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SALT LAKE CITY — One of the best sports movies of all-time is "Rudy."
I'll never forget this exchange between Rudy and Coach Yonto:
*Coach Yonto:*"Ruettiger, come with me."Rudy:**"Yeah Coach."
Coach Yonto:: "You want on the team pretty bad."
Rudy:"You have no idea."
Coach Yonto:"Do you think you can give the same effort day in and day out for the next five months?"
Rudy:"Sir, I have no doubt."
Coach Yonto:"If you do lighten up, one hair, I'll throw your butt off this team so fast you won't know what hit you."
Rudy:"Wait a minute. To throw me off the team, that means I have to be on the team first right?"
Coach Yonto:: "Don't let me down kid."
Rudy:"Does that mean I'm on the team?"
Coach Yonto:: "Yeah kid, you're on the team."
I want to cry just transcribing the scene. It's a great story, and even those with stone hearts get a little choked up when Notre Dame crowd starts chanting his name.
Herein lies the problem with Rudy. Coach Yonto hit it on the head.
You have to give that same effort every single day. If you lighten up a hair, you have lost your usefulness to the team.
I present to you Riley Nelson.
I present to you Paul Millsap.
Both players possess hearts three times the size of other mere mortals. Their desire and determination are inspiring and heart-warming. Fans and teammates flock to them because of their ability to lead — Riley with his Tony Robbins charisma, and Paul with his quiet example.
When both players are 100 percent healthy, giving 100 percent effort. Through sheer determination and effort, they often lead their team to victory.
Therein lies the problem: The above equation requires 100 percent health and 100 percent effort.
Riley Nelson is listed at a very generous 6' and 200 pounds. Paul Millsap is listed at 6' 8", 253 pounds.
I've seen truer listings of Charles Barkley.
That's fine, but it doesn't change the fact that both players are undersized for their position.
Nelson and Millsap have made their career on grit, talent and intelligence. They have not made their career on prototypical size.
That is actually a good thing for both the Jazz and the Cougars. If Riley were 6'4" and 215lbs, he's not playing at Utah State out of high school; he's playing at Florida. If Paul Millsap was 6'10 and 270, he's not taken by the Jazz with the 47th pick in the NBA draft; he's taken ahead of Andrea Bargnani (No. 1 overall selection) in the 2006 NBA draft.
Neither player has the luxury of taking plays off or playing injured. (Writer's note: playing hurt is different than playing injured)
Neither player is talented enough to coast, nor do they possess the raw physical size or ability to play through injury. Seven-foot, 4-inch tall Mark Eaton could play on a bad back and knee and still dominate the paint.
That's not to say there isn't a place for Millsap and Nelson on your team. They are crucial cogs, and I'd love to fill a team with these guys, but you also have to understand when to pull back.
The Jazz and Cougars are faced with a similar dilemma.
Millsap's contract is up after this season. Do you throw huge money at him, knowing that his 27-year-old body has taken an NBA beating over the last 6 years? Or is Millsap entering his prime with All-Star games in his future?
Nelson owns the heart of Bronco Mendenhall and his teammates, but can he still win football games? He's clearly injured and has been epically ineffective in losses to Utah and Boise.
An assistant coach can have a favorite player. A fan can have a favorite player. A head coach does not have that luxury.
A head coach has to love the player that gives him the best chance at victory. Regardless of personal feelings and emotions, a head coach has to be able to rule his dictatorship and play the individual that gives his team the best chance at victory.
Can Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin bench Millsap in favor of Derrick Favors?
Can BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall bench Riley for Taysom Hill?
Those answers will be answered by the end of the month.