Want A Bold Move? Start Lucas

  • Opportunity presents itself in the face of adversity. Kansas will be without Joel Embiid for the final two games of the regular season. That we do know. But could we be without Embiid for the rest of the season? That we do not know.

    Time for a contingency plan. Planning requires consideration of how we can win a national title without Embiid. If we lose our second game of the tourney, or in the Elite Eight, no one will care if it’s done without Embiid. If we lose before the Final Four with Embiid, it will be a bitter disappointment. Without Embiid, our expectations are quite limited.

    One thing I can tell you, beyond any doubt, is that we will not win the national championship with Tarik Black starting alongside Perry Ellis. We certainly won’t win the title with Jamari Traylor in that same role.

    The national title is all that matters. Repeat that – it is all that matters. And our only chance for a national title, if Embiid is out, is to catch lightning in a bottle.

    Enter Landen Lucas.

    Lucas’ stats aren’t appreciably better than Black’s. In fact, per minute, their stats are pretty similar. But what are the chances that Black excels in the tournament? What are the chances that the senior suddenly becomes more than he’s ever been? With Traylor, we’ve seen the level of his performance this season. He’s an adequate sub. That’s it.

    What we’ve seen from Lucas, though, are flashes. The baby hook. The step back. Good footwork. The ability to get higher than others for a rebound. The soft touch. And the ability to be a bit of a rim protector. Lucas has shown all of us glimpses of a real player. He’s shown us a higher ceiling than Black or Traylor. It’s that ceiling that we are seeking – if only for an 11 game stretch.

    With that in mind, Self should start Lucas against Texas Tech and West Virginia. The idea is to see how Lucas performs in a 25-30 minute role. There is no doubt that Lucas could flame out. He could show that he isn’t ready for prime time. His performance could be disastrous. If he is a disaster, what have we lost?

    This calculated roll of the dice would be made on the hopes that the long shot comes in. It’s like betting $20 on a 50-1 long shot. Losing $20 is nothing. You’ve wasted $20 on bad Italian food. But that $1,000 pay-off is one you might remember. There’s virtually no risk. Because there is virtually no risk, and because the alternative will not render a pay-out (the national title), it also becomes the logical thing to do. Lucas is the only post player that is still a bit of a mystery. If Embiid is out, Lucas will have to play important minutes anyway. Why not start him? It’s a bold move. But titles are won because of bold moves.

    If, by some beautiful convergence of luck and preparation, Lucas excels, we are suddenly back in the discussion. It is quite easy to imagine Lucas elevating his play. I can see it now. CBS sends Seth Davis to Lawrence to interview Lucas the week before the Sweet 16. This after Lucas, taking the place of Embiid, has averaged 12 points and 9 rebounds in KU’s last seven games. Seth asks Lucas, “Landen, do you feel vindicated now? I mean, HighEliteMajor gave you little chance of ever being a starter and here you are, starting as a redshirt freshman for the Kansas Jayhawks in the NCAA tournament.”

    You have to dream it before you can live it.

    Sadly, without Embiid, we are an also ran. We would no longer be in the same breath with Florida, or Duke, or Syracuse, or Arizona. We’d be in the muddled middle. Lucas taking his level of play to a different level is the one event that would give us the chance to overcome the loss of Embiid. Is it likely? Probably not. But it’s possible. And we will never know if it’s possible unless Self provides the opportunity. This week presents that opportunity. Now is the time to be bold.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    I really like this for two reasons.

    First, Black is foul prone and so starting Lucas buys Black five minutes before Black starts collecting fouls.

    Second, I agree that though it is improbable, Lucas could surprise us and so why not turn these last few games and the Conference tourney into a laboratory to find out.

    I am probably more optimistic than you about what Black can do in place of Embiid, but there is no question that getting him fouled up the first five minutes is just about the worst thing that could be allowed to happen for the team.

    I think for diplomatic reasons, you start Black against the first game. If he picks up a lot of early fouls, you bring Lucas. If Lucas plays well, then you start him the second game in order to protect Black from early fouling.

    But perhaps more important than which of Black and Lucas starts, is to make sure that Traylorand Black keep playing together.

    Thus, if Black starts, I would seriously consider starting Traylor, too.

