Brian Scalabrine: The Official Mascot of the 2008-09 NBA Worsties.
That's right: It's time for the NBA Worsties, a month-by-month recap of the best of the worst of the 2008-09 NBA season. Here's Part 1:
The Iverson-for-Billups trade: Under Joe Dumars' careful stewardship, the Detroit Pistons made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals six consecutive times from 2003 through 2008. They also reached the NBA Finals twice and beat the Shaq-Kobe-Mailman-Glove Lakers for the 2004 title. There were some knocks against this team, though, particularly when they fell apart in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 ECFs. The naysayers said they lacked a killer instinct, tended to coast and/or underestimate their opponents, and perhaps were "only" good enough to be one of the best teams in the league...but not The Best.
But Joe Dumars had the answer: Blow that sh*t up. On November 3, Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb were traded to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Allen Iverson. This is what I had to say at the time: "AI to Detroit for Chauncey Billups and 'Tony McDyess? Because the Pistons need a ME-ME-ME-FIRST!! scorer handling the rock? Bad trade. Baaaaaaaaad trade." As usual, I would turn out to be right about that. But more on that in the upcoming Worsties.
Shortly after the trade, it came out that Joe Dumars might have made the deal in hopes of clearing cap space for the Summer of 2010. I'm sorry, but if the plan really is to make a big run at Bosh, Wade or James in 2010, it's a flawed plan. I guarantee that Bosh and Wade are going to re-sign with their teams, and LeBron is either staying in Cleveland or bolting for New York. But hey, what do I know? At least we got a little high comedy early on.
Shawn Marion: Going into the season, things were looking up for the Matrix. He was healthy, and he was ready to play Robin to a healthy Dwyane Wade's Batman. Oh, and it was a contract year to boot. I'd be willing to bet Marion went pretty early in many fantasy basketball drafts. But the people who drafted him probably never really watched him play, or perhaps they simply didn't fully grasp his game. Or lack thereof. Without Steve Nash feeding him a steady diet of gimmies, Shawn's game regressed. In November, he averaged 11.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG and shot a crummy 18 percent from long distance. Mind you, this is the same guy who was genuinely disgusted to be the third option (behind Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire) and the highest paid player on some darn good Suns teams. Memo to Shawn: This is why Robert Sarver didn't want to throw bags of money at you. Speaking of disappointments...
Mike James, worst backup PG in the league: He was supposed to, in the words of Tommy Heinsohn, give Chris Paul a blow when Paul needed a blow. But the only thing that blew was James himself. Byron Scott lost faith in "The Amityville Scorer" almost immediately, and Mike ended up playing only six games for a total of 56 minutes in November. His averages for those six games were: 2.3 PPG, 1.2 APG, 33 percent shooting (6-for-18) and almost as many personal fouls (5) as total assists (7).
From CP3's primary backup to DNP-CD, just like that. Why? Well, coach Byron Scott provided a few hints last week: "In this offense, what [James] needs to do is really look to get everybody the ball. I don't know if he can do it or not. I think Mike has been programmed his whole career to be a score-first point guard. On this team, that's not what we really need right now. So he has to try and change his focus and do a better job running the team and getting guys involved. Obviously, the first seven games have not been the best for him."
Ouch. And here was James' response: "If I'm out there for two minutes or out there 20 minutes, I'm going to play my game. I'm just going to do what got my name and credibility in this league. I'm just going to be aggressive, make plays, score or pass. It's freedom of mind." At the time, I said: "With that attitude, Mike, it's going to be less 'freedom of mind' and more 'riding the pine.' Good luck handing out Gatorade during timeouts, Mike." Little did I know that James would soon be traded to the league's most pathetic team...
