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New star-driven NBA is bad for teams, business

Magic must build team around Dwight

Staff Columnist

Published: Sunday, May 15, 2011

Updated: Sunday, May 15, 2011 14:05

For all but four NBA teams, the offseason is here.

That includes the Orlando Magic, who probably had their exit interviews a little earlier than planned, unexpectedly losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

Thanks to that quick departure, the biggest story in Orlando sports right now, frankly because he IS Orlando sports, is whether Dwight Howard will stay in Magic blues.

Amidst all the speculation is the belief that the Magic need to sign another star to compliment Dwight. How else will Dwight and the Magic be able to compete with the elite teams in the league, most notably their neighbors to the south in Miami, if Howard is the only superstar on the roster?

It's a scenario reflective of the league's latest trend. In what has always been a league driven by stars and the players put around them, it seems the big-market teams will not be satisfied, or looked upon as competitive, unless their rosters look like they're straight out of a fantasy draft. Problem is, and I don't know if this has dawned on NBA commissioner David Stern quite yet, this is bad business for all.

In a league that is, as mentioned earlier, star-driven, how good of a thing could it be that all the stars are conspiring through free agency to play together? It sounds like a fan's wet dream, except when you consider the implications that will follow.

It's already tough enough to be truly competitive in the NBA. Fans love when a team like Memphis makes a splash and holds its own, but the reality is there are only so many teams that are considered true contenders. How small will that number shrink to  when the only way to be competitive is to literally have an All-Star team as your starting line-up?

The NBA needs its smaller markets to keep their stars. If it continues this trend toward being overly top-heavy, with perhaps four teams with three superstars apiece, what's the incentive for a small-market fan to buy season tickets to watch a team of role players?

Has anyone actually watched the Miami Heat or New York Knicks this season? If they've shown anything, it's that adding superstars doesn't necessarily make a team invincible or a better product. Sure, the Heat are in the Eastern Conference Finals, but forward Chris Bosh is in the process of being downgraded from superstar status.

There have been very few occasions when the Heat looked like what people thought they'd look like — a traveling All-Star team with the big three all putting up big numbers. But most nights it just looks like your average one, maybe two-star team, with role players who have famous names.

Which brings me to perhaps the most important point — more stars does not make a better product.

A superstar on each team in a given contest makes a better product. A clear number-two guy, a second-class star playing Robin to the superstar's Batman, makes a better product (unless it's Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, who for some reason thinks he is the superstar, which is both entertaining and cringe-inducing). Role players built around those two, forming a cohesive efficient team, is a good product.

Having multiple "alpha-male", "need-the-ball"-type players on one roster is only going to is force players who don't have the ball to fall into the background.

Take Amare Stoudemire, who was in the process of resurrecting New York basketball and becoming the face of the franchise. Carmelo Anthony came in, stole his thunder and created crunch-time shot allocation issues.

General managers have gotten lazy. Teams with superstars don't need more of them; they need cohesive rosters built on a foundation of chemistry and match-ups. Dwight Howard needs Magic GM Otis Smith to build a team around him, preferably with a pass-first point guard who can get the game's best center the ball.

Reality is, when the seconds are winding down in a Game Seven, only one superstar is going to have the ball in his hands.

How confident can we be that the other two or three stars on a given roster will know how to box out?

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