, have had an effect. He is on a team where winning is imperative and the time and patience to allow a kid to learn on the job is limited and heavily critiqued. But, seeing his difference-making plays on either end of the court make you fully appreciate what Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban see. They see a player who has youth and physical tools that cannot be easily acquired, and if they ever move him along in the NBA player exchange, they want to be certain that they aren't sending away a future star.

Because when they make that decision, unlike those of us who simply observe and critique, they will not be able to change their opinion in a few months when they realize they are wrong.

There is nothing linear about his development and his play. Up and down, down and up. Dick Vitale used to describe his type as "Dow Jonesers", the type who bounce around like the stock market. Frustrating for a week, phenomenal for another week.

But, this latest stretch allows one to squint and see the possible future of the Mavericks, once the backcourt pillars, Kidd and Terry leave massive vacancies. And that is something that could happen before Beaubois turns 25.

So, Regis, before I give my final answer, I would like to keep watching.

1 comment:

Doug said...

massive vacancies you don't even like Jason Kidd. What about all that talk about the Mavs last year telling people of Dallas not to support the franchise?