Blog Entry

How important is team chemistry in winning?

Posted on: September 29, 2011 5:05 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 5:06 pm
Posted by Royce Young

Chemistry isn't just something that Walter White is good at. It's a basketball buzzword, that hidden ingredient that can supposedly take a good team straight to greatness.

Build a team with talent, add a good coach and make sure they all like each other and you've got a recipe for good things. Isiah Thomas had chemistry as a major part of "The Secret," which is the secret formula to winning. The right mix of stars, role players and quality chemistry means success.

Everyone embraces that idea. Everyone agrees that it's better to like your teammates than not. Everyone knows that if you've got two guys on the floor that hate each other's guts, it's going to affect their ability to win.

But the question is, how much does it matter? And moreover, why does it matter?

Dwyane Wade admitted this week that he feels the real reason the Mavericks topped his super-loaded Heat team is because they were mixed better. He said, "One thing that Dallas beat us at – they had more chemistry than us. They had a game plan and we were still figuring ours out in our first year together."

Chemistry can kind of be a cop-out though. When you're losing and things are working right, it's easy to just say, "It's our chemistry, man." The Heat certainly lacked a feel for each other at times. Between LeBron and Wade, it was a teeter-totter on who got the ball with Chris Bosh awkwardly hanging in the balance. It was really a basketball science fair project. The Heat were putting the limits of basketball chemistry to the test and I suppose they failed since they lost, but there's always time to improve.

Wade's referencing on-court chemistry though. What about just general locker room mood? The off-court chemistry. Is it equally as important? Here's the thing: I think with one, comes the other. If you get along off the court, you're likely to get along on it. I'm not totally sure it works the other way -- see: Kobe and Shaq -- but it's always better to like the guy next to you rather than not.

What made me really start thinking about it was the supposed rift between Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins. The Thunder -- a team known worldwide for their outstanding chemistry -- traded away Jeff Green, a player Kevin Durant, Westbrook and James Harden referred to as a "brother," for Perkins.

The Thunder really we the ideal model of "The Secret," except for one flaw: Jeff Green really isn't good, at least not where the Thunder were playing him. So general manager Sam Presti risked chemistry trading away brother Jeff to bring in a big, burly, scowly center.

With the Perkins/Westbrook supposed scuffle, the fact is, chemistry is important, but really mostly when you're losing. It's easy to stick together when you're winning. But when you lose, things get tested. That's really where it affected the Celtics most. Nothing was wrong with them except their heads were shaken after Perk was dealt. And when they started slipping, they had actual evidence for why they were sulking. See? We need Perk! Maybe with Perk in the locker room, the Celtics would've been able to stay together. Maybe because he was gone, the team went into a funk and stopped trusting each other. Who knows. Chemistry certainly matters, but mostly when times are bad. What happens to the Thunder if they start next season 5-11 or something? Will fingers get pointed? Will Perk and Westbrook clash more? Will Durant have to try and put his foot down? It's all rosy until it's not.

Here's how important Jeff Green was to the Thunder: Presti actually cried during the press conference announcing the deal. If you want to know about team chemistry, the Thunder with Jeff Green were the model. Every player loved each other the same. All that Westbrook vs. Durant stuff was yet to come and honestly, it might've never surfaced if Green had stayed on the roster. He was the most veteran of their young core, the steady, calming influence.

But Presti obviously was ready and willing to risk that chemistry for the sake of bringing in a player that actually strengthened the roster. Not that Perkins was some kind of bad guy that couldn't get along with teammates. In fact, his relationship with the Celtics was almost exactly the same thing as Green in OKC.

The Celtics were shaken when Perkins was traded. Ainge dared to mess with Boston's brotherhood and in the end, paid for it. Was it because the chemistry was shaken or just because the team was kind of a mess, considering Perkins was replaced by Nenad Krstic, a broken Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal. Ask a basketball chemist and it's because Ainge tinkered with the winning locker room formula. Maybe it's a case by case thing, but clearly the Thunder were able to move past it. In the end, it was more about matchups, ability and rosters, not some imaginary force where friendships when games.

It all matters to a degree when you're trying to win, but chemistry alone doesn't win, both on and off the court. Chemistry's just one of the ingredients in the larger recipe for winning.

