Stop Complaining About Super Teams

With Chris Paul being traded from the Clippers to the Rockets, it appears to look like the Rockets are doing their best to form their own super team. Before anyone comes at me with “the Rockets aren’t a super team yet” I want to let you know I do agree.  Chris Paul teaming up with James Harden is a head scratcher because the two playing styles don’t necessarily mix, but it does make Houston an attractive destination to acquire players via trade or free agency.

Talking about whether the acquisition of Chris Paul makes the Rockets a threat to the Warriors is not what I am going to talk about today.

Chris Paul this morning opted into his contract, making the Clippers trade him to the Rockets, as oppose to him opting out of his contract and signing a long-term deal with the Rockets.

This is important to note because he along with Lebron James and Dwayne Wade are also Free-Agents at the end of next season.  Meanwhile Carmelo Anthony is currently in Buyout talks with the Knicks.

This is also going on at the same time while Paul George is on the trading block.  Many teams, most notably the Cavaliers as they try to retool their super team in hopes to defeat the Warriors.  Now the Rockets have come into play for George and may even be in play if Anthony gets bought out.

Chris Paul teaming up with Harden, Cavs trying to improve their super team, George leaving Indiana, and the Lakers making a point to clear cap space for next is all response the Warriors assembling one of the greatest teams ever.

We all saw the Warriors without Kevin Durant and they won 73 games and we recently saw them with Kevin Durant as they looked damn near unstoppable all throughout the playoffs.

Everyone over the past year has destroyed Kevin Durant for leaving Oklahoma City to join the Warriors.  Some people even went to the level of calling him a coward, because he gave up or didn’t do it on his own.  Everyone destroyed Lebron, including me, for forming his super team down in Miami, because it’s not what us the fans call competitive.

Well today I am going to say it is time to stop hating super teams, its time to stop saying super teams have ruined the NBA.  It is also time to stop talking about the “good ole days” of Bird and Magic.

Here are the reasons why

1.  If you are going to blame any group of people for the “super team” era in the NBA blame the two groups that hate it the most.  That is the media and the fans.  Both parties talk about how a certain player “can’t get it done” in the Playoffs or doesn’t win enough regardless of his current playing situation.  We remember guys for one bad game regardless of how good he played throughout his long career.

Be honest with yourself.  If Kevin Durant stayed in Oklahoma City and never won a title, which was a real possibility, how would people talk about him?  Would people talk about how he was so loyal to Oklahoma City and he is the definition of what athletes should be even though he didn’t win a ring?  Sure, some people would and some people may respect him more.  OR would people have talked about how he could never get it done in the Playoffs, and talk about all the games he didn’t get it done in crunch time as oppose to all the game he did?  I am going to go with number two.

2.  Take five seconds and put yourself in the athletes shoes.  I am one to believe that we hold athletes to an unfairly higher standard than ourselves.  The super team argument relates, because we only look how this benefits ourselves.  We see Kevin Durant go to one team and we react based on how it affects our team and then lash out by saying the guy is trash or isn’t a “true competitor”.  We fail to put ourselves in the athletes shoe because we fear being wrong.  We fear knowing that us to would probably turn down playing for our favorite team and decide to go play somewhere else.

Lets takes Lebrons decision to leave Cleveland back in 2010.  In Terry Plutos recent book “The Comeback” . He talks about the meetings Lebron had with the different teams that came and visited him.

If you forget, back in 2010 six teams were in the running for Lebron.  All six teams made their way to Cleveland, Ohio and made what they believed was their best pitch.  The six teams were the Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls, New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, and the Cleveland Cavaliers.  In the book he talks about how the Clippers put a pitch together talking about the LA lifestyle Lebron could have.  The Clippers talked about the clubs, restaurants, and beaches Lebron could go to.  The Bulls talked about the young core of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and possibly Dwayne Wade.  The Nets bragged about all the money they had because at the time Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov owned the team and was willing to spend whatever he needed to win.  Lebron also had a great relationship with Jay Z, who at the time was a minority owner of the team.  The Knicks put together a presentation bragging about the $2 billion worth of possible endorsements he could get by playing in New York city for the Knicks.

Then came Miami.  Miami had Pat Riley who won championships with the showtime Lakers, brought some of the best years of basketball New York Knicks fans have ever seen while their Head Coach.  He even won a championship in Miami five years prior.  Riley came into the meeting room and famously threw his seven championship rings on the table.  Riley talked about what it meant to be a champion and how Lebron had everything it took to be a champion and how Riley was the guy to put him in the best situation to win one.

