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Head-to-Head: Best NBA Team of the Last Decade

Who is the best team of the last decade? Jessica Camerato, Jabari Davis and Moke Hamilton debate between the Lakers, Spurs and HEAT.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders’ Jessica Camerato, Jabari Davis and Moke Hamilton go head-to-head over which NBA team has been the best over the last decade:

Los Angeles Lakers

If one were to go back and peruse NBA history, with a few exceptions, the Los Angeles Lakers could be argued that have been the team of any decade.

Since the franchise was founded back in 1948 as the Minneapolis Lakers, it has missed the playoffs a grand total of just six times. The Lakers have won 16 league championships and only failed to win the ultimate prize in the 1960s and 1990s.

Since 2000, the Lakers have won five championships—more than any other NBA franchise. Over the same duration, the San Antonio Spurs have won four and the Miami HEAT three. The Detroit Pistons, Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics have each won one, and the Mavericks certainly warrant some sort of credit for the success that they have had since the turn of the century, but still, the Lakers are the easy choice here.

First led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and then Bryant and Pau Gasol, the Lakers have amassed a 690-442. They failed to make the playoffs twice over that span, first in 2005 and most recently this past offseason. However, if there is one thing we have learned over the course of their long history is that the Lakers do not rest on their laurels when it comes to contending for championships.

As the team prepares for the 2014 draft, Klay Thompson and Kevin Love’s names have been mentioned as potential targets for the Lakers. Even as the Sun sets on Bryant’s long and storied career, he still has basketball left to play. But thanks to the basketball he has already played, a very respectable argument can be made that the Lakers are the team of the decade.

If things break right this summer for general manager Mitch Kupchak and the franchise, who knows? Maybe the Lakers can also be the team of this decade—especially if the HEAT’s star-studded trio decides to put an end to their partnership.

– Moke Hamilton

Miami HEAT

When the Miami HEAT established the trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Both in 2010, the intent was very clear — win a championship, soon and often. It took a season for the lineup to gel, and once they did they became a dominant force throughout the league. The Heat accomplished their mission in 2012, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games to capture the NBA title. James escalated his game and won NBA Finals MVP, Wade earned another ring, and Bosh was the final piece to their tandem. Behind the headliners was a deep bench of proven veterans and developing talent. The HEAT had a complete roster, one that could contend for the future. The following season the HEAT played with a target on their back (bigger than the one that existed before they won). Defending a title presents a set of challenges than winning initially, and they rose to the challenge. They pursued new pieces to bolster their arsenal, the most notable being Ray Allen. Like the previous season, they were tested in seven games of the Eastern Conference Finals and prevailed. This time, though, the last few games would not be as easy to conquer. Just seconds away from losing the series to the San Antonio Spurs, Allen hit a dagger three-pointer to send the game into overtime, setting up a HEAT comeback and Game 7 win. Once again, the depth of the roster set them apart from the competition and earned them the distinction as back-to-back champions. Many teams go years without winning a title. This group achieved that after only one season and did it twice in as many years.

– Jessica Camerato

San Antonio Spurs

While there are several organizations that deserve strong consideration for the proverbial “Team of the Decade” discussion, the San Antonio Spurs are the one franchise that stands firmly above the rest over the last ten-year stretch. The notion of discrediting them for not winning consecutive titles may hold weight in a barbershop (or Twitter) discussion about dynasties, but their consistency throughout the past ten years simply cannot be ignored. The 2008-09 Lakers and 2012-13 HEAT may have been two of the better individual teams over the decade, but each of those franchises has experienced their own ups and downs throughout the period.

The Lakers were excellent over the four-year stretch from 2007-10, but the run was book-ended by trips to the lottery in 2005 and this season. Contrary to what has become a peculiar current trend of almost dismissing Kobe Bryant’s career arc, it still holds up relatively favorably in comparison to that of Tim Duncan or LeBron James on an individual level. That said, it is fair to mention the fact that his teams – much like most Phil Jackson-led squads – tend to make 3-4 year runs before needing to reboot or reload.

Not only did the HEAT lose in the first round in three consecutive trips to the postseason (’07, ’09 and ’10), but they also endured that horrendous 15-67 season in ’08. Taking nothing away from their most recent success, but the stretch that preceded the “Big 3” negates any claim they might have in terms of this discussion.

Of the three realistic candidates (Spurs, Lakers and HEAT), San Antonio is the only of the trio to qualify for the postseason in each of the past ten seasons. They’ve won three of the four Finals’ they competed in, and also qualified for two additional Western Conference Finals’ in 2008 and 2012. Beyond the ultimate prize, the Spurs have also been a model for regular season success over that stretch, boasting a .711 winning percentage; compared to .585 and .604 for the Lakers and HEAT, respectively.

This level of consistency is by no means a thing of luck or chance fortune, as it is no coincidence the Spurs are also the one team that has enjoyed the same coach and core group for the duration as well. The familiar faces and lack of overall drama may ‘bore’ some, but you’d figure any opposing fan base would be elated with these results if their preferred team(s) could match them.

2013-14 62-20 W/L, Result: Won NBA Title
2012-13 58-24 W/L, Result: WC Champions
2011-12 50-16 W/L, Result: WCF
2010-11 61-21 W/L, Result: First Round
2009-10 50-32 W/L, Result: Semifinals
2008-09 54-28 W/L, Result: First Round
2007-08 56-26 W/L, Result: WCF
2006-07 58-24 W/L, Result: Won NBA Title
2005-06 63-19 W/L, Result: Semifinals
2004-05 59-23 W/L, Result: Won NBA Title

– Jabari Davis

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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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