The Secret of Basketball....

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Joined Mar 13, 2004
I'll see if I can break this down....

I just started reading Bill Simmons' book titled "The Book of Basketball."  I'm only about 60 pages into it, but the second chapter is called "The Secret."  This is about the secret to NBA success as told by...(don't laugh) Isiah Thomas.  The entire chapter outlined how teams should be structured in order to win a NBA championship.  It was extremely ironic to hear these nuggets of wisdom coming from Isiah on the heels of his many failures as a NBA exec.  Why he couldn't follow his own blueprint, is beyond me....

anyways..."the secret of basketball is that it's not about basketball."  That's it.  When broken down, it ties into Pat Riley's "Disease of More" theory:

A team wins it one year and the next year every player wants more minutes, more money, more shots. And it kills them. Our team has been up at a championship level 4 years now. We could have easily self destructed. So I read what Riley was saying, and I learned... But its hard not to be selfish. The art of winning is complicated by statistics, which for us becomes money. Well, you gotta fight that, find a way around it...


What Riley said, really sheds light on why it's so difficult for teams to repeat as champions etc....there are so many other factors that go into a team's success that has ZERO to do with what's actually being done on the court. 

It's all about cohesion....both on and off the court.  If you have one player who doesn't buy in to what is trying to be accomplished, your whole goal of winning may be jeopardized.  For example, Isiah went into detail about how on the Bad Boy teams, Adrian Dantley was traded mid-season for Mark Aguirre.  Dantley was the more talented of the two, but he was causing major problems with the chemistry of the team.  For example, Chuck Daly needed Dantley to sacrifice minutes, and therefore stats, to make room for Dennis Rodman to play a bigger role on the Pistons.  Dantley refused to accommodate the team and was causing a ton of problems for the coaching staff.

Seeing the problems with Dantley really opened Isiah's eyes....he saw the successes of teams like the Celtics and Lakers and figured out why things worked out for them. 
To quote Isiah:

 
"Those teams were all loaded with talented players, but thats not why they won. They won because they liked each other, knew their roles, ignored statistics and valued winning over everything else... They won so long as everyone remained on the same page. "


When Dantley was shipped out, Isiah had this to say about the Pistons finally clicking...

... Lots of times, you cant tell who the best player in the game was. 'Cause everybody did something good. Thats what makes us so good. The other team has to worry about stopping eight or nine people instead of two or three. Its the only way to win. The only way to win. Thats the way the game was invented. But theres more to it then that. You also got to create an environment that wont accept losing.


At the end of the day it's all about chemistry....The 2008 Celtics figured it out....Simmons said that you had everyone buy in to the whole "team" aspect.  Pierce and Ray Allen deferred to KG...KG was selfless as usual...the starters were supportive of EVERYONE on the bench (and vice versa)....it's buying into a formula that gets great results etc.  It's the Spurs mantra....it's why Jordan and the Bulls were able to be so dominant.  It goes on and on. 

This is so hard to paraphrase because there is just so much more that goes into it.  It's a concept that's so simple, but yet it's so hard in today's NBA to have athletes sacrifice their numbers etc for the greater good of the team.  Guys @*%* and moaning about things behind the scenes....all of these things (if they happen) create a ton of turmoil that can ultimately lead to failures on the court. 

I look at a team like the Thunder and can't help but to think that they understand what it takes to eventually become a champion.  No...it may not be this year, or next, but it's coming soon.  It was an interesting read, and yet so obvious....but I never really thought about it until I picked this book up. 

Really good stuff. 
 
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The Cavs followed that formula perfectly last year and didn't make the Finals. They're the epitome of a perfectly put together team but if they don't win this year then what does that say?
 
