Chemistry is one of the most important but underrated pieces to building a championship team. The Warriors surprised everyone in the playoffs this past season when they knocked off the top seeded Mavs. In an article on SFGate, they mentioned the chemistry on that Warriors team.
Nelson calls the Warriors "one of the best chemistry teams (I've had), and I've been around a lot of good ones. But this one's really, really tight." "To see each guy kind of rely on each other, lean on each other, to have someone carry their weakness they struggle with and another guy pick them up? I think from that standpoint, it's been a truly team effort to get here."
It's not a stretch to believe that the chemistry that they had may have figured into their success in the playoffs. The Pistons are a team with great chemistry because of playing together for several years. Because of that chemistry, they were able to win a championship without a superstar. Players on that team knew their roles and they worked very well together. For the most part, this team has been together for several years and have developed great chemistry as a team and because of that have been able to contend for a championship year after year.
On the other hand, I think back to the Lakers team that had 4 future Hall of Famers on it in Shaq, Kobe, Payton and Malone. They even had a future Hall of Fame coach and should have been able to win the championship that year. Granted, Malone and Payton were older at the time, but they still were competitive. Payton went on to be instrumental in the Heat championship in 2006 and Kobe and Shaq were at the top of their games. On paper, they were a lock to win it all. But, they didn't have any chemistry. There was in-fighting and bickering the entire year and I believe that is what kept that team from winning it all. They had the talent but didn't have any chemistry.
And then there was the Rockets team back in 1996 when they brought their own big 3 trying to win it all. From the Sporting News:
One great player can get a team on NBC. Two great players will give a team an excuse to print playoff tickets But in today's NBA, a team needs three great ones to dream of a championship.That's why the Rockets are smiling in their sleep these days. With Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Clyde Drexler, they may not have guaranteed reservations for next June. But they won't be swept by the Super-Sonics again, either.
This trio never really meshed and Drexler retired at the end of the season. They then brought in Scottie Pippen to team with Barkley and Olajuwon and the result was the same. The trio never meshed and the Rockets didn't win the championship.
I believe that the reason that our USA teams have fallen from prominence is that they aren't together long enough to build any chemistry between the players. You throw together a group of players used to playing against each other and let them practice for a few weeks and expect them to develop chemistry. These teams have the best players in the league on them and should be able to dominate. European teams are together for years and just have better chemistry and that translates into a stronger team. I believe that with the current team, they are taking a better approach by having the core group together for several years, but they still won't have the kind of chemistry that many of the international teams have built by playing together day in and out for years.
Most often, the cause of chemistry problems is player attitudes. Players either have a higher opinion of themselves than they should or just aren't team players. Egos often get in the way as they did on that Lakers team. In putting this team together, Danny has not only brought in good basketball players, but also good character guys.
Before the draft, Tommy Heinsohn had this to say on the subject:
An often missed element of picking players, Ah and everybody starts going like the football coaches used to go by. Times and by how fast they were in the forty and what have you. Been my experience that the players with the best character, the players that truly love to play, the so called gym rats, who may not quite have all the talent these other guys have, but that by the end of their careers they will work themselves in to be great contributers to a program. And I've seen many players like that help a basketball program. They are not the star, but end up being great contributers. And so, the character guys, the guys that are willing to work, the guys that love to play the game, the guys that would pay ownership to play. Those are the kinda guys that you want to pick and that should be an important part of the mix.
I believe that Danny has brought in 2 stars who can leave their egos behind and do whatever it takes to make this team a winner. The young guys like Perk, Powe, Davis, Pruitt, Wallace, and Rondo are all great guys as well. They work hard, they love to play, they are team players, and even more are good people. Tony Allen has learned his lesson after his brush with the law and I believe that it has built good character in him as well. Scal, for all of his criticism, is one of the best character guys in the NBA. And that brings us to Garnett and Allen. These are two of the classiest guys in the league. They both have great work ethics and their passion for the game is infectious. They want to win and will do whatever it takes to do so.
Pierce, Allen, and Garnett all have labored for years without complaining (as Kobe has) on losing teams and in rebuilding programs. All are hungry for a ring. These three go back to high school with each other and are all friends. They play together in the off season and know each other well. It was very obvious in the press conference that they already have chemistry off the court and the fact that they all have something to prove and would do almost anything to win a championship almost guarantees that this chemistry is going to carry over to the basketball court.
One of the keys to winning a championship will be whether this team can develop the type of chemistry where they have each other's backs and trust each other. Pierce, Allen and Garnett have games that complement each other and all have a great feel for the game. Each is willing to mentor the younger players on the team and this will make each of them better. I have a feeling that this will translate to a very close knit group and will bring championship #17 to the Celtics.
We think KG needs the Russ. Those two need to start doing lunch. Maybe, actually, what we need to do, is start a book club. KG and Russ need to start a book club. We'll go to the Taj for Tea (or maybe the tearoom at the BPL) and we'll discuss. This is the idea. So you're in? Right?