Memphis, Sacramento, Washington, Clippers, Oklahoma, Toronto, Minnesota. The 7 teams with the worst records in the NBA. Who is the odd one out? Pretty obvious, right? What the hell are the Raptors doing in ‘The Basement Club’?!
The 6 other teams all have excuses for their pretty woeful positions. The good folks in Sacramento have probably accepted their status as the team with the least prospects for the present and the future. No money, no stars: Kevin Martin can try as hard as he likes, but when your franchise is shipping its best players to save money then you really are caught between a rock and a hard place. If I was Blake Griffin I would be worried. Or playing realllllllly badly during the month of March.
Meanwhile, Memphis has a dynamite scorer in the shape of O.J. Mayo and one of the most promising young big men in Marc Gasol. They also have, say it quietly, cap room (whether or not anyone will actually want to go play for Memphis in 2009 or 2010 free agency is another problem entirely). But relying on rookies for an entire season? Its hardly a recipe for a successful season. The case is similar in Oklahoma: their young players just need time to develop and mould around the scarily good Kevin Durant.
As for Minnesota and Washington, it is highly unlikely that either team would be where they were if their major star(s) could avoid the treatment table. Without Al Jefferson the Wolves are a little lost, lacking his presence inside. And the Wizards have to be sick of the sight of Gilbert Arenas’ extensive wardrobe collection: looking fly does not prevent your team getting blown out everynight.
The Clippers are just the Clippers. And that is why they are still one of the worst in the L, despite possessing a talented roster which, at least on paper, should be the perfect match of youth and experience? Apparently not.
With the exception of Sacramento, the other teams all have at least some grounds for optimism: injuries can’t last forever, and young players will get better and gain experience. And then there was one. Toronto. Like the Bush administration getting a second term this one takes some explaining.
Last year Toronto was a playoff team. One of the franchises seemingly moving forward, toward the next level: Conference Finals, maybe even the Championship. In Chris Bosh they have a player that every GM in the League would like to get their hands on. So what happened?
They traded for Jermaine O’Neal. Whether or not this move was wise from an injury viewpoint, there is no denying that a fit O’Neal is a valuable asset, a big man with skill who could take some of the burden from Bosh’s franchise shoulders. Good thinking. Lets gel and crash some skulls. Or not. After a matter of months, O’Neal was shipped out along with Jamario Moon in exchange for the consummate professional and ultimate unifying force; Shawn Marion. That trade is kinda like playing poker and swapping an ace for another ace. Both are quality players who bring different but equally valuable skillsets to the team.
So why are the Raps languishing in the dark? They don’t have injuries. And they aren’t young and inexperienced. I guess the answer is simply that, here we go for the big payoff, it just happens. Wow. What an insight. But it is true. It has happened before where other teams with seemingly no major problems just don’t get going. Their season doesn’t ignite and fairly quickly the losing becomes infectious.
Look at Tottenham in the Premier League. Good squad, good summer signings, touted as a top four team, and yet they start poorly and progressively get worse, resulting in a scrap to maintain their status as a top division team.
The key is to not allow the rot to set in to start with. Losing is infectious and ensures a miserable and confusing season for all involved.
The problem for Toronto is that, while the other teams in the basement have bright(ish) futures, losing is one sure way to open the door for your star man to leave. 2010 free agency is not far away, and Toronto must have a huge turnaround next season to have any hope of keeping hold of Bosh. Or they will be back to square one and the drawing board.