NBA Hell Pt. 1
For some NBA teams, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
Current record: 15-38
Point differential: -6.1
Blowout losses: 12
Salary committed in ‘11-12: $47.6 million
“Bad” contracts: 2 (Rashard Lewis, Andray Blatche)
There’s a lot to like about the Wizards. Unfortunately, there’s also a lot not to like.
They’re as enigmatic as the rapper Wale, a DC native himself.
John Wall is a bright spot (no matter what Colin Cowherd says, Wall is talented enough and competitive enough to be a top-flight, two-way point guard). Rashard Lewis’ contract (two years, $46 million remaining) is not.
Owner Ted Leonsis seems like the right man to turn the team around (judging by his appearance on the B.S. Report and his track record with the Washington Capitals). Coach Flip Saunders appears to be a bad fit on the bench.
Nick Young is coming into his own as part of the young nucleus. Al Thornton is not.
And, of course, Andray Blatche is a conundrum unto himself. What you’re going to get from him on any given night (both on and off the court) is a mystery. Hardy Boys.
Washington is a team lost in translation. Not right now per se – their 15-38 record is pretty clear in that regard; they didn’t win their first road game of the season until this weekend. More so when it comes to their future.
Can Wall develop a consistent jumper and (eventually) make a Derrick Rose-like leap into MVP territory? Can Leonsis surround him with the personnel (and the coach) to maximize his talent? Will the four-year, $30 million contract the team has committed to Blatche turn out to be a blessing or a curse?
These questions (like the speculation about whether or not Wale will be better off on Rick Ross’ label) are provisional at best. There’s no real evidence pointing in either direction.
What’s disconcerting is the number of times the Wizards have been blown out this season (12 by my count, and that’s losses by 15 points or more) and the way their attendance has dropped. Even with Wall on the team, the Wiz are averaging 27 fewer fans per home game than they were last season.
Yeah, I know. Big deal: 27 fans. But don’t look at the number itself. Look at the idea behind it. It’s John Wall for crying out loud. He’s the No. 1 pick. He’s supposed to bring fans to the arena.
It’s not always individual players who drive fans to games – although Blake Griffin is providing quite a counterargument in L.A. right now. Still, the dip in fan support is indicative of how the city feels about its basketball team: unsure.
There was a lot of intrigue surrounding the Wizards when the season started – mainly stemming from a curiosity about how Wall and former Wizard Gilbert Arenas would co-exist. Now, frustration reigns — frustration with Saunders, frustration with Blatche, but mostly just frustration with losing.
Twelve losses by more than 15 points certainly don’t help either.
Leonsis and Wall may well be the combo to turn this team around. Until that day, though, fans are taking a “we’ll believe it when we see it” approach.
With the way the Wizards (not to mention the Redskins and Nationals) have performed lately, I can’t say I blame them.
Current record: 13-38
Point differential: -4.5
Blowout losses: 5
Salary committed in ’11-12: $27.6 million
“Bad” contracts: 1 (Beno Udrih)
What makes the Kings a more hellacious franchise than the Wizards? Certainly not two fewer wins and a few empty seats here and there.
No. That’s not it.
In fact, with Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento actually has a better core of young talent than Washington. They’re arguably a better team right now, too, judging by strength of schedule and point differential.
What moves the Kings up the list is the uncertainty of whether or not they’ll stay in Sacramento.
We all know how devastating a move can be for a fan base. What happened in Seattle with the Sonics was terrible, so even the hint of something like that happening is enough to move the Kings up the Hell teams list.
As hard as Mayor Kevin Johnson is working to keep the team in Sacramento, progress on a new arena deal has been painfully slow and rumors have been popping up about potential moves to Anaheim, Las Vegas, and Seattle. The city has been stubbornly opposed to financing a replacement for ARCO Arena (uh, make that Power Balance Pavilion), and the owners, the Maloof brothers of Vegas fame, are reportedly facing all kinds of financial problems.
Meanwhile, Cousins and Donte Greene got into an altercation after Saturday’s loss to the Thunder. It was the third incident Cousins has been involved in this season.
Having been inside the Kings’ locker room and seen Cousins teasing Greene and playing with his young son, it’s hard to believe this was anything more than a flare up resulting from the team’s close loss (reportedly Cousins was mad about not getting the final shot). Still, it’s frustrating to see Cousins perpetually taking one step forward and two steps back.
At some point, he’s going to have to start taking control of his anger before an incident happens, rather than apologizing for it afterward.
Cousins and Evans have the athleticism to create a formidable duo, as we’ve seen in wins over the Lakers, Hornets, Nuggets and Suns in recent weeks. But the talent level around those guys needs to come up and management needs to take a more focused approach to roster building if this team is going to go anywhere.
There are too many mixed and matched role players on the Kings. It’s difficult to figure out what exactly the identity of the team is.
Some of that has to do with coaching – look for Paul Westphal to be out of a job at the end of the season – but the Maloofs are also a factor. I get the impression that general manager Geoff Petrie is under strict orders not to add payroll, as evidenced by the relatively low amount ($27.6 million) the team has committed in salary for next season (for comparison sake, the Sixers have $54 million committed next season).
So, for now, Samuel Dalembert, Carl Landry and Beno Udrih are here to stay.
Eventually, there will be closure. The team will either move or it won’t. A new arena will get built or it won’t. Westphal will either get fired or he won’t.
Until then, rumors will continue to define the Kings; the constant swirl of speculation, the nervous chatter of gossip. It’s enough to drive a man insane.
I can’t imagine how Petrie has dealt with it all these years.
Salary figures courtesy of hoopshype.com.