Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider must have a plan that the rest of us are not privy to, if their draft selections this year are any indication. The watch word for this coming season is ”trust”—as in trust in their judgment. The best that I can tell is that Carroll and Schneider drafted for specific skills—unlike, say, Aaron Curry who was supposed to be a physical freak capable of moving mountains, except that he had trouble figuring out how to move a pebble. Anyways, it should be a most fascinating season.
But football can wait. I must confess that I don’t follow the NBA much anymore, but this season did at least provide us with some minor amusement, in the form of the Charlotte Bobcats. Now, it is fascinating how in the coaching business, more often than not people who have little or no .talent at playing a particular sport tend to be make coaches—while former Hall of Famers are often lousy coaches. Casey Stengel as skipper of the New York Yankees won seven World Series, but as a player he confessed "I had many years that I was not so successful as a ballplayer, as it is a game of skill.” I remember in Green Bay that some fans observed that the Lombardi magic refused to rub-off on Bart Starr when he briefly coached the Packers, although if Lynn Dickey had stayed healthy it would have made for some exciting losses with Pro-Bowl pass catchers like Lofton, Jefferson and Coffman—and often opposing players.
This lack of rub-off also applies to would-be owners who believe the “magic” of their names can somehow incite at least mediocre performances out of their teams. Such is the case of Michael Jordan, whose executive “skills” did little to turn the Washington Wizards into a mildly competitive team, while his ownership of the Charlotte Bombcats has produced the worst team by winning percentage in the history of the NBA, although to give them the benefit of the doubt they still had 16 games to win 3 to beat-out the Philadelphia 76ers for all-time NBA futility. You may observe that there are two Duke University players on the squad, Gerald Henderson and Cory Maggette. For those who have a sense of history, Duke players have had a history of success in the college game, but most have turned out to be absolute stiffs in the NBA: Hurley, Laettner, Ferry, Parks, Redick, Dunleavy, Scheyer, “Wojo,” Collins and countless others, and if Jordan had some idea that he can change this history, he hasn’t shown us yet.
How do the Bobcats match-up to that other monument of futility, the 1972-73 76ers? Are they really the “worst” team ever in NBA history? Here are some comparisons between the two teams:
W/L Record: 76ers, 9-73 Bobcats, 7-59
W/L Pct.: 76ers, .110 Bobcats, .106
Point Diff.: 76ers -12.1, Bobcats, -13.9
Point Diff./Loss: 76ers, -14.5 Bobcats, -16.4
Losing Streaks: 76ers 15,14,20,13 Bobcats 16,23
Winning Streaks: 76ers, 2 (twice), Bobcats, 1
Losses 10+ Pts: 76ers, 47 Bobcats, 38
Losses 20+ Pts: 76ers, 19 Bobcats, 24
Losses 30+ Pts: 76ers, 4 Bobcats, 8
Top scorer: 76ers, 19.9 Bobcats, 15.1
Top rebounder: 76ers, 10.8 Bobcats, 5.8
Were the Bobcats the worse team? The 76ers operated in a different time, when scoring was higher; they managed to keep-up with their opponents marginally better than the Bobcats, scoring 90 percent as many points as the opposition, compared to 86 percent by the Bobcats. The 76ers had fewer really bad losses (i.e. losses by 20 or more points), even when playing 16 more games. The games they lost were by an average of 2 points per game less than the Bobcats. On the other hand, the 76ers had more double-digit losing streaks; outside of two weeks in February when they won 5 of 7 games, the 76ers were a monstrously bad 4-71—a .053 W/L percentage. On the other hand, the Bobcats could never string together two wins in a row, and having lost their last 23 games, who knows how long that could have continued. Frankly, some teams just don’t seem all that likely to inspire confidence with nicknames like the Clippers and the Bobcats; they just sound like they should be the runts of the NBA litter.
One has to admit that the Bobcats were a bad team before Jordan took over, but isn’t it remarkable that a player with his reputation couldn’t do better than this pathetic team? The only hope for the Bobcats is if they get the top lottery pick, and hope they can find a franchise-changing superstar—like Lew Alcindor, who took a last place expansion Milwaukee Bucks team to the NBA title in its third year. The 76ers only started to turn things around in 1976 with the acquisition of Julius Erving from the ABA, and the NBA title in 1983 came with the addition of Moses Malone. But then again, the 76ers were an established franchise, winning the title in 1967 with the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, winning an at the time a record 68 games. But Chamberlain was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers after the 1968 season for three non-names, and it was mostly downhill after that, and the loss of Billy Cunningham as the last piece of that championship team setting up the year of futility.
On the other hand, the Bobcats had their one winning season in its franchise’s history just a few short years ago, and frankly one wonders if it is the owner or coach Paul Silas who is responsible for the team falling from 34 wins last year to 7 this year. Perhaps the problem is that former superstar players seem to expect that the “superstar” is in everyone if they only give it the old college try—which isn’t good enough.