The NBA’s “Contraction”

By Chris Lehman

Contraction.

Merriam Webster defines this as “The shortening and thickening of a functioning muscle.”

After LeBron James’ comment about contracting the NBA, he took a major publicity hit. Surprise surprise. But he tried to cover it by saying that he didn’t understand what the word “contraction” meant.

“Imagine if you could take Kevin Love off Minnesota and add him to another team and you shrink the [league]. Looking at some of the teams that aren’t that great, you take Brook Lopez or you take Devin Harris off these teams that aren’t that good right now and you add him to a team that could be really good. Not saying let’s take New Jersey and let’s take Minnesota out of the league. But hey, you guys are not stupid, I’m not stupid, it would be great for the league.”

According to his comment about removing players from poor teams around the league, and placing them on big market teams with better rosters, he knew exactly what he meant. While this situation is old news, we’re really starting to see it happen. Maybe his comment wasn’t as stupid as we all made it out to be. Maybe he knew something that we didn’t know. Whatever it is…it’s happening, and it’s happening now.

All over the league we’re seeing these teams turning into All-Star teams. It started with Boston when they brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Then we saw it in Miami with LeBron James and Chis Bosh joining up with Dwyane Wade. We started to see it in New York when the Knicks brought in Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. Not to mention they are trying hard to acquire one of the top point guards in Chris Paul. Soon after drafting Brook Lopez, one of the top centers in the league, the New Jersey Nets made a move for Deron Williams. Now, we are hearing rumors and speculations about The Lakers putting thought into Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. This would give LA a big-3 of their own.

So what is it about the idea of a big-3 that draws teams in? Is this the start of what will be a new formula? At this rate, we will see a contraction of the NBA just as James suggested, sooner rather than later. But since when do teams think having three superstars on one team is the way to win? It hasn’t and won’t work for Miami. Even if the Knicks land one more high-profile player, I simply cannot see them winning the title.

What will become of those teams who choose to stick to the “prehistoric” ways of building a team around a player, such as the Dallas Mavericks? Honestly, there won’t be a change. Dumping every player off your team to bring in three great players is not a winning formula. When the Mavericks won last year, it was because they had one star player in Dirk Nowitzki. Then they brought in certain role players to complement him such as a Tyson Chandler. In addition they already had other key players who had been around for a while who had built up chemistry together (e.g., Jason Terry and Jason Kidd).

Being a Lakers fan, I would love to see the addition of either Paul or Howard, or both! This situation would be completely different than the Heat from last year. When the Heat drew up their idea, it required them to remove every other player off the roster except Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, then completely rebuild. In the Lakers case, they would still hold on to players like Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown and either Bynum or Gasol depending on which of the players they choose to go for. If the Lakers bring in one of the two players they’re considering, they instantly become the favorite to win the championship.

When we look back to the Bulls when they had the greatest team ever assembled, they did not simply go out and grab Pippen, Jordan and Rodman in one year and say “Go win a championship!” The same goes for the Lakers with Magic, Kareem and Worthy. Once again with the Celtics and their big-3 of Bird, Parish and McHale.

The main point, however, is that you don’t win simply by bringing in three great players, but instead you must actually construct a team. That doesn’t happen overnight, but over years of players playing together building up chemistry and occasionally adding a piece here-and-there when necessary.

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