More than talent

Kenny Smith has written the following article on the qualities needed for a team to hold the Larry O'B.

The checklist, Kenny Smith warns, should be used to assess your team with an objective eye.

For homework, I started us off.  Not sure that I can really be objective.  Feel free to amend as you see fit.  The SUNS better back me up with a win tomorrow, because I just said so many great things about them that now I can't see how they could lose!

I was fortunate to play on two NBA championship teams, but I've also played for teams that had no possible shot at winning a title. So it's easy for me to see when a team has that "it" factor. It's even easier to know when a team doesn't have it.

What do you have to do to become an NBA champion? There are a lot of teams vying for the coveted Larry O'Brien trophy, but only one can have it and this season has the most parity I've seen in my years of following basketball.

There are telltale signs that show whether a team is ready for the trophy. If you go through this checklist, you can see if your favorite team is ready to win it all or go fishing early.


So go down this checklist with an objective eye. You'll soon know which teams have a chance to be champs and which don't.

1. Style of play: A team should have a defined style. Are they a halfcourt team or a fastbreak team? Are they defensive oriented?

A team needs a defined style, so when things aren't going well the players can return to the system's set principles.

The Suns are a run-and-gun early offense team that runs off makes and misses.  The team runs just as much now as B.S. (Before Shaq) and is scoring even more now than before.  

When things get tough, we go small. At the end of the game, our P'N'R is devastating.

2. A quality point guard and an inside presence: Having an inside-out game is what gets you easy baskets.

[A] Steve Nash - 'nuff said!
[B] Shaquille O'Neal is the prototypical low post presence that puts pressure on the defense.  Amare plays at the high post, so although effective, does not necessarily have the same defense-warping influence.  

3. A superstar: Not a really good player. You need a superstar, a potential Hall of Fame player. Someone who can take over a game.

We have four potential HOFs.  Basketball lists

Shaq 9th on the all-time career HOF list with induction probability of 1.
Nash 31st on the all-time career HOF list with induction probability of 0.9993.
Grant Hill 79th on the all-time career HOF list with induction probability of 0.6913.
Amare Stoudemire - not yet assessed.

Of these, obviously Shaq and Hill are really good players, but no longer taking on the role of a superstar.  

Clearly it is Steve Nash that has the strongest will to win and ability to make it happen with clutch shooting.  Many times, as a point guard, distributor and orchestrator, it is less obvious how he takes over a game than someone, like Kobe, who simply starts jacking up crazy shots.  

However, Amare has that capability as well.  And together, Nash + Amare are more deadly than the Black Mamba.  

If you're curious - Shawn Marion is at 125th with a 17.19% chance of making it in the HOF.  At least he made the list!

4. A beast: This doesn't necessarily have to be your most talented player, though it usually is. You want a player who doesn't panic when things go bad. A player that takes the big shot or makes the key defensive play. Someone with enough experience to steady the team when the pressure rises.

Which starter on our team panics?  Which starter isn't capable and willing to take a big shot, make a big play, or a big stop?  They are all used to doing it.  

Nash, 34 - 2 MVPs, 6 time all-star, 97 playoff games
Amare, 25 - All-NBA, 3 time all-star, 31 playoff games
Shaq, 36 - 1 MVP, 14 time all-star (last in 2007), 198 playoff games
Hill, 36 - 7 time all-star (last in 2005!), 19 playoff games
Bell, 31 - All-NBA defensive team, 63 playoff games

They are all seasoned vets and have played in 408 playoff games collectively.  

I don't know who to call the BEAST, but I give this one to SHAQ.  SHAQ has been a calming voice in the locker room.  The one keeping the rest of the team loose and focused.  He's no longer the most talented, but he is the one who's been there and done that.  He has the mojo.

5. A great bench: You need guys who can come in the game and change the momentum. And if you don't have anyone who's even close to being Sixth Man of the Year, you better be wary.

Leandro Barbosa - reigning 6th man.  

I wouldn't say we have a "great bench", but we have a volatile and potentially powerful one.  They'll win us a few games in the POs by running the other team off the court.  Besides the blur mixing it up between threes and blow-bys for layups, we have the enigmatic French Magician, as the Chinese call 3D.  We also have a new guy, GG,  who can score in bunches from 3 and from the midrange.

Further, a lot of fans feel we now have a bench that is 10 deep with Skinner and DJ being able to hold the fort.  

6. Adversity: There is a point in every championship season when the team vows to play harder, smarter and, most importantly, play together. That usually results from adversity and it happens in a variety of ways: an upsetting loss, a players-only meeting, a trade or an injury to a key player.

Check.  The Marion-Shaq trade completely altered the team chemistry and the tone of the locker room.  Before, we were suffering with sibling rivalry, play without joy, and trade demands.  The trade solidified a pecking order on the team and brought in someone that everyone on the team respects and listens to.  A guy that has the savior-faire of a 4-time champion and of a giant.  

We went through and are still going through growing pains, but now the team is focused and, I think, far more confident than it had been before the trade.

7. A magic moment: This often follows adversity. Pulling out an important victory when you're about to lose. A shot that goes in from halfcourt. A record-breaking winning streak.

Check.  Shaq diving into the stands against the San Antonio Tools was a moment that SUNS fans will never forget.  You could feel it in the reactions from the fans in the Arena.  

Even though the play resulted in a Spurs 5-on-4 possession, it was a moment that said Shaq has both the heart and the body to make another run at a title.  That's what the team and the fans needed to know.  

8. Chemistry: There doesn't have to be a love fest going on in the locker room, but championship teams need to have players who respect each other and their coach. A team that respects itself is a team that grows.

Chemistry.  No doubt we got it.  D'Antoni and Nash are almost synonymous.  Everyone recognizes Amare as the "future-now arrived".  Grant Hill and Shaq are long time buddies. Nash and Bell are long time buddies.  Amare worships Shaq. Shaq recanted his statements about Nash's MVPs.  LB and Boris know their roles.  The only potential bad apple may be GG if things go badly for him.  

There is no disrepect anywhere and it is a royal goddamn lovefest!!!