Mickael Pietrus has been the odd man out lately in the rotation. And he is not happy about it.
Brian Schmitz of The Orlando Sentinel reported in today’s issue that Mickael Pietrus was pulled from Wednesday’s game early in the fourth quarter after arguing with Stan Van Gundy about his — lack of — playing time.
Van Gundy has spent the majority of the season so far experimenting with lineups and trying to establish a rotation with a more natural power forward and Rashard Lewis at the three. That has meant someone on this incredibly deep roster was going to be left out of the fold. That someone, so far, has been Mickael Pietrus.
Pietrus averaged 22.5 minutes per game last year and 24.6 minutes per game in 2009 (his first season with the Magic). Pietrus has only played less than 20 minutes per game twice in his career, but through three games this year he has played a career-low 13.0 minutes per game. It is understandably frustrating for a guy who played a major role in two Eastern Conference Finals runs to be a little upset at being left out of the lineup.
A player told Schmitz that Pietrus would want to be traded if he does not receive more playing time. Although Pietrus said he would want to remain on a contender.
Everyone knew something like this was going to be a problem on this roster. Last year Brandon Bass complained when he was not receiving playing time as he was edged out by Ryan Anderson. This year, even, Anderson and Van Gundy had a long discussion about his playing time and his role on the team after Van Gundy started playing Bass more. Clearly, Van Gundy is still figuring out his rotation as Anderson started and played a critical role in Wednesday’s win.
You cannot really blame Van Gundy for electing to take minutes from Pietrus so far this season. Pietrus is shooting 5 for 17 (29.4 percent) and 3 for 8 from beyond the arc in his limited playing time so far this season. Pietrus has been nudged out of the lineup not only by his spotty play, but also by a nagging wrist injury. He was nursing it throughout the preseason and also had some ankle issues. Nothing serious, but enough to slow you down on a packed roster.
Pietrus will surely get his chance. But someone has to pay the price for having such a deep roster. Right now it is Pietrus. Tomorrow it could by Anderson or Bass. The next day, it could be Quentin Richardson. Van Gundy is still trying to figure out what to do with all these weapons he has. And even in the face of trade demands, Otis Smith is sure to preach patience and tell Pietrus, like he did JJ Redick a few years ae go, his time will come.
As long as he does not become a distraction in the locker room, or more players complain about playing time, and the team keeps winning, this will largely become a non-issue. Van Gundy knows Pietrus is dependable in the games that matter later in the season. That experience should help Pietrus find his way on to the court when he really wants to be there.