Basketball, like most sports, has a strong element of machismo. The winners are considered alpha dogs and any single bad play can give a player a stigma as goat or a loser for a lifetime. Lakers’ 32-year old rookie point guard Marcelo Huertas had a stigma moment the other day against the Heat. Huertas’ stat line wasn’t terrible. In 15 minutes, he shot 1 for 3, with two rebounds, four assists, (but three turnovers) and scored a +8 in a game where the Lakers lost 13.
Of course, sports fans remember moments and Huertas had a few bad ones in the game:
-In the second quarter, with the shot clock running down, Huertas’ jumper is blocked by Tyler Johnson. Huertas recovers the ball falling backwards and then flips the ball backwards for an awkward and really weak air ball.
-In the fourth quarter, Johnson crossovers Huertas badly leaving Huertas lurching to the left while Johnson speeds to the hole and scores a traditional three-point play.
-Minutes later, Huertas initiates the offense at the top of the key and passes a perfectly respectable pass to Lou Williams. Williams attempts to face up and is stripped, giving the Heat a three-on-one, with only Huertas between Miami and the hoop. Josh McRoberts, with a full head of steam, dunks on Huertas who, wisely, decides not to contest/foul a player a foot taller and who is already in the air.
The end result of all these plays is that Huertas became a punchline on the internet yesterday. The plays were memorable and not great moments for Huertas but let’s pause and consider the plays a little. Huertas’ first shot with the clock running down was not a good attempt and the second backwards toss was really all he could do once the ball came back to him. As for the crossover, this happens to many players, including Michael Jordan. Finally, on the dunk, going back to help on a fast break is what Huertas was supposed to do, even if it was a hopeless/thankless task. On the flip side, Huertas’ plus/minus indicated the Lakers actually played better with him on the court. Yes, this is a small sample size (this was by far his best plus/minus of the season and he is +0 in aggregate for the season), but the stats and the narrative diverge significantly for Huertas in the game.
For the season, Huertas does not look like a good player. He can’t create his own shot or get to the line at all, but his assist numbers are pretty impressive (if not much else). Perhaps with a little more adjustment time, he can be a Pablo Prigioni-like decent vet. Of course, the larger issue to consider is why the Lakers, a team that was likely going to be bad, would waste time with a 32-year old rookie who won’t help when the team is ever good again, when they should be developing young players. Well, at least he’s younger than Kobe…