The Los Angeles Clippers: On the surface, it looked as though the Clippers actually made some good moves during the summer of 2008. They signed Baron drafted Eric Gordon, signed Baron Davis to a free agent contract, and traded a whole lot of nothing for Marcus Camby (the Clippers gave Denver the option to swap second round draft picks in the 2010 NBA Draft). But let's face it: They are who we thought they were. The Other L.A. Team finished went 3-11 in November, while scoring about 92 PPG and giving up close to 100. To make a bad situation terribly, terribly worse, on November 21 they traded Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas for...Zach Randolph. And it's really saying something when trading two players whose careers are basically over for a 20/10 guy is an awful trade for the team getting the 20/10 guy. Oh, and did I mention all this happened in the wake of Elgin Baylor's forced resignation and the promotion of Mike Dunleavy Sr. from coach to coach AND general manager. Worst. Franchise. Ever.
Starbury's newfound appreciation for Larry Brown: Even as Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni were doing all they could to banish Stephon Marbury forever, Marbury came to adore the coach he once despised. Stephon Marbury: "Looking back at the last two years, I kind of liked Larry Brown," Marbury said with a laugh. "I kind of liked Larry Brown. I'm like, 'Man, I wish this guy was here to drill me now.'" Who knew that Stephon liked to be drilled, let alone by Larry Brown. But looking past the rather obvious homoerotic overtones for a sec, just think about that statement. Considering the way Larry Brown got run out of New York, that would be like the villagers from Frankenstein saying, "I kind of liked the monster. Man, I wish that creature was here to strangle me to death right now!" Here's the rest of what Starbury had to say.
The Spurs' slow start: Minus Manu Ginobili, the Spurs began the season 0-3. Two of those losses took place in San Antonio, where the Spurs have been nigh-invincible the last 10 years. It was the team's worst start since opening the 1973-74 ABA season at 0-4. For the sake of perspective, that was their first season in San Antonio after playing in Dallas as the Chaparrals. (The Spurs joined the NBA in 1976.) And here are some factoids from that third loss. Matt Bonner (zero points, 0-for-5 and 5 boards in 20 minutes) started at center last night. Michael Finley shot 1-for-3 and finished with 3 points. Ime Udoka was 0-for-4. George Hill was 3-for-7. Kurt Thomas played 12 minutes without scoring a single point (he was 0-for-1) or snaring a single rebound. The Fabulous Oberto returned to play 14 reboundless minutes. Frankly, if it wasn't for Roger Mason, the Spurs might have lost by 30 instead of "only" 17.
Steve Francis, fashion guru: Guess who showed up for a Rockets home loss to the Boston Celtics: Stevie Franchise, a guy who was only nominally on Houston's roster. From the game notes in the AP recap: "Houston guard Steve Francis, out with a knee injury, arrived at the arena wearing a red velvet sport jacket with 'Barack Obama' spelled on the back in sequins. Francis said he would try to attend Obama's presidential inauguration. 'Today is a transitional day in my career and everybody else's career,' he said before the game." The only transition his career made was from "showing up to random home games" to "never to be seen or heard from again." Nice jacket, though. I imagine it's what a pimp would have worn to the Democratic National Convention.
The Magic of Mike and Marv: These guys have a terrific on-air chemistry, but let's face it, they've been broadcasting together for decades. Sometimes they get board, sometimes they act like an old married couple, and sometimes...it's both. That's when this kind of stuff happens:
Marv Albert: It's time for our J&R Music and Computer World Upcoming Schedule. Following tonight, the Nets will finish up the home stands...that's, uh, very lovely. On friday night against Allen Iverson and the Detroit...what is that?
Mike Fratello: It's a car.
Marv: Oh, Motor City, oh I got it.
Mike: It's a car.
Marv: So clever. You think about this for long periods of time? And then at Miami on...at Indiana on Saturday, I'm sorry.
Mike: I didn’t want to throw you off.
Marv: I, I know.
Marv: All right. Indiana, what do they get? What's that? That's very creative. What is that? Is that a building?
Mike: It's a building.
Marv: For Indianapolis?
Mike: It is.
Marv: And then at Miami on Monday night.