    I have watched Lucas and I think he might be someone that Perry Ellis could play off of much better than Ellis plays off of Embiid and Black. Lucas has a much stronger sense of where other players are on the floor and seems able to move in relation to their movements more than Embiid, or Black do.

    So: this last point of mine feeds back into your suggestion: start Lucas with Ellis. Bring Traylor and Black in relief.

    This would sustain the rotation system, so that when Embiid comes back, if he comes back, it will merely be a matter of plugging Embiid back in to Lucas’ spot in a still well-oiled rotation machine.

    It also occurs to me that Self could move in another direction. He could go small and stay small by playing Wiggins at the 4 and a committee of Perry, Traylor and Black at the 5. About the only B12 team this season that Self would have to go big and stay big against is Baylor.

    It will be interesting to see how Self plays it; that’s for sure.

  • While a great argument, I don’t see it happening since its Senior Night and Tarik is a Senior.

    Tradition will prevail and Tarik will start. Landon should get some good minutes, though.

  • @bskeet

    Not senior night, but the next game then, maybe? 🙂

  • @jaybate 1.0 Great idea-one I wanted to see vs ISU at home the first game without Joel after the hyper knee. I thought he should rest immediately & be a game time decision vs UT the next game. Didn’t happen then so likely won’t now, but his injuries are recurring & acontingency plan would’ve been easier to implement then instead of now. Oh well, what do we know for sure? We may be dumb as a bag of hammers. Even so, I still like the idea to see what we have in Lucas at home before we give him the trial by fire on the road.

  • @jaybate 1.0 True. Morgantown could be a place to experiment with a great many things…

  • @HighEliteMajor I’ve been a big fan of Lucas. Even Self said, “Lucas is a load.” But isn’t playing much. There must be a chemistry that Self doesn’t want to confuse at this point. He needs to play Lucas at some point.

  • HEM, I like the idea. Please call in to Bill Self’s show and plant this seed in his head. Otherwise, I’m sure Black will be starting.

  • On senior night, it will be Tar. Beyond that, who knows.

    I think senior night with Tar will be a good test for Tar. Can he come out inspired and without fouling?

    With JoJo out, this has created an opportunity for Tar and Landen to prove themselves. Much different situation than back in November.

    I like the idea of Tar for senior night… and he should step up and be a force. If he doesn’t, I like the idea of giving Landen the starting spot next.

    What we are looking for is one of these guys to step up in this tough time. It could be either of these guys, neither or both!

    There are areas of Landen’s game that are still soft, mostly because he hasn’t received enough floor time. But Landen has the best fundamentals of all our post players… without doubt!

    Jamari is excellent, and he is in his role as a spark player off the bench. It would be a huge error to start him. That would take him out of his role and he has been performing well in his role.

    But then… I don’t know… I don’t sit in at practices and have the knowledge our coaching staff has. There may be factors involved that none of us are aware of.

    I’m just glad we are resting JoJo… he shouldn’t have come back this early in the first place, and if we bring him back too early again, he will just continue to aggravate it and we are back to square one.

    I’d rest him until the NCAA tourney. It will be a good experience to make this team play without him. They rely way way way too much on JoJo now. We need this team to fight harder, and the way to do that is to keep JoJo out.

    This may end up being a blessing down the road. Mix it up and we create a big opportunity for players to be forced to come through.

    Imagine getting these guys to actually d-up without JoJo! Then JoJo returns for the big dance!

  • @drgnslayr

    Coach Self has said numerous times on his radio show and at press conferences that by tournament time he likes to have the team down to 7 and no more than 8 players taking the bulk of the minutes; although in all fairness, earlier this season he said the number might be higher this season because of all the available talent. He has always been this way and I just don’t see him changing now; the top 7-8 players we have seen in the last month (barring injuries) are the ones that will likely see the lion’s share of minutes.

    In this respect, he is no different than most other coaches; I have heard/read similar comments from a number of other top coaches as well.

  • I play the man who steps up in practice. The man who wants to get in there and be a team player and sacrifice himself for the betterment of the team.

    Be it Black who we know can muscle in the paint, bu can also get in foul trouble.

    Be it Traylor who has a high motor, but can he keep it going for 25 minutes?

    Be it Lucas who has the size and skills but does he have the repetitions to flow well with the other 4 guys on the court.

    Look they are all great players and ambassadors for KU and most likely all starting at other schools. Let’s just be happy we have three really strong guys to come in and back it up. Even Wesley could step in and be serviceable to give those guys a breather.