Meanwhile, Cleveland talked about the importance of staying home, and how they were people he could trust.  The Cavs even went as far as putting together a fucking Family Guy cartoon with Lebron and his friends.  So dumb, and it pisses me off to this day.

After all of that put yourself in Lebrons shoes.  Lebron was 25, worth millions, was an MVP already, but struggled getting past teams that were just better than him.  Those Cleveland teams with Lebron the first time around were terrible.  Lebron single handily lead them to the playoffs year after year.  Losing in the playoffs like the Cavs did had to drive Lebron nuts and he knew at that point in time the Cavs were not the ones to help him get a ring.  The Cavs spent too much money on Larry Hughes, an out of prime Shaq, and traded for a useless Antawn Jamison.  Lebron had money, he had all the glamour already.  He didn’t need any more money in endorsements, he didn’t need a beach lifestyle, didn’t want to be part of something up and coming.  He needed and wanted a ring and Miami was the best place for that.  Wouldn’t you do the same?  Wouldn’t you choose a school, or workplace that gives you the best chance to succeed?  Hopefully the answer to most would be yes.

3.  Talking about what teams pitched to Lebron in 2010 brings me to my third point.  When I hear those stories about Owners coming to Lebron and pitching to Lebron about how the millionaire can make millions, and when I think about how the Cavs did so many dumb trades back then one word comes to mind.  That word is incompetence.

For years players and fans have suffered from complete incompetence from their front office.  Why is it wrong for a player to control their own destiny and career?  Why does a player have to have someone else put a better team around him?  Kevin Durant, and Lebron James took matters into their own hands to make sure they did win a championship.  Maybe if instead of spending huge money on Larry Hughes, maybe the Cavs should have put the time and money into trying to acquire Jason Kidd who was one of the best players in the game at the time.  Instead of bitching at Kevin Durant for leaving, why don’t people bitch at the Thunders front office for trading James Harden for practically nothing.  People say players forming super teams is a very millennial move, because it is “taking the easy way out”.  Well, isn’t a player waiting for someone else to improve his team more millennial than someone who is trying to take matters into his own hands and make a team better himself?

Which brings up another point.  Why is it celebrated that Danny Ainge of the Celtics formed a super team by adding Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen?  Why is it “business” when the Bulls trade Jimmy Butler costing him millions, because he is no longer eligible for the “super-max” he would have been eligible for in Chicago?  Red Auerbach was able to acquire Bill Russell because he said he would fund some ice show for the Rochester Royals if they didn’t draft Russell.  Russell then went to the St. Louis Hawks where Auerbach was easily able to trade for him because of the Jim Crow laws that were still present.  It was that easy for Auerbach to get the centerpiece of one of sports greatest dynasties.  The Showtime Lakers were able to draft James Worthy, because they traded Don Ford to the Cavs and in return got the number one pick to draft Worthy.  For some reason we accept these incompetent moves by Owners and General Managers and fail to mention them in Basketball history, but we are quick to downplay rings won by Lebron and Durant because they took matters into their own hands.

4. Finally, super teams are good.  Super teams force other teams to make decisions and act quickly.  It puts pressure on coaches, players, and front offices to make uncomfortable and tough decisions.  You have to think the Cavaliers don’t necessarily want to trade Kevin Love, but the Warriors have forced the Cavs to make tough decisions.  Teams are currently scrambling to find ways to acquire Paul George in hopes they can compete for a championship.  Players like Paul are forced to make tough career decisions to better their chances at winning a ring.  Carmelo realizes he can’t wait for New York to rebuild, so his response is to negotiate a buy out.  Carmelo will then be faced to decide where to play which may define his career.  Then we have Lebron.  Lebron after next summer will again be faced with the decision on where to play.  Anytime you can get pressure on teams and players to make decisions it is considered a good thing.  There is nothing worse than having a team that just sits on their hands and wait for something to happen.

To wrap all this up, its time to stop complaining about the super teams.  Super teams are not ruining the NBA.  Yes, we have had the same finals for the past three years, but were we complaining in the 80s when it was primarily Celtics and Lakers or in the 90s with the Bulls?  The answer is no.  Teams find ways to adjust, there is too much time and money invested for teams to just sit back and wait for the Warriors run to end.  Teams and players will find a way to compete and when it does happen it will all be fun to watch.


Thank You Thad

Yesterday, Ohio State Head Basketball Coach Thad Matta was “let go”, “fired”, “mutually agreed to step down” whatever it was the greatest basketball coach in Ohio State history announced he was not returning next season.

