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Guys, as we all digest this pretty painful loss in the Detroit series, let's reflect on a few things.
In the NFL, defense wins Superbowls. In the NBA, superstars win championships. Since about 1980 when I started watching the league, it has generally been the team with 1 or more of the top 3 guys in the league who won. I'm talking Dr. J, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, Duncan/Robinson, Kobe/Shaq. I said it years ago when the old squad failed to make it, we don't have the superstar that can carry us. Reggie was a great guy, and a guy I've long championed and believe belongs in the HOF, but he wasn't it.
What distinguishes the superstar? Well, first off, it isn't votes in the league MVP rating. The superstar does six things as I see it
0) The superstar is highly competitive and cannot stand the thought of losing.
1) The superstar wants the ball in this hands at the end of games. In fact, he demands it. (Reggie in his prime qualified here)
2) The superstar delivers in almost all occasions when it mattered. (Reggie in his prime probably also qualified here). He executes at the end of games.
3). The superstar can create his own shot where required.
4). The superstar is unstoppable when it counts.
5). Leadership. The superstar leads his team and calls them out when they aren't getting the job done. Remember Bird calling his teammates sissies in the press? Remember Jordan dressing down his teammates when they didn't delivery?
It's interesting that these are mostly offensive not defense qualities, but that's what it is. The fact is, the Pacers don't have anyone that remotely qualifies in these categories. The classic superstars are the guys I mentioned above. They (at least in the years where they won titles) were like this.
Does anyone realistically see Jermaine in these roles? Clearly not. Firstly, he's a known choker who often fails to deliver down the strech (see missed shots and free throws in this series, for example). He also can't score at will or really create his own shot with the ball. He also doesn't seem to demand the ball at the end of games or really deliver where it counts. Nor does he exhibit many real leadership qualities. When we originally traded for the guy I called him a "streetsweeper" and was very excited by him. Today I'm more of the opinion that he is Jalenesque. Great stats but that's it. It's sad to say, but we'd have been better off in this series with Rip Hamilton than Jermaine O'Neal.
Who else? The only guy who even remotely comes close to seeming to qualify is Artest, primarily because of the desire and heart factors, but he doesn't seem likely to overcome his limitations. Maybe on year in the next decade or so Bender will come along, but let's face it, if I mention that name, I'm just struggling to come up with something.
The bottom line is that the type of ensemble cast we've got is not title material. Thought is might seem crazy, I would not be averse to radical trades to try to bring in a superstar like personality. I trust Donnie Walsh and Bird as talent evaluators, so if they make moves, I'm sure they see something.
But the bottom line to me is that I don't see this current crew - absent major development - as title material. And I don't think I'm just grousing about the loss since those who know me know I've been saying that for a long time around here. The one reason I'm pessimistic is reason 0 (and I call it 0 because (a) I like math and computers, where numbering often starst at 0 and (b) because you'd think this was give) and reason 1, where I just think players are born not made. How do you learn desire? How do you learn to demand the ball at the end of games? I just don't see it.
Somebody please, I beg you, tell me where I'm wrong.