There is a term used in the NBA to describe the ultimate team man, a Chemistry Guy. Chemistry guys are known for being the glue that helps keep the team together, focused and on the same page for the good of the team. Chemistry guys are never late for practise, they always know the name of their team mates, the names of their team mate’s wives and kids and also will ask how the wife and kids are going. They will always give their best in practise, encourage the group, be respectful to the coach, the assistant coaches and pretty well anyone who works with the playing group. On game night they are happy to accept the coaches’ decision on playing time, they will encourage from the bench, high five everyone going in and out of the game, they’ll wave the towel to encourage the group and if they are lucky enough to get minutes they will put their heart and soul into every moment they are out there.
Chemistry guys aren’t known for scoring or carrying the team on the floor, they are known for supporting those carrying the team, they’re not the guy taking the game winning shot, they’re often not on the floor when the game winning shot is taken but they are certainly the first guy to slap five with the guy who hit the shot.
The NBA puts high value on great chemistry guys, given the unbelievable egos of some of the stars and the selfishness and self-promotion that can be an inherit part of being a star on the world stage. The chemistry guys help keep some form of team work in focus and are often the player that coaches like the most, even the star players like the most, as chemistry guys aren’t competing for court time, fame or sponsors.
Chemistry guys are a vital cog on the NBA roster and the good ones are starting to receive significant financial reward for what they do.
Australians have now got a great reputation as chemistry guys thanks largely to Patty Mills. You may remember Pat’s early days with the San Antonio Spurs, lively on the bench, precious few minutes on the floor but always engaged, always waving the towel and always ready and eager to get on the floor and make a greater contribution. I first met Pat when he played at the under 18 National Championships in Ballart and I can certainly confirm that everything you see from Pat is genuine and he deserves every opportunity he gets at any level of play. I imagine that Brett Brown’s duel role at the time of Boomers Head Coach and San Antonio assistant coach helped open the door for Patty with the Spurs as a perfect chemistry guy. Full credit to Pat that he is now starting to take a more prominent role on the Spurs roster, this season he averaged about 8ppg and 3apg in around 16 minutes of play per game.
Matt Dellavedova has also built his reputation on being a great chemistry guy, fortunate enough to get his NBA start alongside one of the greats of the game. He has just been rewarded with a new contract worth millions with the Milwaukee Bucks where no doubt the expectation will be to help mould a winning attitude with the young Bucks, who have drafted Thon Maker, a player with an Aussie background. This year Delly averaged 7.5ppg and 4.4apg and won an NBA Championship with Lebron and the Cleveland Cavs. Luc Longley had a long career with the Chicago Bulls as a role player and great chemistry guy, he also played with the best player of all time and Luc was part of the chemical element that made that group work, something he wasn’t able to do with the less talented teams he played on before and after his stint in Chicago.
Our other NBA Boomers include Cameron Bairstow at about 2ppg and 2rpg, Aron Baynes 6ppg and 5rpg and Joe Ingles 4ppg and 1apg. While we should be proud of the achievements of all these guys their roles clearly are not to be “the man” on their team, they have not been expected to be the go to guy and generally they have not been on the court when the game is there to be won.
The problem for the Boomers is that someone among this group, averaging less than 10ppg, needs to take a giant step forward and take a leading role as a star player, something that is unfamiliar to them in their senior career. There is a big difference between taking and making that game winner to high fiving and hugging the guy who hit it. Sadly, the guys who are more familiar with this type of pressure like Andrew Bogut, and certainly in the near future Dante Exum and Ben Simmons aren’t playing.
This is why chemistry is an issue for the Boomers, if all the NBA guys think they can now be the man then no doubt some noses will get out of joint. Many thought Patty took way too many shots at the 2012 Olympics where he averaged 21ppg to lead all players at the tournament but the team failed to make the semi-finals. Patty took about 19 shots per game which was way ahead of anyone else in the top ten of scorers that included Kevin Durant (USA), Manu Ginobili (Argentina), Pau Gasol (Spain) Luis Scola (Argentina) Andrey Kirilenko (Russia), Carmelo Anthony (USA) Leandrinho Barbosa (Brazil). Luol Deng (England) and Tony Parker (France) all guys totally used to the role of go to guys. In the World Championships in 2014 where the team finished 12th it was Aron Baynes who lead the scoring at 16ppg in the absence of Patty Mills. Who is going to lead the way this time?
Patty had the green light from Brett Brown to shoot when he wanted and to be the man but at that level of play it is a role that requires simply more than shot attempts. Including your team mates and taking good shots is vital to the success of the team.
The Boomers may need to look more at the players who aren’t playing in the NBA but are playing in other leagues around the World. Ryan Broekhoff, for all the hype around his improvement this year still only average 8ppg in the Euroleage and a more experienced David Andersen 11ppg and 6rpg in France and Brad Newley averaging 8ppg as an import player in Spain – latest press though is Newl’s hasn’t made the team. Chris Goulding is certainly used to carrying the responsibility in the NBL, he finished second in team scoring at the 2014 World Championships at 12ppg but let’s not forget the team finished 12th and Chris needs to improve the defensive end of his game if the Boomers are to advance further.
Kevin Leish has made the team as a naturalised player, he certainly is used to being the man but given this is his first international tournament it would certainly be surprising if he was able to repeat his feats of NBL play, certainly past naturalised players who have made the team previously haven’t been able to repeat their efforts in the International game.
So like an NBA team, the Boomers may have some chemistry issues to deal with as guys look to shake off the shackles, loosen their shoulders and take a more assertive scoring and leadership role, if they all try to do it then it will be a challenge to keep them all on the same page.
The Opals don’t have such challenging chemistry issues, their star players are star players with their WNBA and Pro league teams, Penny Taylor, Liz Cambage, Erin Phillips and co are all used to carrying the load, I’d imagine some of the fresh faces on the team will be more than happy to play a supportive role, I guess the questions regarding the Opals are very different to the Boomers, maybe more on them later.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Boomers shape up as a team, who steps forward and how they gel as a team, expectations are certainly high, there hasn’t been a top four finish since the home Olympics in 2000. We now have more NBA players than ever before, if we can get the chemistry right then it should be time for a medal.