NBA Hell, Pt. 2
For some NBA teams, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
2. Detroit Pistons
Current record: 21-36
Point differential: -4
Blowout losses: 10
Salary committed in ’11-12: $47.5 million
“Bad” contracts: 3 (Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva)
Joe Dumars’ ears must be burning. He heard us talking about bad GMs.
Management is only one factor I looked at in making this list, but boy did I look at it for a long time with the Pistons.
Dumars has been making slip ups for years now. Some of them have been small (trading Arron Afflalo to Denver for a future second round pick, for instance). Others, franchise crippling (signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva for a combined $90 million).
The latter move came on the first day of free agency in 2009.
Two mid-level guys. Two five-year contracts. A total of $90 million. Before other teams could even set a market.
Those were Dumars’ guys: BG and Charlie V. Now they’re the core of a roster that could only be worse if it was still coached by Michael Curry (a Joe Dumars hire, I should add).
And by core, I mean two players who combine to score fewer than 25 points per game and split playing time like Snooki splits pistachios. With players who existed on the roster before they arrived no less.
Neither Gordon nor Villanueva has come close to matching his pre-Detroit production. In Chicago, Gordon launched shots like a kid slinging water balloons on the Fourth of July. Now, coach John Kuester practically has to beg him to shoot. It’s ridiculous.
Meanwhile, Hamilton is desperately trying to find an escape route out of town, even if it means buying out the remainder of his lucrative contract and signing on as Ray Allen’s understudy in Boston.
Let me frame that another way: Rip’s willing to turn down two years, $25 million and forgo 10-15 minutes of playing time just to get the hell out of Detroit.
Show of hands. Does that sound like a franchise you’d like to play for?
Not Tayshaun Prince. He’s been looking for a way out for years. Either that or he just likes feuding with coaches for no reason.
He’ll get his chance too. Prince becomes a free agent this summer.
Somewhere in between the disappointing free-agent crop of 2009 and the scrambling-to-get-out holdovers from 2004 is Tracy McGrady who, surprisingly, has started 26 games for the Pistons this season and has represented himself not too badly – he’s averaging 11.8 points and 4.6 assists in games he starts.
If you want to call that a bright spot, you should. There isn’t much else bright in the Palace this season. Rodney Stuckey and Austin Daye are more or less frozen in their development. Rookie Greg Monroe has been serviceable, but not great. Even Will Bynum’s scoring is down.
Add in bad financial planning (barring a buy-out from Rip, the Pistons have over $40 million committed in each of the next two seasons) and double digit blowout losses (10) and you have a franchise that’s clearly in need of a jump start (get it?).
In years past, Dumars has tried to motivate his team by changing coaches. Clearly that hasn’t worked.
I suggest a different tact: fire the GM and let’s get some real talent in Detroit.
Maybe then Pistons players will want to stick around for more than a few years.
Before we get to the No. 1 franchise on the list, let’s take a look at some of the teams that escaped NBA Hell and explain why it was they were spared.
First up: the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers were the No. 2 team on my list in 2009. Then something interesting happened: the Blake Griffin Effect.
Blake came to town and completely reinvigorated everything (including Baron Davis’ career). Now ticket and merchandise sales are through the roof and the Clippers are a prime ticket on the road. If not for a team-crippling injury to Eric Gordon, they’d be on the cusp of Playoff contention as well.
The future looks bright (finally) in the other home locker room of Staples Center.
Second: the Houston Rockets.
I like Kevin Martin’s efficiency, I respect Rick Adelman’s coaching and I trust Daryl Morey’s instincts as general manager. Therefore I cannot, in good conscience, put the Rockets on this list.
Also, Yao Ming. Enough said.
Third: the Golden State Warriors.
New owners, a new coach and arguably the most exciting backcourt duo in the League (Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry) make this a team on the rise. Could they use some scoring in the middle? Yes. Could they play better defense? Yes. Could they use Jeremy Lin more often? OK, I’ll stop it with the hypothetical questions, but you get the point. There’s room for improvement but this is a solid team with a solid future.
Fourth: the Milwaukee Bucks.
There were quite a few people clamoring for me to put Milwaukee on the list. I would have done it too if the Suns weren’t so damn depressing. Curse you, Sarver!
The Bucks were so inspiring last season, rising above the injury woes to compete in the Playoffs and inspire the Fear the Deer campaign. Now they’re stagnant. And they have a boat load of money committed to Corey Maggette, John Salmons and Drew Gooden. Not good.
Still, I really like the combination of Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut. Call me crazy, but I also have a soft spot in my heart for Scott Skiles. He’s the Red Forman of the NBA. He never met a soul he wouldn’t crush in the name of discipline.
All in all, I like the Bucks (especially once Michael Redd’s contract is off the books).
Finally: the Indiana Pacers.
I very much regret leaving the Pacers off this list, if only because I despise rewarding mediocrity. And the Pacers are a cesspool of mediocrity. A rolling, dry desert of mediocrity. An empty swimming pool crawling with water bugs…mediocrity.
OK. I’m done. Let’s get to the final team…