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rexnom
01-02-2008, 01:26 PM
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/080102&sportCat=nba

Terrific article.

This article is taken from the Jan. 14. issue of ESPN The Magazine.
Remember right after "Moneyball" was published, when baseball execs began to embrace the logic of, "Hey, if we put together a lineup of high-OBP hitters, we might score more runs," and everyone else was like, "Wait, that's obvious -- why didn't they always do this?"

I don't want to jinx it, but we may have reached a similar tipping point in the NBA. If you're a hoops fan, you should be delighted. If you're Spurs coach Gregg Popovich or GM R.C. Buford, you should be miserable. If you're Ricky Davis' agent, you should resign before he becomes a free agent this summer. If you're a sarcastic sportswriter who loves making fun of bad GMs, you should be in mourning. (Note: I'm writing this column dressed all in black.) And if you're a Knicks or a Heat fan, throw down two shots and hit yourself in the head before reading on.

Here's the new mantra for savvy NBA teams: "Chemacterility." Why haven't you heard the term before? Because I just made it up. But it's an amalgam of three concepts that have formed the foundation of the Duncan Era in San Antonio: chemistry, character and (cap) flexibility. As soon as Duncan arrived, in 1997, Popovich and Buford began to avoid bad guys and bad contracts, preferring role players, quality guys and short-term deals. They're so fanatic about chemistry that when Luis Scola jumped to the NBA this summer, they traded his rights, partly because they weren't sure he could adjust from being a star in Spain to being a supporting player here. They didn't even want to take the chance he'd screw them up!

Even though the Spurs have won four titles with Duncan, for whatever reason, every other GM except Detroit's Joe Dumars has continually refused to emulate them. But that changed this summer. Sure, Danny Ainge revamped the Celtics by acquiring Ray Allen and KG, but the rest of his game plan has been equally important to the team's early success, and it hasn't received nearly enough fanfare. He filled a depleted roster with unselfish, high-character guys like Eddie House, James Posey and Scot Pollard and refused to pursue any moody vets. Thanks but no thanks, GP and Troy Hudson!

Much has been made of Boston's team slogan -- "Ubuntu," an African word meaning unity -- but you need to attend a Celtics game to understand why they're on pace for 139 wins this season. In the layup lines, everyone is high-fiving and joshing. Before the opening tip, Posey greets each starter with a prolonged man-hug and inspirational words. The nightly sequence might hark back uncomfortably to Rocky and Apollo's beach snuggle, but it works. During games, bench players stand and cheer as if they're being coached by Mark Madsen. In garbage time, the starters root just as passionately for the scrubs.

These guys eat dinner, hang out, work out and play video games together. They don't care about stats, acclaim, shots or minutes. It's a team in every sense. Even better, Boston's future is protected for years to come: Allen's contract expires in 2010, Pierce's in 2011, KG's in 2012. The Celtics are good, and they will continue to be good. What more can you ask for? When you can mix talent with chemacterility, you have something substantial.

Now, if you're a Blazers fan, you're thinking, Wait, that sounds familiar! After enduring the debilitating Jail Blazers Era, the locals despised the team so much that Portland's suits targeted chemistry guys out of self-preservation. Quite simply, Blazers fans needed to like the team again or the franchise was going to be run out of town. When the Blazers spent a 2005 lottery pick on Martell Webster, then-GM John Nash defended the reach pick by telling ESPN, "We think we took an outstanding young man. He's a terrific character, somebody that the community of Portland can be proud of." Was he drafting a councilman or a shooting guard?

That mind-set led Portland to Jarrett Jack, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. It also convinced them to give away Zach Randolph for Steve Francis and Channing Frye, then to buy out Francis, the world-class sulker, for $30 million, nipping any chance he'd contaminate the kids. Maybe those last two moves seem like an over- reaction -- you don't just give away 20/10 guys, right? -- but their devotion to cleaning house was admirable, and smart. (Note: Sure, Darius Miles still lurks. But when he's done rehabbing his knee, he'll surely be looking at a Francis-like buyout. Well, unless they can trade him or frame him for something. After that win streak in December, it's clear that keeping Miles makes as much sense for the Blazers as replacing Zac Efron with Pacman Jones for High School Musical 3 would for Disney.)

