Mr. Ferry, Mr. Krause. Mr. Krause, Mr. Ferry. I believe you two have a lot to talk about.
Following the Cavaliers crushing series loss to the Magic, it has once again become apparent that LeBron James' supporting cast is simply not good enough. It is easy to call this an overreaction to one unfortunate series loss that even LeBron himself pointed out "could have gone either way."
However, this was not the NCAA tournament with fluke one-game upsets. This was not even the old NBA five-game series that presented more possible upsets. This was a seven-game series and, simply put, the best team won.
If anything, it's both surprising and a testament to the greatness of James that the Cavaliers did not get exposed earlier. I can't recall many championship teams built around a trio of 6'3'' and under guards.
I also can't recall many championship teams featuring past-their-primes centers and a flopper at power forward. These guys simply weren't that good.
The failure once again of Ferry to put together a championship caliber supporting cast brings to light the still-formidable task ahead of Ferry if he wants to keep James in town. It also shines some long-deserved light on the success of the only other man in the past 30 years who can relate to the position that Ferry is in—Jerry Krause.
Krause was hired in 1985 and faced the difficult and unenviable task of building a championship roster around Michael Jordan. At the time, he had two decent pieces in place: John Paxson and Charles Oakley. The rest? Well, Jordan's chewed gum probably had more trade value.
The rest of the story is pretty familiar to those who follow Chicago Bulls basketball. Krause pulled off one of the greatest drafts of all time by landing both Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant in the 1987 NBA Draft. Krause then displayed extraordinary foresight by trading the suddenly expendable Oakley for Ewing-killer Bill Cartwright.
Krause nabbed B.J. Armstrong in the 1989 draft to round out his Jordan sidekicks. Lastly, Krause put his final masterstroke on his work by hiring the just quirky enough to garner respect Phil Jackson.
After a few early growing pains, the supporting cast finally came of age in the 1990-91 season as the Bulls conquered the NBA to win the first of three consecutive championships.
Undoubtedly, Jordan elevated the play of each and every one of these players. Still, lost in the shuffle of Jordan's greatness was just how good his supporting cast was without him. In their only full season without Jordan, the 1993-1994 Bulls went 55-27 (compared to 57-25 in 1992-93) and came within a controversial Hubert Davis call from knocking off the Eastern Conference champion.
Thus, the Bulls only dropped two games and one could argue were a couple of calls away from reaching the NBA Finals again.
These accomplishments are even more impressive after comparing other supporting casts from the past 30 years that essentially played a full year without their star.
1990-1991 Los Angeles Lakers (first season without Magic Johnson):
Went from winning 58 games and an NBA Finals appearance NBA finalist to winning 43 games and being eliminated in four games in playoffs.
1990-1991 Boston Celtics (Larry Bird hurt his back badly 34 games into the season):
The Celtics roared to a 29-5 behind the sensational play of Bird. However, Bird then suffered a compressed nerve root in his back that caused him to miss 22 games. The Celtics never recovered and stumbled to the finish with a 27-24 record.
1996-1997 San Antonio Spurs (minus David Robinson for all but 6 games):
Went from being a Western Conference Semifinalist with a 59-23 record to having the worst record in the Western Conference at 20-62.
Now back to the story at hand. Jordan came back at the end of 1994-1995 and, after a full offseason of conditioning, was in top form entering the 1995-1996 season. With one championship roster under his belt, Krause went out and built an ever better second one. The similarities of the two rosters is still astounding.
- White three-point shooter—Goodbye Paxson, hello Steve Kerr and Jud Buechler.
- Six fouls per game white center—Goodbye Will Perdue, hello Luc Longley and Bill Wennington.
- Athletic third ball handler - Goodbye BJ Armstrong, hello Ron Harper.
- Veteran who won't take crap from Jordan—Goodbye Bill Cartwright, hello John Salley.
- Crazy cheering bench guy—Goodbye Randy Livingston, hello Jack Haley.
- Crappy back-up power forward—Goodbye Stacey King, hello Dickey Simpkins.
- Third head of the three-headed monster—Goodbye Horace Grant, hello Dennis Rodman.
Let's just say, Krause was smart enough to use what works. The Bulls went on to post the best record in NBA history at 72-10 and again win the first of three consecutive championships.
Two rosters, six championships and the most dominant run by a franchise since the days of Russell and Auerbech. Which brings me to the point of this discussion.
Why isn't Krause discussed as one of the greatest GMs not just in basketball but in all of sports?
Most people say because Jordan, Jackson and Pippen absorbed all the credit. I say BS.
It's not like Auerbach doesn't receive immense credit for the Celtics championships or Jerry West was overlooked during the Lakers championship days.
The real and not completely unique reason (damn you Sam Smith): Krause was completely and utterly unlikeable. He was overweight. He was not a good public speaker. He was secretive. He sought attention rather than let it shine on him. All in all, he was a D-bag.
So with Ferry struggling to duplicate the same level of success building around James, is Krause finally bound to receive his credit?
Well, yes and no.
If Ferry's latest round of changes (Shaquille O'Neal, Anthony Parker and Danny Green) ultimately fail and LeBron bolts to another team, it is hard not to look back on what Krause did and not be impressed. At the same time, you can't help but think that Jerry Krause falls into the same boat as Barry Bonds.
When the media don't like you and general public don't like you, history tends to not like you. Probably because the people writing it don't like you.
Sorry, Jerry, your day in the sun is not going to come.