A year ago, every trip down the court seemed to be painful for Texas A&M big man Joseph Jones. The look on his face looked like someone was driving railroad ties into this legs with every step. Sometimes you wondered how he made it through the game.
Most of his pain was probably the result of former A&M coach Billy Gillispie's endless conditioning program that began in the offseason with a two-week "boot camp" and never seemed to end.
But this year, Jones looks much more comfortable running down the court, which could help him land a gig in the NBA this time next year, or at least a spot on a European roster.
One of the biggest reasons for Jones' fresher legs is the fact that Turgeon, while still running an effective conditioning program, understands the value of rest for his players. He's strategically given them time off over the last two weeks and seems to have a plan of working them harder on some days while using other practice sessions as a shoot-around of sorts.
He's also used a lot more players than Gillispie, which means that everyone from Jones, to Dominique Kirk and Josh Carter, to Bryan Davis and DeAndre Jordan will be fresher when Big 12 play rolls around.
A year ago, Gillispie's team had five players average 27.3 minutes or more per game (Acie Law, Antanas Kavaliauskas, Carter, Jones and Kirk). Gillispie essentially used a seven-man rotation with an occasional player coming off the bench. But even the sixth and seventh players in the rotation only averaged 15 and 17 minutes per game. Any other players off the bench only played when games were well in hand or foul trouble forced Gillispie to extend his bench.
But this season, Turgeon has used an eight-man rotation, dispersing the minutes pretty evenly among the top seven. Donald Sloan, Derrick Roland, Davis, Carter, Jones, Jordan and Kirk are all averaging more than 20 minutes per game, but only Sloan and Kirk are averaging more than 27 minutes per game.
Chinemelu Elonu is averaging 10.4 minutes per game, B.J. Holmes is playing 8.6 minutes per game and Nathan Walkup has averaged 7.2 minutes per contest.
Jones is averaging five minutes less per game, which is one reason his numbers are lower so far this year, but it's also one reason why he moves so much better getting up and down the court.
It's been an effective plan for Turgeon, who was able to get guys some playing time while resting his top talent for Big 12 play. But now that conference play is approaching, Turgeon expects the minutes to increase for those seven primary players.
"In these five games before Big 12, I want to increase the minutes of these top seven guys to try to get ready for the Big 12," Turgeon said. "I've been gracious to a lot of guys who might not deserve minutes to give them a chance to play."
Turgeon uses rotation to keep players fresh
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