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Ben Ball Gameday Roundup: Ill Communication In Howlandwood

<em>Lee found out about the starting lineup shakeup via the LA press (not Ben Howland or his coaching staff), Photo Credit: E. Corpuz</em>
Lee found out about the starting lineup shakeup via the LA press (not Ben Howland or his coaching staff), Photo Credit: E. Corpuz

Well by now everyone knows about Tyler Honeycutt starting tonight's game at Haas Pavilion.The move by Coach Ben Howland caught most of us by (pleasant) surprise and it gives us something to look forward to in what appears to be (at least to me) essentially a hopeless trip to Bay Area this basketball season. From basketball perspective the move should help us because Honeycutt brings more athleticism, defensive intensity and rebounding skills to the table, however, reading through the reports today, there seems to be another issue hovering around the background of this program. It's the issue of communication.

Right now I am not sure about the line of communication among Howland, his coaches and our players. In number of games I watched this season, it appeared that our players had completely tuned out Howland. They appeared to be the case against Arizona and I got the same sinking feeling watching the debacles against Mississippi State and against Portland and Long Beach State. I was wondering exactly the kind of communication Howland has his with his players on the team and now I am wondering it even more after reading the reports this am. Apparently UCLA players found out about the change in starting rotation via the Bruins beat writers (emphasis added throughout)

The news took Malcolm Lee by surprise, his mouth dropping open.

"For real?" he asked.

The UCLA sophomore, informed by reporters that he was shifting to point guard for tonight's game at California, needed a moment to recover.

"Wow," he said. "OK, let's get it going."

Coach Ben Howland announced changes to the Bruins' starting lineup -- apparently before telling players -- at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.

OC Register's Al Baldera reported that the news caught both Lee and Honeycutt "offguard":

Honeycutt and Lee were caught off-guard by the change, learning of it when the media asked them about it.

"This is all new to me," Lee said. "Are you all joking?"

When Lee was convinced that the news was true, he got more serious.

"OK, let's get it going," he said. "I'm comfortable with it. I like to have the ball in my hands. I'm ready.

"I'm going to look at it more like getting the team going because Jerime is not going to be on the court, at least to start the game."

Needless to say Anderson was stunned to hear about it after the news broke in the press conference:

As for his punishment, the sophomore heard about it moments before speaking with reporters and seemed taken aback.

"I've just got to take the consequences and move on, keep playing, I guess," he said, adding later: "I don't know . . . I really don't have any other comments about that situation right now."

I have to say this doesn't really make feel all that great about how Howland is interacting with his players. I don't believe it's a healthy move on his part to announce changes in his starting rotations before communicating directly to the players involved and explaining to them exactly why he was making such moves.

From what we have seen this season it certainly appears that the players often have just tuned out their head coach on the basketball court. I wonder how much of that has to do with the kind of communication that is taking place between Howland and his current group of players. It clearly seemed to be an issue during his interaction with Drew Gordon. For the first time we now have evidence of extremely poor communication between him and his players in public sphere which makes me wonder whether if this was an aberration or the norm in what goes on in the background. More after the jump.

For now Tyler Honecutt is going to try to make the best out of his opportunity:

"I have to keep working on footwork and try to stay low all the time, whether it's on-ball or off-ball," Honeycutt said. "I tend to, a lot of times (when) off the ball, to stand up. My last couple of games I've been working on that too. It's in the back of my head to stay low at all times."

TH's first starting assignment is going to be extremely difficult because he will be tasked with defending Cal's Theo Robertson. Robertson is slowly getting back in game shape after coming back from an injury. He is still going to be a formidable scoring threat tonight against the Bruins. Although, he hasn't had a huge scoring game following his return from the injury he is capable of exploding from the outside as he is currently shooting 47% from the three point line.

That leads to the question whether we will see any zone from the Bruins tonight. During last night's podcast discussion CBKWit from California Golden Blogs mentioned to Ryan and Patroclus how California did struggle a bit against teams showing zone during non conference season (pointing to losses against Syracuse and Ohio State). However, the caveat here is that those losses happened without Robertson in the lineup, who as mentioned above is a solid shooter from the outside and per Howland has "improved" this year in his "ability to drive."

I wonder if somehow Cal gets off to a cold start from the outside, UCLA will be throw in a little bit of zone to catch the Bears off-guard. FWIW, Howland after trying to justify not using zone against Arizona conceded that he should have used it more:

We're going to have to continue to use that zone - I should have used it more against Arizona. The main problem was we were so sped up offensively. Against a man-top-man defense, we took so many rushed, poor shots. Everybody was involved. With Nik and with Mike, they're all running at you because you're good shooters - you have to be able to fake."

Have to say these kinds of woulda-coulda-shoulda coachspeak is starting to get old real fast and kind of frustrating.

Anyway, I am not going to hold my breath over some kind of miraculous upset tonight. It is not going to happen. I am going to tune in though to watch whether our guys will play with credible effort and energy (not in spurts but for the entire 40 mins) and then tune in again on Saturday to see whether they can sustain that effort and translate into a victory against the Cardinal. If the Bruins continue to play listless, uninspiring basketball with no sense of urgency and passion, the issue of ill communication will become a bigger issue rest of this season.