The importance of team chemistry is undeniable.
No matter how much talent a team has, no matter the star players or the money a team puts in it wont succeed unless the team finds its rhythm.
Unfortunately for the Magic, they forgot the importance of chemistry.
Jameer Nelson is a great player, an all star point guard, and lets face it; he’s a guy we all want to root for.
Coming out of St. Joe’s he was overlooked as a potential impact player because of his size. Despite leading his team to an undefeated regular season his senior year, Nelson couldn’t land in the lottery.
Nelson disproved the naysayers and this season evolved into one of the top point guards in the league. In fact there were points this season before Nelson got hurt that he was considered even a better player then his counterpart Dwight Howard.
When he went down wit a shoulder injury at the start of February many were convinced that the Magic’s season would go down the drain with him. But that didn’t happen, the Magic traded for another speedy point guard, Rafer Alston, and after a small adjustment period the Magic found a new identity.
The team and the city rallied around Alston. He was no Jameer Nelson and he didn’t try to be. And so for the next four months the Magic learned to play basketball with Alston and they ended up playing it better than anyone in the Eastern Conference.
Nelson was supportive of his boys. He became the Magic’s biggest cheerleader, always on the sidelines, always being the first to congratulate Rafer as well as the rest of the team.
But when the Magic made the finals the team was forced to make a decision. Nelson was now cleared to play, and while he hadn’t played with the team in a very long time he had been working out and was in playing condition. The Magic decided to insert their all star into the rotation, giving him as much playing time in game one as Rafer Alston.
The result we all know, the Magic come out flat and get blown out by 25 points. The club shot 29% from the field, had 8 turnovers, and Anthony Johnson, a solid contributor from the Cav’s series, saw 0 minutes.
What was Stan Van Gundy thinking? Why would you mess with what works? Why, on the brink of the most important seven game series of your life, would you adjust the way that a team has played for the last four months?
To quote George W. Bush (and good god I can’t believe I’m doing that), you don’t change horses mid stream.
Jameer Nelson is the Orlando Magic’s franchise point guard, but Rafer Alston is the 2008-2009 Orlando Magic point guard. The Magic tried to change their team’s identity, and ruined their chemistry.
Now we see Alston run around the court without confidence. We see Anthony Johnson sulk on the bench. We see J.J Redick hog the ball in the waning seconds of overtime(ok there is no explaining that one)?
Bill Belicheck had it right. In 2001 when all-star quarterback Drew Bledsoe came was cleared to play in the playoffs he stuck with Tom Brady. Brady at that point in his career wasn’t spectacular by any stretch of the imagination, but he was the horse that got them there, and he was the horse to lead them to the championship.
Now, Rafer Alston is no Tom Brady by any stretch of the imagination, but he is still the horse the Magic rode to the promised land.
Even Eddy Jordan had it right in the playoffs in 2008 when Gilbert Arenas tried to make a comeback in the first round of the playoffs. While he excelled against the Cav’s, the team played worse. The team had adjusted to run through Jamison and Butler, not Arenas. After a few games they decided to Gilbert for the rest of the playoffs, and the Wizards appeared to play better.
The truth is despite Dwight Howard’s dominance, or Rashad Lewis’s versatility, the Magic had one thing going for them; Chemistry. They threw it all out the window.
(Note: This punny title is for you, T.P.A.S.T.B.M)