The “team” part of “team sports”

Sometimes it seems like we forget the “team” part of “team sports.” Sure, we acknowledge that a combination of talents leads to a better result, but we still focus on that talent aspect. How the players come together is vital to any team’s success, as well as its dynamic, and having clearly defined roles is a big part of that.

Let’s use some relatively recent examples of championship matchups to explore the importance of roles within a team.

NBA Finals

The Spurs trumped the Big Three of the Heat by having more players step up and fulfill their roles.

LeBron put up an average of nearly 30 points while Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh each averaged double digits, but Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen — role players key to the Heat’s success, as Andersen proved in the 2013 playoffs — contributed low totals. A large bulk of the weight landed on LeBron’s shoulders as Wade underperformed and five Spurs averaged double digits. San Antonio outrebounded, outshot, and outdefended Miami by strides.

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Creation of a contender: Free agency and the Big Three

The sports world is in the midst of what some have referred to as its own miniature Y2K, NBA free agency. Basketball, with its smaller rosters, is unique in the impact a single star can have on the fortunes of an entire franchise. So perhaps it is little wonder that every summer speculations rises to a frenzied level surrounding every free agent and potential trade. But like the year 2000’s overhyped “computer apocalypse” which had little actual impact, most summers end with the stars returning to the incumbent teams. But that’s only most summers.

The Big Three

Four years ago three of the NBA’s stars subverted the traditional free agency process and collaborated to join in Miami, forming an instant basketball powerhouse. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh combined to reach four finals in four years, winning twice. In the process the Miami Heat became among the most divisive teams in recent history. This summer looks to become as memorable too, but this time as an end to the Heat’s Big Three. LeBron is returning to Cleveland, and most fans are celebrating.

But is the probable end of Miami’s run a good thing for the NBA? Miami brought together basketball nuts and casual fans in a hatred and grudging appreciation for a great sporting villain, and provided a fascinating glimpse at a “super” team built by player choice.

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The prodigal King returns

LeBron is headed back to Cleveland:

This return can bring a whole crowd of fans to reconciliation with LeBron. Might that be difficult? Perhaps, for some.

But LeBron is not just a great player. He now also seems to have greatly matured.

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The Sixers, the draft, tanking, and Kentucky basketball

The Sixers have been the butt of many a tanking joke this year. Everyone knew they wanted Wiggins.

Somewhere in all the madness before the draft began, some crazy ideas floated around based on how much the Sixers liked Wiggins, and what they would do to get him:

But the Sixers value the draft too much to give up so many picks. Maybe they had acquired that many draft picks because, I don’t know, they wanted to use some of them?

Last year the Sixers traded away a star, Jrue Holiday, for a future star, Nerlens Noel. They also received a first-round pick in this year’s draft. At this point, it only makes sense to make a run for the future — drafting guys who will mature together and create a forceful lineup in the future. Call it tanking, but it was the most logical approach to rebuild the franchise.

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Roundup: Lincecum, USMNT, NBA/NHL drafts, sellers

This is a particularly crazy week in sports. Here are some of the highlights.

Tim Lincecum pitched his second no-hitter yesterday.

If you follow baseball, I’m not breaking that news for you.
My other post today explores a bit of how Lincecum is a different pitcher, but my post is centered on pitching injuries and prevention. Ben Reiter of SI.com has more on the no-hitter itself.

The U.S. Men’s National Team faces Germany at noon.

It’s a bit of a miracle the men have come this far through the “Group of Death,” but it would be a shame to come this far and not advance.

Sunday night’s game was deflating, as Portugal scored in the final minute of stoppage time on a beautiful cross. Maybe the U.S. should have been able to clear that ball, but let’s not lose sight of how well placed the cross was.

Jürgen Klinsmann and the U.S. men have some work to do against a powerful German squad that showed it was human when Ghana forced a draw. To ensure advancement to the round of 16, both Germany and the U.S. need a draw. The U.S. doesn’t need a win to move on, though. The different possibilities for U.S. advancement are outlined here, but we’ll know in a few hours who’s advanced.

If that’s not the sort of thing that piques your interest, just go ahead and watch the game(s). Someone will explain it all later.

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