Kalin Lucas's Legacy at Michigan State Is Secure

I thought I wasn't going to write an article today, but then this was published this morning.  Here's the opening paragraph: 

Unless there is a drastic change of events in Michigan State's (13-10, 5-6) season — a remarkable turnaround and respectable run in the NCAA Tournament — the legacy of senior point guard Kalin Lucas stands to be severely tarnished. 

We're talking about Big Ten Player of the year Kalin Lucas, right?  It's time to do a Fire Joe Morgan style breakdown of the most egregious errors in judgment.

PART ONE: STATISTICS OF DUBIOUS INTENT

Two years ago, Lucas looked to be just getting started. He's knocked down memorable shots in March, owned his in-state rival Michigan and had many observers wondering if he was on the verge of becoming one of the Spartans' greatest point guards of all-time.

He ranked 17th in career points when the season started, he now ranks 7th, and needs 69 points to get past Sam Vincent for sixth place.  He ranked in the top ten in assists when the season started.   Why were observers wondering if he was only "on the verge" of being one of the greatest Spartan point guards of all time?

That has all changed this season, and Lucas' past accolades seem like distant memories. He is leading a substandard team in his final season — despite a career-high 15.8 points per game and five 25-plus point outings — labeling him an underachiever. 

He's having his best scoring season ever, BUT HE'S UNDERACHIEVING BECAUSE THE TEAM IS SUBSTANDARD.

Lucas is scoring, but he's not leading or facilitating the offense as player of his caliber is expected. He's averaging a career-low 3.5 assists and 1.24 assist-to-turnover ratio — gauges of an effective point guard.

First off, 80 assists divided by 56 turnovers = 1.43 assist-to-turnover ratio. Still not great, but only 0.2 lower than what is was last year.  Also, it's not like recovering from an Achilles injury affected these numbers at all.

PART TWO: WHERE TIME IS RELATIVE

To compound the matter, the senior scored just eight points and committed six turnovers in a pivotal 72-58 loss to Syracuse — a loss in which the Spartans were beaten at their own game by being physically outplayed and outrebounded. 

He also hadn't practiced in the week prior that game due to the Achilles acting up. A below-par peformance, but one that's understandable.


"It's gut check time for us," said Izzo after the defeat. "I'm as disappointed in that performance as I've been in any since I've been at Michigan State."


Izzo later added: "Our best players have to play better."

And by later, Biggers means two weeks later, after the Texas loss.  Here's the full quote:

"I think our best players have to play better," MSU coach Tom Izzo said. "Delvon's got to hit layups. Draymond still did some good things but he didn't shoot as well and wasn't in the flow of the game. And Durrell's got to play better; he's a great player and great players have got to play great."

Lucas had 17 points and five rebounds against the Longhorns.  Using the Izzo quote but not stating when it was given is borderline libelous, in my opinion.  I repeat - Biggers used a quote Izzo gave after the Syracuse game then put a quote from the Texas game next to it, saying that the quote came "later".  How this time difference isn't mentioned is beyond me.

7:07 PM - EDIT: Maybe Biggers could have meant this quote from a December 11th Grand Rapids Press article: 

Kalin, he's just such a different player when he's going 100 miles per hour,” Izzo said. “Hey, our big three did not play good in those two games. I don't care if you're in the NBA, or high school, or college, your best players have to play well. You always start looking at other guys because you know you're going to go with your best players. I think that's part of it.”

But that's still a different quote, and implies that Izzo knows that Kalin isn't 100% yet.  Plus, when you quote someone, it's supposed to be 100% accurate, not capturing the jist of what someone said.

Michigan State has posted a 1-6 record against top-25 teams and has limped to its worst conference start (5-6) — which includes Lucas' first home loss to Michigan — during the Izzo era. Sophomore teammate Derrick Nix looked to seniors for answers. 

Instead of answering the call and taking accountability, Lucas dismissed Nix by calling him "immature." A senior in Lucas' position — one who is trying to rally his team and cement his place among team greats should be an example of leadership, not one to make excuses.

No issue with how the quotes came here, but is Lucas wrong?  Nix missed time at Maui due to personal issues, and for better (showing up at the rally to keep Izzo) and worse (missing Maui) is an emotional guy.  I don't think Lucas handled this situation in the best way, but it doesn't make him any less right.

Nix replied, and said his comment was meant to incite change, not embarrass the seniors. The way Lucas handled the the ordeal made him appear less a general, more a private.

"How can the seniors say anything to me if they're not doing what they're supposed to do?" Nix said. "I mean, I'm not trying to throw them under the bus, because they're close friends. But we're losing and it don't look good for us right now."

Since I'm being nitpicky, the quotes given here were Nix's initial response and not his response to Lucas.  That mistake isn't as indispensable as the Syracuse/Texas misattribution above, but still should have been explained.

PART THREE - THE COMMENTS SECTION HOLDS THE KEY

So why, why, why focus on Lucas when he's consistently been one of the top two players on the team this season?

I focused on Lucas because he's the point guard -- the quarterback of the offense -- but you're right, Durrell Summers has failed to play up to par this season, too.

Then focus on Summers.  Blaming Lucas because "he's the point guard and point guards are supposed to lead" is an antiquated way of thinking, and placing way too much fault on someone whose recovery has been one of the few bright spots on the team this season.  Here's the comment from Biggers that really irks me:

I agree that Kalin has had a marvelous career, but can you really say that this year hasn't put a blemish on his tenure? That's all I'm saying. 

"Hasn't put a blemish on his tenure" is miles away from "legacy is severely tarnished".  Either Biggers doesn't grasp the semantic difference between the two statements or wrote the article to rile others up.  The former sin is bad, the latter is trolling in article form and there's Jay Mariotti in the corner nodding approvingly.

Keep in mind that this article was posted on the front page of MLive.com this morning.  Personally I'm a little stunned at the lack of fact checking that was done in the article, as well as how loose and fast the quotes were used.   This doesn't make MLive look good in my opinion; however, that's not to say MLive is bereft of good reporters.  I'm surprised an article of this poor a quality made it through one of Michigan's largest (I hesitate to say premier) news websites, hopefully they can improve in the future.

My final point is this - this year won't be remembered fondly in Spartan Basketball history.  However, Lucas won the Big Ten Player of the Year award.  He led (and yes, I do mean "led" - leadership on the court is still leadership) the Spartans to two Big Ten Regular Season titles and two Final Fours.  He's one of MSU's all time leading scorers. He has over 500 career assists.  The only other player in MSU history to have more than 1,750 points and 500 assists is Scott Skiles.  All those numbers, titles, and accomplishments mean one thing - he's one of the best to ever play at MSU, and should have his jersey retired after he kisses the "S" halfcourt.

Thanks to @ChrisVannini for the catch on the "S".

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