Hello readers and followers. It’s been a little while since the last update, but that’s because I’ve been observing a lot, and analyzing the game like a scientist in order to present diligent findings and information. Now I wasn’t the brightest chemistry student, but I knew it well enough to ace a couple of exams and apply it to the real world and other things in life (which is really what you’re supposed to do). Anyway, the 2013-2014 NBA season was a pretty decent one, but a very predictable one as it closely mirrored the previous season.
Because of a league imbalance due to the dominance of specific teams, primarily the Miami Heat, folks in Vegas and experts knew who was slated to head back to the Finals in the East for the fourth straight time. With the West, its always competitive and we saw great teams battle and go through adversity all year long to get the chance to face off against Miami and prove their worth. I for one thought the Spurs didn’t have it in them, but I was certainly wrong and am giving them all the praise in the world in this piece. Their hunger for more and desire for revenge against Miami fueled them to another extremely successful season and a title shot. However, more so than ever before, and perhaps any other title before this one, the Spurs showed why and how absolute effective team basketball will put you at the top regardless of anything else.
We are now in an era where (in the majority if sports) two main players aren’t enough to seal a championship anymore. Let me rephrase that: Since the end of the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls era, and more or less the Kobe/Shaq era, championships have been won by complete team efforts. Competition has elevated and shifted a bit, and superstars need all the help they can get if they’re going to go the distance. The component I am implying that completes the championship formula for today’s game is that third guy, which can either be that one other person that completes a big three and is always there to aid the main two stars OR instead (and even better), a group of hardworking role players and bench players willing to make sacrifices for the benefit and betterment of the entire team.
If we rewind time and look at the championship teams of the past decade like the San Antonio Spurs, ’04 Pistons, a veteran’s Mavericks team,’08 Celtics and the resurgence of a “Big Three” importance, Kobe and the twin towers (Pau & Bynum) with D Fish, and now Miami – it is evident that these rosters were a bit more hefty and much more cohesive than the rest. Hell, the fact that only 6 different NBA franchises have won in the past 14 years indicates that the league isn’t just up for grabs year in and year out. The times of one player imposing their will entirely (as MJ did) is over; neither Melo nor KD nor Kobe (now) nor even LeBron (as beastly and unstoppable as he is when he wants to be) can lead their teams to the Promised Land completely alone. Again, a unified effort must be present and the saying “There is no I in team” has never been truer in today’s game.
By looking at an atrocious example such as the New York Knicks this past season it is very easy to see why this team wasn’t successful, even though it may be hard to understand at times because of the talent they actually have (and had) roster-wise. The Knicks are a team that relies heavily on its superstar Carmelo Anthony, and regardless of whether he scores 62 (unless its against Charlotte), 44, or 18, they still found a way to lose game after game this past season because they do not play as a unit. In their first 30 games last season, the Knicks were giving teams fits and running them out of the gym because they were effectively sharing the ball and playing together. Despite the fact of not actually having a true distributive or demonstrative point guard (good riddens Raymond Felton), it is still evident in the way this team played and operated that potent chemistry and a true offensive and defensive systems were missing. The inverse of this catastrophe would be a team with less talent that meshes well and uses what they have to the best of their abilities, such as the Portland TrailBlazers, Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards, and Toronto Raptors – two tough Western Conference teams, and two Eastern Conference teams on the rise.
The difference there is that teams with less talent are forced to play harder, smarter, and together in order to overcome more talented and well-meshed opponents. Its simple logic and I’m not writing anything that you shouldn’t already know, but instead I’m trying to bring it to light in a more intricate way. Hard work and cohesiveness definitely beats talent when talent fails to illustrate the intangibles. Of course even talented teams who do play hard can’t win every game or every matchup, that’s not the way sports works. In every sport there are different factors and equations that go into every game and whomever executes better as a whole often wins. However, that still doesn’t take away from the fact that if a team plays like a cohesive unit with or without a superstar, they can do great things. College basketball is a good example of that if you look at teams like the Wichita State Shockers this past season and what they accomplished as a team that is usually not in the top tier and didn’t have a premier superstar even though Ron Baker definitely held it down with the help of Knicks rookie draft pick Cleanthony Early, who wasn’t a known name or face of the team but was the only one from the Shockers to land himself in the NBA.
Even more so, now that the NBA Finals are over, the Champion San Antonio Spurs ONCE AGAIN serves as a testament to my thesis. Sure there were plenty of other formidable teams (in the West at least) that had a fair chance at going to the Finals but they didn’t have that extra component or overall team effort to get them over the hump. Maybe things would have been different had the Thunder not lost Ibaka, but they’ve been playing with multiple lineups all year, no bench, and too much output from KD, even though the MVP posted monster numbers all throughout. Regardless, earlier I talked about the “third guy” being important and crucial to aiding the superstar and your second best player, but in some cases that “third guy” can be teamwork instead of another individual and the San Antonio Spurs certainly proved that. When Tony Parker didn’t have huge statistical nights, it was guys like Danny Green, Patty Mills, Marco Bellinelli, and even other tough role players stepping in to aid Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili. There are very few teams, if you can truly name any besides the Spurs that have had the sheer ability to carry on without big superstar performances against stiff competition and younger talent. As a unit they got the job done professionally and executed on all levels consistently, which only bred a winning habit and the confidence to beat other great teams along the way.
The equation of chemistry ultimately boils down to different, but proper compounds effectively and unselfishly coexisting for a successful end result. You can have a nice car with a great sounding engine, but it has to be oiled well and the other parts that don’t get as much attention and allure have to function for the sake of the whole to run as it is modeled to be. The teams that use their chemistry and translate them into wins night in and night out through adversity usually go the furthest and that’s what you saw with the Spurs. The Heat who haven’t been challenged much all year, especially in the postseason, broke down in the Finals. Their parts and role players weren’t there to help LeBron James, and the back-to-back champs got dethroned and destroyed by a better team (that should’ve beat them last year too in an epic Game 6 that Jesus left his mark on). Because of the debacle, and supporting my point about a true team entity, the Miami Heat had a quite interesting offseason, as implications were that they would need to make big changes with virtually no cap space unless players took less money to help rebuild a better roster and stay at a championship caliber. Nonetheless, hats definitely go off to them over the past 4 years, doing what they set out to do by dominating the league and winning two out of four NBA titles, but all good things must come to an end in an ever evolving and competitively growing league.
Teamwork makes the dream work, and with the way free agency has shaken up the league this offseason, changes will be evidently seen for the teams who have indeed made key moves. We saw back in 08’ that all it took was that one year for a “Big Three” to form and prosper, and again when LeBron joined Miami and went on an NBA Finals tear every year. With all the changes that were made this offseason during free agency and throughout the draft, (which will be discussed in my next article) we look ahead to a more interesting season all throughout the league and one that I believe is going to be the best in the past decade without question, and of course, I’ll explain why…. [See free agency article].