Since: Jul 13, 2011
Posted on: October 5, 2011 12:23 am

How important is team chemistry in winning?

chemistry doesnt just mean liking everyone on your team though, it means that you are comfortable with the guys that you are playing witha nd you know what each other will do. the heat looked like they had no idea what the other was going to do when he had the ball wheras the mavs, jet terry and dirk in particular, gave each other the ball and got out of the way into a spot where they could help the otehr if need be. i saw several times in the finals when the heat looked completely discombobulated offensively when one of the big 3 had the ball, the others had no idea what to do or where to go. they need to learn how to share the ball and get open with out the ball. if they can learn to score points with cutting and moving without the ball with the added threat of the player with the ball scoring, the heat will become an unstoppable force

Since: Nov 1, 2010
Posted on: September 30, 2011 10:50 pm

How important is team chemistry in winning?

It's hard to mesh chemistry when you aren't even playing. How does this lockout affect the chemistry? I'm sure if the Heat lose again they'll blame the lockout stealing time for them to gain chemistry on the court.

Since: Mar 29, 2009
Posted on: September 30, 2011 8:13 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Dec 23, 2009
Posted on: September 30, 2011 7:25 pm

How important is team chemistry in winning?

"In the end, it was more about matchups, ability and rosters, not some imaginary force where friendships when games."
wow fail

Since: Aug 11, 2008
Posted on: September 30, 2011 6:36 pm

How important is team chemistry in winning?

There is one of that 3 that thinks he's better than the game itself. Chemistry? What Chemistry. He don't need no sticking chemistry!

Since: Aug 2, 2011
Posted on: September 30, 2011 6:03 pm

How important is team chemistry in winning?

Talent and stars is one ingredient to WIN but that alone is not enough, be it basketball or ANY sport as can be seen in soccer with the likes of Barcelona, and Man Utd.

Team chemistry is more important than the individual stars of the team because no one player is above the team spirit o team itself.

Since: Sep 24, 2006
Posted on: September 30, 2011 4:47 pm

How important is team chemistry in winning?

Team Chemistry matters a lot ... if you want to WIN in Sports.

If you just want to Entertain, go Hard, go at somebody, or hold exhibition games ... then not so much.

Since: Feb 14, 2009
Posted on: September 30, 2011 3:27 pm

How important is team chemistry in winning?

Good article, think it hit the nail right on the head. Team chemistry is really important to success, especially when you're looking at the postseason. The Heat will most likely get there eventually. It is extremely hard to gel when you have three guys who are used to having the ball in their hands for the majority of a game all playing on the same team at the same time. The good news for the Heat is that both James and Wade have great off the ball movement, which makes it more conducive to them being able to work together in an offense.

The Thunder getting Perkins looked like a great idea at the time for purposes of adding toughness in the middle, but I guess nobody took into account the fact that Perkins is slow and the Thunder play a super up tempo game. Hard to have a running offense when your center is at halfcourt sucking wind. Krstic may look like a 50 year old tollbooth worker, but at least he was active up and down the court and under the basket, as is Collison which is why they fit so well with OKC.

Using Shaq and Kobe as an example of successful dysfunction is ignoring the fact that Shaq was completely unstoppable during the Lakers' threepeat. Chemistry doesn't matter when all you have to do is pass the ball inside and get dunk after dunk, or then draw in the defense and get wide open looks from all over the floor. 3 second violation? Ha!

The Lakers this last season were a good example of high talent but chemistry issues, and the way that affects a team. They never got on the same page the way they had for the back to back rings, and it ultimately cost them big against a team hitting on a cylinders.

Since: Jan 24, 2008
Posted on: September 30, 2011 11:15 am

How important is team chemistry in winning?

Everytime I see Perkins in a Thunder jersey i throw up. He doesn't belong there. Ibaka and Collison fight the team a lot better. They should've never traded Jeff Green. If they had a more servicable big man beside Perkins the Thunder would've been better.

Since: Sep 20, 2006
Posted on: September 30, 2011 10:32 am

How important is team chemistry in winning?

Chemistry ?

That's just another subject these guys didn't take in class. 

Players have to EXECUTE to win, period.

Chemistry makes COOPERATION easier, which makes improving a team a lot easier...but established winners ? Not so much. Roles are well defined on good teams, and there have been a lot of great teams with players and coaches that hated each other, frankly because there are always more than one mega-ego-stars on great teams...It's jealousy and failure, more than personality or work ethic, that causes most "bad chemistry.

Chemistry is always better on winning teams, not because of the chemistry, but because of the winning.    

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