My buddy at work made a comment at work today that we've gone over several times before, but that resonated with me, in particular, this afternoon. It had to do with the Detroit Pistons in the first few years of this decade.
Remember that, under Rick Carlisle, the Pistons were the young, growing, team that everyone feared would make the leap. Kind of like the Blazers now, though not quite as feared. In 2001-02, they finished 50-32 behind Ben Wallace, Clifford Robinson, and Jerry Stackhouse. In 2002-03, they revamped, and again finished 50-32, this time with a core of Wallace, Rip Hamilton, and Chauncey Billups, with Robinson, Michael Curry, Mehmet Okur, Chucky Atkins, and Corliss Williamson playing key supporting roles. A rookie named Tayshaun Prince also lurked in the shadows.
What my buddy pointed out was in order to get to the top of the game, the Pistons had to had another top flight talent in Rasheed Wallace, and, most important, they had to grant their guys the time to play together. The Bobcats are at that stage, now. Augustin is Tayshaun. Raja is Clifford Robinson.
We have the capacity to add talent in the draft, or via trade, or whatever, to make the team better, but we might also see more gains simply by letting our guys get used to each other on the court and develop intimate basketball relationships. Those of us who've played pickup ball any number of times in our lives can relate to feeling lost while trying to play with strangers. What's intuitive among buddies and running mates is clumsy when attempted with the guy we met five minutes ago.
Detroit had the same starting five for 2 seasons plus 21 games in 2003-04 with Sheed. They had the same four guys starting together over 4 seasons, replacing Big Ben with Antonio McDyess. The lesson might be to find three All Stars and two near-All Stars to be the starters, but it might also be that in order for a team to be greater than the sum of its parts, the men on the team must play together for a long time, developing the trust and deep knowledge of each other required to execute the most beautiful basketball.