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Originally Posted by Ricardo Malta

The Cavs followed that formula perfectly last year and didn't make the Finals. They're the epitome of a perfectly put together team but if they don't win this year then what does that say?
Here are some exerpts...maybe you can find some parallels between the Pistons (before they figured it all out) and the Cavs of 2008-09:

Once upon a time, Detroit couldn't find a prototypical back-to-the-basket big man to help Thomas offensively, so GM Jack McCloskey smartly surrounded him with unconventional low-post threats, effective role players and streak shooters.  When McCloskey realized they still couldn't outscore the Celtics and Lakers, he shifted the other way and built the toughest, most athletic, most flexible roster possible.  By the '87 Playoffs, the Pistons went nine deep and had an answer for everyone.  On paper, its the weakest of the superb teams in that 1983-89 stretch.  But that's the thing about basketball: you don't play the games on paper.  Detroit captured two title and came amazingly close to winning two more. 

Again, Isiah was there.  He watched McCloskey build that unique team.  He knew there was more to basketball than stats and money, that you couldn't win and keep winning unless your players sacrificed numbers for the greater good.


also...

  After getting waxed by Boston in the '85 Playoffs, McCloskey realized he had three keepers (Isiah, Vinnie, and Laimbeer) and nobody else with the right mix of athleticism and toughness to hang with Boston.  He selected Dumars with the 17th pick, traded Kelly Tripucka and Kent Benson for Dantley, and turned Dan Roundfield into Mahorn (a physical forward who could protect Laimbeer).  In the '86 draft, he picked Salley 11th and Rodman 32nd, hoping Detroit could wear down Bird with young legs off the bench.  That same summer, he stole backup center James Edwards from Phoenix.  It's the most creative 12-month stretch ever submitted by an NBA GM.  McCloskey built a future champion around Isiah without making a single top-10 pick or trading anything of real consequence. 


and going back to the Dantley/Aguirre trade...

  In the '88 Playoffs, Dantley played 33.9 MPG and Rodman 20.6 MPG.  When the Pistons cruised to the '89 title, Aguirre averaged 27.1 MPG and Rodman 24.1 MPG.  Dantley/Rodman averaged a combined 25.6 PPG and 11.6 RPG in '88, followed by 18.4 PPG plus 14.4 RPG from Aguirre/Rodman the following spring.  So they sacrificed eight points per game for better defense, rebounding, and chemistry.  And it worked. 


Cleveland wasn't built to beat Orlando last year....do you think that with the additions they made in the off-season and by trades, they have made themselves equal or better than the competition in the East?  Most people would say that this is their year....



4 steps as far as how to build a champion...

1.  You build potential champions around one great player.  He doesn't have to be a super-duper star or someone who can score at will, just someone who leads by example, kills himself on a daily basis, raises the competitive nature of his teammates, and lifts them to a better place. 

2.  You surround that superstar with one or two elite sidekicks who under their place in the team's hierarchy, don't obsess over stats, and fill in every blank they can.

3.  From that framework, you complete your nucleus with top-notch role players and/or character guys who know their place, don;t make mistakes, and won't threaten that unselfish culture, as well as a coaching staff dedicated to keeping those team-ahead-of-individual values in place. 

4.  You need to stay healthy in the playoffs and maybe catch one or two breaks. 




SO much good stuff in this chapter.....
 
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so let me get this straight... you're suggesting that teamwork and unselfishness are the keys to being successful in a team sport like basketball? well i just find that hard to believe.
 
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I can build a NBA team if i were the GM too. its not that hard. You just really have to understand how each player plays a lot.




i swear i feel like the GM doesnt even watch their own team play.
 
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Originally Posted by Craftsy21

so let me get this straight... you're suggesting that teamwork and unselfishness are the keys to being successful in a team sport like basketball? well i just find that hard to believe.
Originally Posted by Matt Barkley Heisman Number 8

obviously isiah put to use what he learned as the gm for the knicks.
 
