Stick With the Plan

February, 17, 2009
2/17/09
11:53
AM ET

Kurt from Forum Blue and Gold makes a great point, and one that I wholeheartedly believe: Good organizations hone their basketball decisions -- all of them -- to a long-term plan. It's not about getting the best players you can get. It's about settling on a winning system, and getting the right role players to play the parts in that system. Yes, the Boston Celtics are the living proof that a champion can be cobbled together on the fly with available parts. But in general, I am quite sure the road to sustainable success comes from knowing exactly what you need.

No, it's not a miracle that Roger Mason Jr. has blossomed in San Antonio. The Spurs needed certain, limited things, and they shopped for players who could do that short list of things. He can do that stuff. In a different system, with poorly defined rules, he is undistinguished.

Kurt explains that the sin in Phoenix has not been this or that trade, or this or that coach who was hired or fired. The sin has been changing plans time and again:

This is a recurring theme here at FB&G, but I think it is a point that is hard to repeat often enough -- winning organizations have a blueprint and stick with it. They know what kind of team they want to be, they hire a coach that will execute that type of play on the court, and then they go get players that fit that system.

I loved what the Collangelo/D'Antoni Suns did, and they followed that plan. They decided they were going to go with a certain style -- seven seconds or less, up and down, entertaining -- and then they went and got players who could do it. Their stars -- Nash, Stoudemire and Marion -- were athletic and could run. Borris Diaw couldn't get off the Atlanta bench but was built for the Phoenix system. Raja Bell was seemingly nothing special, but he brought some shooting to the two and a little defense that the Suns needed. ...

Look at that team now and tell me what the Suns want to be.

Here is Los Angeles, Mitch Kupchak took enormous heat (often for things like the Shaq trade that were decisions made way over his head). But when Phil Jackson returned he and the organization there became a clear focus -- this was going to be a triangle team. And Mitch went out and got players who can fit that system. Credit also should go to Jerry Buss for letting the basketball people do basketball.

Luke Walton is not as valuable to other teams as he is the Lakers. Derek Fisher is a point guard who doesn't demand to run the show and have the ball in his hands. Lamar Odom is a power forward who can get a rebound and take the ball the length of the court. Sasha Vujacic can bomb threes. Pau Gasol is the best passing big man from the high post in the game and can drain an 18-footer consistently. Trevor Ariza. Jordan Farmar. The list goes on and on of guys who are not just good players but good players who fit the Lakers system.

The Lakers stuck with their blueprint. So has San Antonio over the years. The Pistons did until they made salary cap moves this season, but you just know Dumars is going to rebuild that franchise the right way in the next few years. Cleveland is getting there, finding a system and guys to fit around their star. It looks like teams such as Portland and even Oklahoma City may be doing it right.

But if those up and coming teams want a lesson on why not to change horses in the middle of the stream, they need only to look to Phoenix.

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