Mike: You know Miami gets, they get another, ohh yeahhh.
Marv: Oh very cute, yeah, all right and then back home for the Pacers next Wednesday. but frankly we've seen enough.
Marv: The J&R Music and Computer World Upcoming Schedule. The Nets playing four games in five nights.
Mike: I was trying to think of how to draw a hurricane for Miami, not sure how to do that.
Marv: I'm sure you'll come up with something. Iittle box for the city of Indianapolis.
Brian Skinner's awful missed dunk: As Wild Yams said: "Here's a video of Brian Skinner from the Clippers blowing a wide-open dunk against the Lakers, which he then follows up by grabbing Derek Fisher in frustration or embarrassment." Well, in all fairness, Brian has a lot to be frustrated about. He was a Clipper, after all. Still, watching him blow a dunk when there isn't anybody within five feet of him is pretty funny, and it has the added benefit of making Yao Ming feel better about himself. So, you know, win-win.
Amare Stoudemire, flop master: Serious sad face material here. As Basketbawful reader Garron put it: "You are NOT allowed to have a major dunkage, go to the whole King Kong chest bump, then fly half the width of the court after a backup point guard touches you. 49 points was great for Amare. Flopping, is not." Agreed. But hey, let's face it, just think about all those years the Suns were humiliated by the Spurs. Amare learned from The Masters.
Chicago Bulls drama: One of the reasons the Bulls fell from grace last season was that many of the players had their own agendas and therefore tuned out Scott Skiles. And even after Skiles was canned (on Christmas eve), they didn't exactly kill themselves for interim head coach Jim Boylan. All that stuff was supposed to be ancient history...but it's not: Ben Gordon and Luol Deng are already making subtle criticisms to the press. "Starters have to get off to a good start; that's their responsibility," Gordon said after Sefolosha went scoreless and starting forward Tyrus Thomas had one point against the Cavaliers. "They have to step it up. Maybe Coach needs to mix something up a little bit." Translation: Coach needs to start me.
Deng, on the other hand, seems to think his slow start is the fault of the team's offense. "I still don't feel I'm playing how I want to play. We have to find sets that we're productive from and try to give teams different looks. We stayed with similar sets, especially in the fourth quarter. We have to switch it up a little bit." Translation: Coach needs to call more plays for me.
But Vinny D isn't changing for nobody, nohow: "No, no, no; they're the players, I'm the coach," Del Negro said. "The easiest thing is to look from the outside in and say we should do this or that. But when you go through it, it's a lot different. We're trying to put everybody in the most successful area we can. Sometimes it's not the system; sometimes it is. Sometimes it's the familiarity of everything."
Del Negro then put the onus right back on his players. "It's probably frustration talking. [Deng] got good looks [Wednesday], just like a few other guys. At times I thought we played pretty well moving the ball, but [we're] still shooting the ball too quick. Guys [are] a little bit unsure and thinking too much instead of playing. What happens is, sometimes [players] get a little bit out of sync and they start forcing things and try to do things they're not comfortable with. That hurts them even more. You just have to be patient and understand where you're going to get your shots."
It's always good to have everybody on the same page...
Elton Brand and the Philadelphia 76ers: Shortly after the Philadelphia 76ers signed Brand to that $80 million contract last summer, Elton said: "I'm prepared to do some big things this year." In November, those "big things" included scoring 16 PPG and watching his team -- a squad that was supposed to challenge Boston for Eastern Conference supremacy -- go 6-9 for the month. Fail.
Basketbawful History Break!! On November 9, the term suck differential -- officially coined by AnacondaHL -- officially enteres the Basketbawful lexicon. And there was much rejoicing.
Yao Ming, worst nine-foot tall dunker ever: Poor Yao. He spent a lot of time in the early part of the season either blowing dunks or getting them stuffed, somtimes in spectacular fashion.
