Team chemistry is one of the most important, yet oft-overlooked traits in all of sports these days, especially in the NBA. In an industry where success equals money, owners have become increasingly more impatient as time has passed. Usually, to create a truly great team, a substantial amount of time is required. Players have to become familiar with each other and a mutual bond between players and management must be created.
The Portland Trail Blazers are the most recent example of patience paying off, as the team is widely regarded to have the best team chemistry in the league. The players get along on and off the court and they have grown to learn each other’s tendencies. Most importantly, the special bond the Blazers possess has translated into success.
Sitting at second place in the Western Conference with 29 wins and nine losses, the Blazers may be the league’s biggest surprise this year. Many thought that the team would barely make the playoffs, but now the mindset seems to be contending for an NBA championship. LaMarcus Aldridge, the team’s unquestioned star, was rumored to have requested a trade this summer. After the recent team successes and unexpected camaraderie of this year’s roster, Aldridge has now publicly aired his desire to sign an extension with the team.
The Blazers have attained their chemistry by collecting a young, talented core of players and sticking with them through thick and thin. While forward Nicolas Batum may have had a tumultuous start to his career, the Blazers decided to invest in him and keep him with the team, creating trust between the two parties. After receiving a $44 million dollar contract two years ago, Batum finally looks like the kind of player we all imagined he could be. In 2010, the Blazers signed Wesley Matthews to a 5-year $34 million dollar contract even though he was largely unproven. The signing paid off for the organization, as Matthews has proved himself to be a true leader. His winning attitude has rubbed off on the team, and is a big part of why the Blazers’ locker room is what it is today.
Things were not always this way. Paul Allen used to be one of those impatient, money-burning owners that oversaw the construction of rosters that lacked any sort of chemistry. The main philosophy during this period was to collect highly-talented players, regardless of reputation. This tactic worked for a small amount of time, as the Blazers came within one game of making the NBA finals. But soon, the wheels fell off the wagon. Management had a strained relationship with the players and fans, and players were arrested left and right, leading to the "Jail Blazers" nickname that summed up an era of trouble. Starting with an understanding between former general manager Kevin Pritchard and Allen, the Blazers have become a much more responsible franchise.
So far, the patience has been a success. There have been no significant off-the-court incidents and the team is young and talented. The current route that the Blazers are on looks much more sustainable than the "spend a bunch of money and pray that they are good" tactic. With everyone on the roster happy, playing well and possessing a team-oriented attitude, there is no reason to believe that the Blazers should not meet great success in the near and distant future. As Blazer fans now know, the high road is not always the easiest way to go, but in the end, it makes success feel that much better.