NBA Hell, Pt. 2
For some NBA teams, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
4. New Jersey Nets
Current record: 17-40
Point differential: -6.2
Blowout losses: 13
Salary committed in ’11-12: $36.3 million
“Bad” contracts: 1 (Travis Outlaw)
Now that the Nets have cautiously climbed back into trade talks with the Nuggets for Carmelo Anthony, I can no longer fully express my outrage for owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who essentially took his horse out of the race four laps before the finish line when he publicly announced the Nets would no longer pursue Melo last month.
In the history of prideful NBA decisions, that had to be the most prideful of them all.
What did Melo (or the Nuggets for that matter) do that was so distasteful that Prokhorov had to pull the plug right then, right there? Balk at the idea of discussing a contract extension? Express reluctance at the prospect of playing in New Jersey? Issue an ultimatum to keep Prokhorov’s people from leaking information to the press?
Nothing about that seems sever all ties worthy to me.
Melo was right to balk at the idea of playing in Jersey next to Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton and Brook Lopez. That’s not a Playoff contending core. It’s the cast of Cedar Rapids.
When Prokhorov bought the Nets in September 2009, most people thought his brash billionaire approach would reinvigorate the team. They’d be the Mavericks East. That was the consensus.
But this offseason all the Nets did was bring in world class irritator Avery Johnson, offer a “low key” sales pitch to LeBron James and sign a rash of mediocre free agents (among them: Johan Petro, Jordan Farmar and Travis Outlaw). Now they’re stuck with a mid-level roster and a coach who can’t seem to stop ticking off the team’s best player (Lopez).
Anyone still think Prokhorov is the answer to the Nets’ problems?
I sure don’t.
The team’s only saving grace, in terms of not dropping to a lower Hell rating, is that they have more trade chips than any other franchise on this list.
Devin Harris is still getting attention from teams (though I have a hard time figuring out why), Derrick Favors is a much-sought after young big and Troy Murphy’s $12 million expiring contract is an awfully sweet kicker.
This puts New Jersey in a prime spot to negotiate, which is why I found it odd that Prokhorov pulled the plug so quickly on the Melo deal (all he had to do was wait until the Nuggets got desperate enough to bring down their demands, show Melo how it was financially prudent to sign an extension, and then pull the trigger). But it does not exonerate the Nets from their sentence to the depths of NBA Hell.
This team has suffered 13 blowout losses and has the worst average attendance in the League. Throw in an owner who has performed severely below expectation and you’ve got the fourth most torturous franchise in the NBA.
Even if the Melo trade goes through (and I don’t expect it will), this team has a long way to go to get back to respectability.
3. Toronto Raptors
Current record: 15-41
Point differential: -5.8
Blowout losses: 10
Salary committed in ’11-12: $45 million
“Bad” contracts: 1 (Jose Calderon)
Most NBA teams lack a superstar player. Makes sense. Superstars are hard to come by. But stars? Stars are more common. In fact, it’s more common to have a star on your team than to not have a star. Which brings us to the Raptors.
The Raptors have such a glaring lack of talent that there’s not one identifiable star on their roster. Not one. Don’t believe me? Let’s go through the roster.
Andrea Bargnani – former No. 1 pick and 20-point scorer, but tell me the last time one of his highlights made SportsCenter. OK, stop thinking. You’re going to hurt yourself.
DeMar DeRozan – two-time Dunk Contest participant (after this weekend) and 2009 lottery pick. He’s stepped his game up since last season, but he’s no star. Sorry, DeMar (hate to hate on a fellow USC Trojan).
Jose Calderon – too inconsistent.
Leandro Barbosa – too poor a shooter.
Amir Johnson – coming into his own this season, but no; not a star.
Jerryd Bayless – I like his potential as a playmaker, but he’s not there yet (not even close).
Julian Wright – you’re kidding, right?
Alexis Ajinca, Solomon Alabi, Ed Davis, Joey Dorsey, Trey Johnson, Sonny Weems, Linas Kleiza – no, no, no, no, no, good dunker (but no) and no.
Reggie Evans – only if you count punches to the groin.
There you have it. The Raptors have serious international flavor (Ajinca, Alabi, Barbosa, Bargnani, Calderon and Kleiza were all born outside of the United States), but no star power.
This isn’t to say the Raptors should have broken the bank to keep Chris Bosh just to say they have a star. Bosh is an All-Star, yes, but not the centerpiece for a contending team. But the franchise does need a face, preferably one with less accompanying hair gel than Bargnani’s.
It needs someone who will play some defense as well. Toronto gives up 104.5 points per game for a point differential of -5.9 (tied for fourth-worst in the League). They may as well start charging a tent fee. Teams are camped out in the lane.
What makes matters worse is their salary cap situation. With $45 million committed next season ($9.8 million of it to Calderon), the Raptors have little wiggle room to bring in a marquee player (or even a player who can help liven up their offense), especially if the new Collective Bargaining Agreement reduces the cap.
The year after that, they have $31 million committed (more than any team on this list other than Charlotte and Detroit).
Even if they did have money to spend, I’m skeptical the Raptors’ front office would use it properly. After all, GM Bryan Colangelo is the one who thought it’d be a good idea to bring in Hedo Turkoglu on a five-year, $53 million contract. We all know how that worked out.
Bad GMs and unremarkable players aside, Toronto is a good city with passionate fans. They deserve to see a winning product on the court.
Hopefully the ping pong balls will be kind to them this summer.