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.

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It’s Your Fault Pat Riley!

Lebron is tired. Dwyane Wade can’t score. Chris Bosh is injured.

The Big 3 are in shambles.

The Miami Heat’s crisis goes much higher up than the Big 3 though.

Beat the Heat is becoming all too real for Miami fans. A game 3 shellacking led by Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert has put Miami’s championship aspirations into serious question. When Derrick Rose limped off the floor it appeared a free road to the NBA Final was given to the Heat. Now it looks more like rush hour traffic in Seattle.

On a night where the Heat finally got some secondary scoring, they weren’t able to come close to the Pacers. After the 1st quarter, Miami was outscored by Indiana 77-49.

What’s wrong with the Heat? Well, Pat Riley, you have some explaining to do.

Pat Riley is supposed to be a genius. He’s been more like Stu Jackson and Isaiah Thomas rolled into one since Lebron, Wade and Bosh rolled into town. The Miami Heat are terrible. Their deficiencies have been masked in large part by the most dominant player in the NBA history. Unfortunately for Pat Riley, the King is not Superman.

Most people, including myself, thought that Pat Riley had assembled enough talent to complement his stars. Their core seemed too good and was enough to overcompensate for their glaring weaknesses. The redundancy of 2 ball dominating wing players on the same team wouldn’t matter to an extent where the Miami Heat would be in danger of being knocked out in the 2nd round.

You can throw that gobbledygook down the drain.

Chris Bosh’s injury has shown that the Heat stars should never have been referred to as the Big 2.5. However, his absence in games 2 and 3 has made clear what an awful job Pat Riley has done over the past couple of seasons.

Crystal clear.

The Swiss Army Knife, Mike Miller, was brought in to be the necessary 4th wheel to smoothen the ride all the way to their championship parade. An aging Shane Battier was signed in the 2011 offseason to provide harassing defence and some scoring pop off the bench. Energy center Joel Anthony was signed to a 5 year, $18 million deal in 2010.

Mike Miller hasn’t been able to find his groove. Battier, a career 38% 3-point shooter, shot 33.9% from beyond the arc this season and was an atrocious 0-6 from downtown in game 3 as he started at small forward. Joel Anthony has been riding the pine to start games lately while sharing time with Ronny Turiaf and Dexter Pittman at the 5.

Mike Miller and Shane Battier were deemed shrewd acquisitions at the time. It just hasn’t worked out for the Heat. Riley has made, what appeared to be, solid signings that haven’t turned out as good as expected.

Pat Riley cannot go without blame forever.

While Larry Bird the executive of the year has assembled a team without a superstar that is currently handling Riley’s Heat with ease, Pat Riley sits with his slicked back hair and piercing stare, helpless. He is unable to do anything now. The thing is, it’s not like he has done much with his pet project for the last 2 scrutiny filled years either.

Riley has hoped that he could ride his 3 stars to basketball immortality.

The mastermind hasn’t shown up to work though. He has misevaluated his entire roster. The role players have fit in with the Big 3 about as well as a second cousin twice removed fits in at a family Christmas dinner.

Pat Riley hasn’t made the right moves, whatever those moves should have been. I can’t tell you what Pat Riley should have done because I don’t know.

Remember, I’m not the genius. Pat Riley is.

In theory, great minds make great moves. Pat Riley hasn’t done much out of the ordinary. Battier and Miller were moves everybody could get on board with. Mario Chalmers is an average NBA point guard that shoots an above average percentage from the 3-point line.

Over the past 2 years, the Heat have featured Mario Chalmers, Mike Bibby, Carlos Arroyo, Eddie House and Norris Cole as true point guards. Over the past 2 years, the Heat have featured Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Juwan Howard, Erick Dampier, Jamaal Magloire, Dexter Pittman, Ronny Turiaf and Eddy Curry as true centers.

Not one role player has overachieved for the Miami Heat. Heck, most have underachieved.

Pat Riley deserves some credit for sticking by his inexperienced but talented young head coach in Erik Spoelstra. Of course, Spoelstra hasn’t gotten it done either.

It’s true that because of the salaries of his 3 stars, Pat Riley has had a limited amount of cap space to work with. Even so, the salary cap can’t excuse Riley of his teams’ shortcomings.

