Posted Jan 1 2010 9:58AM
We'd like to save our happiest New Year wishes for those who need it most, and in the NBA, specifically the teams that need a better decade than the one that just ended.
Usually when teams stumble through a 10-year period and struggle to squeeze out 20 or more wins in any given season, it's a result of poor management, bad drafts, revolving door coaching and just plain old crummy luck. Well, a handful of teams buckled from the weight of all four of those issues.
That doesn't mean that the losing will continue. It does mean these teams couldn't wait for the ball to drop on 2010.
Here are five franchises coming off a decade of doom and their outlook as the dawn of a new decade begins:
One winning season, two playoff trips
Low season win total: 13 games (2004-05)
Coach of note: Lon Kruger
Perplexing draft pick: DerMarr Johnson
The roots of the Hawks' decade of demise can actually be traced to the tail end of the 1990s, when they traded Steve Smith for J.R. Rider. What a surprise, this experiment didn't work out. It kicked off a slide that saw the Hawks go nine straight years without making the playoffs. At least they eventually began using those lottery picks wisely as the decade progressed, grabbing Josh Smith and Al Horford, two important pieces in the current rotation -- although they did blow it by passing up Chris Paul.
Prognosis: Good. The Hawks are among the elite teams in the East, and they're still young and improving, although they face an interesting summer with looming free agent Joe Johnson.
Two winning seasons, three playoff trips
Low season win total: 15 games (2000-01)
Coach of note: Tim Floyd
Perplexing draft pick: Marcus Fizer
Former general manager Jerry Krause thought that trading Elton Brand and landing a pair of high school big men in the lottery would transform the Bulls in the post-Jordan era. Whoops. So much for the notion of Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler becoming Twin-Towered stars. Neither left an impression. Then, after clearing salary cap space, the Bulls thought they'd land an A-list free agent. None took their money except, unfortunately, Ben Wallace. Also, Jay Williams went motorcycle riding one day. Not a good career decision.
Prognosis: Fair. They have good young players in Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah but haven't found a solid core, and perhaps spent carelessly by putting their chips on Luol Deng instead of Ben Gordon.
Two winning seasons, one playoff trip
Low season win total: 17 games. (2000-01)
Coach of note: Dave Cowens.
Perplexing draft pick: Patrick O'Bryant
Do you realize that at one point last decade the Warriors had Antawn Jamison, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas on the same team? They somehow didn't make that work. Garry St. Jean was let go as general manager, and was replaced by Chris Mullin, who gave big money to Adonal Foyle, Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy. Baron Davis led a brief resurgence until he couldn't resist more money himself and actually fled to the Clippers, of all teams. That was a slap in the face.
Prognosis: Grim. Management and coaching issues seem to follow the franchise from one decade to another.
One winning season, one playoff trip
Low season win total: 19 games (2008-09)
Coach of note: Dennis Johnson (interim)
Perplexing draft pick: Darius Miles
The Clippers briefly flirted with a bright future when the head-banging twins, Miles and Quentin Richardson, brought life to the building under coach Alvin Gentry. But it turned into another typical Clipper decade, especially when injuries stole a pair of intriguing talents, Shaun Livingston and now Blake Griffin. The Clippers appeared ready to move forward when owner Donald Sterling paid Elton Brand, Corey Maggette and Baron Davis, but Brand left for Philly and the losing returned.
Prognosis: Fair. Let's see when Griffin gets healthy.
One winning season, two playoff trips
Low season win total: 23 games (2005-06)
Coach of note: Lenny Wilkens.
Perplexing draft pick: Mike Sweetney
When you consider the millions of dollars spent and what the Knicks received in return, they had the worst decade of anyone. Never has so much money brought so little, perhaps in all of sports. Not only were they bad, they were controversial, especially in the Isiah Thomas era, particularly when it came to Stephon Marbury. Larry Brown came in a much-hyped arrival and then left in shame, failing to lift the Knicks from the basement and developing rifts with Marbury and the franchise hierarchy. Best move of the decade was made by Jeff Van Gundy who, sensing doom ahead, simply walked out two months into the 2001-02 season.
Prognosis: Grim, unless LeBron James or Dwyane Wade want to own the city like Derek Jeter.
LeBron James, Cavaliers: 43 minutes, 15-for-23 field goals, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 48 minutes against the Hawks.
This was a superb performance considering the Hawks were determined to atone for their collapse the previous night against Cleveland, and because the Cavs fell behind by 17 in the third quarter. But LeBron shot 6-for-20 the previous night in Atlanta so you knew this was coming. Plus, he turned 25 (the all-time birthday scoring performance belongs to Shaq, with 61 points).
After dismissing Kobe and the Lakers on Christmas Day, the Cavs and LeBron are the toast of the league right now, but these "toasts" change every few weeks. First it was the Lakers, then the Hawks, then the Celtics, etc. It's Cleveland's turn. Next: the Spurs? Perhaps. They're certainly due.
Mike Dunleavy, Pacers: 23 minutes, 1-for-10 field goals, three points against the Heat.
Tough time for the Pacers, losers of eight straight. Injuries and sloppy play are ruining their season. Injuries are forcing them to give starter's minutes to role players. Josh McRoberts saw 28 and 23 minutes last week. Danny Granger has been out since early December with a bum right heel and the Pacers don't score enough points to flourish without someone who gets in the mid-20s. Troy Murphy is suffering from a bad ankle and rookie Tyler Hansbrough, who has looked promising in spurts, developed an ear infection. It's a mess.
And then there's Dunleavy, the first Pacer to pull up lame this season. He's well on the mend but his game, especially his shooting, is suffering badly in what was a forgettable few weeks. He shot 2-for-17 against the Bucks, followed by the Miami game, then 0-for-3 against the Grizzlies and 4-for-13 against the Bulls. Ouch.
• Toughest man in the NBA is Rockets forward Carl Landry, back in the lineup after missing only one game following six-hour dental surgery, no thanks to Dirk Nowitzki's arm. Reminds you of when A.C. Green, while in the midst of a record iron-man streak, took an intentional elbow to the chops from J.R. Reid. Green literally stopped playing and picked his teeth off the floor. He was with the Suns at the time, and Cotton Fitzsimmons was so furious at the cheap shot that he started Green for the next few weeks, pulling him just after tipoff, just to keep the streak alive.
• Shaq isn't predicting economic doom for the players when the union contract comes up for negotiation, but he does have this advice: "Be smart with your money."
He adds: "It's never good when millionaires do business with billionaires." Guess who has the upper wallet in that fight?
• When it comes to rookies, Ricky Rubio is getting more playing time in the NBA than Jordan Hill of the Knicks. This doesn't bode too well for the future of the Knicks. At least Nate Robinson is sitting for reasons other than talent.
• Now that the Pistons are losing, what do the suffering people of Detroit have for an escape?
• Watch out for the Spurs in January. The schedule is favorable and therefore the winning trend should continue. All six of their road games are against teams with losing records. By the All-Star break, they could have one of the league's top five or six records.
• You think you survived the holidays? You have nothing on Vinny Del Negro.
• The Wizards are a toxic mix right now, and some GMs believe they'll be broken up by the trading deadline. Much of the discontent centers around Gilbert Arenas and his shooting. Since Arenas isn't going anywhere with that contract, don't be surprised to see Antawn Jamison and/or Caron Butler wearing different uniforms when the season ends.
Shaun Powell is a veteran NBA writer and columnist. You can e-mail him here.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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