Stop the Panic – NBA Super Teams Come and Go

Feb 8, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Archie Goodwin (20) shoots the ball past Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 8, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Archie Goodwin (20) shoots the ball past Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports /

Oh no!  Dwayne Wade decides he’s worth more than Miami can pay him.  So, could he end up with the Cleveland Cavaliers as the two NBA Super Teams vie for the most hype?  This just a day after Kevin Durant dumps the only franchise he’s ever played for and decides to pursue a championship by playing for the Warriors.

What’s a Suns fan to do?  Absolutely nothing.

NBA Super Team hysteria is in full swing.  Sporting News Jeff Diamond suggests the NBA institute a Franchise Player tag on team superstars like the NFL does.  NESN reports that ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith “loses his mind” over Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors.

Everyone across the NBA spectrum seems ready to throw in the towel.  Why play a regular season at all?  Why not jump right to the NBA Finals and another Super Team match-up between Golden State and Cleveland?

But they all need to calm down.  Take half a white Valium.  Or watch some Diamondbacks baseball (that will put you to sleep).

Teams like the Suns should just wait it out.  Phoenix is making all the right moves for the future, and they should not give in to the panic and make a bad deal.  If a smart deal for a power forward comes along either through free agency or trade, they should take it.  But they should never let Super Team hysteria sway their decision-making process.

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Here’s why:  Super Teams are as old as the NBA.  They come and go.  Some win big; others don’t.

On the plus side, let’s go all the way back to Red Auerbach’s Boston Celtics.  He brought in Bob Cousy, drafted Bill Russell and added Tommy Heinsohn.  They were most likely the league’s very first big three.  They went on to establish a dominance no professional sports franchise has ever matched.  Between 1957 and 1969 the Celtics won 11 NBA Championships – on the way to winning 17 since the league was founded.  That, my friends, is a Super Team.

The Lakers built at least three Super Teams since moving to the coast.  Anyone out there besides me remember Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor?  They went to the finals six times in the 1960s, losing all to the Boston Celtics before finally winning one in 1972, their first in Los Angeles.  It was a very impressive group.  (They eliminated the Suns in 1970 after falling behind Phoenix 3-1 in the first round of the playoffs…eventually losing to New York in the finals.)

And just after West and Chamberlain retired, along came Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Teamed with Magic Johnson, and James Worthy, the Lakers won five titles in a 9-year span – including their first ever Finals victory over the hated Celtics in 1985.  Oh yeah, then there was Kobe and Shaq.  All they did was win three straight titles.  The second “three-peat” in franchise history.

NBA Super Teams have always been around.  While rolling to championship after championship, the rest of the league can only deal with it the best they can, and hope it doesn’t last.

However, not all the NBA Super Teams worked out.  Suns fans should know.  Remember the 1995 Phoenix Suns?  One year removed from a trip to the Finals, Phoenix added all-star Danny Manning to a roster that already included Kevin Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Dan Majerle.  What happened?  KJ started the season with an injury. Manning missed about half the season. And Barkley suffered his first back ailment which kept him hobbled most of the season.  The Suns lost for the second year in a row to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals.  After yet another disappointing season, Charles is shipped off to Houston.  Everyone freaks out when the Rockets go 21-2 to start the season with a lineup of Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Clyde Drexler.  But they are swept by Seattle.  Houston did win two championships without Barkley during Michal Jordan’s baseball hiatus.  But Barkley retires without ever winning a championship.

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Sometimes Super Teams work out.  Sometimes they don’t.  Even the Lakers have Super Teams that fizzled.  Remember the 2003-2004 Lakers?  Most Kobe lovers would like you to forget that version.  With Shaq and Kobe in the fold, the Lakers add future Hall of Fame players Karl Malone and Gary Payton.  And what happens?  Shaq starts the season disgruntled over the lack of a contract extension.  Kobe had to deal with an off-season rape allegation.  The Lakers eventually put all that behind them and win 56 games.  But in the Finals, they lose to the Pistons in five.

There are other Super Teams who won it all.  San Antonio, Chicago, Miami, and Boston in 2008.

My point is, this is an old story, not worth getting so worked up over.  Is there reason to worry about the Warriors and Cavs in 20016-2017?  Of course, there is.  But before you panic, put this world of NBA disorder in perspective.  There are plenty of NBA Super Teams on the trash heap of forgotten NBA hype.  Even when the league was all about its teams instead of its superstars like it is today (Superstars sell more soap, and get higher TV ratings) there were always Super Teams to upset the competitive balance.  It always brings out the experts claiming the league has gone sideways, and sacrificed competition for individual player hype.  While that may be true, it’s not always the case.  The league’s collective bargaining agreement is very favorable to veteran players who want to change teams – and show me a player who won’t do just about anything to win a championship, and I’ll show you a player who doesn’t want one.

So, don’t worry Suns fans.  If Phoenix can pull off a trade or two, or sign a free agent to get back into the race, anything can happen.  They have the youth, the talent, and the draft picks to make a move.  They just need to get back into the game – get into the playoffs – where anything can happen.  Super Teams do fall.  Superstars do fail.  Forecasting the future of who will be in the NBA finals next year is still fraught with uncertainty.

So let’s not talk about rule changes.  Don’t go burning your Dan Majerle uniform just yet.  Take a deep breath.  Sure, there are teams out there that may look unbeatable.  But that’s why they still play the game (for now).

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