  • @JRyman Ok, did you actually say “Wesley could step in …” I checked to see if the sun was rising in the west. Or if any signs of the apocalypse were present. Please take that back. Or tell me you were kidding. Please.

    Remember, this is not about anything other than winning a national title. Who here really thinks that Tarik Black could step in as the starter for Embiid, and in a month, we’re cutting down the nets on April 7? Or Traylor? No way. Unfortunately, I’ve watched Florida, Syracuse, Arizona, Duke, Louisville, Michigan, Creighton, Villanova, Virginia, North Carolina, and some of our Big 12 friends (OSU, ISU, Texas), and even (gulp) Wichita St, just like everyone else. Without Embiid, would anyone here wager hard earned money on KU straight up against any of those folks? I’m not saying we can’t win, I’m saying we lose a distinct advantage.

    I’m not saying Lucas can do it. I sense that he has better upside than both Black and Traylor. Just a hunch. But I’m also saying that Lucas is the only one that we don’t have enough information on. He’s the only one that could play to a higher level.

    Ok, Self starts seniors on senior night. Fine. But I’d play Lucas 25 minutes. And I’d start him Saturday.

    With Embiid hurt, we are seeing our hopes of a national title go right down the drain. We know it. And I’m afraid, if Embiid is out, that reliance on Black and Traylor will caste our fate in stone.

    Sorry, but I look back on that knee injury at TCU and can’t help but thinking that the knee issue led to the back, and led to the predicament that we’re in now. Self’s choice to have Embiid play before the knee was healed compromised our entire season. Just because we had a tough stretch of Big 12 games. Yippee.

  • @HighEliteMajor Yes I did say Wesley could step in. Maybe its for a breather, maybe its for an energy spark? Who knows but he could play a few minutes if needed, if he couldn’t he wouldnt be on the team.

    I’m not saying he would win us a game, but he could keep it going for us for a few minutes.

  • @JRyman Oh, come on. You were saying he could win us a game. You want him to start, don’t you?

    No, no … I understand. A “breather.” Like at 10 seconds before the TV timeout. When we run a set play. Where Wesley goes and stands near half court. Self tells him to “just stay away from the ball.”

    Now, the “if he couldn’t he wouldn’t be on the team” thing – I’m not sure Tyler Self would agree. But I understand your point.

  • @HighEliteMajor Love this idea. I also like how you threw in the bit about your doubts about this guy. I remember the posts well: your position was that Self had collected a bunch of bigs in hopes that 1 of the 3 - Traylor, Lucas, & Mickelson - would pan out. So far I’d say he’s 2 for 2, with Mickelson still a mystery. I know you had once described Jamari Traylor as a “marginal” player in a program like Kansas. While I agree that he is no substitute for Embiid, I believe he has proved he belongs. And he’s only a sophomore. I see no reason why he couldn’t be every bit as good as say…Darnell Jackson by his senior year.

    I also agree 100% on Self’s handling of Embiid post-knee injury. Self has been steadfast in bringing up the opinions of doctors that say he can’t make it worse, that structurally he’s fine, etc. But pretty much everyone who saw the knee injury happen feared for the worst. It was obvious that he had came dangerously close to doing serious damage. The next few games bore out the inevitable conclusion that he was not right. So he sat for a game. We know Self is a toughness guy, but erring on the side of caution would have been the better option. That’s not even a hindsight observation. The sentiment to sit him was resounding throughout Jayhawk nation. But hey, at least we got some “Ten there, done that” t-shirts out of the deal, right?

  • @icthawkfan316 Right … good memory. My “1 of the 3” was Traylor, Lucas, and Peters though, at the time, I believe. I do think Traylor and Lucas have both panned out. So heck, 2 of 3 is terrific. To be honest, I cannot be more pleased with where both of them are at this stage. Their development certainly has caused me to rethink my perspective on the outside the top 100 guys and how they can impact our program, in particular. I fully expect Traylor to be as good as Jackson, as well. I’ve been most impressed with the progress he’s made on his offensive game. A very serviceable 3rd or 4th post guy.

  • @HighEliteMajor You’re right, it was Peters. Funny, I’d forgotten all about him. Everything about his situation was so weird.

