Here’s the thing about chemistry and team sports, like basketball: It really doesn’t matter.
Oh, they’ll tell you it does. Coaches will say they want their guys to care about the team first and the individual second. Players will say they have each other’s backs and that it’s important for teammates to get along on and off the court.
They’ll say it, but it’s a bunch of hooey.
Granted, in the cosmic scheme of things it’s better to be in harmony than in a feud. But let’s face it, it’s not a requirement.
Take, for example, the Utah Jazz. By all accounts their roster, from top to bottom, is filled with good, earnest, hard-working guys who love to play the game. But unless they’re winning, none of that chemistry we’ve heard about means a thing.
From what we’ve been told already this season, they get along very well. Word is, they hang out at each other’s houses, watch other sporting events together and generally enjoy being teammates.
Frankly, there’s no reason to doubt this information. Having seen them interacting before, during and after games — as well as practices — I’d say it’s all true.
They’re all nice guys, good friends and great teammates.
Those things, plus 55-65 wins and 16 postseason wins, will get you a championship trophy.
Actually, let’s amend that slightly. Sixteen postseason wins will get you a championship trophy. Those other things are nice, but the truth is there are no style points. It doesn’t matter how you get there, winning — most importantly, winning in the playoffs — is all that matters.
So, in that regard, chemistry is a little like that sprig of parsley next to your club sandwich. It looks nice on the plate but really doesn’t need to be there.
The Jazz are only seven games into the 2012-13 season, so it’s far too early to press the panic button. However, an early trend has developed: They can win at home but not on the road.
A quick look at the schedule shows they’re about to embark on a weeklong, four-game road trip into the Eastern Conference. Given the fact that the West is a much tougher conference than the East, the Jazz simply can’t afford to go winless on this upcoming trip.
So far this season, coach Tyrone Corbin and his players have raved about the team’s chemistry and depth. Unlike some rosters, Utah’s really is quite deep and, in fact, it’s reasonable to believe a different player could lead the team in scoring each night.
Corbin has the luxury of being able to use a number of different lineups and player combinations in order to get the job done. He’s got minutes to spread around among four key big men and six wing players.
Arguably the best player on the team, center Al Jefferson, has said, repeatedly, he doesn’t care how many minutes he gets, as long as the Jazz get the win.
Others have made similar comments.
But let’s face it, if the Jazz keep losing more than they’re winning, that philosophy won’t last long.
“It’s always a worry,” Corbin admitted last week. “It’s a worry because when things go (poorly) guys start thinking, ‘I should be getting more or this’ or ‘I should be getting more of that.’”
Corbin is a former NBA player, a 16-year veteran, in fact. He understands all too well the truth about professional sports. In order to get to the highest level of athletics, players naturally come equipped with a strong self-belief and a certain amount of ego. “Even if you’re winning there’s still somebody that’s not happy about their minutes, completely,” he said. “But it’s a little easier to deal with when you’re winning. When you’re losing it can go awry on you really fast.”
Uh-huh, winning keeps all that stuff in check, losing brings it forward incrementally … and chemistry really has little to do with it.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He also covers the Utah Jazz and the NBA. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at email@example.com. He tweets at http://twitter.com/jmb247.