Although their initial rebuilding plan centered on creating cap space after 2009 and stockpiling enough assets to swing a KG-like deal, the Blazers sped things up this season by becoming the poster boys for chemacterility. They've also left the average NBA fan perplexed. After all, Boston's resurgence makes sense because they have three All-Stars; the Blazers have one emerging star (Roy) leading a mishmashed collection of youngsters and role players. They're a good raw team, but 13-in-a-row good? Without Oden? After they thumped a more talented Raptors team on Dec. 19, Jason Kapono told reporters, "Their chemistry is so good right now, and that's so hard to deal with."

Have you ever heard anyone blame the other team's chemistry for a loss? Me neither. Clearly the Blazers have stumbled onto something. On the flip side, look at the ongoing catastrophe in Miami. Poor D-Wade looks like Will Smith trying to carry I, Robot: His supporting cast stinks, and the script sucks. Who'd blame him if he were thinking about his next movie? Shaq's monster contract killed their cap through 2010, which would be fine if he hadn't developed rigor mortis over the summer. Even worse, Posey was allowed to leave, and the team violated chemacterility Rules 1 through 23 by trading for Davis and Mark Blount. That made about as much sense as holding practice next to a leaking nuclear reactor.

(Last note, I promise: Yes, I know, Miami looks like San Antonio South compared with the damage Isiah Thomas has inflicted on the Knicks. As a belated holiday gift to New Yorkers, I'll skip the gory details. Just know that Isiah is to chemacterility what the Saw series is to wholesome family comedy.)

Regardless, Popovich and the Blazers' Kevin Pritchard have to be cringing. Their secret is out: Talent and chemistry go hand in hand. Will we ever see a team willingly trade for Davis or Blount again or sign a knucklehead like Randolph to an $86 million extension? Sure. There will always be desperate GMs. But I expect more teams to copy the Celtics and Blazers with shrewder signings, more short-term deals and a higher premium on character.

So welcome to the era of chemacterility. Who knows? Brian Scalabrine's five-year, $15 million deal might seem reasonable someday. (I lied: Okay, that's a stretch.)

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine.

Putnam
01-02-2008, 01:47 PM
Thanks for posting this article, rexnom. It is a very encouraging trend.


If you're a hoops fan, you should be delighted.

Changing basketball into a team sport rather than a showcase for individual talent. Bring it on.

rexnom
01-02-2008, 02:06 PM
I agree with Putnam, here. It is a very encouraging trend. Maybe talent doesn't mean everything. Jack and Al were talented but they also messed up our chemistry. Meanwhile, they meant a lot to GS's chemistry - Jack being the unquestioned soul of that team.

Arcadian
01-02-2008, 02:16 PM
When a team wins they have good chemistry. When they lose they have bad chemistry. Joe brought in Rasheed the poster boy of the Jailblazers and now Bill says Joe's following Chemistry 101. James Posey was traded from Memphis because of his attitude. Now he is a chemistry guy. I just see two players who are on winning teams now.

Unclebuck
01-02-2008, 02:50 PM
When a team wins they have good chemistry. When they lose they have bad chemistry. Joe brought in Rasheed the poster boy of the Jailblazers and now Bill says Joe's following Chemistry 101. James Posey was traded from Memphis because of his attitude. Now he is a chemistry guy. I just see two players who are on winning teams now.

You bring up the age old question. Is it the player or the situation.

CableKC
01-02-2008, 02:53 PM
Very good read. Can someone email this link to Bird?

This does bring up some intereting thoughts.....how does a team build chemistry?

It sounds like it can be done like the way the Spurs, Pistons and the Blazers ( to a certain degree ) have done it....but putting together a primary core of players, signing them for a reasonable amount of time and then making minimal changes over time. I'm gonna chalk the Celtics chemistry up to having 3 All-Stars that are unselfish and willing to put aside their egos to win a Championship.

Are we capable of doing what the Spurs and Pistons have done from a chemistry POV?

Bird did go the safe route this offseason and signed Deiner and Rush.....where one literally sounds and looks like a Boy Scout.

The only thing that I really hope that TPTB does take from this is the importance of role-players...something that I think is important and much needed on this team.

rexnom
01-02-2008, 03:03 PM
You bring up the age old question. Is it the player or the situation.
It has to be the situation, right? Tinsley was poison in the past, but he's been huge this year. Jack was poison in Indy but the key to GS's resurgence.