The Miami Heat are not done yet. Although, envisioning the Heat team that played in game 3 fighting for a championship is more than a little difficult.

There’s more than enough blame to go around at this point.

But it’s Pat Riley who should be the first person everyone is looking at.

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.

Stan Should Still Be the Man

Coaches are expendable. Players are not. That’s the traditional wisdom.

It’s hard to disagree with it. Someone try convincing the city of Cleveland that Mike Brown was worth more than Lebron James. Yeah, that would be impossible.

However, it’s time to do away with traditional wisdom in Orlando.

Sure, franchise players are incredibly hard to come by. These guys are your rare, one of a kind, Koh-i-Noor kind of diamonds only found in the British Crown Jewels collection. You don’t simply pick Dwight Howard’s up at the local corner store. That’s why you have to do whatever you can to keep the gem, no matter what the cost may be. Well, supposedly.

The Orlando Magic have been patient enough now. Their patience was partially rewarded when Superman rescinded his trade demand, for now, and picked up his player option for the 2012-13 season. They had been given a reprieve.

Then Stan Van Gundy went to the media to inform them that Howard wanted a new coach, leading to one of the most awkward moments in sports interviewing history. Most people assumed that was Stan’s swan song. All that was left was for the fat man to sing.

Apparently, a fat man doesn’t do the trick.

In a series where just about every man, woman, child and alien gave the Orlando Magic Hell freezing over odds, Stan Van Gundy’s boys went out and took home court away from the Pacers with an ugly, yet impressive 81-77 victory. An opening game win versus the sexy dark horse team of the 2011-12 playoffs with a generously listed 6-9 Big Baby Davis starting at center in place of Dwight Howard was shocking to say the least.

The victory, as shocking as it was, should also be very telling to the Orlando Magic front office.

Whatever the outcome of this series, Stan Van Gundy has to stay on as coach of the Orlando Magic. This game 1 victory wasn’t a result of some hot shooting as you would probably expect. The Magic didn’t even shoot 40% for the game. The victory was a result of them scratching and clawing their way to a typical grind it out, playoff victory.

It’s not the win that should impress you, it’s the way the Magic team have responded to Van Gundy in Dwight Howard’s absence. It is clear that there is only one person that isn’t buying what Stan Van Gundy is selling. Right now, that certain someone is out with a back injury. This performance speaks volumes about Stan’s ability as a coach. How he has been able to keep an entire locker room on his side despite the face of the franchise mailing it in is beyond me.

A coach like that doesn’t come around every day.

I didn’t have a problem with the Magic telling Dwight Howard that he could choose his own coach a while ago. It seemed like the right thing at the time. Do whatever you got to do to keep Superman around. The Magic have spent every year since Dwight Howard was drafted building a team around him. I felt that they had no choice because of that reason alone.

I don’t see it that way now.

Dwight Howard should be the one to go. For the past year he has caused nothing but problems for the city of Orlando and the fact that he is the one guy on the team unwilling to open his mind to Van Gundy is more than a little concerning.

Screw him. Let the baby have his bottle. Send him to Brooklyn, Los Angeles or wherever someone will take him on. Orlando doesn’t need that head case for another wasted year.

Related: Indecision Does Not Compare to The Decision

It is almost inevitable that Dwight Howard will be on his way out of Orlando in a year. Picking up his option was just a desperate attempt to regain some public support and prove that he is a loyal person. Sorry Dwight, it’s too late.

Stan Van Gundy is the more valuable commodity for the Magic. The Magic are going to be left without Dwight Howard soon enough. They don’t want to be left without Stan Van Gundy as well. No need to delay, they can start their rebuilding project a year earlier. Everyone knows they aren’t going to win a championship next season anyways.

Cleveland was left for dead after Lebron spurned them. Orlando GM Otis Smith has the opportunity to begin his rebuild with some real assets instead of starting completely from scratch. Some real assets and, of course, one of the best coaches in the National Basketball Association.

It takes a special man to take a Mike Tyson, in his prime, style beating and come out of it smelling of roses.

The Magic ownership and front office cannot see this situation any other way.

Stan Van Gundy must remain in Orlando.

You can follow Chris Ross 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.

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