Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On the basketball free agency...

First of all, I have to say that I find basketball the most interesting thing to talk about.  Unlike baseball, you're allowed to talk about things like team chemistry, character, clutch shooting, and coaching decisions without immediately being shouted down by a bunch of guys with spreadsheets telling you that none of that matters.  Football's a little too technical and complicated.  Basketball seems most analagous to problems in other organizations.  Who's the best lead player?  What kind of players should you surround him with?  How should the teammates relate to each other and to the coach?

This past postseason was a very interesting study in what kind of teams are successful.  LeBron James who seems to get along with his teammates and had rolled with them to a 60 win season got knocked out in the second round.  Kobe Bryant, who occasionally seems to regard his teammates with thinly veiled contempt, won the title.  The difference seemed to be that when Kobe Bryant went 6 for 24 in Game 7, his teammates were able to pull them through.  When James had a bad game, his teammates shrunk.

There's been a lot of talk about where James and the others should go if they want to win a championship.  But I'm not sure James or anyone else can know that for sure.  Do we know how any set of teammates will react in a playoff game when James doesn't have it going?  Who will be the next Derek Fisher?

The critical thing will be the culture of the team, defined mostly by the head coach and James himself.  That could happen anywhere or it could happen nowhere.  We don't know yet if James can lead a team to a championship. It seems likely but we don't know.

Whatever James chooses, it will be interesting to see if it will work.

One more note -- an undercurrent of recent commentary has been the wonders of Pat Riley.  Now Riley is one of three coaches to win multiple championships in the past 25 years.  But his team has been lousy the last three years.  I'm not so sure about the magical tough.
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