Assistant Sports Editor
The way to build an NBA contender is not through mega-stars and fanfare (I’m looking at you Pat Riley). Like anything else, there are several ways to skin a cat, but wouldn’t you rather use the laser machine than your mustache trimmer?
Did I lose everyone? Yeah? Oh well, moving on.
Like I was saying, before I so rudely interrupted myself with that horrible analogy, the way to the Larry O’Brien Trophy is not paved with superstars. If we have learned anything in the last three years it is that unless you have a ruthlessly competitive superstar (see Bryant, Kobe) your best shot will be with role players and at least one alpha dog.
The Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title last season with Jason Terry and Jason Kidd as their second-and third-best players. Jason Kidd is 39-years-old and didn’t develop a jump shot until he lost his first step, and Jason Terry is Jason Terry.
However, everyone on the Mavericks knew what their role was. Kidd knew he just had to make open shots and not turn the ball over. Terry had to bring energy off the bench. Shawn Marion became an elite defender and DeShawn Stevenson did pretty much all of the above.
Dirk Nowitzski did what superstars are supposed to do: perform when it matters most and make things easier on the team. Nowitzki averaged 27.7 points per game during the playoffs and made 24 consecutive free throws in the Western Conference Finals.
The 2009 and 2010 NBA Championships were won by the Los Angeles Lakers who, like the Chicago Bulls during the ‘90s, were led by one of the most tenacious competitors we have ever seen in Kobe Bryant. Pau Gasol helps, but when you have someone driven by rings and rings alone, you are going to win your fair share.
The Celtics, while loaded with stars, won because everyone knew their role and filled it. Would they have won without James Posey locking down defenders? Could you take Tony Allen off that team and guard as well? Was Kendrick Perkins replaceable?
The answer to all of those questions is an emphatic, resounding “No.”
This all brings us to this season and year two of the Miami Heat experiment. The Heat have the league’s third-best record while also being the most top-heavy contender we have ever seen.
After LeBron James and Dwyane Wade there is a slight drop off to Chris Bosh, followed by a cavernous drop to Mario Chalmers before things just get sad with Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Joel Anthony and Norris Cole; a veritable murderers row of salary cap filler.
Will the Heat win it all? Probably not. Who is their defensive stopper? Who is their sure-fire ball handler who will make open shots? Who is their intimidator?
The answer to all of the above is “nobody.”
Take a lesson from the past. Get yourself a go-to guy, an outside shooter, a lockdown defender and a physical post presence and everything else will fall into place.
Just ask Mark Cuban.
Jimmy Kelley may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org