"It's Irrelevant to Me Who Starts" at SG, Says Pacers Coach Jim O'Brien

First of all … “Irrelevant” is clearly Jimmy’s favorite word. (Scroll a little more than half-way down in this piece for O’Brien’s prior infamous usage, describing Josh McRoberts’ career-high 15-point game vs. the Lakers last year as “irrelevant” and angering many a fan.)

Second of all … Jimmy doesn’t really care whether Brandon Rush or Mike Dunleavy, Jr. is the team’s starter next to Darren Collison in the back court.

“It’s irrelevant to me who starts,” O’Brien said. “It doesn’t matter to me at all because I don’t think it’s important.”

O’Brien started Rush during the three games because he wanted him to guard Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, Deron Williams of Utah and Jason Richardson of Phoenix.

The Pacers are 3-2 with Rush starting.

At least publicly, Brandon doesn’t care either.

“Honestly, it really doesn’t matter,” Rush said. “I know I’m going to get minutes every game. So it’s not an issue to me.”

Of course, in reality everyone cares about this stuff — pretty dearly in most cases.

I was up in Maine (where I was born and raised before moving to New York) for a friend’s wedding not too long ago, and me and two buddies dug up an old game tape from our high school hoops “glory days.” It was my junior year, and I was the team’s sixth man. Technically anyway. But, see, the coach would look over at me at tell me to check in after about three or four minutes. Every single game. I played significantly more minutes than the senior co-captain who was ostensibly our starting small forward and usually was on the court at the end of the game. I mean, I wasn’t amazing or anything, and I’m not going to sit here and tell you about the time I scored 4 touchdowns for Polk High. (I did hit 7 treys once though … whoops, sorry.) But he was just a decent athlete who happened to play basketball. He was a really great guy, the school’s starting QB and an upstanding citizen for the locker room and practice. But he was never better than me at basketball.

And it very much angered me to see him on the court during the tip. And let’s remember that I’m talking about anger coming from the 29-year-old me who was recently watching a game from 13 years ago.

It’s overwhelmingly possibly that neither Brandon Rush nor Mike Dunleavy (who is in a contract year) is as petty as me, and I certainly hope that their egos don’t require the same continual reaffirmations of grandeur that my horrible, diseased brain does. But just like the 17-year-old Jared Wade considered it really lame that he couldn’t tell chicks he was a varsity starter as a junior when he was clearly at least the fifth best player on the team, you have to imagine that Brandon would like to be able to tell people he is an NBA starter. Similarly, I imagine that at least Dunleavy’s agent is not looking forward to sitting across the negotiating table from NBA GMs next summer and saying, “no, my client was not good enough to be a full-time starter for the Indiana Pacers.”

Getting back to the real point of this all, I agree with O’Brien’s assessment. The team has not played materially better or worse with either guy starting really. The two guys we’re talking about are very, very different basketball players with totally different skill sets, so the team does play somewhat differently depending who is on the floor, but it would be difficult to honestly claim that either lineup incarnation is significantly better.

What it ultimately comes down to is that neither guy has played consistently well enough to deserve the “starter” designation. Hopefully, one of them goes out there and takes it.

Until then, get used to seeing a lineup based on match-ups.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5h5Qd-sDmg&fs=1&hl=en_US]

This Starter commercial with DJ Jazzy Jeff was so ill.

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Tags: Brandon Rush DJ Jazzy Jeff Jim O'Brien Mike Dunleavy Jr

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