Fool
01-02-2008, 03:17 PM
He basically made an entire article out of his Page 2 list of best contracts piece a week or two back where he shoe-horned in a paragraph about how the Celtics were the new Spurs. The comparison still doesn't fit. He's just sentimentalizing his fave team now that their good. He's like Mitch Albom light all of a sudden.

I agree that its nice when teams like each other and the players are stand up guys but Miami, the team he uses as the anti-chemistry team, just won a championship thanks to a trade that wasn't all that dissimilar to the Ricky Davis/Mark Blount acquisition.

Phildog
01-02-2008, 03:20 PM
I think what will be more interesting is how the team is going to respond to their "rough patch" they have hit. As of 2 weeks ago they were the best friends in the world and Tinsley was a new guy, etc, etc.

Now that they are losing are the fingers going to begin to be pointed? I'm interested to know if we will regroup or implode as we have the last few seasons. I'm certainly tired of that and I think that is what I miss the most, the consistent group of guys out there that play together and hard every night out. We WERE getting there....and now we are where we have been over the last few years again. We need that identity.

d_c
01-02-2008, 03:37 PM
When a team wins they have good chemistry. When they lose they have bad chemistry. Joe brought in Rasheed the poster boy of the Jailblazers and now Bill says Joe's following Chemistry 101. James Posey was traded from Memphis because of his attitude. Now he is a chemistry guy. I just see two players who are on winning teams now.

Also, don't forget about the run the Sacramento Kings had from 1999-2004. Remember when they were the epitomy of "how to play the game the right way"? The very essence of team basketball?

Well that team had the whiney Chris Webber who the Wizards shipped out for an over the hill Mitch Richmond. People also forget that guys like Bobby Jackson and Doug Chrisite were viewed as malcontents in their previous stops. All of a sudden they were perfect role players. Mike Bibby was viewed as a guy who couldn't lead in Vancouver, then he turned into Mr. ClutchShot for quite some time. They even had Keon Clark in the rotation the year that they might have had their best shot to win it all.

JayRedd
01-02-2008, 04:01 PM
How does someone write an article about malcontents and horrible contracts and not even mention the Pacers? I'm flabbergasted.

Bball
01-02-2008, 05:33 PM
The only thing that I really hope that TPTB does take from this is the importance of role-players...something that I think is important and much needed on this team.

Role players need to be able and willing to accept their role, of course... but it cuts both ways- Players ahead of them on the depth/glamour chart need to command the respect of their peers thru their own performance and work ethic.

Also, sometimes you need to let the natural progression of leadership and pecking order take place. With guaranteed contracts and high salaries that is not always the easiest thing for a GM to do. They want to justify that contract they put in front of "their guy".

It's not always the box score that shows a player's value to the team.

-Bball

bulldog
01-02-2008, 06:22 PM
I agree that its nice when teams like each other and the players are stand up guys but Miami, the team he uses as the anti-chemistry team, just won a championship thanks to a trade that wasn't all that dissimilar to the Ricky Davis/Mark Blount acquisition.


Agreed, didn't Miami bring in Antoine Walker and Jason Williams, two low-character guys, and win a title, while the good guys in Dallas got destroyed.

Like Arcadian said, if you win, sportswriters say you have good intangibles. It hides the fact they don't know basketball.

CableKC
01-02-2008, 06:27 PM
Role players need to be able and willing to accept their role, of course... but it cuts both ways- Players ahead of them on the depth/glamour chart need to command the respect of their peers thru their own performance and work ethic.

Also, sometimes you need to let the natural progression of leadership and pecking order take place. With guaranteed contracts and high salaries that is not always the easiest thing for a GM to do. They want to justify that contract they put in front of "their guy".

It's not always the box score that shows a player's value to the team.

-Bball
The only role-player that I wish we could somehow acquire is a solid perimeter defender that can lockdown the wing. That's the concern I had....can a player that is effective on one end of the court but not highly effective on the other fit in JO'Bs system?

