They watch and wait because it’s their jobs; very lucrative jobs, but jobs that can test an athlete’s patience and focus.
Jeff Adrien and Anthony Tolliver live at the far end of the Charlotte Bobcats’ bench. They have no idea when, or even if, they will play in any given game.
Early in the third quarter Saturday in New Orleans, coach Steve Clifford grew frustrated with his starters’ performance. They had just committed a shot-clock violation and a 5-second inbounds violation. So Clifford subbed out all five starters simultaneously, inserting among others Adrien and Tolliver.
Bad as that 19-point loss was, Adrien and Tolliver performed well. Adrien finished with 13 rebounds and eight points. Tolliver added six points and five rebounds.
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That game reinforced Clifford’s confidence that these weren’t just the players, but the personalities, he wants on his bench.
“It’s critical,” Clifford said at practice Monday, preparing for Tuesday’s road game against the New York Knicks. “That was a big part of the offseason, why I think we’re a better team: Tolliver, (point guard Jannero) Pargo and Jeff Adrien. You need to have professional guys who know how to keep themselves ready when they’re not getting big minutes. That’s not easy to do.”
Center Al Jefferson’s ankle injury – he’ll sit out the Knicks game as well – has pushed Adrien and Tolliver closer to the every-game rotation. At 6-7, Adrien is far from a prototype center, but with Brendan Haywood also injured, Adrien is backing up Bismack Biyombo in the middle. Tolliver can play small forward or power forward.
One of the things Clifford likes about Adrien is he sticks to what he does well. Clifford is big on players having realistic understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.
“Coming into the season, coach has told everybody their roles – what they’re good at and not good at,” Adrien said. “I already knew that, but hearing it and hearing it is good for me.”
So what is Adrien’s profile?
“His toughness, his live body and his natural physicality,” Clifford said.
Adrien and Tolliver have both played for different NBA franchises in minor roles. They’re used to what’s expected.
“Before and after practice, before and after games, do the extra work,” Tolliver said. “When we do game plans, I need to be locked in at multiple positions, just in case he sticks me in at the 3 or the 4. I have to stay mentally prepared. I’ll always be physically prepared.
“It’s not something everybody can do. I take pride in the fact that no matter what the situation, I’m ready. Whether I’m playing two minutes or 20 minutes, I feel like I can impact the game.”
Added Adrien, “You have to stay ready. I always do my pre-game routine like I’m going to play. You never know.”