Go back to October 26, 2010. It marked the first regular season game for Miami’s “Big Three”. I remember sitting in the living room of a college house I rented with somewhere between nine and 30 other college students. (Too many people spent several nights in too many different rooms. I could never tell who really lived there and who barged in just to drink or hook up.) Wrapped in layers of blankets on a couch that smelled like a mix of beer and barbecue sauce, I was anxious to see how Miami’s trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would play together in such a hostile environment like Boston’s.
But actually, I was even more curious to see how Boston would play. During the wildly entertaining free agent period of 2010, Boston made their own splashes by acquiring Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal to join Boston’s own big (and aging) three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. To most people, I’m sure those signings were a yawn and ho-hum minus the comedy that Shaq brought to every team he joined (or so he thought). But I’m sure a few others had thoughts similar to mine: If those guys were five years younger, they would’ve been the greatest team in NBA history.
From there, they became my first Time Machine Champion. I’ve made that award a yearly, nerdy thing for me since then, where I look at each team at the end of the season and imagine how good they would be if they were five years younger. After sifting through statistics and memories, I determine the winner. There’s no real payoff to this. I waste time thinking about hypothetical situations that will never be fulfilled until a time machine is invented. (And even if one’s actually created, who would want to waste their time determining my Time Machine Champion? Why? What a waste of time spent figuring this out each year, but I can’t help it.)
There are only two rules to become a Time Machine Champion:
- A team must have a formidable starting five, meaning they can’t have five forwards who were awesome five years ago. That’ll never happen in real life for any team that doesn’t have LeBron James. Breaking this rule would’ve made the 2010-11 Detroit Pistons a formidable Time Machine candidate, though.
- A team must have a sixth man off the bench.
That’s it. Six players is all it takes to become my Time Machine Champion. This is simply because not everyone in the league has five years under their belt, though there could’ve been an exception to Boston’s 2010-11 squad. Hubie Brown could’ve played 20 minutes a night for that team and they still would’ve been fine. Check out Boston’s top six guys with their 2006 numbers:
- PG- Delonte West: 11.8 points, 4.6 assists. He’s also someone who could’ve taken jokes about wives and moms to a level not even Garnett could match, only in 2006 we didn’t know it yet.
- SG – Ray Allen: 25.1 points, 3.4 threes, 41.2% from three. During his time in Seattle, Allen’s best post player was arguably Jerome James. Ouch.
- SF – Paul Pierce: 26.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists. 2006 was arguably Pierce’s best season ever and not because of his statistics. His prima donna days from 2002 to 2005 were just one of several reasons why the NBA was a pain to watch back then, but he flip-flopped his attitude in 2006 and was rewarded with a title in 2008. (Worth noting: 2006 was the same season Boston shipped Ricky Davis to Minnesota for Wally Szczerbiak. Losing Davis may or may not have also had something to do with Pierce’s resurgence.)
- PF – Kevin Garnett: 21.8 points, 12.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and was on the wrong end of the Davis-Szczerbiak trade.
- C – Shaquille O’Neal: 20 points, 9.2 rebounds, and at the tail-end of his prime. 2006 was his second-to-last nice season before age and endurance issues took over with no going back. He still would’ve been a force and a great compliment to Garnett’s mid-range game.
- Sixth Man – Jermaine O’Neal: 20.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and kind of really fell out of favor with Indiana’s fan base after the Malice at the Palace. He could’ve used a change of scenery and four Hall of Famers alongside him. That’s not asking for much.
The Garnett-Pierce-Allen trio won 66 games in 2008. They surely have won 66 games together in 2006. Throw in Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal, even if they struggled with durability in 2006, and they would’ve broke some records.
They’re even better if they go back 10 years instead of five. That would’ve disqualified Delonte West, but that squad still wins 75 games with myself at point guard and Hubie Brown ripping my game to shreds in second person:
“When Matt Femrite’s on the floor you wonder how this team, despite sporting five All-NBA talents, could be so good with a player whose skill set resembles a boiling potato. Did I mention he wrote a column about an award that doesn’t even exist and shared it to only a handful of readers on a blog called Chicken Noodle Hoop? I don’t get it, Mike [Turico], I really don’t. Look at him out there, wrapped in his blanket that reeks of beer and barbecue sauce. He looks like a human burrito.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Even in today’s league where most NBA veterans migrate to only a handful of teams, it’s nearly impossible for any roster to have six players that, if you make them 10 years younger, are just as talented as that 2011 Celtics squad. The Chicago Bulls of 1997 would’ve had an impressive roster if Pippen were in the NBA during the 1986-87 season. They would’ve had Ron Harper (an exciting athlete in the ’80s), Michael Jordan and his 37 point-per-game season, Dennis Rodman before his funky hair, and Robert Parish (43 years old in ’97 with the Bulls!) to go along with Pippen. Bill Wennington would’ve been the sixth man, though, which further ruins my hypothetical Time Machine Championship contender, but whatever.
Boston’s 2011 squad narrowly won the first ever Time Machine Champion over the likes of:
- Dallas: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, and Peja Stojacovic.
- Orlando: Gilbert Arenas, Quentin Richardson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Dwight Howard, and Jameer Nelson.
- San Antonio: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Richard Jefferson, Matt Bonner, Tim Duncan, and Antonio McDyess.
- Miami: Mike Bibby, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Mike Miller.
Detroit was really interesting with Ben Gordon, Tracy McGrady, Tayshaun Prince, Charlie Villanueva, Ben Wallace, and Richard Hamilton but Gordon isn’t necessarily a point guard. They wouldn’t have beat out any of the previously mentioned teams anyway. I just enjoy thinking back to a time when McGrady was one of the best players in the league.
So who won in 2012?
New York (Kidd, J.R. Smith, Melo, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chandler, and Bibby), Dallas (Kidd, Vince Carter, Marion, Lamar Odom, Dirk, and Terry), and Charlotte (Eduardo Najera) all had capable teams to take the prized 2012 Time Machine Championship, but the Miami Heat edged out all three. The ’07 versions of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh would surround themselves with key cogs like Mike Miller, Shane Battier and (gasp) Eddy Curry. The Big 3 of Miami were just too good to pass up.
2013 is up for grabs. The Lakers (Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison) narrowly lead Miami (James, Wade, Bosh, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Mike Miller). If Miami’s roster stays intact next year, they could challenge the 2011 Celtics for the 10-years younger variation of the Time Machine Championship. (A huge deal, totally.) Their roster has to remain relatively the same for that to work out, but I just don’t see it happening with a glaring weakness at rebounding. If Miller and either Battier or Lewis leave, Miami’s sixth man will be the deal breaker.
Maybe I’ll suit up for them.