By Shawn Muller–
Los Angeles Lakers head basketball coach Phil Jackson doesn’t believe that a team from the NBA’s Western Conference has the ability to break the Chicago Bulls all-time single season record of 72-10, set during the 1995-96 NBA season. Jackson’s “Zen-like” reasoning? Travel. In an interview last week in Chicago, Jackson said, “No team in the West can really do it. You’re playing with two time zone changes and travel that’s over half the country.”
Now, I get that teams in the Western Conference have to travel greater distances on average compared to that of their Eastern Conference counterparts. Anyone with a map of the United States can see that the teams in the West are more spread out. I will even give Jackson the benefit of the doubt in regards to the changing time zones. I am sure they do play a part in it as well. I just have a hard time believing that travel and time zone changes are THE only reasons that breaking the Bulls record cannot be done.
Let me give you my reasoning as to why the Bulls record will never be broken Mr. Jackson: money. The answer was so simple…it was almost “Zen-like”.
The money that professional basketball players make (and have the potential to make) in the 2010 version of the NBA, as compared to 15 years ago when the Bulls set their record, is vastly different. Between $100 million plus contracts and endorsement deals, players today feel little to no sense of loyalty towards the organization that drafted them or the fans that cheer them on every night. Loyalty for the player lies with the team that is willing to pay him the most.
As soon as a more lucrative offer rears itself, the player usually jumps at that opportunity. I don’t look down on the players for such actions. I am sure I would probably do the same thing and you probably would too. If another company were to offer you $20 million more than your current employer to do the same job, would you take the opportunity? I am pretty sure you would be on the first flight out of town.
I am not saying that every player in the NBA is like this. Tim Duncan, Paul Pierce, and Kobe Bryant, just to name a few, are players that will more than likely finish their careers with the same team. Sadly though, players like those three are the exception and not the rule.
The constant turnover rate amongst NBA rosters created by the opportunity to make more money is what will keep ANY NBA team from besting the Chicago Bulls single season wins mark…not the travel and time zone changes.
Money can buy a team “stars,” but it cannot guarantee success on the court. You need roster depth to go along with the stars. The 95-96 Bulls team was special because it had stars, a solid supporting cast, and depth coming off the bench. They won 72 games because they played as a team. It wasn’t because they played most of their games east of the Mississippi River. You should know this Phil…you coached them!
NBA players are making more money in 2010 than they ever have before and the owners need to protect their investments. Quite simply, ownership needs to take the necessary steps to ensure a positive return on their investment. A $100 million dollar power forward is worthless to his team and the front office if he is on the disabled list. If a team already has their division title wrapped up or a playoff spot wrapped up, why risk injury to the key players? Winning an NBA championship is the ultimate prize at the end of the season, not breaking the Bulls regular season wins total.
Shawn Muller has lived in Chicago for 7 years. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and just recently received his certificate in radio broadcasting in October of 2010. Sports have always been a passion of Shawn’s. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, “Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” at www.blogtalkradio.com/spmuller24.