Remember the NBA promos? "The NBA is FANtastic!" In recent years, the league has become just that. It has been driven by fantasy. Super teams and star pairings have dominated the NBA landscape like a 25 year old Wilt Chamberlain; who, himself, played on some pretty stacked teams in his day.
The difference is most teams of yesteryear were planted, watered, and grew into success, organically. Even through the 1980's and into the 90's. You used to have to be traded to switch teams.
In the years since, the free agency phenomenon has reshaped the game for the better at times. But it has also hurt the game for smaller market franchises. A problem that has often left teams out of the competitive pool.
Now, here we are, approaching the 2010-2011 NBA season. We're all quite aware of the bold predictions tied to the upcoming season. And no matter where you stand with that, you have to admit, it's going to be interesting.
Which brings us to the "world's" sexy choice for 2011 NBA Champion: The Miami Heat. I won't be the guy who says that it absolutely will not work. I will, however, say that they have their work cut out for them. Many NBA teams will be hell-bent on disproving the power of "Miami Thrice" and for good reason.
Nobody wants to be embarrassed. It's like being bullied by someone who hasn't been in a fight. The relative "fight",in this instance, is the rigor of an NBA season.
Wade, James, and Bosh have yet to play a meaningful NBA game together. Yet, they're odds on favorite to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy about a year from now. Fouls will be harder. Crowds will be meaner. The media will cling on to any deviation from perfection; a pressure packed situation, to say the least.
History shows that such experiments have been relative failures. Oh...but there was that one time when Boston's future Hall of Fame trio of Pierce, Garnett, and Ray Allen stepped into rarefied air by winning the title in 2008. Perhaps, the type of players the aforementioned are, made their transition rather seamless.Three guys who are equally as effective without the ball as they are with it, proved to be just what the "Doc"-tor ordered.
On paper, this Miami team should be able to handle any resistance headed in their direction. But the reality is, the East has become the power conference. Their path will not be a walk in the proverbial park. Moreover, the success of the Celtics in recent years has been the catalyst to the recent developments in the league. Every team feels compelled to install their own version of the "Big Three" in order to compete for championships.
Doing so is a viable option, but the key to that is having three guys of complementary contribution. As I alluded to before, there have been instances in the past where teams have traded for or signed stars to get them over the hump and it simply didn't work. Not initially, at least.
It usually takes more than one season for players to adjust to the games of their new teammates. Especially when those teammates are fellow stars. The Los Angeles Lakers seem to know this all too well. On more than one occasion, they have brought in star players to solidify their core and lost in the process.
Trading for a 32 year old, but still effective Wilt Chamberlain in 1968, proved to be a four year project. They would eventually win it all in 1972, perhaps to the chagrin of Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor, who retired earlier that season. Even a 1975 trade for NBA all time scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a five year journey.
No one will forget the '04 Lakers, who boasted four future Hall of Famers, failing miserably at the hands of the Detroit Pistons. The additions of Karl Malone and Gary Payton just weren't enough. These things happen in sports.
I spoke before of organically grown teams. Because I know what some may be thinking. "Well, MJ, Magic, and Larry, etc...had stars on their teams". Yes, but the star companions to these players were brought up in a system. Nor were they stars, initially. They weren't just placed together in one spontaneous jiff and expected to take the world over.
In the cases of Magic and Larry, who won titles in their first and second seasons respectively, they were fortunate to be drafted to teams with stability. Each with the ideal opportunity to play leadership roles. Just as guys like Pippen, Parrish, McHale, and Worthy settled into their roles, they eventually blossomed and created a body of work that has granted them Hall of Fame status.
In other words, they were team players who excelled over the course of their careers; not superstars accompanying other superstars. It should be noted that each guy was responsible for his team leader's success over time, and vice versa. The issue is chemistry, not personnel. Will this trifecta of NBA stars make each other better? Could they lose a little rhythm in their offensive games?
The truth is, there's only one way to find out. With the improvement of the Eastern Conference and the gang-up mentality of the other 29 NBA teams, it suffices to say that the road ahead will be a bumpy one. Miami has three of the league's best players on board and they should be very fun to watch, but three months removed from the start of the season...I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid.
I would be more inclined to endorse a team with continuity from the previous season: Boston, LAL, Orlando, Oklahoma City....Their depth outside of the starting lineup is a concern as well. On the other hand, this team has to be fired up to dispel any doubts people may have. I will be frank in response to that: This will be no one horse race. I anxiously await the upcoming season.