If there’s one thing more entertaining than a franchise that has all of its bearings together and knows how to put out a great, watchable product, it’s a franchise that is capable of doing the exact opposite. A dysfunctional franchise is a gift to the casual NBA viewer in need of entertainment through the early, slower part of the regular season. Even though the team is usually bad — there are dysfunctional franchises that could put out a respectable team — it brings so much joy to watch a team struggle at some of the most simple aspects of the game.
What constitutes a team as dysfunctional could be many things, not limited to consistently poor free agency and offseason decisions, a front office composed of degenerate members of society, players whose negative influence ends up affecting the whole team, and a stockade of bad, unmovable contracts weighing the franchise down.
Sometimes, though, a lot of the dysfunction could be attributed to bad luck. Injuries can become rampant and end up throwing off the entire season, but even that could be blamed on the front office as management was clearly unaware of how certain players are injury-prone, or were signed coming off of a serious, career-threatening injury. Say, trading a starting center for another starting center that was coming off offseason back surgery? Or even trading for a 35-year-old and a 37-year-old that were in obvious decline?
Those are the kinds of deals that could cause a franchise to self-destruct. It stems from questionable free agency moves or simply having ignorant and/or deplorable human beings making the moves.
But we all know what they say about good intentions, right? I’m taking a look at a few places almost no good player wants to end up in, as well as what led up to their label and why they could be stuck in this purgatory for a disturbingly long period.
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NEW YORK KNICKS
There’s not a franchise in sports that’s more enthralling in the offseason than the New York Knicks.
Once July 1 rolls around and the dust has settled from the championship that the Knicks haven’t won in four decades, we, the NBA fanbase, wait with bated breath to see what the New York brass is going to do next.
They didn’t disappoint this past offseason. Not only did they sign a 34-year-old Metta World Peace to shoot below 40 percent from the field, but they also traded fan-favorite Steve Novak, and Quentin Richardson, Marcus Camby and three draft picks — THREE DRAFT PICKS — for Andrea Bargnani, a player the Toronto Raptors couldn’t wait to rid themselves of last year.
Did I mention the Knicks gave up three draft picks for Bargnani, who is currently shooting 29 percent from beyond the arc and averaging 5.2 rebounds as the starting center? New York gave up their second-round picks in 2014 and 2017, as well as a first-rounder in 2016, for someone who had shot 39 percent and averaged less than four rebounds per game the previous year.
Let’s not forget that the Knicks, currently at 7-17, will not have a lottery pick in next year’s loaded draft because they gave up their pick in the deal that brought in Carmelo Anthony, who could be a free agent next summer.
Somehow, it just keeps getting worse. Whether it’s giving a load of money to a player who required offseason knee surgery or trying to trade away one of the few promising players on this team, while throwing coach Mike Woodson under the bus in the process, the Knicks continue to prove why they have been one of professional sports most laughable franchises.
Honestly, though, when this is the play that is being run to win games, perhaps there is some merit to claiming Iman Shumpert‘s development has been stunted by Woodson:
Let’s also not forget that the team is currently employing Chris Smith, J.R.’s younger brother who may have a spot on a roster simply because of nepotism, and continue to hold out hope that the ‘New York Knicks’ name alone will entice guys like Kevin Love into signing when he becomes a free agent.
What the franchise doesn’t realize is that the name is no longer a draw. It’s been run through the muck, beaten and left in a ditch by the front office personnel who put on the facade that this is a legitimate franchise with legitimate aspirations. All hope is abandoned when entering the once-sacred halls of Madison Square Garden.
This franchise is a nightmare. The fans ride into every season either with the hopes that this is finally the year it all comes together, that they’ll be good enough to convince free agents to join their team, or that they’ll be bad enough to tank for a draft pick or a high-price free agent.
The worst part, though? The fans fall into these traps, and not just once or twice but over and over again. They convinced themselves LeBron James was coming in 2010. They convinced themselves Chris Paul was going to form a superior ‘Big Three’ with Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. They convinced themselves Jeremy Lin was the savior of the city. Each overzealous, ambitious proclamation has ended in disappointment, just as every Knick season since 1973 has.
