In the 1980s and early 90s, the goal wasn’t simply to beat a powerhouse team in the NBA playoffs. Instead, winners desired to beat opponents to a pulp allowing self-doubt and crippling factors to seep in.
In other words, the Detroit Pistons wanted to destroy Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics so they’d never fly again. In turn, the Chicago Bulls killed off the Pistons so that the Bad Boys would never compete for a crown again.
“We didn’t just want to beat that team. We wanted to destroy them,” former Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas said. “You were dead to us when we [the Pistons] were finished.”
Let’s move to modern-day basketball. The Phoenix Suns eliminated LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his career. Of course, James and the Lakers are not a dynasty, but it is safe to say that the NBA title ran through James the past few years in Miami, Cleveland, and Los Angeles.
The Lakers’ loss created a chorus of good riddance and celebration on social media. But, unfortunately, some foolishly claimed the King to be dead for good.
Many fans love him. But many fans shun him because he is the King of flops in more ways than one. He flops on the court and flips teams as often as he changes his socks. However, there are key factors to suggest that the Suns did not issue the much-hoped-for death warrant on James’ legacy.
LeBron James, 36, shall rise again and challenge for more NBA crowns.
Here are the factors that lead to the destruction of a franchise. Age. Self-doubt. Opponents no longer fearing you.
The biggest self-doubt for the Lakers is at center when Marc Gasol, 36, got old. Montrezl Harrell is a backup, and former Piston Andre Drummond got abused during the short playoff run. However, Drummond is a free agent, and the Lakers may not want to resign him, allowing him to move on to another team that foolishly believes he is the final piece.
General Manager Rob Pelinka wants to keep the core together and make another championship run during the 2021-2022 season. His trump card is a healthy Anthony Davis and LeBron James. For all the accolades the Suns are receiving, we must not forget they trailed 2-1 in the series when Davis succumbed to a groin injury.
Once upon a time, this team was 21-6 and fighting for the best record in the Western Conference. Then a bad misstep changed all that when James suffered a high ankle sprain that bothered him all season and caused him to miss a month of the season.
“We were rolling. We had the pieces,” said Davis. Despite that, Davis’ next comments crystalize everything.
“We just couldn’t stay healthy.” And that’s the truth.
It is dangerous to come up with absolute conclusions during this period of Corona Virus, shutdowns, lockdowns, and chaos. So instead, I chalk this up to a fluky season. You can celebrate the immediate demise of the Lakers, but it is far too soon to mourn their death.
Davis missed two months with Achilles issues. And he was sidelined as the Suns rallied to beat LA in the playoffs.
Like it or not, this team will return as strong as ever. And maybe James hoists another trophy.