Nothing has been more vexing than UCLA Basketball fans than the Wear Twins. Tydides and I have struggled here at Bruins Nation on how to discuss them. Are they good hard working kids whose mistakes and limitations are the fault of Coach Howland? Are they scapegoats? Should they ever be allowed on the floor together or are they a pair of good running bigs? Are they ball-hogs like Nikola Dragovic who are Coach Howland's pets? Or are they McDonald All Americans who turned into good but not great college players?
Let's use the recent ISU game as a starting point for discussion. UCLA started the game terrible and only scored 11 points in the first 10 minutes. Everyone, me included, was screaming at UCLA at the start of that game and the Wears seemed to be the number one target of our fury. The Wear Twins took eight of the first 13 shots (62%) and committed four turnovers as a result UCLA was tied 11-11 with a bad ISU team. After that UCLA scored 75 in the last 30 minutes to blowout ISU during which time the Wears only took 16 of the 43 shots (37%).
Thus it was all the Wears fault!
Well of course it is not that simple.
1. Ben Howland's starting lineup was filled with non-shooters.
The Wears may have been black holes to start the game but it is not like their teammates were looking to shoot. Starting point guard Larry Drew is pass first, second, and third. He took one shot for the game and it was the second shot of the game.
Kyle Anderson is also a pass first guy. At one point he passed up a layup to pass to the Wears. Anderson shot 5 times for the game and was the first guy subbed out for Jordan Adams, who definitely likes to shoot.
Next is Norman Powell. Powell made one basket every 10 minutes last year, the lowest rate of anyone on the team to play more than 250 minutes. The main complaint about Powell is he is content to settle for a three pointer and is too passive.
To start the game, Howland started two pass first point guards, a guy who was tentative last year and two Wears. One can credibly argue the Wears had to shoot because no one else would. Yes, they forced things but no one else was looking to shoot.
2. The Wears are not equal
Yes they are identical twins. Yes they look alike but they are not the same on the basketball court. Look at the line at the end of the game, David Wear 5-13 and Travis Wear 6-11. That is the same for last season. David shot 48% and Travis 53%. More telling, David shot 38% in games were he shot 11 or more times last year. In other words when he forced too many shots in a game, he shot exactly the same percentage as the ISU game.
David seemed to be taking the worst shots. While David is the better defensive rebounder, he seems to be the one who is more likely to start taking bad long outside shots, especially when you consider that Travis is more comfortable close to the basket.
While they may be identical twins, Travis may be the better player and under no circumstances does UCLA want David Wear leading UCLA in shot attempts.
3. The Wears Kill Team Chemistry
Here is what I wrote after the first game last year, which had a similar start but a very different finish, a loss to LMU:
Some UCLA fans turn to blame Reeves Nelson any time effort comes into the equation, often for good reason. But to understand Reeves' problems in this game, I think you have to look at the Wears. Some will say the Wears carried us in the first half scoring 20 of our 33 points. Well the Wears also failed to do something else: pass the ball. Every time a Wear touched the ball you knew he was going to shoot. They took 16 of UCLA's first half shots and had 0 assists. If you look at the game comments in the first half, you will see a lot of comments saying "where's Reeves?" The fact of the matter is the Wears, Travis and David, were the top two options in the offense because when they got the ball they shot.
One can say the Wears kept us in the game but I think they destroyed UCLA's offensive identity. That first half Smith had one shot in six minutes compared to Travis' 8 shots in 9 minutes. Nelson had 4 in 16 minutes to David's 8 in 18. Admittedly David made some long jumpers, but I do not think it is good for the team to rely on David Wear's shooting from just inside the three point line.
. . .
But of course this is Reeves we are talking about so how did he deal with the fact the Wears were shooting the ball every time they touched it? He did what you do in the Say No League and other summer leagues; he dribbled the ball coast to coast and shot every time he got the ball. In the first half Reeves had two assists and no three point tries. In the second half he had no assists and three ugly looking three point attempts. Reeves' "solution" to the problem of the Wears not passing and Jones being very off was to shoot every time he could.
This is kind of eerie to me, at least when I read it. It sounds very similar. Of course, as Tydides likes to point out, the Wears did one good thing for UCLA at least, drove Reeves out. And of course, we know now that Reeves was at a minimum a problem child. But here are some more current thoughts to the Wears shooting too much this year v. last year to start the season:
- Team chemistry is better. The team did not panic tied 11-11 after almost 11 minutes against an inferior opponent but started playing better and blew them out.
- The team is more talented. Jordan Adams off the bench led UCLA in scoring. I am not sure the last time a true bench player led us in scoring. (By that I mean, I don't think Jordan will start many or even any games this year. )
- But Howland when are you going to start giving the Wears the hook when they shoot too much? This has to be a known problem to you.
4. My thoughts
It is all on Howalnd. Howland always says how hard the Wears work and how ‘coachable' they are. Great. That means they need to understand they should never be the first option in the offense now. They should pass first unless they have a good shot. If they do not understand that, they should not play.
Howland has to give them the chance to succeed. He needs to not treat them the same and he needs to never make them (especially David) the number one option in any offense on the floor. They are not true creators or even scorers. They are good face up bigs from 15 feet and Travis is a good running big.
Regardless, Howland it is up to you to make this work. The team to its credit did not melt down and has better chemistry. But that is not enough. The team has to win and I have serious doubts about that long term with the Wears shooting 20+ times a game as happen in the ISU game and last year in a loss against LMU.