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Dan Majerle Was a Starter, Y'all

Paul Westphal to Sam Amick regarding Sean May starting over Spencer Hawes:

"A lot of times the most important players on the team, the guys that don't start, they might lead the team in minutes," [Westphal] said. "I had Dan Majerle one year (in Phoenix), and he led the team in minutes and never started a game. It's not who starts, it's who gets the minutes, who's effective and who finishes. That's the thing. I know people like to put extra importance on the starting lineup. But believe me, that's not as important as who gets the job done."

Westphal coached Majerle for three seasons in Phoenix. In the first year, 1992-93, Majerle did lead the team in total minutes (3,199) and minutes per game (39.0). But Majerle started all 82 games.

In 1993-94, Majerle led the Suns in minutes played (3,207) and minutes per game (40.1). But Majerle started 76 of 80 games.

In 1994-95, Majerle led the Suns in minutes player (3,091) and minutes per game (37.7). But Majerle did start 46 of 82 games. In the 46 starts, Majerle averaged 40 mpg. In the 36 bench appearances, Majerle averaged 34 mpg. Those 46 starts were enough to disqualify Majerle from sixth man of the year competition, and also to disqualify the statement "I had Dan Majerle one year, and he led the team in minutes and never started a game" from being true.

This is a very minor thing, and I'm not worked up about Hawes coming off the bench today or October 28. Westphal is accurate in his general sentiment: you can get plenty of minutes off the bench, and the late fourth quarter line-up is typically more indicative of team quality than the starting five. I agree on those counts. I have toyed with Kevin Martin off-the-bench before.

But that doesn't make Westphal's recollection any more accurate. Full-time bench players just don't lead their team in minutes. It's almost impossible, unless you have five really awful starters.

UPDATE: A smart man suggested to me Westphal might be referring to Majerle's 1991-92 season, when Westphal was still an assistant to Cotton Fitzsimmons. That season, Majerle started 15 of 82 games, made the All-Star team, and finished third on the Suns in minutes played and minutes per game (behind Jeff Hornacek and Kevin Johnson). While it still doesn't match Westphal's theory perfectly, it does bolster his assertion that you can be primarily a bench player and play tons of minutes.

That said, as I said, this is not a big deal, and I won't be outraged if Hawes doesn't start on October 28, assuming Westphal sees merit in bringing him off the bench. And while I acknowledge there's a snarky tone to the post, I don't feel I'm being unduly harsh by doing a double-take on a surprising quote, finding out the quoted assertion is incorrect, and writing about it.