Do you need chemistry to succeed in the NBA? If there was ever a question that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no, it has to be this one. You would prefer to have a team where the players like each other, hang out after the practices and games and use that to develop extra trust. There’s a reason why businesses call it TEAM BUILDING. When you get to know people, understand what makes them tick, it reduces the friction between egos, makes you more understanding and supportive.
But, basketball is not an experiment where you can say “imagine the same team, with the same players, team A has low chemistry, team B has high chemistry, which one do you choose?” We are not in a laboratory-controlled environment. Here, we deal with a cost-benefit analysis. If you can increase the talent and skill level of your team, but in the process mess with the chemistry of the team, do you do it? Depends on how high the talent is, right?
The Spurs are famous for insisting on team culture, which is a prerequisite for chemistry. You need an institutional structure where no single individual is given preferential treatment to build chemistry. A million consecutive playoff appearances, one of the greatest basketball teams ever assembled (and a most dominant performance in the Finals ever) and five rings later, the case is settled, right? Yes…BUT, they had David Robinson, who then mentored Tim Duncan, Manu who was OK with being the best 6th man ever and all this supervised by the greatest coach ever, Greg Popovich. So just four little details.
On the other hand, we have the Chicago Bulls with Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman as the Big 3, the benchmark for all great teams. As Pippen reminded us yesterday, thing’s were not so rosy in the locker room back in the day (via The Jump):
I didn’t like Dennis Rodman. I didn’t like Dennis when he came to the team. Michael didn’t like him. We existed on the basketball court because we respected what Dennis did on the court. We knew the value he brought to the game for us. In this situation where you are talking about your teammates; that’s out of character for players. We as a team, we bond, we lock hands. No one is allowed in that circle.
We know that one of the objections Draymond had towards KD was the way he talked to him. He may be loud and annoying, but everyone agrees Draymond Green is a high IQ player. We can assume that after a cup of soothing green tea, he would agree that the rational thing to do was to get the ball to KD. But you know what, mistakes happen. And by the way, Draymond isn’t such a valuable player just because he enables small ball with his defensive domination. He enables it because he is a fantastic playmaker. He leads the team in assists for the past four seasons!
Not passing to KD was a mistake, but it was a mistake while doing something that made him such a fantastic player. Grab the ball, push the pace and make a play. If that play were Draymond shooting a three while KD is open, kick his ass. But Draymond penetrating and (hopefully) finding an open guy? That’s their trademark play. So Draymond asked for the same respect that Rodman got in Chicago. Value my contribution. Don’ just make it about yourself.
That’s why basketball and the NBA are so exciting. Every iteration of the same question has a different set of people so we can only guess. In this case, the combination of an outspoken Draymond with a vain, thin-skinned KD in a “me, me, me” social media era makes for an interesting combination.