This led to an early-season "Yao Watch." Here's one example of it: "I did a little box score review, and I discovered that Yao had four of his shots rejected this weekend (once by the Lakers and thrice by the Clippers). That brings Yao's season total of "blocks against" to 14 in seven games. That's right: The gigantic Yao is having his shot stuffed an average of two times a game. In addition, some research at 82games.com uncovered the following "stunning" revelations: Yao's effective field goal percentage on dunks is only 50 percent. Just as damning, if not more so, are the following stats: 22 percent of his "close" shots are getting blocked, 19 percent of his inside shots are getting stuffed, and 17 percent of his flush attempts are being returned to sender. Also, you can officially add Kobe to the list of things Yao can't dunk over or against."
Oh, and by the way, it didn't end with Kobe...
Dirk Nowitzki's Ass of Doom: The mad German made a four-year-old boy cry when he crashed into the tyke while trying to save a ball from going out of bounds. But no worries. Jason Terry -- who missed his first 11 shots and finished 3-for-15 -- ran across the court from the Mavericks' bench to give the brat his sweaty headband. I'm sure you'll be able to find it on eBay as early as right now. Anyway, here's the first shot of Dirk's ass-attack on the front-row youngster.
Now take a look at his face. He's being absolutely traumatized by Dirk's butt. NBA action: It's FANNY-tastic!
LeBron James cold start: Before he hit 4-for-7 from downtown against the Bulls on November 8, James was 1-for-19 from beyond the arc. After his hot game, he was 5-for-26 (19 percent). And according to 82games.com (at the time), LeBron's effective field goal percentage on jump shots was 17.9 percent. Did the terrorists taken his jumper hostage? How much did they want for it? I'm sure Nike ended up covering the ransom. Or...did they...?
Joey Graham: Normally, lacktion figures like Joey don't make it into the Worsties, but he gets special mention for both going by "Joey" and receiving a Code Red from Super Mario West!
The Washington Wizards' slow start: They dropped about $160 million on Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison during the summer of '08. Then, when the season started, knee surgery had reduced Agent Zero to just plain zero, and the Wizards began a season of epic suck. One winless weekend included a home loss to the Knicks and an embarrassing blowout in Orlando. Those two losses dropped them to 0-5, and Jamison wasn't happy about it. "Anytime you lose like that you definitely don't approve of it. But it's extra disappointing when you are in the position we're in, and for us not to come out with the energy and focus that we needed for this game. We're 0-5 and we need people to play basketball." It's funny you said that, Mr. "I just signed a $50 million contract extension over the summer." The team report said: "Jamison seemed disinterested during the late stages of a blowout loss, something that was evident when he did not join a team huddle during a timeout in the third quarter." Nice team leadership, Antawn.
Kevin Garnett, hardwood bastard: Who knew that finally winning an NBA championship would transform KG into a Batman villain.
Sasha Vujacic's chest bump fail: So awesome you'll pee.
The Suns-Rockets Brawl: It was a catfight in Houston. And here's Slasher 14 with the call: "T-Mac set a screen on Nash where Nash appeared to hurt his shoulder. Next time down the floor Rafer Alston went to set a screen on Matt Barnes, who just pushed him out of the way. Alston ran over after Barnes and a scuffle broke out. When it looked like everything had been cleared up, Nash, who was running over to try and break the fight up, appeared to slip and fell into Alston. McGrady saw this and probably thought he was after Alston, so McGrady pushes an off-balance Nash to the floor. Then Shaq comes in and clears T-Mac out of the way and then gives Yao a push for good measure. It's kind of funny watching Yao fall over: He falls at about half the speed of a normal sized person. Maybe the laws of gravity have a different affect on Yao, which is why he is having trouble dunking this year?" Slasher's right about Yao. Watch and laugh at his slow-motion fall. It kind of reminds me of Bela Lugosi's slow, stumbling Frankenstein monster in Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man.
Reggie Evans: Mercilessly owned. By Andrea Bargnani. I can think of few things more humiliating than being in Bargnani's poster.