At 9-15 and with the second-worst road record in the NBA, a healthy 2-11, the Cleveland Cavaliers are in order for another obnoxious, embarrassing interval in the franchise’s frantic rush to perpetual mediocrity by treating lottery night as something to be proud of.
There’s reason to be happy when you’re in the lottery the first time. It represents opportunity and promise, a chance to scoop up a fresh player that has yet to be corrupted by the vices of professional sports and mold them into the cornerstone of the franchise.
It was cute when the Cavs had Nick Gilbert, the owner’s son, representing the team the first time. It was even more adorable when the Cavs were not only rewarded the fourth pick, later turned into Tristan Thompson, but the first pick, turned into Kyrie Irving, as well! What a story!
A year after that “unappreciative quitter” LeBron James left, the Cavs were awarded with not one, but two picks within the top five! Including the first pick overall! Everything’s coming up Milhouse.
A year later, however, and where do the Cavs find themselves? The exact same place following a two-win improvement from the year before. Gilbert’s son is representing the team in the lottery once again, donning the same bow-tie and attire of a circus ringmaster, but it only yields a fourth pick, later turned into Dion Waiters.
That’s three top five picks in two years, but guess where the Cavs found themselves the next season? I’ll give you a hint: Read exactly what I wrote three paragraphs before in the opening sentence, but replace first time with third time. The Cavs actually had a worse winning percentage with three top five picks than they had the previous season with only two.
Because the basketball gods love a franchise in a permanent state of misery and woe, the Cavs were gifted yet another No. 1 pick, which was flipped into Anthony Bennett, who currently possesses the second-worst PER in the NBA.
That’s four top five picks in three years resulting in zero postseason apperances and zero winning seasons. If they make the playoffs this year, it’s only because the Eastern Conference is just that decrepit.
Each of the picks outside of Kyrie was a mistake. Cleveland picked Tristan Thompson over the likes of Klay Thompson and Jonas Valanciunas, then picked Dion Waiters over Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond, and capped it off by taking Anthony Bennett over Victor Oladipo.
We’ll give Cleveland the benefit of the doubt and say Kyrie’s injuries were because of an inadvertent elbow he suffered in a game against Minnesota, but does it make it any better that this was still an actual idea that was floating around in the rumor mill? That one of the team’s best players has to come out and say, “No, I didn’t break my teammate’s nose in a fight because we’re that frustrated”? Either way, it’s not a good look.
What also isn’t a good look is the desperation of certain fans in attempting to woo LeBron James away from Miami and back to Cleveland. So many basketball purists and fans of the Cavaliers believed in a return from LeBron, held under the delusion that Kyrie Irving was a better sidekick than Dwyane Wade and that two championships and three Finals appearances in Miami meant nothing to James.
Also mindnumbing is the fact that so many of these hopeless romantics forgot about that open letter from Dan Gilbert. Remember? The one that calls James’ decision a “cowardly betrayal.” The one that says LeBron will be taking a “curse” to Miami. The one that refers to LeBron as a “former hero” and a “self-titled king.” The one that boasts — no, guarantees — that Cleveland will win an NBA championship before LeBron?
You’re right, Chuck, Miami doesn’t deserve LeBron. Cleveland, the city that burned his jersey and called him a quitter despite the never-before-seen prosperity and success he had brought the franchise for seven years, totally deserves the services of the four-time MVP.
Cleveland doesn’t deserve this type of treatment, and I’m not talking about what LeBron did.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
What teams like New York or Brooklyn or the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t realize when putting together their All-Star Frankensteins was that it was an extremely delicate process to have each newcomer intertwine, adapt and adjust to each other’s tendencies and style.
Of all those teams, though, none had a worse foundation than the Lakers. Seemingly everybody outside of the Lakers front office knew that a backcourt of Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant may not work and that Dwight Howard, who desired to be a primary scoring option, may not be satisfied playing alongside Kobe.
The idea of a Nash-Bryant backcourt playing defense was laughable by itself, but the idea that they were going to coexist on offense? Kobe had never played with a true point guard before, so assuming that he was going to change the style of his game in order to accomodate Steve Nash was baffling.