    To your point about outside the top 100 guys, I think it works better for bigs than perimeter guys. I can’t fathom us ever accepting players outside the top 100 being in the perimeter rotation.

  • @icthawkfan316 Man, Milton Doyle’s brother is going to give you a piece of his mind with talk like that …

    @JRyman Much respect for Wesley. Jayhawk through and through.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    “Coach Self has said numerous times on his radio show and at press conferences that by tournament time he likes to have the team down to 7 and no more than 8 players taking the bulk of the minutes;”

    It still will be except Embiid is out for now and must be replaced. Do you think it realistic to only play Black and Traylor? Aren’t you forgetting something? Foul trouble?

    I will be completely surprised if Landen doesn’t get some minutes, starting on senior night. Plus… Jamari also subs in for Perry, too. It isn’t realistic to think we only have 3 guys covering our 2 interior spots. We’ve been in foul trouble all year in the post.

  • Well, I guess I’m not that bold. I think are chances are better with Black. Yes, he has problems staying on the floor. Yes, he has had games where he hasn’t done much. But he has also had games where he has been productive based on minutes played. More than just the Georgetown game. Again, we don’t see practice, but I would assume he is outplaying Lucas. You’re right…not impossible with Lucas. Maybe he will get some minutes (by necessity when Black gets into foul problems) and make you profoundly prophetic.

  • @drgnslayr

    If you read my post, I said “barring injuries” which in this case means adding one player to the mix. IMHO, by tournament time KU will have the current starting five with Embiid back, and the the players off the bench will be Black, Traylor, Mason and Frankamp/Green depending on the match-ups. This is a larger rotation that he likes. Now, I am not saying that other players will not see playing time, what I am saying is that the players I mentioned will get the great majority of it.

    I like Lucas a lot and I wish he would have had more playing time during the season as we all saw a lot of potential, He might play some the next two games while Embiid is out, but unfortunately I just don’t see him getting meaningful playing time once Embiid is back. Now, if Embidd does not come back…all bets are off.

  • @Hawk8086 Do you think we can win a national title with Black playing the primary minutes in the post, as Embiid has?

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    Good clarification… I agree!

  • @HighEliteMajor we won w/out Archie Marshall.

  • @Crimsonorblue22 Granted … we also had one of the top 5 college basketball players ever leading us to the promised land. I’ll try to be optimistic.

  • I hope Black or Lucas has a breakout game. They are due. We are due. We need someone to explode for a huge night at the right time and game.

  • @HighEliteMajor we did! My point was that they had the worst luck, everything went wrong! That’s why we call it March madness!

  • @HighEliteMajor

    The most we can say about Tarik is that he is consistently inconsistent. He has had very good games and others in which he got 3 or 4 quick fouls and disappeared.

    He reminds me a little (or a lot) of Jeff Graves. He took the place of the injured Wayne Simien and had arguably his best game as a Jayhawk with 16 points and 16 rebounds in 37 minutes in the finals against Syracuse, and at times, he kept KU in the game; unfortunately, we all know how that game ended. Maybe Tarik will have s similar game, although he has not played nearly as much as Graves had played towards the end of the season.

  • Well, of course none of us has the advantage of feeling the practice-time pulse of this squad and its variety of possible lineups as does the coaching staff. From “outside” positions we have seen advantages to the Tarik/Jamari combo, and most of us probably suspect that Tarik/Perry would not combine so effectively or efficiently in most games. Landon/Perry? Landon/Jamari? I hope that tonight we get a chance to see Landon on the floor for at least 20 minutes, perhaps in both combinations. Knowing Tarik’s propensity to foul, it stands to reason that Bill Self will usher Landon into the lineup as much as he can afford, esp. with JoJo’s future uncertain. Both from a practicetime standpoint and a medical analysis standpoint, Bill Self obviously knows much more than do we…and his “touch” is usually right on target. That said, I am very eager to see Landon Lucas on the floor for serious minutes w/o the threat of a short leash. His contributions just might be saving factors as this team plows forward.

  • Defense and limit turnovers. Neither of which we have been consistent with. We LOST at OSU because of defense and mainly due to turnovers, and Jojo played the majority of that game. “Down the stretch when Jojo was injured…” is almost academic, as with the 10extra turnovers + 2 missed dunks we left about 14-15 points on the floor with everything else being the same (same FG%, which was great, and same FT%).