On paper....I think that the answer is no.....but in reality....I think that we have to find some way to address the pourous perimeter defense that we have. I've mentioned this in another thread....but next season....if we were faced with the choice of resigning someone like Rush and had the option to sign a lockdown and aggressive perimeter roleplayer......which is clearly debateable given Rush's somewhat decent defense as of late....I would likely choose the lockdown perimeter defender roleplayer that isn't a great scorer.

avoidingtheclowns
01-02-2008, 09:15 PM
When a team wins they have good chemistry. When they lose they have bad chemistry. Joe brought in Rasheed the poster boy of the Jailblazers and now Bill says Joe's following Chemistry 101. James Posey was traded from Memphis because of his attitude. Now he is a chemistry guy. I just see two players who are on winning teams now.


Like Arcadian said, if you win, sportswriters say you have good intangibles. It hides the fact they don't know basketball.

this reminds me of a blog i read today. KnickerBlogger.net did a Basketball English => English dictionary that was quite amusing. it includes "chemistry" "intangibles" and my favorite "athletic"





Language is a living evolving being. It intermingles with many different fields including sports. Phrases like “three strikes” and “the whole nine yards” are frequently used outside of sports. Meanwhile sports has acquired words from the English language and gives them a new meaning. A word like “dime” has a totally different meaning when applied to basketball. This guide is intended for those who would like to learn more about basketball terminology. All of these words are borrowed from the English language, but their meanings are radically different from their original meaning. All quotes are made up.

Intangibles (adj) - Statistics other than points per game; Tangible stats like rebounds, blocks, steals, etc.
“Ben Wallace is a phenomenal player because of his intangibles.” - Bill Walton

Proven (adj) - A player who has done this feat once in his career. Frequently used when the player isn’t likely to ever repeat that feat.
“Charles Smith will help the Knicks reach the Finals. He’s a proven 20-8 guy.” - Anonymous analyst, summer 1992

Legitimate (adj) - A player who has been a starter for more than one year. Usually refers to one that is a borderline starter.
“We could probably get a lot back for Willie Green, since he’s a legitimate shooting guard.” - Random message board commenter, Philadelphia suburbs

Winner (n) - A person that was lucky enough to play on a championship team. Today this usually applies to just about anyone who played with Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’Neal.
“Derek Fisher is a great acquisition for Golden State. He’s a proven winner.” - Bill Walton

Choker (n) - A person that was unlucky enough to face Shaq or Duncan late in the playoffs, during one of their championship runs.
“Chris Webber isn’t a winner, he’s a choker.” - Eric Montross

Athletic (adj) - Unskilled. Usually in intangible areas, like rebounding, blocking shots, etc.
“Our team could use an athletic player like Kwame Brown or Tim Thomas.” - No one. Ever.

Glue guy (n) - A valuable player who’s main contribution isn’t using up lots of possessions.
“Andrei Kirilenko is the type of glue guy that every team needs.” - Spokesman, Elmer’s Glue

Energy guy (n) - Unlike some of the aliens you would see on Star Trek (Q, Pah Wraiths, Trelane), these are corporal beings. Usually an illegitimate glue guy that can run the floor in transition, or excels in one intangible part of the game.
“And a fast break dunk by energy guy Tayshaun Prince.” - Kenny Smith

Chemistry (n) - Winning Percentage.
“The Lakers had great chemistry under Shaq, Kobe, and Phil Jackson.” - Jack Nicholson



http://www.knickerblogger.net/?p=640

Fool
01-03-2008, 07:11 AM
The Chemistry = Winning Percentage one is spot on.

OakMoses
01-03-2008, 02:25 PM
The only thing that I really hope that TPTB does take from this is the importance of role-players...something that I think is important and much needed on this team.

I'm trying to read the sarcasm that must be lurking in between the lines of this post, but I'm failing.

We have a roster full of role-players, that's our entire problem. We have a collection of guys who are very good at some specific things. Then we try to make these guys do more than they are capable of. JO is a very good interior defender and an above average offensive big man. Murphy can shoot and rebound. Foster plays great defense, is a great rebounder, and provides a ton of energy. Tinsley is an excellent ball-handler and distributor. I could go on, but I won't.

If you look at our roster, we don't even have one player good enough to be the second best player on a championship level team. If you don't think I'm right, look at the champions for the past 10 years and find me one team that doesn't have at least two guys better than anybody on our team right now (Spurs, Heat, Spurs, Pistons, Spurs, Lakers, Lakers, Lakers, Spurs, Bulls).

I'd trade any three of our role players (and by this I mean anyone on the team) for a legit. star in their prime and not think twice about it. The sad thing is that there's not one GM in the NBA who'd make that trade with you.