Yes, you read that correctly THE GREATEST COACH IN OHIO STATE HISTORY.

Thad Matta, took over a school that was on probation after the 2004 season, he took over the Buckeyes that were bottom feeders in the Big Ten and took it on a 13 year run that no one could have imagined.

Matta lead Ohio State to five Big ten Championships, 5 trips to the Sweet 16 one of which included a trip to the Elite 8 and two turned into final 4 trips.  Also, had one trip to the National Championship where he lost to arguably one of the greatest College Basketball teams in the past 20 years.  Matta also helped produce four different Buckeyes that ended up being top 5 picks.  He put Ohio State on the College Basketball map and brought in talent that no one could have ever imagined at a school that is primarily known for its football.

When Matta came to Ohio State he thrived on the recruiting trail, he brought in arguably the best recruiting class in Big Ten basketball history in Greg Oden, Mike Conley, and Daquan Cook.  He turned Evan Turner into a lottery pick, and took a gritty white 6 1 guard in Aaron Craft and turned him into a Ohio State legend.  It seemed like Ohio State hit the jackpot in hiring Matta, and he seemed to be the guy Ohio State would have for years and years to come.

Matta, was affected by a botched back surgery in 2007 and his health never was the same and in recent years it became very noticeable it was affecting him in a negative way.  There are stories where he had to sit on a stability ball in practice because it took pain away from his back, he also had trouble walking up stairs, and going to post game press conferences were never the easiest.

Just a reminder to everyone Matta is only 49 years old, usually things were only supposed to get better than they already were for a young coach.  The Ringers Mark Titus, who also played under Matta, pointed out John Wooden had zero Final Four appearances at the age of 49.  Just to put it in perspective.

Matta, was just a small town guy who dreamed of being a coach.  How do I know this?  Because I had the privilege to live in the town he grew up in.

Matta, grew up in a town called Hoopeston, Illinois an hour south of the University of Illinois.  Mattas name was talked about at local restaurants and barber shops, his picture is up in the school trophy case, his Dad coached basketball at the local High School, his mom also worked at the middle school and high school.  I give partial blame to his mom for my chubby middle school years as she used to give me free breakfast at the school cafeteria if I wore Ohio State stuff.

And if you know anything about me I got A LOT of free breakfast.  But for real thank you, that breakfest wasn’t cheap.

The best part about Matta is he kept it clean, and classy.  Those two words are hard to come by when describing a major college sports program.  Matta came at a time when the basketball program was under a microscope and it has had zero disciplinary issues since he stepped on campus.  If you don’t believe he is classy listen to rival coaches, and former players.  The support has been overwhelming.

I started this blog wanting to defend Ohio State in their move and predict what the Buckeyes should do in their head coaching search.  Midway I took time to read Mark Titus piece on Thad Matta.  It made me realize how much this all really sucks.  It sucks the greatest basketball coach in the history of the program gets fired (or whatever actually happened) it sucks his coaching career ends at 49, it sucks that the small town boys dream gets cut short, it sucks he never got the National Title he deserved, it sucks Buckeye fans everywhere have to argue whether he should have been let go earlier than he did.  It all sucks.

Matta deserved to hold that trophy for Ohio State, he deserved the farewell where a sold out Schottenstein Center gives him a standing O and he rides off into the sunset with a smile on his face.  Unfortunately, we got a random press conference in June, and a day freaking out where the program is headed.

My blog on whether this was the right move and what the Buckeyes should do will come later but for now here are some of my favorite moments of  Thads time at Ohio State

This is one of my favorites because it was Michigan and I love how pumped Matta was after the shot.  He brought excitement and energy to the program and he showed it on the sideline.

Speaking of intensity, this was the 2007 Wisconsin game that took place on the last day of the regular season and the Big Ten title was on the line.  As someone who is also very superstitious I totally respect this move.

This was during the 07 Final Four run and Ohio State was on the brink of elimination in the second round.  That team was always so good down the stretch.  It’s always fun to watch teams who surprise you at how good they are but it is even more fun when you know a team is very good and that was this 07 team.

And of course my favorite one.  For me personally this is when I thought Matta was going to create something special.  He took a scholarship depleted team got them 20 wins and stopped Illinois undefeated season.

I could talk all day about my favorite Ohio State players growing up and my favorite games I saw as a kid and all the credit goes to him.  As a Ohio State fan, a basketball fan, a 24-year-old and the 13-year-old me would like to say Thank You Thad.  Thank you for the great 13 years, us Buckeye fans couldn’t have asked for more.

Go Bucks.