The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Sifting The Wreckage II

So things suck for the Nets right now, that’s been established; but on the bright side, arguably it could be a lot worse. How? Well, they could actually be playing not like the 72-73 76ers, but like a less famous but even worse bunch: the 1992-1993 Dallas Mavericks. This team was, believe it or not, one of my formative memories as a basketball fan: I can recall reading year-in-review stats almanacs after this season complete with player profiles, and being amazed at just how negative all the comments were despite the best efforts of the authors to stay positive, or at least respectful. I can remember playing some really old NBA videogames, and trying desperately to win using the likes of Donald Hodge, Dexter Cambridge and…ugh…Sean Rooks. I remember being dumbfounded when the Knicks actually traded for a key member of this shambling wreck of a team for their 1994 playoff run- and it nearly worked. Mostly, I remember the very infrequent times I actually got a chance to watch this lot when they played the Nets or the Knicks, and being amazed that it was possible for a professional team to be that awful. To this day I retain a certain fascination with the amazingly, historically inept (no one enjoyed Derby County in the Premier League more than I, believe me), and I strongly suspect these Mavs were responsible for that. So how bad were they? Worse than the Nets?

Oh yeah. As a baseline measure,’s SRS score, noted yesterday, has the Nets at -11.59 which is very slightly worse than that infamous 76ers team; these Mavs were an unconscionable -14.68. They were dirt worst in the league in: offensive rating, defensive rating, FG%, FT%, Effective FG%, Pythagorean record (10 & 72), total assists, total turnovers and fouls, and below league average in every single stat that tracks except for 3pt%, total offensive boards, defensive rebounding % and pace. And they were actually below average on the O-Boards once you look at the percentage of rebounds grabbed, which factors pace out. That is BAD. Bad on a level which really no other team I’ve seen in any other sport has reached except that Derby County side. Even the infamous 0-16 Lions in the NFL lost a long series of heartbreaking close games, and could at least occasionally move the ball and score. These Mavericks could do virtually nothing; many bad teams have some sort of killer flaw which overwhelms the good aspects of the team, but the Mavericks just weren’t any damn good at basketball. Maybe they should have tried a different sport.

There’s two things which further solidify the Mavs as the worst NBA team ever for me, though- one rational, one not. The rational one is that unlike virtually every other unGodly-bad team in history, the Mavericks were actually lucky. The Nets are currently underperforming their Pythagorean record, the 76ers in their bad year did so as well- it’s a standard pattern and often a fairly substantial one in making the difference between memorably bad and just uncommonly bad. If the Nets rebound to Pythagorean form, they’ll gain three times as many victories in the second half of the year as they picked up in the first, and that Sixers team having done so would have won 15 games and been just another forgettably inept team. The Mavericks? They actually won one game more than their Pythagorean record, finishing at 11-71 instead of the projected 10-72. That’s amazing. Most bad teams get that way through a combination of bad luck, bad bounces, lack of talent and bad personnel calls, plus the occasional Clippers-style voodoo curse. The Mavs had all the incompetent portions of that, but none of the bad luck- the ball bounced their way and they still lost 71 games. Astounding.

The less or non-rational reason is, well… look at that roster again. Tim Leglar is remembered as an ESPN analyst; Derek Harper was on some good Mavs teams and some good Knicks teams; Jim Jackson had some strong years and played for half the league at one time or another (including, inevitably, the Nets); and Sean Rooks was a Laker for a while. Who the fuck ARE some of the rest of those guys? Mike Iuzzolino? Steve Bardo? Radisav Curcic? If you run the numbers, the average career length of this crew was roughly 5.8 seasons, including two guys who never played NBA basketball again, four who played only one other season, and two more who played only three total. If you remove the 4 guys with a name tag from the calculations, the entire rest of the team- 14 guys- played an average of 3.8 seasons in the NBA. This was as close as you could possibly get to finding out what an actual D-League quality outfit would do in the big time; it was probably the ultimate Who-The-Fuck-Is-You team in NBA history. The how and why of the fact that professional managers were responsible for assembling this collection of guys is one of the great untold NBA stories.

So take heart, Nets fans- it could be worse, specifically it could be THAT much worse. The Nets retain half a season to get either better or more lucky, and if their results in that span mirror what they should be by points scored and allowed, by the end of the year this will be just another run-of-the-mill bad team. And if not, at least we’ll always have the 76ers excuse: yeah, but did you see THOSE guys?


January 22, 2010 - Posted by | Other NBA, The Nets

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