Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Science 101: Chemistry vs Biology

"I think our team realizes that talent doesn't just win; you've gotta have chemistry. You can't build chemistry. The players have to do that."
Joe Bugel

Continuing our welcome back to school week (we covered civics yesterday) we now have a science lesson for our readers. It has been posited lately that all a team needs to be successful is talent. If the genes are in place the wins will come. Classic examples of team biology defeating team chemistry include LeBron James and the Cavs reaching the NBA Finals over Detroit's 5 man team concept in 2006, Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers' run to the finals in 2001 and the Jason Kidd led New Jersey Nets reaching the NBA Finals in 2002. Pure and simple these 'teams' were examples of how one incredibly talented individual overcame the accumulated chemistry of well balanced teams.

On the opposite side you have Detroit in 2004 when they dethroned the Lakers led by Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Karl Malone and Gary Payton. Clearly the genes were on the Lakers side in that series but the Pistons chemistry carried the day. The Pistons have been to 6 consecutive conference finals with a group of players originally believed to be fringe performers at best but their combined strength was better than their individual excellence.

To be a successful franchise you need both chemistry and biology. Just like in the real world neither science exists independently of the other. A team of superstars can't win every time without team chemistry and a team with perfect chemistry can't defeat defeat a star filled team every time. However a biologically talented team with proper chemistry can become a dynasty as the Chicago Bulls proved in their heydays and the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics have proved more recently.

So what does this have to do with the Memphis Grizzlies? Well, nothing right now as the team doesn't have either proven individual talent nor great team chemistry but the 'plan' is to have both within a few years. So what comes first: the chemistry or the biology? Memphis is trying with their youth movement to acquire the genetic material needed to match skills with the best teams and then build the team chemistry behind that talent. As Joe Bugel said it takes players to build the chemistry. You can't just coach chemistry per se. Sure you can have team building exercises and all but true team chemistry comes from knowing the other players on the team's likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses and that takes time.

Right now the Grizzlies are building the biological base with such talented players such as Rudy Gay, O J Mayo and Mike Conley. Next the Grizzlies need to add the players that will be the glue to make the team hold together. That chemical bond that will make the individuals function as one cohesive unit. There will be times when the chemical bond won't hold but from those failures comes the knowledge to build better bonds and stronger chemistry among the team.

What is needed most on the young Grizzlies roster is some consistency to let the bonds grow. The most experienced player in the team is Hakim Warrick and he is still on his rookie contract. So the entire roster has been turned over in just over three years. It is difficutl to establish solid chemistry with that much turnover. Next season there could be many more new faces. There is an over-crowded PG position, a big need for depth at both forward positions and inexperience in the middle. Even with all of these weaknesses the Grizzlies have a strong biological base and need to develop the chemistry among the players to become winners.

So basically you need the biology (talent) to win in the NBA but talent alone is not enough without the chemistry to make them consistently successful.

Class is out for today.

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Lee Eric said...

So the pendulum swings . . .

I think Jerry West catches too much heat, especially since he was the GM for the franchise's most successful period in history, Vancouver included.

Jerry's concept was focused on building chemistry by getting a group of guys together and playing as a team for several years. The talent on those teams wasn't that high, but they made up for it in cohesion and flat out hard work and hustle.

I think Wallace is on the same track with this group. I actually hope they don't do too much turnover for the next two years, so that cohesion can build. The exception, of course, being if we can trade for or sign a bona fide veteran star -- or at minimum, a playoff veteran role player with leadership skills and a lot of heart.

Other than that, I think we should stand pat and see what we have. If this franchise needs anything now, it's stability.

Chip Crain said...

Excellent point (and one I wish I had pursued more in the blog). West was definately more in tune with team chemistry than biology. Wallace seems more interested in the biology (talent) of the player and will let the team's chemistry work itself out.

Chris said...

Karl Monroe? Where'd he go to school?

Chip Crain said...

La Tech

Lee Eric said...

Chip, I think the appropriate response is:

"Whoops. I meant 'Karl MALONE.' Or as Jimmy Kimmel might say, "Karmaloan."

Chip Crain said...

Would you believe that Karl Monroe was a very under-rated member of the Lakers on that team. So overlooked that they left him off the roster by mistake?


Okay, I screwed up and have fixed it now.

vanjulio said...

I'm sure they're hoping the connections of all our Big East and AAU players will blossom. It's no coincidence - it's like a bad fraternity. Hopefully Mayo and Gasol make it good.