Importance of Stars in NBA

The Indiana Pacers had the Miami Heat on the ropes but couldn’t finish them off. They set themselves up for a storybook ending. Alas, it was not meant to be.

How typical.

The Pacers were outmatched. Much like a boxer without that knockout punch or a closer without a strikeout pitch, the Pacers needed something more. They just didn’t have it though. Larry Bird’s squad is another prime example of the necessity of having a star player in order to win meaningful games in the NBA.

Balance alone doesn’t cut it in this league.

The Heat should never have been seen as on the ropes by so many people (yes, guilty as charged). Not when they feature 2 of the best players on the planet while the Pacers feature player is a fringe all-star center. Indiana didn’t go soft in game 6. They couldn’t bring their game up a couple of notches like the Heat were able to.

It’s no secret that star players are important. They are almost as vital to NBA playoff life as oxygen is for human beings. However, not every team can have a star and those without at least one would like to think that they can survive. Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case.

It’s not as if balanced teams cannot fight with the big boys of the league. If anything, they are even scrappier because they have something to prove. The Pacers gave the Heat a great fight. I would have paid to see 12 rounds of that. The Denver Nuggets took Kobe Bryant and his two giants to 7 hard-fought games. Philadelphia themselves have a legitimate shot at the Eastern Conference Finals. The 76ers hardly qualify though considering their road up to this point has been littered with the fallen soldiers of their opponents.

These teams can make it only so far.

Basketball isn’t a game that invites parity, largely due to the requirement of stars. Only 9 teams have won an NBA championship in the past 30 years and 3 of those teams have 1 lone championship banner hanging in their arena over that span. Of those 30 teams who have won championships, only the 2004 Detroit Pistons lacked anything close to a star player.

When the chips are down, a championship team must a guy or two that they can hand the ball over to. Even the 2004 Detroit Pistons had Chauncey Billups who is known around the league as Mr. Big Shot.

The Pacers didn’t have anyone like that this year. Danny Granger was an emerging NBA star not too long ago. He was unable to bring that star power to the Heat series for even 1 game and because of that the Pacers were doomed. The Heat superstars simply brought it after game 3 and the balanced roster of the Pacers couldn’t handle it.

The Orlando Magic ownership know that winning in the NBA is as star driven as any professional sports league in the world. That’s why they have made every possible concession that they could to appease Dwight Howard. Like a kid trying to impress the cool kids in high school, they tried a little too hard though. However, the reasoning behind their actions is completely understandable.

Fan bases without stars to boast of have to believe that a no-name roster can take down the Goliath’s of the NBA world. In a league where there is very little fluctuation among the top teams, hope is sometimes all they have.

Hope and belief just aren’t enough though.

The Thunder, Heat and Spurs all meet the criteria of possessing a star player. Oklahoma City has Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Miami has Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. San Antonio has Tony Parker to go along with aging stars in Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli. If the Boston Celtics do indeed push through the injuries to the Conference Finals then that would mean the 4 teams left in the 2012 playoffs would have the pre-requisite star needed to win a championship.

It’s no different than having a top-flight quarterback in the NFL. Still, the NFL has not only had much more parity in the past 30 years than the NBA but there have also been more Super Bowl winners that have lacked the supposed essential piece of the puzzle.

Stars trump balance in the NBA unlike any other league.

The Pacers, well, they did the best that they could.

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts.

Agree? Disagree? You can also E-mail Chris at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

Monday’s Seven Casual Contemplations

Welcome to the new weekly segment on Painting the Black. It is my goal to start your work week off right with random thoughts, ideas, rants and ramblings from the week that was in the world of sports. Hey look, today is a Monday and it’s the 7th, quelle coincidence. Exclusive to Painting the Black, here are your Monday Morning Casual Contemplations…

Illogical NHL Refereeing

Playoff hockey is the worst for referees. The whistles disappear like Lebron in the 4th quarter. It’s not a pretty sight. ‘Let them play’ is their mantra. Of course, by ‘letting them play,’ the refs are simply ruining the game.

It is even worse in the 3rd period and overtime when penalties are only ever called for high sticking, delay of game and, my personal favourite (not really), slashing ONLY when the stick breaks. The referees refuse to make calls on legitimate penalties but for accidental or freak incidents such as the infractions I previously mentioned where the penalty has to be called. It just doesn’t make sense that the rule book becomes so restricted in the most pressure packed circumstances. It is so frustrating and almost impossible to understand how a blatant trip, hook or hold can be ignored while these other penalties have been deemed must calls by the referees. They should all be must calls.

The fact that a wild, unintentional stick that just so happens to strike the face of an opponent is always called yet other penalties that constantly prevent scoring opportunities are intentionally overlooked is absolutely absurd. This is part of the reason why the NHL has so many multiple overtime games. It becomes so difficult to score because power plays are virtually non-existent in late and close playoff games. If you know me, I sound like a broken record for saying this but this is the type of thing that was supposed to be fixed after the lockout. It is wrong that this is the norm and that people as well as the NHL, year in and year out, accept it for what it is.

Kellen Moore and the CFL

I, among many others, was surprised to see Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore go undrafted. He signed on with the Detroit Lions so it’s a pretty safe bet to say that he won’t be getting much playing anytime soon.

Kellen Moore is a perfect candidate for the Canadian Football League. Never mind all the Americans who ignorantly perpetuate the myth that the CFL is a hack league. By the way, not all Canadians live in igloos. The CFL is chalk full of undersized and underappreciated talent. It is perfect for Kellen Moore.

