Thursday, April 16, 2009

Why Betty Failed

I can give three reasons why Betty Lennox never quite worked out. (This post was inspired by a comment Q made. Q is the author of Rethinking Basketball, one of the best blogs out there.)

1. Live by the sword, die by the sword. B-Money is the prototypical "shot creator" - if you look at her player styles spectrum, you'll find her in the "pure scorer" section. B-Money's goal is to make as many shots as she can.

As Rebecca of Game Notes of Doom pointed out to me, B-Money can't play defense. She wasn't pointing out her subjective opinion, but an objective truth. They didn't get rid of six-on-six basketball until 1995 in Oklahoma, which is where B-Money grew up. In six-on-six basketball, three players are permanently confined to the offensive part of the court, and the other three are confined to the defensive part - they can't cross the divider line. Betty Lennox, literally, never had to learn how to play defense growing up, and she doesn't play it well.

Atlanta was one of the worst defensive teams around. If we had looked for great defenders, or traded for them, or had strength in offensive rebounding, Betty's lack of defense might not have mattered so much. Since we didn't, it was one more hole to fill.

2. Old school vs. new school. Marynell Meadors turned 65 years old during the 2008 season, and there were a few players who weren't there long enough to see it. It's hard to say how Meadors manages a team - sportswriters never wrote about women's basketball in the 1980s during Meadors's peak years as a college coach - but I suspect that Meadors's ways aren't something that many players are used to.

I do know that Meadors didn't have much faith in what she saw on the court. It was de rigeur for the Dream to fall behind by 10 points and for Meadors to put on the brakes by calling a time-out almost like clockwork. The problem is that professional players can't be treated like college players and Lennox's coaches had a tough time with her even at Louisiana Tech.

Lennox will only be happy in a system where there's so much talent that Lennox can play "artist", a sort of independent loner who assesses the situation, demands the ball when conditions are near-perfect, and shoots. In a system where demands are going to be put on her, she buckles. Los Angeles will probably be a better fit because they have Parker and Leslie, and that gives Cooper the freedom to let Lennox roam around the backcourt freelance like a lioness in the jungle. Meadors wasn't having that.

3. The Milo Effect. Face it, Betty Lennox is a Milo. It's not just a label that's been applied to her unfairly. The articles I've read about Lennox give the impression that Lennox is two people. Off the court she's friendly and gregarious. On the court...she takes everything to heart and when things are going bad, you see Betty at her worst. Sullen. Uncommunicative. Angry.

She's unhappy when she can't play artist and get the ball when she wants it. She's unhappy when she's called on her lack of defense. She's unhappy when she just has an off night and isn't producing. She's unhappy, period.

Young teams simply can't have these kind of players and survive. A young team has to spend its energy in putting together a workable system and workable players. It can't waste what little power it has handholding people. A talented team like the Sparks can afford to console Betty, and furthermore, if Betty's not hitting Lisa, Candice and DeLisha will be hitting - this takes the pressure off Betty and Betty's issues can be dealt with as time allows.

In short, I suspect that B-Money will be a better fit with the Sparks than she ever was with the Dream. However, if the Sparks struggle without Candace Parker, they are going to find some basic truths about Betty hard to ignore, namely her one-dimensionality and her personality. Who knows, Marynell might end up looking like a genius.


Ethan said...

There is a quote in the book "Game On" from Dan Hughes regarding B-Money that sums up the "why she failed" thing. That was back in the days of the Cleveland Rockers (RIP) but explains everything today.

I don't have it handy but if nobody beats me to it when I get home tonight I'll pass it along.

Q said...

Thanks for the analysis man.

LA might be a good place for her...but I imagine Lisa Leslie won't stand for the terrible shot selection for too long...

triv said...

I disagree with the story. Betty didn't fail. Marynell told her to shoot. Perimeter defense is non-existent in the WNBA particular on guards. She didn't have Lauren Jackson to pass or for rebound.

Her game was more of Vinnie Johnson and Downtown Freddie Brown. More of a bench role that can put points quickly.