Joey Crawford, pure officiating evil: Joey strikes again! The ref with the infamously itchy whistle-finger hit Kenyon Martin with a flagrant 2 foul, which meant an automatic ejection. Good call? Bad call? Ridiculous call? I'll let you be the judge.
Martin was understandably indignant after the game. "It's basketball, man -- it's a contact sport. It's not bowling or table tennis." No, it's certainly not. Fans can actually stay awake through most NBA games (assuming the Spurs aren't involved). What made the call even more ridiculous is that Dahntay Jones and LeBron got into a shoving match earlier in the game...and nothing was called. Not even a tech. Ah, NBA officiating: A model of inconsistency.
Boobie Gibson's super haircut: Gibson unveiled his latest masterpiece of hair-cuttery: A Superman-style symbol with a big "B" in it. He explained the hieroglyph thusly: "I talked to my Dad the other night and he said he hadn't seen my smile in a long time. I guess I was being 'Daniel' out there on the court, so I got the 'Boobie' symbol to remind me that I need to be out there having fun and enjoying the game again." Hey, who cares if you look like an idiot as long as you're having fun! I don't have a picture, unfortunately, but here's one of his previous hair-stravaganza: Bat-Boobie.
Kenyon Martin's lip tattoo: The tat's an homage to his hottie girlfriend Trina...but my question is this: Why choose such a fruity tribute? He might as well have gotten a tattoo of a penis or Richard Simmons. But who knows? Maybe Trina made him get it to keep all the NBA groupies away, because I'm pretty sure he'll be getting the John Amaechi treatment from now on.
Shaq the Detroyer: He was called for a flagrant 2 foul and ejected after nearly killing Rodney Stuckey. The Big Excuser tried to explain it away (see below), but seriously, this foul would have gotten Shaq charged with attempted manslaughter in some states. (But remember, you can't have "manslaughter" without "laughter"!) Actually, this play kind of reminds me of the Kevin McHale / Kurt Rambis clothesline, only if McHale was a giant gorilla and Rambis was a frail midget.
Jerry Sloan's venomous tongue: Considering they were without Deron Williams, Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko and Matt Harpring, the Jazz put up a pretty good fight on the road against a surging Cavs team. But Jerry Sloan got pretty riled up over his team's "defense" on LeBron James, who scored 16 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter. "We didn't even get close enough to guard him at times. You have to compete against the guy. If you say, 'I'm not going to touch him,' you'll be saying that 20 years from now. You might as well get an autograph and go home." Wicked. When asked if his players backed down a little bit in guarding James, Sloan said: "A little bit? It was like we were afraid to even touch him." You know, Jerry's been around for such a long time. I wish he would just open up and tell us what he really thinks.
George Karl, President of the Allen Iverson Fan Club: Karl had some rather unflattering thing to say about the recently-departed Allen Iverson: "There are less bad plays, more solid plays. I think the wasteful, cheap possessions that we used to have 10 to 15 a game, they don't exist very much anymore. We have contested-shot charts, bad-shot charts and cheap defensive possessions. I would say that when A.I. was here, we had most games in the teens of contested, tough shots, sometimes in the 20s. And I don't think we've had a double-digit one since (Billups has) been here." And more: "I don't think there's any question coaching a team for many minutes, without a passing and point guard mentality, is frustrating for a coach. Sometimes I saw something, but I couldn't get it done on the court because I didn't have a playmaker out there."
The Return of Knee-Mac: You'd better sit down for this, because it's going to be quite the shocker: On November 17, T-Mac left a game against the Thunder in the opening minute of the second half after hurting his left knee, which was sliced open during the summer to have "loose bodies" removed. And, even more shockingly, he didn't return.