The Lakers were also unaware of the magical powers held by the Phoenix Suns medical staff, which allowed guys like Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Shaquille O’Neal to play for as long as they had. Nash has played 56 games since joining the Lakers, including only six this season. He’s shooting 26 percent and making $9.3 million.
The deal for Dwight Howard, at first, was appealing and intriguing. Even with Kobe Bryant, you could guess that Howard would just be filling in the role of Andrew Bynum, who thrived playing alongside Pau Gasol in the frontcourt. Plus, all they had to give up was Bynum, Christian Eyenga, Josh McRoberts and a first-rounder. What Dwight didn’t realize was that he’s at his best when the floor is spaced and the offense is using him as a focal point, as he was in Orlando and as he currently is Houston, even though he’s playing with James Harden.
That wasn’t the case in Los Angeles, however, as Kobe was taking just as many shots as he was with Pau and Andrew in the starting lineup. Meanwhile, Dwight was taking three less shots per game than he had the previous two seasons. The 17 points he averaged that season was the first time he averaged less than 18 points since 2007.
It didn’t help that Howard was just coming off of offseason back surgery, either. It was obvious that his lift from previous years in Orlando wasn’t there, even if he did end up leading the league in rebounds. Having to constantly bail out the Lakers’ defense also wasn’t helping his cause.
How appropriate that his tenure with the Lakers ended in a blowout loss. He was ejected for arguing calls, and then left the team that summer, but not before reportedly asking the franchise to amnesty Kobe and fire coach Mike D’Antoni.
How many coaches need to get fired before you look at yourself?
Dwight’s since departed, as have any sort of championship aspirations for a long time. The Western Conference is a juggernaut and the 12-13 Lakers are trotting out rotations that include Wesley Johnson, Nick Young, the team’s leading scorer, and Shawne Williams.
This team went from having a starting lineup of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard to, prior to Bryant’s return, Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Wesley Johnson, Gasol and Jordan Hill. That’s rough.
Oh, and D’Antoni’s already called out Pau Gasol, shooting a career-low 44 percent, for his effort. Plus, Kobe Bryant’s averaging nearly six turnovers per game since returning. Also, Chris Kaman is frustrated that he’s not receiving any playing time.
I’m pretty sure half the team is injured, too. I’ve made myself sad.
Does the Battle for New York matter anymore once the teams are just trying to see which one can remain relevant for the longest?
At the moment, the Brooklyn Nets hold the superior record to their neighbor, but only by a game, possessing a 9-16 record to New York’s 8-17 record. Consider the Nets’ faithful to be more disappointed, however, following a home loss to Washington.
For a second there, we thought things were finally turning around. Brooklyn had just beaten the Los Angeles Clippers to cap off a three-game winning streak, but saw that upended by a road loss to Detroit. They then proceeded to score 130 on Philadelphia, where Joe Johnson drained 10 three-pointers, including eight alone in the third.
Should Brooklyn be pleased with any of this, though? This is a team purely in win-now mode. They signed veterans like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett because they wanted to pursue a championship either this year or next year, and then that’s it. After those two seasons, they rebuild and create an entirely new team.
They have to win now because they have no choice. They’re stuck with the current roster. The entire upper-half of the roster is filled with unnderwhelming players with egregious contracts that no other team could possibly want, including Garnett’s two-year, $23 million deal and Paul Pierce’s one-year, $15.3 million deal.
Does it get worse? Of course it does. If you want to win now, you have to cash in all your chips and take a chance, which explains why they are paying Joe Johnson nearly $70 million over the next three years and Deron Williams nearly $80 million over the next four years.
The starting lineup alone will cost the Nets $80 million this season. Paying those five players alone would have the Nets ranked third in salaries. Unfortunately for the Nets, they have an entire roster they have to pay, resulting in the $101 million payroll they currently have. It doesn’t get any better, either, as the Nets will still be paying $87 million in guaranteed salaries next year, unless they trade one of the lucrative deals possessed by one of their starters.
