Chemistry is one of the most important but underrated pieces to building a championship team. The 2007-08 team built incredible chemistry on their way to Banner 17. First, we saw the unity of the 3 stars as Pierce and Allen flew in to be there for KG's press conference. Then, all 3 went back to Boston early to work out together and further build chemistry. They made a point of appearing for interviews and pictures as a unit. They adopted the concept of ubuntu as their theme as they each played to make each other and the team better. They were unified with one goal, and that was winning a championship.
Going into that season, this is what Paul Pierce had to say about the team's chemistry and the ubuntu theme that the team had adopted.
“I look at this team, and I think everybody believes in that phrase, because no matter who gets the glory, it means we all get the glory. For Kevin Garnett to get the MVP or Ray Allen to get the MVP or Rondo to make an All-Star team, I know I’ve got a part in that. I’m going to feel that. That’s what’s going to make us successful. If everybody feels that way about it and doesn’t care who gets the glory - because we all get the glory at the end - it’s going to be something special. If we can carry that throughout the whole year and not get down on one another and we keep it like that, we’re going to go a long way.”
That attitude and concept carried that team to a championship. Over the next 4 years, ubuntu, and thus the team's chemistry took a few hits. There were injuries that derailed the 2008-09 season. The team came within one quarter of winning a second title in 2010 but were prevented from doing so by Perk's ACL injury and some suspect officiating. This past year, there was the lockout, and the team got off to a slow start. Then all the injuries hit. I mean, what team has ever lost 2 key players to heart surgery in the same year? But even with everything going against them, they fought to game 7 vs the eventual champion Heat.
Somewhere along the way, Ray lost the concept of ubuntu. He was unhappy with having to come off the bench. He was unhappy with his role on the team. He was unhappy with KG getting more attention in the offseason and because of that, Ray chose to leave the Celtics. Can the Celtics recapture the chemistry they had in 2007-08? I believe they can. Here is a statement from Jason Terry's interview on NBA-TV.
I talked to KG two or three days ago and he and I are going to get together in LA, work out a couple of days, and start to build that chemistry that’s going to be needed for us to win it all.
Jason Terry knows what it takes to win. He won a championship at the NCAA level and won another with the Mavericks as a pro. He knows the importance of chemistry to a team and is going to begin even now building that chemistry with his new teammates.
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 and individuals take priority over team. In putting this team together, Danny has not only brought in good basketball players, but also good character guys. A quote from the book, Red Auerbach's Winning Ways, we read that "Red Auerbach chose his players for character as much as talent, and taught them to play for the team instead of individual glory. And the result of that approach was a dynasty with 16 championships in his time at the helm.
I believe that Danny has gone back to that formula for building a team for this season. We have the core of the team with Pierce, KG and Rondo. They are among the hardest workers in the league and have built great chemistry over the past 5 years. Add to that Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley who also are hard workers and who have developed chemistry with the other 3 over a difficult lockout shortened season. All are character guys and just get the job done and play for team, rather than for themselves.
Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, Jason Collins, and Jared Sullinger are all players who will form the reserves of this season's team and be counted on to contribute. Every one of these players has been described as a guy with great character and every one is a team player. Every one of these players wants to be a Celtic and will do whatever it takes to help the team win a championship. I don't see a single player who will have a problem playing for team and every one will be willing to accept a role in order to help the team win.
Another factor in building chemistry in that championship season was having training camp in Europe. Doc said that getting the team away from all the distractions at home was like a crash course in in building chemistry and it drew the team closer than any camp at home could have. There were the stories of the team doing everything together and of KG taking the young guys shopping for new suits. They bonded in that camp and Doc couldn't speak highly enough of that experience.
Fast forward to this season and once again, the Celtics will be having training camp overseas and will be playing in exhibition games in Turkey and Italy. This should help to bring all of the new players together and build chemistry as a team, just as that camp 5 years ago for the team that would win Banner 17. Chemistry is one of the most important but underrated pieces to building a championship team and all the signs point to this year's team already building that strong chemistry they'll need to win Banner 18.
Again, what she said! Found the Wojo interview with Doc re Allen most insightful. Would recommend any fan read that article and ignore all the rest written on the Allen saga this summer. If that interview would be titled Ubuntu Lost then the upcoming European training camp will hopefully be Ubuntu Regained (hat tip to John Milton, no doubt an early power forward). This whole rebirth of the Celtic Way has rejuvenated my fan-dom. All hail the antithesis of And-1 and Me ball.