Along with the importance of chemistry that I wrote about previously, is the importance of team. Does a team need 2, 3 or even 4 stars in order to win a championship? Or, can a team made of role players with perhaps second tier stars who play as a team and pull together for a common goal do as well as a team with one or more super stars?
It's easy to point to the success of the 1986 Celtics with their Big 3 of Bird, McHale and Parish or to the 2007 with their Big 3 of Pierce, Garnett and Allen, or to the 2012 Heat with James, Wade and Bosh and say that having 3 super stars on a team does give a distinct advantage to a team. But, the question is, does a team have to have superstars in order to win?
And then there was the Rockets team back in 1996 when they brought their own big 3 trying to win it all. From an article in the Sporting News back in 1996:
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 team had 3 Hall of Fame superstars, but 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. They brought in parts that never really fit together.
I also think back to the Lakers team that had 4 future Hall of Famers on it in Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton and Karl 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 mesh quite right and that team split up without a championship as well.
Then, we can look at the other side of the argument that has to begin with the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons. On that team were Chucky Atkins, Chauncey Billups, Elden Campbell, Hubert Davis, Tremaine Fowlkes, Darvin Ham, Rip Hamilton, Lindsey Hunter, Mike James, Darko Milicic, Mehmet Okur, Tayshaun Prince, Zeljko Rebraka, Bob Sura, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, and Corliss Williamson. We might make a case for Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince for being good players but they are hardly superstars. This was a team that won on teamwork. Every player knew their role and they performed their roles very well and because of that, they won the championship, because of teamwork and not because of superstars.
Another example that we can look at is my favorite team of all time. The 1969 Boston Celtics didn't really have a superstar. Bill Russell was in his last season as player/coach and, although he was a super star in his prime, at this stage of his career, he was no longer at a superstar level. Along with Bill Russell, the team included Jim Barnes, Em Bryant, Don Chaney, Mal Graham, John Havlicek, Bailey Howell, Rich Johnson, Sam Jones, Don Nelson, Bud Olsen, Tom Sanders, and Larry Siegfried. While John Havlicek was one of the great scorers and 6th men for the Celtics, he wasn't what we would consider a superstar. There were stars on this team, but no superstars. They won that championship over the heavily favored star laden Lakers. They won with heart, grit, and teamwork. Again, every player had a role and filled that role to perfection.
That brings me to this team. They no longer have a big 3. KG and Pierce have slowed and are stars, but no longer in the superstar category. Danny has assembled a team filled with great role players. The key to winning a championship this season will be teamwork and every player filling his role completely and no player going outside of that role and trying to do too much for his own ego.
Doc's comments on Ray's departure show how important a coach is to determining roles and keeping the team focused on playing as a team and keeping egos in check. Doc knew that Rondo's role needed to be as leader of the team on the floor. Ray's role needed to be as a 6th man. Ray filled the role, but grudgingly and that made the team weaker. I believe that this season, the team that Danny has put together has players at each position who will be willing to fill whatever role that Doc gives them. As Jason Terry said at his press conference, if Doc wants him to do laundry or mop the floor as his role, that's what he'll do. Great attitude! They will win as a team and in the end, be contenders because of that.