“What is my motivation?” — The Tyrone Corbin Edition
Al Jefferson. Paul Millsap. Raja Bell. Josh Howard. Randy Foye.
What do these guys have in common?
The number one answer would probably be that each of these players got to where they are through hard work and determination, rather than natural, God-given athletic ability.
In terms of the Jazz, the number one thing they probably have in common is that they were/have been shown favor by Tyrone Corbin over inexperienced, younger guys who arguably do possess natural, God-given athletic ability.
As a coach who was a former journeyman player, you have to wonder how Corbin’s experiences as a player are influencing his coaching decisions today.
On Nov. 15 last year, Matt Harpring was a guest on 1280. During that segment, the host of the show related the following:
PK talked to Ty Corbin, and Ty was talking about how during his career, it bugged him that every time he went to camp, it seemed like every year there was always some new hotshot, who hadn’t proven anything, who was in front of him in the pecking order.
And now, Ty plays veterans over young guys. I don’t think that’s an accident. That’s his story, that’s who he is.
Three days ago when C.J. Miles returned to Salt Lake City for the first time since leaving the Jazz, Corbin was talking about revenge games and said, “I always wanted to stay where I was, just because I wanted to be a part of that franchise. And then trade happened because the trade happened.”
Trades happened, as did getting waived or being left unprotected in expansion drafts.
Below is a more detailed look at his playing career.
1985-1986 – San Antonio Spurs
Age: 23 (1st year)
Games Played / Started: 16 / 0
Minutes Per Game: 10.9
Teammates: Wes Matthews Sr.
** Did not play in the Spurs’ first 9 games; got time in 11 of 13 games between Nov. 14 and Dec. 8 due to F-C Dave Greenwood being out
** Did not see court again until last game in March; played in 5 of last 6 games of the season due to starting F-C Steve Johnson’s injury
** The Spurs won their last 2, but lost 5 straight before that; most of Corbin’s minutes came in double-digit losses
1986-1987 – San Antonio Spurs / Cleveland Cavaliers
Age: 24 (2nd year)
Spurs Games Played / Started: 31 / 15
Minutes Per Game: 23.6
Teammates: Larry Krystkowiak
** Played in 31 of the Spurs’ first 37 games; started 15 of 19 games while Spurs’ starting F Mike Mitchell was recovering from arthroscopic surgery
** Went from playing 31 MPG while Mitchell was out to 12 MPG once Mitchell returned
** After Mitchell returned to the starting lineup (12/30), Corbin played in just 3 of the next 10 games (40 minutes total)
1/21/87 Corbin is waived by San Antonio*
1/24/87 Corbin signs with the Cleveland Cavaliers
* Message from Spurs and David Robinson fan C: “I would like to thank Tyrone Corbin for contributing to the Spurs’ dismal record (11-29 when he was waived), which allowed them to get the No. 1 pick in the 1987 NBA Draft, which ended up being The Admiral.”
Cavaliers Games Played / Started: 32 / 0
Minutes Per Game: 13.7
** 13.7 MPG in 32 of 41 games; no starts
1987-1988 – Cleveland Cavaliers / Phoenix Suns
Age: 25 (3rd year)
Cavs Games Played / Started: 54 / 4
Minutes Per Game: 21.3
** Played in 54 of first 54 games; got 4 random starts
** MPG went down every month from Nov. (26.5) to Jan. (16.8)
2/25/88 Corbin is traded by Cleveland with Kevin Johnson, Mark West and 3 draft picks to the Phoenix Suns for Larry Nance, Mike Sanders,* and a draft pick
* Yes, that Mike Sanders.
Irrelevant side note: Mike Sanders and Jeff Hornacek were teammates in Phoenix.
