By Arron MacDonald
Coach MacDonald focuses in on one of his all-time favourite players...
My first two "In Focus" pieces zoomed-in on undoubted first ballot hall-of-famers in KG and Tim Duncan - in my opinion two of the finest power forwards to ever grace the game.
So it might surprise some people that the next player that sprung to mind for me was someone who averaged double-digit points per game just once in his career. In fact, for some of the younger readers out there, they may not even know who the man known as "Casa" is...
Eddie House was (perhaps generously) listed at 6'1", stocky built, rocking a headband, tattoos and baggy shorts, and was a streaky scorer - fluctating between being "Mr Irrational Confidence" and a walking bucket (as could be seen as he is one of only twenty-one players to-date to have scored 60 or more points in an NCAA Division 1 game).
He had a habit of shooting first, second and third - and asking questions only when absolutely necessary. Whilst I won't pretend I ever played at anything close to that level, there were times I'm sure that my team-mates may have thought my game carried somewhat of a resemblence to Mr House's...
Full disclaimer - I do own an Eddie House autographed picture. I did post angry things on social media when Danny Ainge traded Eddie away for Nate Robinson, and I did get a very strange look in the NBA store when I asked their staff to look out back for an authentic Celtics Eddie House jersey (they were, to my amazement - not theirs - "out of stock").
And that's why it's easy for me to zoom in on him - because of my familiarity with him, and because (despite his flaws as a player) I think Eddie House is a superb role player and role model for all basketball players...
Do What You Do Well, Often:
The NBA in 2019 is far removed from the league at the turn of the century - when seven footers who couldn't post up weren't considered "unicorns" as much as "soft" or even "a bust".
Talent evaluators were similarly size-ist (or at the very least "traditional") in looking at smaller guards... while Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury (amongst others) had turned the point guard position into a shoot-first role, the ability to handle a ball and create for others remained a pre-requisite for the position. When looking at shooting guards, shooting ability was considered a must, but the assumption remained that Michael Jordan was the prototype, and that everybody needed a 6'6", 200lb hyper-athletic wing.
House was neither a creator, nor 6'6".
House's handles were (at best) adequate - but he was absolutely not a "traditional" point guard (despite being frequently listed as one), even if he did average 3.3 assists per game in college, his 1.1 apg career average in the league seems to support my assertions, as does him being voted the worst ball-handling guard in the league in a player poll during his prime!
Eddie House simply did not allow what he could not do take away from what he could do at a high level. House was a scorer and a superb long-range shooter - so he hung his hat on those skills, a career 39% three-point shooter and 85% free-throw shooter, he was constantly called-upon in clutch moments by his team to be on the floor - even if he didn't always get the last shot, that he was one of the players so frequently trusted by his coaches and team-mates speaks volumes... Believe in yourself!
Know Your Role:
Despite being a second round pick without a guaranteed rookie contract, Eddie House played in the league for eleven seasons, earning PT in 717 games - he started just 31 of them (good for about 4% of his career). However, he averaged over seventeen minutes per game - the equivalent of over one-third of the available playing time for an NBA player.
It wasn't always like this... Eddie House was once the key player for the Arizona State Sundevils. He started 114 of his 124 games (92% start rate) and played almost 34 minutes per game through his career (84% of available playing time).
Coach Belichick of the New England Patriots is famous for telling his players to "Do Your Job". Some players have the job where they take twenty shots a night, and make $20 million a season. Others get DNP-CD's and earn league minimum. While it's clear that we'd all prefer one job to the other, the allocation of the "superstar" role tends to be based primarily on merit and ability - rather than personal preference.
House quickly understood that in order to stay in the league you had to earn your time, know your role and maximise your impact in it, so he made a career being one of the hardest workers in training, supporting his team-mates loudly, talking trash and waiting for his number to get called...
Be Prepared, Stay Ready:
Having been signed as a key bench contributor for the Celtics in the summer of 2008, some were surprised when House lost his spot in the rotation to Sam Cassell going into the playoffs, as the side searched for a more experienced, traditional point guard to back up Rajon Rondo.
Despite not earning regular minutes for several weeks, down twenty-four points in the first half of game four of the NBA Finals against the LA Lakers, the Celtics turned to House - along with other key bench players - and were rewarded as House's hustle (and two three's) keyed a 21-3 run that turned into the biggest comeback win in finals history, and gave the C's a 3-1 lead en route to their seventeenth title.
The lesson? It's better to be prepared in case you're needed, than to be needed and not prepared.
That Casa stayed ready is a massive reason as to why he has a championship ring, and was beloved by fans and team-mates in Boston.
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