The stigma associated with the CFL and pride of NFL hopefuls probably prevents a lot of players from giving the CFL a shot but it’s really a wonder why more NCAA quarterbacks like Kellen Moore don’t come north of the border straight out of college. NFL scouts understand the quality of the CFL. That’s why more and more guys such as Cameron Wake and Stefan Logan, tagged as a tweener and too small respectively when they began their pro careers, have gotten their shot to play and succeed in the NFL.

The best way to improve at the quarterback position is to play on a regular basis. Kellen Moore isn’t going to get that opportunity with the Detroit Lions. It may not be the NFL but it’s the next best thing. Instead of bouncing around the league and standing on the sideline holding a clipboard, Kellen Moore could get an opportunity at some legitimate playing time and prove that he has the chops to play professional football at a high level. Except for maybe the money, it is a no loss situation.

Challenges in the MLB

Tim Welke made one of the worst calls in MLB history the other day when he called the runner out at first despite Todd Helton being a good 3 feet off the bag. It was terrible but I still feel bad for Tim Welke. He is forever immortalized in baseball history. It could have been prevented though.

It’s baffling that the MLB hasn’t adopted some form of a challenge system. They added umpire review for home runs and it has saved a number of umpires the disgrace of being wrong on potential game changing home runs. They have the technology but much like FIFA refuse to utilize it. Inputting a challenge system for determining whether runners are safe or out would be easier than Madonna is on a Friday night at the club. 1 challenge per team. If the manager is right he keeps his challenge, if he is wrong he is out of challenges for the game.

It wouldn’t slow the game down much. Definitely not more than the excessive visits to the mounds (that should be restricted I might add). Football, hockey, basketball and tennis have all made the transition to video replay for the great benefit of their sports. Baseball must do the same. I know that Armando Gallaraga concurs with that sentiment.

White Outs

NBA teams should wear colours at home. I’m tired of seeing these shirt giveaways that create a white out in the crowd. It’s just so unimaginative. Of course, when the Thunder gave all their fans blue shirts in their series opener, guess what colour the Dallas Mavericks were wearing? Yeah, blue. Dallas did the same thing when they came home for game 3. In the NHL, teams wear their colours at home and white on the road. I know white has long been associated with home but it makes a lot more sense that teams should be wearing the colours that match the merchandise their fans have purchased or have been given. It looks a lot better too.

Alexander Ovechkin vs. Dale Hunter

Something’s gotta give in the Ovechkin-Hunter feud as Washington Capitals head coach Dale Hunter has substantially diminished the ice time of his superstar player throughout these Stanley Cup Playoffs. That something that’s going to give will be Dale Hunter. The only way Hunter can continue to give Ovechkin average player minutes is if Washington somehow goes on to win a Stanley Cup. They have overachieved so far and I don’t see them getting their hands on the Holy Grail without Ovechkin playing his heart out for 20 plus minutes a game.

Ovechkin has been a good sport about his benching this time around. He is saying the right things but he won’t put up with this for much longer, especially since he is starting to produce offensively. Ownership won’t stand for this diminished ice time either if it somehow continues into next season. Despite a couple of off years, Ovechkin puts the butts of Washington fans into the seats at the Verizon Center. Ovie is the most marketable commodity in the NHL and Washington ownership no doubt wants to exploit that. Whether you agree with him or not, you have to respect Dale Hunter for his harsh stance on Ovechkin’s playing time but he is foolish if he believes that he can continue doing this and last as head coach of the Capitals.

The Baltimore Orioles Are Good?

There are few sure things in life. The sun will rise in the east and set in the west, Bill Belichick will wear a hoodie and the Baltimore Orioles will be bad.

I guess life is just full of surprises. As if the AL East division wasn’t already the toughest division in baseball, the Baltimore Orioles have started out the season 19-9 and sit in first place, a half game up on Tampa Bay. The Blue Jays have become the dark horse team outside the big 3 in the American League but with Baltimore joining in on the fun the AL East does not feature a weak team. It was always a given that the Orioles would be bad. Everyone in the American League could feel a little better about their team’s fortunes because of the Orioles.

Although it is early and fortunes could change quickly, the Orioles appear destined to fight for a playoff spot come August and September. While the Royals, Twins, White Sox, Athletics and Mariners tear up the Central and West divisions, the East no longer has a true weak team. I giveth you, the unfairness of life in the American League East.

Miami Heat and the Final Shot

Although Miami has been able to improve on a number of issues from last season, the question of who takes the shots in late and close game situations has still been left unanswered. As much as Lebrick is made fun of for his inability to perform in the 4th quarter, he has shown flashes of brilliance in the clutch.

Dwayne Wade took the final shot in game 4 Sunday afternoon. He took the shot regardless of the fact that Lebron had just made a 3 and completed an And 1 opportunity. Lebron was hot but Erik Spoelstra drew up the play for D-Wade to run. Last year it was the opposite as Lebron was given the reigns to finish off the game while Dwayne Wade, even in the midst of a stellar performance, stood helplessly to the side and watched.

It would seem to me that going with the hot hand would be the easy and rational choice for Erik Spoelstra. It doesn’t make sense to have one guy that you have to go to in a certain situation when you have Lebron James and Dwayne Wade on the same team. Kobe Bryant can take the game winning shot after he goes 3 for 21 in a game because he is the only superstar on his team and because he is Kobe Bryant. Erik Spoelstra has the luxury (or curse if you’re a glass half empty kind of guy) of two dominant wing guys so it’s hard to go wrong with simply choosing the player who is feeling it at the time.

Bonus (Shameless?) Contemplation!

I was thinking that you might want to check me out on twitter and then give me a follow @paintstheblack if you like what you’re seeing. Maybe before you do that, don’t leave the website and subscribe to the blog either through the email subscription in the right hand corner or with the RSS feed so you can have immediate access to the latest articles on Painting the Black. Sweet, I know.

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