For fans of all 30 NBA teams the beginning of the season is a time for optimism. As a fan it’s easy to put on the blinders, to forget about past disappointments, and the frequent moments you’ve told yourself that you’ll never invest emotional energy into your underachieving franchise again. The start of the November is a time to ignore the signs that point to another disappointing season, and to naively hope that things will go your team’s way.
If you root for a perennially bad team, however, that optimism quickly subsides—usually a few weeks into the season—replaced by a reluctant acceptance of the status quo. Your team is faced with the same old problems—poor coaching, ineptitude on the floor, and plain bad luck—that you’ve become accustomed to seeing year after year. But while it’s tough to support a bad team, it might be even tougher to cheer for a team that the experts predicted were going to have a good year; a team that had the potential to win 50 games and make some noise once the post-season rolled around.
If you’re a Bobcats fan, for example, despite some deluded optimism in the Fall, you can only be so disappointed at your team—deep down you had to know it was going to be another rough year. But if your team was near the top of most expert’s pre-season power rankings, was raved about for their off-season moves in podcasts and television shows; and then that team for whatever reason, finds itself failing to live up to expectations as we near April, you’re entitled to feel majorly aggrieved.
Here are 5 teams that have failed to live up to expectations this season.
After upsetting the Chicago Bulls in last year’s playoffs, and taking the Boston Celtics to 7 games, expectation levels were high for Doug Collins’ team. Evan Turner was expected by many to make a big jump this season, while Andrew Bynum was set to terrorize Eastern Conference defenses in the paint.
Unfortunately for Sixers fans, Turner has been inconsistent at best, while even more galling, Bynum has not, and will not, play a minute of basketball this year. The 76ers gave up defensive stud Andre Iguodala and immensely talented young centre, Nikola Vucevic for Bynum’s services. Bynum’s been nothing but a distraction off the court, while on the court, Philadelphia’s been offensively sterile—unable to score in the paint or get to the free-throw line. In light of their overreliance on mid-range jumpers, the decision to let Lou Williams go and replace him with Nick Young, is rather puzzling.
The sole positive for Philly fans has been the play of Jrue Holiday, who was made an All-Star this year. Without him the Sixers would be unwatchable. Other than that, however, it’s been bleak in the City of Brotherly Love. And Doug Collins’ recent criticism of his failing team suggests that he’ll continue his trend of leaving a team after a disappointing 3rd season.
Before the season began it looked like a revamped Celtics squad would be the Eastern Conference team with the best chance of dethroning the Heat. They possessed big-game players like Pierce, Garnett, and Rondo, and had given Miami an almighty scare in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. What’s more, the Celtics had added former Sixth Man of the Year, Jason Terry, useful defender Courtney Lee, and were getting a potential x-factor in Jeff Green.
As of this moment, however, there’s just as much chance of Bob Cousy leading a team of octogenarians to victory over Miami as there is of this Celtics team triumphing over their hated rivals. Granted, Boston has dealt with major injuries this year to the likes of Rondo and Jared Sullinger (both out for the year) and more recently, Kevin Garnett, but the Celtics weren’t even a threat to the Heat when Rondo was in the lineup.
Although Green and Lee have played better recently, they’ve both been disappointing overall, while Jason Terry has been a monumental bust this year. Terry is averaging 10 points per game this season, 5 down from his career average, and has essentially become a catch-and-shoot player on the perimeter. In Dallas he was an integral part of the offense of a team that won the championship just two seasons ago, and was a real threat as the primary ball handler on the pick-n-roll. His disappointing play sums up what’s been a disappointing season for the Celtics.
No team has had worse luck with injuries this season than the Minnesota Timberwolves. Their fans must feel like they’ve walked under 1000 ladders or bumped into 1000 black cats. Ricky Rubio’s injury derailed their playoff push last season, but this year it’s been one injury after another. Kevin Love’s knuckle pushup-induced broken hand, which he re-injured after coming back, Chase Bundinger’s knee injury, Brandon Roy’s incredibly depressing knee problems, and Nikola Pekovic’s variety of niggling issues, have made T-Wolves fans shake their heads in exasperation. Collectively Timberwolves’ players have missed over 130 games due to injury this season.
Going into this season hopes were high. Rubio would be back in a couple months, while a Ridnour-Roy-Kirilenko-Love-Pekovic starting line-up contained much promise. Even after Love went down there was a feeling that Minnesota just needed to stay around .500 until their stars returned and they could make a serious playoff push. But the injuries took their toll and that playoff push is most definitely not happening. In-fact, the Timberwolves are 20 under .500 and are set for a high pick in the 2013 draft. That’s a long way from pre-season predictions of a 50-win season.
Last season the Jazz scraped in the playoffs when most people expected them to be lottery team. In the first round of the playoffs the Spurs put them through a basketball clinic, but spirits were high. The Jazz are a young team loaded with front court talent—probably too much front court talent—and were many people’s pick to comfortably make the playoffs this year. However, those high expectations haven’t been met.
Despite the continued improvement of Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, the Jazz have gone backwards overall. They started the season well, but have been on a nosedive recently—a very poorly timed nosedive that coincided with improved play from the Lakers and Mavericks. The team could still make the playoffs—they’re only a game out of 8th place—but on the evidence of their recent showings they probably won’t.
The off-season in Salt Lake City will be fascinating. The team can afford to let either Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap walk (my advice: let Jefferson go) and they desperately need to sign a decent point-guard to lead the offense. The likes of Mo Williams and Randy Foye just haven’t been up to the task this year. There’s still much to be excited about for Jazz fans going forward, but this season has been a case of too much, too soon.
I put the Lakers down as one of my dark-horse playoff picks in a recent article—not believing that they have chance to win a title, but that they could give a team like the Spurs some trouble. Their recent 3-game slide, and the manner in which they’ve lost, has given me pause for thought, but I still believe that a series with San Antonio, given Kobe’s ability to go crazy, would be interesting. But aside from their improved play as a whole over the last few months, the Lakers are undoubtedly the most shockingly disappointing team this season.
In the off-season Mitch Kupchak was being labeled a genius for picking up Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, while many people were wondering if the Lakers were the best team ever assembled. Well, we can put that notion to bed. Not only are current incarnation of the Lakers definitely not the best team ever assembled, but they may be one of the worst Lakers teams in last 30 years.
Despite Kobe’s remarkable season, the list of disappointments are numerous: a lack of effort on the defensive end, Dwight Howard looking slow and playing like he doesn’t give a crap, Pau Gasol just looking plain awful, and Steve Nash getting old overnight, just to name a few. There appears to zero chemistry on the team, and zero respect between the likes of Kobe and Dwight, and just as alarmingly, Kobe and D’Antoni. If the Lakers can shock the basketball world and win a couple playoff series it may salvage what’s been a disastrous season, but right now it’s hard to see them win more than a couple playoff games…that’s if they even get into the playoffs, of course.