LEARNING FROM THE HEAT

Being that we are entering Game 5 of the NBA Finals tonight and are on the verge of LeBron’s first championship, let’s play a game.  I’m going to list agroup of Finals winners and I want you, the readers, to figure out what they all have in common besides a few diamond encrusted rings.

Here we go:

Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics (I’m starting at 1981 because this could go on forever, 1984, 1986, 2008), Los Angeles Lakers (Again starting at 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009,2010) San Antonio Spurs (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007), Miami Heat (2006, 2012*), Chicago Bulls (the entire 6-peat), Detroit Pistons (1989,1990 and arguably 2004)…

If you said each team contained an All-Star, you’d be on the right path.  If you said they each had a Hall of Famer; we would be in the same wave length.  If you said each one of those teams had at least two elite superstars on their rosters at the same time, you should submit your resume for the Sixers Presidential opening because you are one step ahead of favorite Danny Ferry.

Starting from the beginning of that list, take a look at these superstar combos: Dirk & Jet (before you argue that Jet wasn’t a superstar, he dropped 27-points in Game 6 and without him, Dallas doesn’t win that series), Bird & Parish/McHale, The Big Three, Magic & Kareem/Worthy, Kobe & Shaq, Kobe & Pau, Robinson & Duncan, Duncan & Parker, Wade & Shaq, The New Big Three,  Jordan & Pippen, Isiah & Dumars, and Chauncey & Rip/Wallace/Wallace/Prince (The 2004 Pistons starting five equals two superstars at least).

Now let’s play another NBA Finals inspired game.  I’m going to list a group of runner ups and I want you to tell me what they all have in common besides losing:

Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers, New Jersey Nets (2002, 2003), Philadelphia 76ers (2001), New York Knicks (1999), Phoenix Suns (1993), Portland Trail Blazers (1990, 1993).

If you said they are mostly Eastern Conference members, good observation (Since 1980, the Western Conference has won 17 titles, while the East has won 14.  Since 2000 though, the Western Conference has dominated the NBA, winning nine of twelve titles.).  If you said that each one of those teams only had one superstar among its ranks, you are spot on again.  Congratulations, you’re hired!

Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Jason Kidd, The Answer, Old Patrick Ewing, Barkley andClydewere all pretty much alone in their endeavors on becoming NBA Champion’s.  That’s not to say they didn’t have adequate help, they did; but having a Pippen/Kobe/Wade/Garnett alongside of them instead of a Rashard Lewis/Mo Williams/Eric Snow/Keith Van Horn made the world of difference. 

I mean honestly, I’ve seen better supporting casts in kindergarten plays than some of these “championship” rosters. Hedo Turkoglu was the second best player on that 2009Orlandoteam.  Hedo Turkoglu!

So what exactly does this have to do with the Sixers? 

Well with the draft coming along, trade rumors buzzing (Bye Bye Iggy?), free agency pending and a fresh season right around the corner, it means quite a bit.  Mainly for those select few members of Philly’s Brain Trust who are being saddled with the task of pushing this team from the Eastern Conference Semi’s to the Eastern Conference Finals.

To do that, they need to change their mind frames.

This post is more of a warning than a message.  It is a study of NBA rites of passage.  It is a disclaimer for how the future can disintegrate faster than the Thunder’s comeback chances after a late 4th quarter jump ball.  It is a blueprint on how to succeed.

Take a look at the Heat.  Look at the Thunder.  Look at the Spurs.  Look at the Celtics. 

Comprised within those rosters are eight of this year’s 24 All-Stars (not counting D-Will because of injury).  Now look at the Lakers, Knicks and Clippers.  That number goes up to 13 of this year’s 24 All-Stars.  What do all of those teams have? 

Let’s all say it together! 

They all have rosters built around two or more superstars (Before I hear it in the comments section, let me just say that Amare is still considered an NBA superstar unless next year goes as horribly bad as the one that just passed.  Let’s see you perform your job as well as you should with a new boss that prevents you from excelling, the sudden surprise of your brother’s death, injuries and obvious frustrations.).

There is a reason Magic Johnson, Michael Wilbon, Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith and other NBA aficionados repeat this notion over and over and over again during the playoffs.  It’s a proven fact.  The NBA is driven by its stars. 

How many times in just the first four games have you heard someone say, “It’s a League of stars”?

Fifty?  Sixty?

It’s a simple concept really as hard as it is to accomplish.  When stars team up with other stars, championships are bred.  It’s that simple yet GM after incompetent GM rather follow the defense and scrub blueprints rather than the one Pat Riley used two summers ago.

It’s why that same Heat team is currently one game away from winning a title in only their second year together.  It’s why the Thunder will be knocking on the door for the next 5-8 years.  It’s why the Lakers wanted CP3 so badly.  It’s why the Clippers gave so much away for him.  It’s why Dallas will do everything in their power to sign D-Will or Dwight.  It’s why the Hornets just traded for Rashard freaking Lewis so they can waive him and in turn take his money and throw it at Eric Gordon in hopes of resinging him.  It’s the same reason why Brooklynwants to resign D-Will.  It’s whyChicago, Indiana, Philadelphia, Memphis, Utah, Denver and all the other play hard/work hard teams will continue to be under dogs in seven game playoff matchups against the Miami’s of the world.  It’s why GM’s give away the house, boat and retirement fund, along with their professional dignity to acquire a superstar even if it is for one “rent-a-player” season.

The Sixers, as currently set up, don’t have a superstar.  They have players that “could” be “stars”.  They have players that have shown flashes.  They have players that would be terrific fill in guys.   But that’s really about it.

I’m not sold on ET, that much is known here on this site.  I love Jrue, but he has a lot of growing up / improving to do.  Do I think one of those two players can be one of the Sixers needed superstars?  I do but my beliefs aren’t winning the Sixers any championships.

If new ownerships main goal is to bring a title to Philly, they need to reevaluate their strategies.  Defense is great.  Having young talent growing together is a good slate to start with.  Try hard, bring your “lunch pail and hard hat” guys are terrific in the locker rooms and on the practice courts.  But it all means nothing if you cannot draft/sign/develop a superstar or two. 

If anyone honestly thinks the current Sixers team can beat the Heat, Thunder, Clippers, Bulls (with Derrick), whatever team Dwight ends up with, new look Celtics, fully healthy Knicks, Pacers, Nuggets, whatever team D-Will signs with or Lakers in a best of seven series, please give me whatever you are drinking because I want to believe too. 

I want to believe in a team that no one considers a contender (the Rocky of NBA basketball).  I want to love a team that comes from the depths of despair to make a giant playoff run.  I want to believe in a team, and by team I mean TEAM, that wills their way to victory after glorious victory with nothing but defense, undeniable passion and resiliency.  I want to believe in a team that isn’t centered on a diva superstar that raises his hands in disgust after every no call.

I want to believe, but I know it is unlikely to ever happen only because the superstar orgies of the NBA will beat them down and never think twice about it on their way to raising banner after banner.

The lunch pail guys always end up with nothing but wounds and broken hearts. 

Teams like the 2004 Pistons and the Jordan-less NBA Rockets teams that won titles are simply outliers.  Using their game plan is NBA suicide.

With a League full of history to back up what is now a proven theory, the Sixers either need to push all in and go with the flow or be doomed to repeating first or second round exits; if that. 

It’s a Superstar eat Superstar world out there.  Either you adapt to the times or pray that your “team” can outlast history. 

I much rather the Sixers adapt.

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