As the end of this season draws near I would like to talk a little about TEAM. It means many things on a broad-scope, but in basketball it speaks a state of play.
This came to mind when thinking about LeBron and the loss aftermath. For 66 wins the Cavs played as a team (case in point, regular season means little). The playoffs in the NBA expose you like none other. Every deficiency gets magnified ten-fold (LeBron’s supporting cast). BUT, with the right coach those deficiencies become beneficial to your team, see VIDEO.
The point I am trying to make is that no matter how great any one single player is, the worst part of a teammate’s skill set will get hung out to dry. LeBron can’t make up for everyone else, but what he can do is get them into a better spot to succeed. I liken back to everyone’s favorite comparison (Michael Jordan). The best player he ever stepped on a court with was probably Scottie Pippen, not a premiere, centerpiece, superstar-type player by any standards. He was a very-good, all-star caliber player that excelled in team play. In the season after Jordan’s initial retirement, Pippen led that Bulls team to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, losing in 7 to the Knicks, who lost in the 94 Finals to the Rockets in a memorable 7 games.
What I am trying to portray with that example is how playing well as a unit, and not 1 guy surrounded by 4 bystanders, will elevate each individuals play to a new level. It is a thing of beauty to see the frantic scrambling of defenses trying to make their rotations out to the perimeter. That is of course if you even understand what a defensive rotation entails in the game of basketball. It is a game where one player can make all the difference or be the beginning of a 48 minute struggle (see Dwyane Wade).
Overall it comes down to individual matchups predicated on team play. That is where the Magic came to dominate the Cavs. Cleveland does need better players around LeBron, but where did there #1 ranked defense go? The Magic scored nearly 104 ppg in the 6 game series, after only allowing 91.4 during the regular season, and 78 ppg in the FIRST TWO ROUNDS COMBINED. Cleveland’s loss was just as much about Orlando’s ability to expose Lebron’s supporting cast as it was their lack of defensive commitment.
I guess it comes down to the dominant big man theory.
NBA Finals Preview to follow.