There's a reason why the best team in the East over the last five years has failed to bring home the O' Brien Trophy since their drubbing of the heavily-favored Shaq and Kobe-led Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals.
When the Bad Boys 2.0 were assembled, they took a group of misfits and castaways that nobody in the league believed in anymore, and found the whole was somehow greater than the sum of the parts.
They fought to silence their doubters. They played with fire, intensity, and a mean streak. They had something to prove.
After their back-to-back Finals appearances in '04 and '05, something changed. It was no secret that the Bad Boys created a switch and never flipped it on—unless it was an emergency situation. In retrospect, it is amazing to see that they have remained amongst the East's elite despite this.
There's a reason why the media always questions a team's ability to repeat as champions. Complacency is a formidable opponent, and when other factors such as free agency and the emergence of other teams are sitting in its corner, it's difficult to beat. When the Pistons got to the top and remained there, seemingly so effortlessly (despite coaching changes and despite shuffling its roster), they became comfortable atop the food chain.
You know what happens to a lion when he becomes the king of the pride? He gets fat. What happens to a fat lion? He eventually gets beaten by a younger one, who is hungrier or thirstier for the luxuries hoarded by the king.
So when a lion has nothing left to fight for, he becomes obsolete.
When the Pistons validated themselves by their stretch of dominance, the core group that showed so much grit in the past didn't think they had to fight anymore. Without the fuel to the fire, they were running on empty—instead of what should've been a full speed Mack truck.
So will arguably the most controversial and influential superstar in NBA history give them this fire that they've been lacking the last three seasons?
Detroit has had to part with one of its most important pieces, their unsung quarterback and big shot taker, Chauncey Billups. His deliberate style and ice-cold veins will definitely be missed. But his aloof attitude, which was often portrayed by the media, probably will not be. It probably rubbed the suits the wrong way, and helped open the door to his departure.
I'm sure Rodney Stuckey even helped him pack up.
Can Allen Iverson replace Chauncey? Had this question even been posed five years ago, many would probably argue that Chauncey wasn't even in AI's league. But as evidenced by recent history, it's one's ability to lead and play together with a team that ultimately determines their value to a championship-caliber ball club.
Kobe Bryant can tell him all about it.
When it comes to meshing and conforming to another team, that's never been AI's style. What made him so enigmatic and intriguing is also what makes him hard to deal with. He's always done things his own way, and his style of play doesn't go well with team basketball.
His idea of offense has always been to give him the ball and watch him create, only relying on his teammates as a last resort. What's exciting to the fan doesn't always translate to team success—how many Slam Dunk champions are also NBA champions?
I've always admired Allen Iverson as a competitor, because he puts his body on the line, plays hurt, and has no fear on the court. His passion is unmatched—rivaled only by KG, in my opinion.
But one thing that I attribute to the lack of his teams' success in recent years to is his inability to effectively create for his teammates.
It’s not that he doesn’t try. What makes him so effective is also what makes him difficult to play with. He’s all over the court and plays in an unpredictable way. This makes it hard for teammates to know exactly where to be on the court, to be appropriately spaced to create the best opportunities for the TEAM.
For AI to be the best fit for the team, he will have to subdue himself and pick his spots carefully. He can’t run around the court, because they already have someone who does that more efficiently and within the team’s offense.
Do I think AI’s capable of that? What do you think the Answer is?
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