    The lesson on this squad, and for this squad is that THIS team can get beat by ANYBODY if we do not play smart, tough, and defend like a Bill Self team.

    JOEL EMBIID played vs. Texas in Austin, and look what happenned. Again, the lesson is about Defense and Turnovers. Use the Texas game in Lawrence as the counterpoint of what this team can do, if we play all phases of the game: we benched the starters with 8min to go in the Texas rematch. Its like Night/Day, same opponent. Defense and turnover margin. Defense and turnover margin.

  • @ralster

    I would not go as far as saying that this team can get beat by “ANYBODY.” I would say that a good team has a good chance of beating KU if KU plays a sloppy game. All the KU loses have been to teams that were or still are in the top 25; in fact 4 of those were to teams that were or still are in the top 10.

  • @JayHawkFanToo Yes, perfectly put. I was overstating the point, simply because in the upcoming Tourney, an 8 or 9 seed could conceivably knock off a 1seed…(I promise not to bring that up in the presence of any of the 2011 Jayhawks). And, considering the TubbyTechies record, it did take a very lucky bounce after Embiid got stripped in the paint with 3sec left, for Wiggins to come up with it and put it up for a game-winning bucket (down in Lubbock). And there will be a bunch of nobodies/anybodies with better records than Texas Tech in the Big68Dance…

    Honestly, I just wish I had more faith in our D and our ability to quit having too many turnovers. Some of that is freshman, some isnt.

    Will be very interesting to see how we look in the BigXII tourney, with or without Embiid. Our guys DO have big game experience by this point…


  • @HighEliteMajor Agree with the LucasTest. Apparently the glimpses we saw, match an assessment given by Self after one of Lucas’ productive minutes several weeks ago: Self said BigLL has a few good, quick moves, including “that baby hook” as well as a “face up jumper”, but went on to say “we just havent had a chance to use him”.

    Regarding Black, you summed it up: at this point in his college career, can we really expect Black to play like he never has before? I’d like to see him be a 260-lb monster like Thomas Robinson (is that too much to ask?), but you see the trend with certain players-- sometimes they just dont have the “nasty”…they can be coaxed to play tough, but often cannot be consistent with that type of energy.

    Nice guy players: Black, Ellis, Withey, EJ, BStar, X.Henry.

    Borderline nice guys: (not quite aggressive enough): Wiggins, Rush, BMac, Reed, Naadir, Releford, Cole, Twins?

    Guys who have “it”: Chalmers, RussRob, Sherron, Tyshawn, Thomas Robinson, Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson, Wayne Selden, (Wiggins steadily joining this list), Mason, Jamari Traylor.

    In addition to testing LL, I’d like to see Self try to light a major, major fire under Black. At least play like Traylor, who is for all intents and purposes, playing like a mid-skilled MichSt-big. (The comparison would be Ellis, who is a pure finesse 4, more like a Roy recruit, can definitely score, but leaves you wanting some grunt work out of him…).

    Now if Black HAS that type of nasty-game, I would respect his deference to the team concept…but he should have figured out the SelfBall runs through its bigs…he should make the absolute most of the touches and post-feeds he will surely be receiving in the next 2 games. Keeping with his team-first sentiments, he could really motivate his teammates by showing us more nasty. After all, the monstadunk like BigBlake got one of the biggest bench reactions I have ever seen a KU bench do. Show Black tapes of TRob and also tapes of himself vs. G’town this December. He remains somewhat of an X-factor, because he too was totally new to Bill Self basketball, so by now, he could be in a position to shine…

  • @HighEliteMajor Probably not. But I think they are better than with Lucas…based on the fact that if Lucas were better in practice he would play more. I understand the premise of your post…we have nothing to lose by seeing what Lucas can do and who knows what he might do when given extended minutes. I just think the chance of that happening are very small…again I understand there is nothing to lose.

  • What a great game from Tarik last night. Although the referees did swallow their whistles on a lot of calls which kept him from getting at least two more fouls. I am not one to argue that Landon should start over Black. What I would ask is that we see more of the Black/Lucas pairing on the floor. WVU has many long, athletic bodies and those two are bigs that protect the rim well. Really liked seeing them on the floor together last night. Hope we get to see more of it while JoJo is resting. Really looking forward to seeing them in Morgantown!

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