Suns Games Played / Started: 30 / 1
Minutes Per Game: 19.7
Teammates: Jeff Hornacek, Jay Humphries
** Played in 30 of 30 games; got one start in the one game Eddie Johnson did not start after 2/9
1988-1989 – Phoenix Suns
Age: 26 (4th year)
Games Played / Started: 77 / 30
Minutes Per Game: 21.5
Teammates: Jeff Hornacek, Tom Chambers
** Started 3 of 4 games in Dec. – Jan. when starting SG Jeff Hornacek was injured with a sprained ankle
** Started 27 of the Suns’ last 32 games (Feb. 21 – Apr. 22) first due to rotation adjustments stemming from Eddie Johnson’s bruised calf, and then as starting F-C Armen Gilliam dealt with a strained groin
** Despite starting for the last two months of the season and starting all 12 of the Suns’ Playoff games, Corbin was left unprotected in the 1989 expansion draft. Relatedly or unrelatedly, rookie Dan Majerle was emerging after averaging 25.1 MPG in his first season
6/15/89 Corbin is taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the expansion draft
1989-1990 – Minnesota Timberwolves
Age: 27 (5th year)
Games Played / Started: 82 / 80
Minutes Per Game: 36.7
Teammates: Sidney Lowe
** Started 80 of 82 games, including 81 of last 82 games
** Played second most minutes on the team
1990-1991 – Minnesota Timberwolves
Age: 28 (6th year)
Games Played / Started: 82 / 82
Minutes Per Game: 39.0
Teammates: Felton Spencer
** Started all 82 games; played most minutes on the team
** Averaged 40 MPG until April. With the Timberwolves way out of the Playoff hunt, minutes of all starters went down in April
** The only players whose minutes went up significantly in April were 3rd-year C-F Tod Murphy and 2nd-year G-F Doug West
** West went from starting one game in ’90-’91 to 72 in ’91-’92; was Timberwolves starter for 5 of next 7 seasons
1991-1992 – Minnesota Timberwolves / Utah Jazz
Age: 29 (7th year)
Timberwolves Games Played / Started: 11 / 8
Minutes Per Game: 31.3
Teammates: Felton Spencer
** Corbin was replaced in the starting lineup by 3rd-year G-F Doug West 8 games into the season
** After being demoted, Corbin came off the bench for three games (11/20, 11/21, 11/23)
11/25/91: Corbin is traded by Minnesota to the Utah Jazz for Thurl Bailey and a draft pick
Jazz Games Played / Started: 69 / 1
Minutes Per Game: 27
Teammates: Stockton, Malone, etc.
** Played in 69 games; started 1
** The one start was for starting SG Jeff Malone (and incidentally was the game after the famous 3OT win over the Bulls), who missed his only game of the season with a sore back
Irrelevant side note: All five of the Jazz’s starters in ’91-’92 (Stockton, K. Malone, J. Malone, Edwards, and Eaton) played at least 81 games. How completely insane would that be in today’s NBA?!
1992-1993 – Utah Jazz
Age: 30 (8th year)
Games Played / Started: 82 / 58
Minutes Per Game: 31.2
Teammates: Stockton, Malone, etc.; Larry Krystkowiak, Jay Humphries
** Began the season as a starter in place of Blue Edwards, who had been traded in the offseason
** Started 58 of the Jazz’s first 59 games; never started again after that
** Replaced in the starting lineup after 59 games by 2nd-year F David Benoit
** MPG went down every month from January (34.3) to April (27.5) as Benoit’s MPG went up from 16.6 to 27.5 in that span
1993-1994 – Utah Jazz
Age: 31 (9th year)
Games Played / Started: 82 / 17
Minutes Per Game: 26.2
Teammates: Stockton, Malone, etc.; Jeff Hornacek (traded mid-season), Felton Spencer, Jay Humphries, Tom Chambers
** Started season on the bench as 3rd-year F David Benoit (then rookie Bryon Russell, then Benoit again) continued starting
** Played in all 82 games; starting 17. 14 of the 17 were the last 14 games of the season, with Corbin replacing Benoit
** Despite starting every game in April, MPG went down every month from February (29.1) to April (23.5)
** The Jazz made it to the Western Conference Finals this year. After beating the Spurs 3-1, they defeated the Nuggets 4-3 before eventually losing to the Rockets 1-4. In the Nuggets series, the Jazz won Games 1-3 and then lost Games 4-6 before taking Game 7. Corbin started every game in the Spurs and Nuggets series, but was benched in favor of Benoit for the Rockets series. The rest of the starting lineup remained the same
9/16/94: Corbin is traded by Utah with a draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks for Adam Keefe (Benoit continued starting for the Jazz for the next two seasons)
1994-1995 – Atlanta Hawks
Age: 32 (10th year)
Games Played / Started: 81 / 4
Minutes Per Game: 17.1
** Averaged 9th most minutes on the team; averaged 14.9 MPG prior to mid-March
** The Hawks’ starting wings were 4th-year G Steve Smith and 4th-year G-F Stacey Augmon
** MPG went up starting from mid-March due to key reserve G-F Craig Ehlo undergoing knee surgery and Augmon suffering a sprained ankle
** 3 of 4 starts were the last 3 games of the season due to Augmon’s ongoing ankle issues
6/29/95: Corbin is traded by Atlanta to the Sacramento Kings for Spud Webb
1995-1996 Sacramento Kings / Miami Heat
Age: 33 (11th year)
Kings Games Played / Started: 49 / 2
Minutes Per Game: 19.0
** Averaged 9th most minutes on the team
** Averaged 19 MPG playing behind 4th-year G-F Walt Williams
2/22/96: Corbin is traded by Sacramento with Walt Williams to the Miami Heat for Kevin Gamble and Billy Owens
Heat Games Played / Started: 22 / 0
Minutes Per Game: 16.1
Teammates: Jeff Malone (signed mid-season)
** MPG fell from March (17) to April (14.5)
** Remained stuck in rotation behind Williams, who started for Miami at SF for the rest of the season
Irrelevant side note: Corbin was teammates with Kurt Thomas in Miami. Kurt Thomas is still playing lol.
