Many NBA teams are good, or are crummy but feature some fun young Turks who can provide some reason for optimism, or are not good and do not have fun young Turks but are taking it to the limit one more time with ol’ Dirk Nowitzki, and therefore are good to root for. In almost every NBA city, there’s some reason to keep an eye on the local pro basketball team, even if they are not realistically in the hunt for a championship this season or anytime very soon.
And then there are the following teams, which are hopeless. Let’s dump on them before the playoffs arrive and erase them from memory!
Back at the trade deadline, I did a blog about the teams that deserved scorn for the moves they did or didn’t make. I left the Bulls off the list, because to my thinking there was at least something worth defending in the choice not to trade away the team’s star (Jimmy Butler) in the middle of the season for the type of stuff—picks and raw young goobers and such—that, though valuable, would be years away from delivering an actual dividend for people who watch the Bulls play basketball 82 times a year. They still can—and, holy shit, should—trade away Butler this offseason and rebuild the team, but I figured that if their thinking was Hey, in the meantime, why not make a run at the playoffs and see what happens, that was actually kind of cool.
Well, shit. Now they’ve lost five straight, including for my money the single most shameful and dispiriting performance any team has delivered all season in the first half of yesterday’s game against the Celtics. They’re only a game-and-a-half behind the eighth playoff spot, but they pretty clearly don’t want it; to a man they’ve done everything short of playing in floral-print Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops to signal their readiness for vacation. They’re horrible to watch, with no reason to imagine things will improve anytime soon, or that the dysfunctional organization wouldn’t undermine them if they did. Probably no team in the NBA more acutely needs a complete overhaul—roster, coaching staff, front office, the works!—than the Bulls, who are wasting sole access to one of the league’s biggest markets and one of its richest legacies. Burn it all down!
(I still think deciding not to trade Butler at the deadline was okay, especially given how badly the Celtics turned out to be overvaluing their own mediocre young role-players. It looks worse in retrospect because Butler, and Dwyane Wade, apparently have decided not to deliver on the bare-minimum entertainment value of having some star players on your team who can score cool buckets on TV for the last couple months of a lost season.)
Buddy Hield has been okay! He really has. It’s really something to see, how playing for an organization that just told the whole damn world it believes he can be as good as the reigning two-time MVP and greatest shooter of basketballs who ever lived has filled Hield with the confidence to play loose, aggressive basketball and take chances and do fun shit. He may yet turn out to be a good player!
He still works for Vlade Divac and Vivek Ranadive. He’s doomed. The Kings are doomed. Forever.
The Magic have been lousy for a long, long time. But a year or two ago they had what seemed like it might eventually be the nucleus of something fun and spunky. Or hell, even if you never bought that any combination of Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Mario Hezonja, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, and Evan Fournier (and/or, like, Tobias Harris or Moe Harkless or Andrew Nicholson or any of the 75 other mediocre forwards they’ve drafted in the past few years) might someday blossom into an actual worth-a-shit team—and hey, you almost certainly would have been right—at least you could envision some of those young buttheads being packaged together in the Magic’s own equivalent of the Kevin Garnett trade, or the Chris Paul trade, or even the friggin’ Carmelo Anthony trade. The point is, the Magic seemed to be following the standard playbook for miserable NBA teams building toward a less-miserable future. You could be optimistic.
Now what? They traded Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for the privilege of trading Serge Ibaka half a season later for friggin’ Terrence Ross and what will probably be a shitty draft pick. They paid through the nose for a career backup (Bismack Biyombo) who plays the same position (center) as Vucevic, who is not all that young anymore and appears to have peaked at Big Stiff Who Puts Up Decent-Looking Numbers On Team That Nevertheless Always Loses. Hezonja is like the tenth The Euro Who Dunks! guy that has turned out to be a comprehensively worthless basketball player, just some goofy European bozo who runs around looking confused all the time. A forced move from power forward to the perimeter has stalled Gordon’s growth; worse, he doesn’t appear to be all that good at basically any part of playing basketball more than three feet from the rim. Fournier is just a guy. Payton sure seems to be just a guy. They’re all just guys.
Here, for fun, is what might be the single most inexplicable YouTube video in existence: A “highlight” reel of Hezonja scoring seven points and collecting two rebounds this past Saturday night in a loss to the Cavaliers:
Look at him go!
The Magic need to start over. Again. And not because the core of their last rebuild aged out of contention, but because it never turned into anything and then the front office cashed in a big chunk of whatever promise it had in exchange for the fourth- and eighth-best players on last season’s Eastern Conference runners-up. God, that’s depressing.
At least the Knicks have Kristaps Porzingis. The Nets have nothing. The Nets are a couple of years away from even having a shot at blowing an opportunity to get something, thanks to all the clumsy, clueless fleecings that brought them to this dreadful state. They’re the most hopeless major-sport franchise that doesn’t wear a racist caricature of an American Indian on the side of its helmet. Worse still, nobody cares. I don’t even think the people involved with the team in an official capacity give a frig. In fact, let’s stop talking about the Nets! This is a waste of time.
Please put these teams in the trash, where they belong. Thank you.