Is HEAT Failure Good For The NBA?
The unexpected formation of the Miami HEAT’s big three consisting of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh last summer shook the NBA landscape overnight. There were fancy introductory parties, record setting win predictions, talks of running roughshod through the league and premature discussions of a championship dynasty. The prophecy hasn’t come to fruition – yet.
While the HEAT are in close contention for the Eastern Conference’s top playoff seed, it is fair to say the squad has performed far below the high expectations placed on them before the regular season began.
Warriors general manager Larry Riley believes the HEAT’s struggles are ultimately good for the NBA and that they show the overall competitiveness of the league.
"I think it will all work itself out and I don’t object to it," Riley told HOOPSWORLD in reference to the formation of super teams. "The thing that’s happened that’s been good for the NBA is some people immediately wanted to award the title to that team [HEAT]. As it turns out there were a few other teams that said ‘whoa wait a minute here we have a chance to do something ourselves’ so I think it’s a situation where they’ll have to earn a title at some point. Probably will get one, but it won’t be something that’s handed to them. I don’t think that hurts the league as far as that goes."
The NBA still remains a superstar’s league but what has changed from the days of yesteryear is the willingness of the game’s best players to team together in the prime of their careers in pursuit of championships.
Results of the recent super team experiments prove one thing; a collection of individual talent isn’t greater than true team chemistry no matter how you try to spin it.
As the Boston Celtics’ title window continues to diminish, the HEAT will undoubtedly be among the few teams contending for Eastern Conference supremacy for years to come barring major injuries. However, the rampant title talk heard so frequently at the beginning of the season has gradually shifted to a more humble ‘team chemistry takes time to achieve’ tone.
The New York Knicks are another prime example that just the mere assembling of elite talents does not guarantee instant success.
Since the trade deadline deal that teamed All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony and Finals MVP Chauncey Billups in the Big Apple with early season MVP candidate Amar’e Stoudemire the Knicks are a disappointing 7-10 with two losses coming against the woeful LeBron-less Cleveland Cavaliers.
To truly put the Knicks’ struggles in perspective, the squad is now one game under .500 and two games behind the Philadelphia 76ers for the sixth playoff seed.
The Sixers of course, possessing far less overall talent, weren’t even projected to be within a sniff of the postseason let alone having a legitimate shot to make a run at the currently fifth seeded Atlanta Hawks.
The Denver Nuggets who were thought to be dead in the water after losing Anthony and Billups in the trade. But instead excitedly welcomed the Knicks’ castaways into the fold and are an impressive 11-4 after the deal constantly demonstrating teamwork on the court and good camaraderie off the floor.
As Riley stated; once the HEAT jell, understand how to work effectively with one another and truly become a team they’re going to be extremely tough to stop from winning titles. The Knicks will eventually be their rival if they can figure out the same team chemistry recipe.
But for now with the way things have played out so far this season, everyone should fully understand that just throwing together the most talent doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the greatest level of success.
Riley Has No Plans to Trade Monta Ellis or Stephen Curry; Talks Team’s Future
The Golden State Warriors have arguably the most explosive young backcourt duo in the game today with Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry.
Yet if you participate in any prolonged discussion involving the Warriors’ future the subject usually turns to the idea that one of the two guards must be traded for the team to ultimately win big.
Riley dismisses that sort of talk and says he’s extremely pleased with how the guards work together and considers both part of the team’s long term future.
"They do have great chemistry and the team has good chemistry when they’re on the floor," Riley said to HOOPSWORLD. "I do see it as a situation that’s not a whole lot different from what some other teams have going on right now. If you watch a lot of NBA games there are a number of minutes in each game where there are two small guards on the floor at the same time. The game has gotten smaller at the guard position. There’s no doubt about that. I don’t see any reason why it can’t continue."
You have to go back to the 1989-1990 Detroit Pistons to find an undersized backcourt (Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars) who led their team to a NBA championship.
Riley is aware of this fact but still feels the need to be patient while the two young guards develop.
"Now those people who want to fan the flames of that kind of [trade] rumor or thinking they’re always going to say ‘you can’t win a title with them’ and that is yet to be seen," Riley added to HOOPSWORLD. "But at the same time we have these two guys who are very good players. We’re not going to bust them up unless there is an absolutely great reason to do so and I don’t see one right now."
As HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram discussed earlier this week, head coach Keith Smart believes Ellis’ maturation this season has been huge for team chemistry and part of the reason the Warriors front office has faith in the duo working out.
"I don’t know how you phrase that, but he’s grown up," Riley said to HOOPSWORLD regarding Ellis’ leadership development. "Let’s put it that way. To his credit he did it himself. He’s watched a lot of guys over the years and seen a lot of things happen and he decided ‘hey it’s time for me to step up’ and he’s done it and he’s done it in the right sort of way."
"Monta is not the most vocal sort of guy but he will talk," Riley continued. "He has opinions. But he’s done it by his play and the attitude that he’s brought to the court. I think it’s been beneficial for Stephen Curry."
The duo of Ellis and Curry is averaging a whopping combined 42.5 points and 11.2 assists on the season. With that type of production it’s not hard to see why Riley has taken a wait-and-see approach.
The Warriors haven’t been mathematically eliminated from the postseason, but currently sitting in the twelfth spot out West it’d take a huge collapse from Memphis, Phoenix, Utah and Houston to get in the mix.
Looking forward to next season Riley believes the club is just one major piece away and a little tightening of the club’s bench talent from making a serious run at the playoffs next year.
"We feel like we have to get one more really good player to go along with the group that we have," Riley said. "We’d like to add another guy that can be on our bench. So if we can add two guys to this group it’s going to be helpful to us. We’ll also have a couple draft picks and that’s going to be important."
"We’ve got to pick the right guys," Riley explained to HOOPSWORLD. "We’ve got to pick the right guys who can make our team and strengthen our bench because one of our weaknesses is that our bench is not very deep and we haven’t gotten the kind of play off our bench that a lot of other teams get. That’s an issue for us to address as well as adding one more really good player to this group."
In the interim as the season comes to a close Riley believes the squad is in a good place and says he’s been pleased by the play of two of his offseason acquisitions – David Lee and Dorell Wright.
"We’ve seen some things develop for us and we’re still a little bit short of where we’d like to be," Riley said. "There’s been some really good play from our guards in particular and Dorell Wright has had an outstanding year. He’s really done a real good job for us."
"David Lee has at least come in and done a good job," Riley told HOOPSWORLD. "There are a lot of people who say ‘he should do more’ but I think he will as time goes on. I think it’s important for us to get him some help in regards to having some people around the basket that can defend and rebound."
The Warriors seem to be picking up momentum, if they can continue to improve the duo of Ellis and Curry may indeed become a long term fixture in the bay area.