The bad economy has not only devalued our homes, 401ks and stocks; it has also lessened the value of a “Big Three.”
OK, I have literally no evidence the economy has anything to do with that, but we live in an age when you can say, “Wait … in this economy?” as an answer for anything. “Wait, he’s buying a timeshare … in this economy?” “Wait, he’s taking up golf … in this economy?” “Wait, he’s climbing the Himalayas … in this economy?” “Wait, he’s TiVoing The Walking Dead … in this economy?”
So, yeah: “Wait, they were calling Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard a Big Three … in this economy?”
It used to be that a Big Three constituted, at minimum, of three Hall of Famers: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish; or Magic, Worthy and Kareem; or Jordan, Pippen and Rodman; or Pierce, Garnett and Allen. Hell, I’d take Isiah, Dumars and Laimbeer (at least there were two Hall of Famers).
Now we get an aging shooting guard whose numbers have been steadily declining, a point guard who has a knack for not winning and the best center in the game, in a league where centers are becoming increasingly unnecessary.
Luckily for us, NBA owners have itchy trigger fingers and decided against assisting the building of “another” Big Three — according to ESPN reports — thus killing the Howard-to-Nets trade. Had the Brooklyn Nets been able to pull off the three-team deal with Cleveland and Orlando, they would’ve become — hide the women and children! — the fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference.
Sure, they never would have made it past Chicago or Boston or Miami (or possibly New York or Philadelphia or Indiana), but they would have positively killed the likes of, well, Charlotte and Orlando. And it would’ve been close against Toronto and Washington and Cleveland.
It sounds like I’m bashing Howard and Williams and Johnson, and I’m not. I was actually rooting for the trade to happen because I wanted to see if it would work (while quietly confident that, no, no, it would not). Maybe they would’ve been outstanding together. But it would’ve been long odds, because these sorts of “mega teams” never usually work.
Remember when the Shaq/Kobe-era Lakers added Karl Malone and Gary Payton? Or when Barkley teamed with Clyde and Hakeem in Houston? How many titles did Dirk/Nash/Finley win in Dallas? Or Nash/Stoudemire/Marion win in Phoenix? Or Webber/Divac/Bibby in Sacramento? Or Mashburn/Mourning/Hardaway in Miami? How about Iverson and Melo or Shaq and LeBron? Or Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady? Run TMC? Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis? The 2004 Dream Team?
Soon to join that list: the Big Four being constructed in Los Angeles. Does anyone seriously believe that Andrew “I am always one rebound away from being out for the season” Bynum, Pau Gasol, an aging Steve Nash and Kobe “thanks to the Olympics, I’m not getting time off to rest my creaking body” Bryant are going to get past Oklahoma City? What’s are the chances they aren’t even the best team in L.A.?
Sorry, but it rarely works. The NBA is littered with the carcasses of failed superstar pairings. The only reason they keep trying is because, occasionally, you get an anomaly, such as the Pierce/Garnett/Allen Celtics (the rare pairing of three selfless vets whose skills/weaknesses complemented each other) or this year’s Miami Heat.
(First, the team has the BEST PLAYER ON THE PLANET. So, you know, that’s an unfair comparison. Second, the irony is that injuries to Bosh and Wade took away the “who is the leader” confusion the team suffered last season and put the ball clearly in James’ hands. The team, as constituted — with two Alpha males — was not as effective. It needed Wade to get hurt, thus nullifying the concept of a Big Three.)
But NBA GMs always screw up the formula. Big Threes usually either happen organically — like what is being put together in Oklahoma City — or by accident — who would’ve guessed when they were drafted that Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker were 2/3s (along with Tim Duncan) of a dynasty?
And, occasionally, you get a “Wait, did that actually fucking work?” breakthrough like the Rasheed Wallace/Chauncey Billups/Rip Hamilton Pistons. But just randomly putting together three big names is always a science experiment — and usually one of those experiments that ends with a big puff of smoke and an explosion.
A few more questions to ponder: Is a pairing of Williams/Johnson/MarShon Brooks/Brook Lopez really THAT much less scary than taking the last two guys out and adding in Howard? Would you rather have Howard in Houston with Jeremy Lin and a GM who actually knows what he is doing? Does any of this matter as long as you have a hungry LeBron James and vets such as Ray Allen willing to take pay cuts to play with him?
If NBA GMs wanted to prevent building another dynasty, the best thing would’ve been if they had helped make Howard-to-Nets trade happen.