The Miami Heat are trying to blend three major talents together in Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. The Boston Celtics understand what that is like as they traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen prior to the 2007-08 season, adding them to Paul Pierce, and wound up winning the NBA championship.
Thus, no one is more qualified to give the Heat advice on how to bond together as a team than the Celtics. Garnett says the Heat need to understand that it is going to take more than three players to win a title and also a strong hand from the coaching staff.
"What most people don't understand is that, yeah, the talent came together, but for the most part it was the bench and our team that came together," Garnett said. "You have guys and you have talent and that's one thing, but how the talent interacts off the floor, and how the team interacts off the floor, the guys that come off the bench and the respect for them, and them making the starters better—-our second team (was) just as good as any first team back in '08. We weren't a real talented group, but we were a group that was willing to come in and work hard. We came with that intensity to win on the mind. We didn't have any of those egos to distract us, and when it did, Doc (Rivers) did a good job of squashing it and destroying it right there."
Allen believes that the Heat's big three will have to put individual goals aside and put the group approach first.
"I think from outside looking in, people expect for each guy there to be who they were last year," Allen said. "That's not going to happen. I was out a couple of years ago during training camp in Rhode Island, and we were all in Providence. This girl walked up to me on the street and she said, 'I liked you better in Seattle.' It was funny to me, but her perception of me and how I played was different from where I was before. My game had changed and I accepted that. I wanted to win games and win for the rest of my career until I retire. I could still be a great player, but do it in different ways. And each player in Miami has to figure out how to do it in different ways, but they're not going to be as we've seen them in the past."
Pierce feels the key is that everyone has to get along and accept each other's personality traits, both good and bad.
"You have to be tolerant," Pierce said. "Some of the things my wife does, I don't like that. So I tolerate it. You take the pluses and the negatives and you weigh them with the team. There's some things (Rajon) Rondo does, and Kevin does that people don't like. You nitpick the little things, but we love each other, and we know we need each other in games. We know what the ultimate goal is, and we love each other as a team. That's just the way it is. We talk to each other and that's the way we solve problems. Then it's over. We're grown men, and we look each other in the eye and say how we feel. Doc taught us to do that. Don't go behind each other's back, and that's what this team is about. Solve it and end it right there, in that second on that day and it's over with. The ultimate goal is to win championships, not to hold grudges."
Meanwhile, Miami is learning to deal with much more media attention as a number of national outlets are following the team on a daily basis. Coach Erik Spoelstra appreciates the extra pressure that adds on his players.
"It's the nature of this team, of how we will be viewed," he said. "We are not running away from the attention or the expectations or the pressure. I think it's good. I think all of those things enhance your focus and your commitment to each other. We've already drawn closer as a group, because we feel like we're getting attacked from all sides."
The Heat have also added rock band-like security this season. Three guards are traveling with the team and a fourth does advance work in the next city in which the team will play.
"There are more barricades," Spoelstra said.
Jordan Sees Bobcats as Playoff Team
Michael Jordan, in his first season as the Charlotte Bobcats' owner, realizes his team has weaknesses and could be a little less talented now that at the end of last season when it made the first playoff appearance in franchise history. Yet even though the Bobcats were swept in the first round by the Orlando Magic, Jordan believes the core of Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw and Tyrus Thomas benefited from the experience. Jordan also feels the Bobcats can get back to the playoffs because of the continuity Larry Brown provides in his third season as coach.
"We've never had a core for training camp where they all work together, eat together, think together. And then they go out actually playing together, knowing what each other is thinking," Jordan told the Charlotte Observer. "That's why I think we're a better team. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think we're a better team because of that."
The Bobcats' roster has been in a state of flux ever since Brown arrived. They have made nine trades that have involved 27 players during his tenure. However, Jordan foresees more stability and believes Wallace and Jackson could set a standard much like he and Scottie Pippen did for the Bulls' championship teams.
"I love our leadership and that matters," Jordan said. "If me and Scottie were willing to work that hard, then everybody else was going to work that hard. And we got better fast. That's a major ingredient for winning."
Contraction Not an Option in Sacramento
Commissioner David Stern recently said the NBA has been hurt by the major economic crunch hammering the United States. In fact, he even suggested that the league might be forced to contract some teams.
The Sacramento Kings would seemingly be right at the top of the contraction list. Stern used them as an example, reminding that he and the NBA have pulled out of any new-arena efforts in the region. The Kings have been at the bottom of the league in attendance in recent years and play in antiquated Arco Arena.
"My optimism on there being a new building has faded completely," Stern said. "We really tried hard, the Maloofs spent a good deal of money and frankly, it wasn't meant to be. I don't have any more good ideas. Where we flow on that, right now we have a season to worry about, and I know that the Maloofs are spending their time feeling really good about their Rookie of the Year last year (Tyreke Evans), their draft choice this year (DeMarcus Cousins), their coach (Paul Westphal) and the general makeup of their team."
Co-owner Gavin Maloof, though, insists the Kings aren't going anywhere, saying, "We're not contracting. That's not going to happen. No way we'll fold—and no way we're selling."
Indiana Short-handed without Rush
Brandon Rush is serving a five-game suspension for failing the NBA's drug test three times. Thus, the Indiana Pacers are forced to dress 11 players for each game.
While the Pacers aren't complaining about losing Rush, they feel it is unfair that they have to be down a player. In fact, coach Jim O'Brien believes the NBA should change the rule as far as how teams are penalized when a player is suspended.
"I understand them suspending the player and withholding his wages for five games," O'Brien said. "The nature of the situation is that we're not informed a player has failed the drug test the first or second time and we're not told he has a problem. Then they turn around and penalize a franchise. I don't understand where that comes from, frankly. If we were the ones drug testing and we were the ones that knew and were responsible to get him back on track after the first one, I understand that, but I can't follow this."
Rush can travel and practice with the team but is not allowed to attend games. He is scheduled to return November 9 against Denver.
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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