7/17/96: Corbin is released by Miami
9/12/96: Corbin signs with Atlanta
1996-1997 – Atlanta Hawks
Age: 34 (12th year)
Games Played / Started: 70 / 65
Minutes Per Game: 32.9
** Started 65 of 70 games
** All starters on the team over the age of 27
** Corbin missed 7 games between Dec. and Jan. with an ankle sprain; came off the bench for 3 games after returning
** Corbin missed another 5 games in Feb. with back problems; came off the bench for 2 games after returning
1997-1998 – Atlanta Hawks
Age: 35 (13th year)
Games Played / Started: 79 / 79
Minutes Per Game: 34.2
** Started 79 of 79 games
** Atlanta fielded the same starting unit as the previous season, with no starter under the age of 28
** Missed 3 games in Jan. with a sore lower back
** Averaged 34.2 MPG, which was the 3rd most in his career and most since Minnesota
1998-1999 – Atlanta Hawks
Age: 36 (14th year)
Games Played / Started: 47 (50 total in lockout season) / 6
Minutes Per Game: 22.7
** Right off the bat, lost minutes and starting job to 7th-year F LaPhonso Ellis; rest of starting unit stayed the same
** Ellis played his last game of the season in March due to back problems and a hernia, and was replaced in the starting lineup by 2nd-year F Chris Crawford
8/16/99: Corbin is waived by Atlanta
10/2/99: Corbin signs with Sacramento
1999-2000 – Sacramento Kings
Age: 37 (15th year)
Games Played / Started: 54 / 5
Minutes Per Game: 17.4
** Sacramento’s starting SF was 4th-year F Corliss Williamson
** 4 of 5 starts came in a 4-game span (1/31-2/6) when Williamson was out with back spasms
10/20/00: Corbin signs with the Toronto Raptors
2000-2001 – Toronto Raptors
Age: 38 (16th year)
Games Played / Started: 15 / 1
Minutes Per Game: 7.8
Teammates: Mark Jackass, Corliss Williamson
** Corliss Williamson had been traded to the Raptors during the offseason, and continued starting for the Raptors
** Corbin’s sole start of the season came after Williamson received a one-game suspension for fighting with Tom Gugliotta
** Played in just 15 of Raptors’ first 54 games, averaging less than 8 MPG
** Did not see action again after 1/10
Irrelevant side note: One game where Corbin did see action, 12/19 at Utah, was the game that Karl Malone became the 2nd all-time scorer in the NBA
Irrelevant side note: Another former Corbin teammate, Vince Carter, is also still playing
2/22/01: Corbin is traded with Williamson, Kornel David, and a draft pick to the Detroit Pistons for Eric Montross and Jerome Williams
2/23/01: Corbin is waived by Detroit (Williamson and David were not)
** Did not play again
We can see several patterns in Corbin’s playing career:
1) As a young player, he rarely got major minutes unless someone was injured.
2) As he closed in on his prime years (26-30 years old), he got traded or waived every time he started getting comfortable somewhere. It was also during these years that he started losing playing time to younger players.
e.g. in Phoenix, “I was really enjoying myself there until I found out I wasn’t protected in the expansion draft. I was very, very surprised. I was surprised, shocked and disappointed because I thought I was an asset to the team. I thought I was one of the guys that kept the team jelling together. Then, to find out that I wasn’t one of those guys… It was disappointing to me.” (source)
e.g. In Minnesota, it finally seemed like he had found a home. After starting for two seasons, he was traded and got sent back to the bench.
3) In his late prime years (30-33), he was constantly losing minutes and starter-status to younger, more talented/athletic guys, e.g. David Benoit, Bryon Russell, Stacey Augmon, Walt Williams, etc. that probably didn’t work as hard as him.
4) Corbin’s career saw a revival in terms of minutes and starting at age 34-35 in Atlanta, but then he started losing minutes to younger guys and getting traded and waived again.
From the Athens Banner-Herald on Aug. 17, 1999 (H/T @dianaallen):
The Atlanta Hawks on Monday waived swingman Tyrone Corbin and forward Duane Ferrell in another sign of the team’s commitment to youth.
Last year, Corbin helped keep the team afloat after injuries decimated the lineup. Normally a small forward, Corbin filled in for injured guard Steve Smith [for four games], and played in 47 games, fourth-highest on the team, while starting six. Corbin, 36, averaged 7.5 points and 3.1 rebounds per game last season.
The season before that, Corbin had started 79 of 79 games for the Hawks, averaging 34 MPG.
Are Corbin’s experiences as a player influencing his coaching decisions, and are they influencing his coaching decisions to the detriment of the team? If so, does he see it?
This was Harpring’s response to Corbin’s comments on losing playing time to “new hotshots who hadn’t proven anything”:
As you get older, you gotta let things go, ’cause otherwise you will stay in the past and run through mud the rest of your life. So in order to get better, you gotta kind of learn from the past and move on. And it’s one thing to let it drive you and motivate you, but it’s another thing to keep revisiting it and let [it get] you back down.