Parents, Grandparents, big brothers and big sisters and even regular baby sitters know what Matt Painter's going through right now...as a Dad of a 7 year old and a 3 year old, I can empathize.
I refer to my daughter on here as TBD (Tiny Boilerdowd)...she's kind of like her Dad- bullheaded, smart-alecky, and she poops her pants regularly. OK, on some things we're not exactly alike...she also has blonde curly hair; something I can only dream about at this point.
She's growing up way too quickly, on one hand- uses chapstick and says it's lipstick like her Mom's. She can sing a song after hearing it only once...and sings it over and over...even if she's only remembering 1/3 of it. She has theories on everything- most aren't right, all are pretty entertaining. And finally, she can put her snow boots on herself...and doesn't need your help, dammit.
She's smart and clever enough to try to trick people into doing things her way. And back to the diaper thing, she knows she's had an accident...right after it happened. We keep reminding her that her Mom, Dad, aunts and uncles, brother, grandparents and even some of her friends don't wear diapers anymore...but she's not getting the finite details- you gotta prepare before something bad happens in order to have success...you have to train, listen and change habits in order to make something second nature. But sadly for my budget, I'm still buying diapers...and things have clicked just yet.
The good news is there's been progress...signs that she might not be wearing diapers when she goes to her prom in 14 years. But in the meantime, I'm kinda stressed about this whole thing...something I never thought I'd be- worried about someone else's digestive activity.
Here's the deal, Purdue fans: Our Boilers haven't forgotten how to hit layups...and the guys who used to be able to bomb from distance (specifically AJohnson), haven't forgotten how to shoot. But like a toddler, nothing is coming easily for them right now. Everything takes too much thought, too much effort and too much work to be fluid.
We've all thought it...maybe even aloud- Why aren't these guys like the Baby Boilers back in '07?
Well, there are some key differences that we can look at- That team had three guys who shared the point guard duties, and did it very well. They didn't turn the ball over very often and two of them played hard and consistent on-ball defense. Grant and Kramer really weren't made to be point guards...but they brought the ball up the lion's share of the time because they knew their role...and Crump, off the bench, was a seasoned option...Purdue really has no one on the roster who's as comfortable running the point, in the college game, as any of the three of these guys were back in late '07.
But probably more-importantly than who's running the point, this team is learning NOW how to play with together.
I'm aware that Davis played in prep school with Simpson...but Simpson was struggling through injury and wasn't getting a ton of minutes at the beginning of the season. Now, of course, Simpson isn't playing at all...and hasn't been for a few games. I also know that Davis played AAU with Hammons...but, once again, Davis' minutes aren't even in the top-7 being played on the roster...so the on-court chemistry between these two is a non-sequiter.
Conversely, Moore, Hummel and Martin played AAU together...not for a summer...but for years, prior to coming to Purdue. It's probably not a coincidence that they clicked right away, and all three were starters nearly immediately. It's tough to remember, but JJ took time to develop...and Calasan averaged more minutes than he did during his first season at Purdue.
We've already said that this situation the program is currently growing through has to be laid at the feet of Painter due to recruiting misses and poor program fits. But, you could also say some of the blame could rest on the shoulders of the two guys who should be leading this team right now- Byrd and TJohn have been inconsistent...something the young guys, and the greater team, really can't afford to be around right now. But both 21 and 0 had the luxury the last few seasons of playing behind and with some of the legends of Purdue's program in the last 20 years (if not all time). A consensus All-American (JJ), and a pair of second-team all-Americans and perennial all-conference guys (Smooge, Hummel), a four-year starting point guard (LewJack) and the highest-percentage 3-point shooter in the program's history (Smith) might shoulder a bit of the load. That type of firepower allowed both Byrd and TJohn to be accessories...not focal points.
Now, they must be the guys as this crop of young players simply doesn't have the continuity or maturity, at least yet, to carry this team. We saw versus Illinois exactly what happens when The Leatherman and TJohn lead...the other guys can fall into their roles.
A few weeks ago, Purdue fans might have felt about their Boilers' season; how I feel about my daughter's quest to become potty-trained: a bit hopeless...at minimum discouraged.
The effort looked minimal, the results even worse...things seemed pretty bleak...improvement was tough to find.
But now, this team is showing signs of life- RonJohn had 7 assists and only 2 turnovers today...all while being guarded by one of the
most-handsy best defensive guards in the league...he also had more steals than the former B1G defensive player of the year. Hammons is clearly coming into his own...a bit quicker than I thought he would as he's demanding double teams from opposing defenses on nearly every possession. And Rapheal Davis seems to be earning more and more minutes, in important junctures, as he's proving to be one of the only guys on the team that can create scoring opportunities for himself consistently.
The kids in '07-'08 weren't normal- they came in and were difference-makers and grew up within a few games, it seemed. The kids in '12-'13 have taken a bit longer (regardless of the reason why), but make no mistake, they're developing...and even gelling a bit, as the competition gets better and the stakes become higher.
The problem is, this team has already dug itself a sizable hole. The good news is, there's a ton of basketball left to be played...regardless of what their record is, come March.
Just like parents need to learn to deal with frustrations as part of the process of child development, we as Purdue fans have no choice but watch the development for what it is: a process. And while it's far from ideal, in fact, this season has been pretty painful at times, I'm pretty sure this is all going to seem worthwhile this time next year and thereafter.
Don't wish this time away...you might miss something pretty great.