To make matters worse, just in case you thought they couldn’t, everyone outside of Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson has played well below their usual averages this season. Paul Pierce is shooting below 40 percent from the field and 33 percent from three, Deron Williams is averaging 12 points, and Kevin Garnett is dropping 6.5 points per game on 38 percent shooting.
And that’s just on offense. On the defensive end, they rank 28th in the league, according to efficiency rankings.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Because on top of having a dysfunctional roster, one which features shot-chuckers in Andray Blatche and Alan Anderson playing significant minutes, the coaching staff has dealt with a fair share of turmoil of its own.
Jason Kidd, the rookie head coach who many still can’t believe earned a head coaching job this quickly after retirement, has been engaged in power struggles with assistant coach Lawrence Frank, a former coach of Kidd’s during his days in New Jersey.
Oh, and Kidd was suspended for DWI before he could even begin his coaching career.
Also, this happened:
This is a thing that occurred in a regulation NBA game and the $50,000 fine it warranted still wasn’t enough to fit the crime.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Since 2010, the Los Angeles Clippers have made a lot of moves that were particularly un-Clipper like of them.
The drafting of Blake Griffin and the attention it garnered from outside of L.A., literally making it perhaps the first time anyone has paid attention to the Clippers in a positive light (other than the super brief Darius Miles/Quentin Richardson era, and later one season with Sam Cassell and Elton Brand) in the franchise’s history, led to NBA free agents taking notice, as well as an immediate need from the front office to surround Griffin with stars.
In turn, they traded peanuts (Al-Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman, the oft-injured Eric Gordon and a draft pick that turned into Austin Rivers) for Chris Paul, and recently traded for sharpshooters in J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley. Not only that, they also have a former Sixth Man of the Year in Jamal Crawford coming off the bench.
The Clippers had previously never seen the type of success or attention that they have experienced since drafting Griffin and trading for Paul. They could be considered championship contenders, even though they shouldn’t be, and are coming off their first 50-win season ever. The stretch of two consecutive winning seasons over the past two years marks the first time since 1993 the Clippers have had such a streak.
It may seem like the Clippers are turning things around, right? They have the superstar facilitator, the high-flying power forward/center combination, and the shooters in the starting lineup and off the bench that can stretch the floor, so what exactly makes this franchise still considered dysfunctional?
I’ll give you a reason: the team’s owner, Donald Sterling.
Some of this stuff might seem exaggerated, until you come across the time Sterling brought women into the Clippers’ locker room, where Clipper players were showering, and remarked to the ladies, “Look at those beautiful black bodies.”
If you need anymore instances of Sterling’s racism, here’s a direct quote from a former coaching candidate where Donald calls his roster a racial epithet.
Oh, but here’s the kicker on the whole “Is Donald Sterling trying to play out a fantasy straight out of 1850s South Carolina?” deal. Elgin Baylor, the team’s former executive, claims that Sterling told him he wanted to fill his team with “poor black boys from the South and a white head coach” back in 2009.
So, how did the Clippers eventually convince Sterling to hire Doc Rivers? Because money talks, too, and the only thing Sterling enjoys more than being a bigot is making money, which he’s done a lot of as he’s reportedly worth $1.9 billion.
But don’t forget that Sterling nearly ruined the name of Rivers, too, when he rescinded the Redick-Eric Bledsoe trade this past summer at the last minute. Fortunately for Rivers, Sterling eventually changed his mind.
Because karma is a thing that exists, or at least we hope it does, the Clippers will never win anything of significance if it means Sterling experiencing the feelings of jubilation and happiness that come with a family uniting for the ultimate purpose of winning a title. He doesn’t deserve that type of satisfaction, and there are forces that inhabit the universe that will prevent it from happening (hopefully). It’s already too much knowing that he is among the Forbes 400, but it would be a true punch to the gut knowing that Donald Sterling could possibly have “NBA champion owner” on his resume.
Here’s a rundown of all of the horrible, treacherous, devious, heinous and deplorable acts committed by Sterling. Once finished, you, too, will understand the vitrol that you have heard associated with the name Donald Sterling.
Which NBA franchises are the most poorly run/dysfunctional right now?
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