As the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs prepare to engage in the NBA's final round of Kings of the Court Thursday night, may I suggest a quick sidebar involving the Orlando Magic:
Take notes. Take meticulous notes. Don't file them away. Re-read every day, please.
The message goes something like this: "Don't try to recycle that Heart and Hustle stuff again as you prepare for another challenging season among the also-rans of the NBA. You've got a nice amount of working parts assembled. Now it's time to make this thing go. And that means finding multiple superstars not named Dwight Howard."
That teamwork thingy is nice is theory, but it doesn't work in the NBA business model.
"It's not equal opportunity basketball," NBA great Julius Erving said a few days ago on a TNT telecast.
That comment was spot-on. The Indiana Pacers had a nice team, and an emerging superstar in Paul George. But they could not match the star power of the Heat. Miami's decisive victory in Game 7 proves as much.
And look who the Heat will face in the NBA Finals -- an aging core of Big Three talent in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Face it, folks. Resistance is futile.
The equal opportunity thing is possible, but very unlikely. Larry Brown's Detroit Pistons won an NBA title in 2004, and barely missed a repeat with a core group of very good players -- Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince.
"You can win that way but the good players can't get in the way of each other," Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "One of the reasons superstars work as opposed to teams without superstars is because the other players understand who the superstar is. And so there's no competition. They play their roles."
So how do we tie a ribbon around the Magic and this concept? Simple.
Orlando already has some very good role players in Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, and Nik Vucevic. But even if that core improves with age, all that does is buy you a cup of coffee in the playoffs.
That means Orlando will need to draft and spend wisely. That means a resounding "NO" to Nerlens Noel who has offensive limitations and would come in with significant physical concerns. I love Kansas guard Ben McLemore with the No. 2 pick. The kid shot 42 percent on three-point attempt and reminds NBA scouts of Ray Allen.
There can be no whiffs. No Greg Odens or Michael Beasleys or O.J. Mayos in the mix.
But what's more important is what happens beyond this year's draft. The Magic need to stink again next season to have a shot at two potential franchise stars Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. And with plenty of cap space to work with by 2015, the Magic can make a run at any number of stars, including, LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Roy Hibbert and Brook Lopez.
Lastly, you have to make sure the combination works. As much flak as Dwyane Wade has taken during these playoffs, Miami's success the last two playoff runs has everything to do with Wade deferring to LeBron as The Guy.
"Wade stepped back and said, 'LeBron you're the man, we're the Pips.' '' Rivers said. "Pretty good Pips, though … You have to have great guys, high character guys for it to work."
Magic GM Rob Hennigan knows the deal. He has already proven he's a bit of a whiz kid, ignoring pleas from dolts like me to go after Andrew Bynum in the throes of Howard's diva issues. Hennigan got a nice package deal for Howard, but the rebuild continues.
Let's hope the Magic don't try to fool the public by selling us a re-do on Heart and Hustle.
Teamwork is over-rated. Remember there is no "I" in team, but there are two in "championship."
Bring on the stars. Multiple ones, please.
Then, and only then, will the Magic be contenders for Kings of the Court again.