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Originally Posted by Craftsy21

so let me get this straight... you're suggesting that teamwork and unselfishness are the keys to being successful in a team sport like basketball? well i just find that hard to believe.
2 of the keys when u think about it. When everybody knows their role and don't get greedy, the team clicks a lot better. Now that won't guarantee that you'll win but it will def help. Talent is also something that helps teams too. U can't have a bunch of dudes that know their role but only one has the talent and the rest are ok at best given a few games when they show out.  Look at the Bulls championship teams. Pippen didn't get big headed and wanna outshine MJ, he stuck w/ the sidekick role and it worked for him and the team. Kukoc was the come of the bench and produce dude, Rodman was the gritty, get down and dirty dude, etc. They all knew their roles and were talented too
 
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Originally Posted by Dathbgboy

Originally Posted by Craftsy21

so let me get this straight... you're suggesting that teamwork and unselfishness are the keys to being successful in a team sport like basketball? well i just find that hard to believe.
2 of the keys when u think about it. When everybody knows their role and don't get greedy, the team clicks a lot better. Now that won't guarantee that you'll win but it will def help. Talent is also something that helps teams too. U can't have a bunch of dudes that know their role but only one has the talent and the rest are ok at best given a few games when they show out.  Look at the Bulls championship teams. Pippen didn't get big headed and wanna outshine MJ, he stuck w/ the sidekick role and it worked for him and the team. Kukoc was the come of the bench and produce dude, Rodman was the gritty, get down and dirty dude, etc. They all knew their roles and were talented too
facepalm
 
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Originally Posted by Ricardo Malta

The Cavs followed that formula perfectly last year and didn't make the Finals. They're the epitome of a perfectly put together team but if they don't win this year then what does that say?
Yup.
I'm really not a fan of these after the fact studies either, because you can construct a story all you want, but I guarantee another smart person within those same winning systems can give you other reasons why they won too, so these specific formulas really aren't guaranteed success.  Sometimes talent trumps all the strategy in the world, but that doesn't facilitate books on the constant theorizing on what determines success being pumped out.
 
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Originally Posted by F A Y B A N

Originally Posted by Ricardo Malta

The Cavs followed that formula perfectly last year and didn't make the Finals. They're the epitome of a perfectly put together team but if they don't win this year then what does that say?
Yup.
I'm really not a fan of these after the fact studies either, because you can construct a story all you want, but I guarantee another smart person within those same winning systems can give you other reasons why they won too, so these specific formulas really aren't guaranteed success.  Sometimes talent trumps all the strategy in the world, but that doesn't facilitate books on the constant theorizing on what determines success being pumped out.
What makes the secret so interesting, is that there have been teams that have won or played in the NBA championship, but eventually succumbed to Riley's "disease of more" theory.  It's such an obvious concept (like Craftsy sarcastically pointing out), but yet it's so hard to maintain in today's NBA. 

Theories for winning and finding out how specific teams have their success makes for interesting reading if you're a fan.  +$++, you can find theories on EVERYTHING related to sports.  Whether it's Ted Williams talking about the art of hitting, Ken Dryden talking about being mentally prepared to play goalie, etc etc.  There is nothing wrong with buying in to what these guys are saying.  These guys have lived it and understand what it takes to reach the pinnacle of their sport.  Whether you buy in or not, that's up to you.  If talent trumped all the strategy in the world, teams like the Knicks and ******** would have multiple championships within the past 15 years or so.  It goes on and on.  I am in no way suggesting that what you're saying is wrong, because you are clearly entitled to your own opinion....but I think that there is something to be said about what both Isiah and Pat Riley were preaching. 
 
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Double, I agree with what Simmons, Isiah, and Riley are saying in terms of finding consistent team success. A championship though? Takes something more that I have yet to figure out. Take Phoenix. Great team success for most of the last decade but not not even a Finals appearance. Dallas same thing. One Finals appearance, they should have won but didn't. Lots of great success over the last decade but really nothing to show for it.

Then you have those Lakers of the early 2000's who didn't exactly have the best chemistry amongst their players yet won 3 in a row.
 
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Mannnn that pistons trade of AD for mark aquire was just Isiah flexing and gettin his Chicago homeboy on the squad for a chip.
 
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