Said McGimpy: "Tonight I went back to square one, even before surgery, is how my knee is feeling right now. I want to play, man. I want to play. Just to get off to this start, for me personally this is a bad start. To have to play your way through an injury that I've never had before and a surgery that was my first surgery is very frustrating. My game is really based on athleticism, and that's something that I don't have right now. I've never had any relief because I've just been trying to work my way into playing shape and strengthen my leg. I've never been 100 percent. I've just been trying to play, hoping that playing on it will take me over the edge and I don't have any more pain. It hasn't worked in my favor. It's sharp pain. It almost just seems like I never had surgery. I'm feeling the same pain."
I went ahead and checked with science, and science says this event shocked -17 people, which is an unofficial world's record.
A comically stupid Nuggets fan: Our buddy Ben Q. Rock of The Third Quarter Collapse provided the following write-in: "It's pretty ridiculous for a guy to hold a sign saying 'Iverson Who?' while wearing an Iverson jersey. It's like, dude, just check your own clothing if you've forgotten who the guy is. God." And here's the idiot in question:
The Sacramento Kings: On November 18, they made it official: The Kings are worse than the Memphis Grizzlies. They let the teddy bears shoot 54 percent (62 from beyond the arc) and outrebound them 46-33...a solid effort on the Fail Scale (I give it a 7.6). Rookie forward Jason Thompson, who had two of his shots blocked (a game high!), said: "Some of the stuff [the Grizzlies] were doing, it happened so fast that we weren't reading our coverages, and guys were missing assignments." When the Grizzlies are moving faster than your senses can accurately perceive, you really need to have those senses checked by a licensed medical practitioner. They did hold O.J. Mayo to only 11 points, though. Sometimes it's the little victories that count, even though they aren't real victories. Oh, and a special callout goes to Quincy Douby, who went 0-for-9 off of Sactown's bench.
Quentin Richardson, super tough guy: After the Knicks-Celtics game -- which Boston won 110-101 -- Quentin Richardson said: "I'm just real curious to see what those guys will be saying if we weren't in a basketball league and didn't have referees. I mean, it wouldn't be the same story. I mean, they are the world champions and rah, rah, rah, but the tough part I don't factor. I come from a neighborhood where you can say what you want to say, but until you do something, it don't mean nothing." Seriously. Put the dumb pills down, Quentin.
A few more if Q's choice words: "I think a few of those guys know they can’t just say anything to us.... Some of those guys are happy to get a ring, but you ain't been in the league long enough to talk to people like that. I don't have a lot of respect for that. Like I said, I'd be curious to hear what they have to say in a different setting. I'd be very curious to see that." I'm sorry, but really, when did Quentin Richardson become a "tough guy"? Did I miss something? Does he suddenly think he's all manly and stuff because he plays in New York?
Andray Blatche: Bulletproof (real nickname) released a foul wind on the Washington bench...from which there was NO ESCAPE. People in Chicago are always doing that on the elevator. Just FYI. You can see stills of the entire odorous incident as it went down at Truth About It.
Man versus Machine: Poor Sasha Vujacic. First Trevor Ariza almost kills him with a chest bump. Then he got all up in his face. Rough season for the Machine. (The spat is at the end of the video.)
LeBron James, ego-machine: On the one hand, the King tried to say all the right things. To wit: "We hear it every day, we see it every day on TV about 2010 all the time, we still go out and take care of business. We don't worry about what's going on. Me the leader, I can't let that faze me because I'm leading these guys onto something that we want to accomplish, and that's win an NBA championship."
But on the other hand, he also made comments suggesting that he's looking ahead just as much as anybody else. "If you guys want to go to sleep right now and not wake up until July 1, 2010, then go ahead because it's going to be a big day. July 1, 2010 is going to be a very, very big day."
He also let the NBA world know that he'll be willing to listen to anybody with the money to pursue him. "It's not just New York and Brooklyn. It's not just a two-team race." Presumably, his own team will be allowed to join in the LeBron Lottery...but that's quite a bit different than saying "I'm a Cavalier for life." I'm sure that's got to make the people of Cleveland feel all warm and fuzzy inside.