The late, great Detroit Pistons head coach Chuck Daly once asked his team if they could deal with prosperity in a huddle during their third consecutive trip to the Finals; this one vs. the Clyde Drexler-led Portland Trail Blazers.
Daly, considered less a greaseboard wizard and more a personalities tactician who was so deft in his dealings with multimillionaires in short pants that he, not the coach of the 1991 NBA World Champion Chicago Bulls, Phil Jackson, was tabbed to manage and guide the greatest roster of sporting talent ever assembled, The Dream Team, for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
There would only be one Dream Team ever.
And the squad to whom Daly posited his query was on its last legs after winning back to back titles.
Those teams were anomalies, however.
Many a great team had fallen prey to an endemic best described by an all-time great NBA coach: Pat Riley.
The Disease Of More rears its head in the Riley tome, Showtime, where he asserts that “success is often the first step toward disaster.”
As an assistant coach who earned a ring in 1980 with the Los Angeles Lakers, Riley noted a marked shift in priorities and attitude within the squad as a result of gaining the title.
Everyone wanted more: money, court time, endorsements, invites to the Playboy Mansion.
If the phrase “There is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’ had a home, it was probably in L.A. after the 1980 season.
The Lakers were caught up, either by choice or by the blinding glare of increased recognition, and now the merits of unity took a back seat to personal desires.
Needless to say, those Lakers didn’t make it back to the Finals in 1981.
“The Most Difficult Thing For Players To Do When They Become Part Of A Team Is To Sacrifice.
It Is Much Easier, And Much More Natural, To Be Selfish.”
– Pat Riley
Today is my parents’ 47th wedding anniversary.
Never really asked why they got married on Dad’s sister’s birthday, but today is her special day as well.
Though My Dear Ol’ Dood (Bless The Dead) isn’t here to be apart, I know he is in spirit.
Moms won’t ever marry again, but it blows my mind that my folks are approaching fifty years together… kinda.
Though he’s been gone for seventeen years now, his urn sits in the living room and the essence of the man still permeates their home.
Known each other since they were thirteen.
They knew right then.
That was It.
Her and Him. Him and Her.
In the midst of their thirty years of marriage prior to his passing, the longevity of their union must have produced all kinds of joy and pain, acceptance and surrender, ups and downs, elation and heartache.
Some sacrifice, too.
Never understood what it meant for him to join the Army when I was a young teen in order to make a better life for us. I always thought it was about boredom with his work and getting his kids away from streets that were doing more than just watching.
As a parent in trying urban environs, it would seem the desire to craft a life for your youngins greater than the one you led as a child would have been the Gift and the Curse.
In the arms race to get ahead, could you lose your truest identity as a result?
It would be easy bake to push the panic button because the Cleveland Cavaliers sit in a virtual tie for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, even dropping to second place briefly for the first time since November 2015.
But after getting recently cooked by the San Antonio Spurs, languishing near the very bottom of the Association in defensive efficiency and looking disinterested in the regular season while pining a bit too soon for the playoffs to begin, the Cavs don’t seem to possess the disposition of a championship level squad right now.
The grind of another 100-plus game campaign is real.
The mettle it takes to maintain over that time is as intensely mental if not more so than physical. Injuries have determined every title in NBA history. Injuries have been big part of the Cavaliers season, in particular, the extended absences of Kevin Love and J.R. Smith.
In order to maintain consistency as a unit very basic steps must be followed:
Where most fail is the follow through.
“It’s Much Harder To Keep A Championship Than To Win One…
You Can’t Rely On The Same Drive That Makes People Climb Mountains For The First Time; Winning Isn’t New Anymore.”
– Bill Russell
There is a level of indifference to detail, instead of attention, present in Cleveland that may be difficult to overcome.
This indifference could create a danger to the Natural Order of Things, where fans, rabid and causal alike, wait to see the best face the best to unlock their stalemate in NBA Finals wins.
Instead of staying true and consistent to the things they did to get to the title, it appears the Cavaliers believe it is a given to achieve that same success without the same desire, effort or focus.
The margin for error becomes slimmer without team discipline and the ability to flip the switch when it counts most may not be readily available without adherence to habit.
The Burden of Leadership is a hell of cross to bear; it ain’t for e’rybody.
But it is a burden LeBron James has earned the right to hold.
In vacillating between ranting for bodies and better bench production, cajoling elite level effort from his team and understanding when it’s best not to further fray nerves with scathing critiques, James’ ability to take the temperature of his squad while putting the ‘b’ in ‘subtle’ is key.
Management of all of the voices and potential doubt in the locker room is a sign of growth and experience from a man who is threatening to take his team to a seventh straight Finals.
But are you convinced yet?
Winning is a habit.
The process of sustaining a winning mentality is habit forming.
Some call consistency boring and logical.
Those generally labeling consistency as such clearly lack the vision, steadfastness and strength it takes to be boring and consistent like the Spurs or in the NFL, the New England Patriots.
But, in the oddest of ways, could ‘boring and logical’ also apply to the 2016-2017 Cavaliers, who proved last season in the most historic of fashions that they play best with their backs against the wall?
In the Cavs’ case, injuries, severe brain cramps and roster rotation inconsistencies before the real season begins could be a good thing.
The drama, perceived dysfunction and intrigue that have surrounded James and his teams basically since he has been part of the National Basketball Association might quite naturally end up being his unique version of boring, logical… and consistent somehow.
Will the Cavaliers be healthy, mentally prepared and in tune with one another to be ready for the playoff grind against hungrier foes in the Eastern Conference?
Or will they succumb to the disease that has plagued so many before them?
My son’s mother got married recently. I am happy for her and her spouse, too.
Dammit, now their anniversary will be in March as well.
My family pre-Christmas playoffs are just warming up now, threatening my gift budget.
I wonder what my Dear Ol’ Dood would be doing for his anniversary with Moms were he alive today.
It’s hard for me to even fathom forty-seven years of anything with anyone.
I honour them. I salute them. I love them.
Some players… some teams… some coaches, just like my parents, or so it would seem, are cut from a different cloth… even have different tailors as well.
Those who fully understand what it takes to not only win, but sustain, adhere to one simple mantra:
Teamwork Makes The Dream Work.
Perhaps the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers, despite all of the hand wringing and worry outside of the locker room, will recognize and realize the opportunity to do their part in the drama to make history with the Golden State Warriors as the first teams to face one another in three consecutive NBA Finals…