5 Teams Whose NBA Title Windows Are Closing Faster Than You Think
When your favorite team wins a title, chances are, you don't feel satisfied. You want more.
How tough can it be? It was clearly the best team when it won, and now it knows what it takes.
Why shouldn't it be able to bring another one home?
Unfortunately for your favorite team (or mine), it's not that simple. Injuries, age and having a king-sized bulls-eye on your back all play a role in the difficulty of winning multiple championships.
There are a handful of squads in today's NBA who have either won a championship already but may not have the horses to win another, or simply have never gotten over the initial hump.
Here's a look at five of them.
5. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are loaded. There are star veterans, star youngsters, a host of multifaceted role players and one superstar running the show.
But if they don't win a championship this season, will they ever?
Maybe, but not any time soon.
Chris Paul, the aforementioned superstar, is a free agent at the end of the season. When he arrived in L.A. last season, the Clippers instantly went from a punchline to a contender. They played well last year and made it to the Western Conference Finals.
This year, they loaded up to make a run with Paul at the helm. And so far, they look very good.
What happens if they don't win this year (note: they won't) and Paul leaves, though?
While the Clippers will still have Blake Griffin and budding star Eric Bledsoe and veterans like Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler and Grant Hill, none of those guys have nearly the game, the presence or the cache that Paul possesses.
The Clippers better be drawing up a max extension for their floor general, or else their fleeting title window will slam itself shut.
4. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs did it to themselves when they let Tyson Chandler walk for nothing right after beating Miami for the 2010-11 title.
They consciously took a step back in an attempt to possibly sign a couple of big-name free agents, even though their main man, Dirk Nowitzki, wouldn't simply stop aging while they waited.
Man, did it backfire.
The Mavs were bombed out of the first round last year, didn't get one of those two big names (Deron Williams) and now have a far less desirable situation for the second one (Dwight Howard).
Meanwhile, Nowitzki had knee surgery, and the two young players they brought in to fill some voids (O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison) are nice players, but not difference-makers. There's a long way to go, but this Dallas group has the look, feel and smell of a lottery team in the not-so-distant future.
It's too bad. That championship squad of two seasons ago looked like it might be a player for at least a couple more years.
3. Boston Celtics
The Celtics looked like their window was already closed before they surprisingly took eventual champion Miami to the brink in last year's Eastern Conference Finals.
LeBron James finally figured it all out at that point, and the C's were toast. But the long, unexpected playoff run signaled to the upper reaches of the team's front office that with some retooling around Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, along with the leadership of Rajon Rondo, the chances of banner No. 18 weren't so farfetched.
It's going to take a lot, though. This edition of the Celtics is still learning to play together, get the defensive kinks ironed out, get more out of Jeff Green and make life a little easier on Pierce and KG.
It will be a process, but after a rough first week, the Celtics are looking like they're figuring it out. And when Avery Bradley comes back to reclaim the starting 2-guard spot, things should get even better.
Still, even though the Celtics are in a strong position in the East with Derrick Rose still out for the Bulls and with the Pacers really struggling, the Heat are out there lurking. And they may be even better than last year when they won the whole thing.
2. San Antonio Spurs
Of course, the Spurs will probably go out and win somewhere between 55 and 60 games this season while folks line up to count them out for the umpteenth time.
Just like they always do.
Still, things just feel a little bit more precarious for San Antonio this year than most others. The Spurs were 10-0 in the playoffs and looked completely unbeatable last season before Oklahoma beat them in four straight in the Western Conference finals.
Everything that worried fans and pundits about the Spurs came to pass during that four-game whitewash. Suddenly, they were old, slow, past their prime and unable to adjust to a team dictating the pace.
Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are a year older, and Ginobili is dealing with some nagging injuries that kept him out for the start of the year. He is finally showing signs of being as old as that giant bald spot at the top of his dome makes him look.
Naturally, the Spurs are off to a great start at 8-2. As long as Tony Parker is running the point and Gregg Popovich is running everything else, the Spurs will almost certainly be a contender.
But as their core continues to age and potentially break down, the Spurs will be living on the edge.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
If the Lakers didn't think they were on the brink of seeing their window shut, would they have traded for Steve Nash, brought in Dwight Howard despite no assurance he'd be there for more than one year and fired Mike Brown after just five games into the season?
This is a top-heavy team built to win now. Even if Howard sticks around once he becomes a free agent, the Lakers' remaining key pieces are all on the other side of the hill, and that includes Kobe Bryant, as spectacular as he still is.
This is why their hand wave at Phil Jackson was so peculiar. There's not another coach alive other than maybe Popovich (or Pat Riley) more perfect for a team with ambitions on winning right now.
Since that's obviously what the Lakers are looking to do, they should have brought him back. Even if some think Mike D'Antoni is a better fit for the current roster (note: he isn't) or whether Jim Buss wants to win a pissing contest at the expense of the team's best interests.
Given their age, lack of depth and the competition out West, the Lakers would have had a tough time winning this year, even with Jackson. But he would have given them a better chance than D'Antoni, who has never even been to the Finals, let alone won 11 rings.
Beyond this year, who knows? Nash, who is already hurt, will be a year older, as will Kobe and Pau Gasol. Howard may not even be there, and if he even thinks for a second that he's not completely on board with D'Antoni, he'll be gone.
History tells us that much.
The Lakers' window is screaming toward being shut. It's going to take a lot to keep it open much longer.
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