NBA Veterans Facing Yet Another Losing Season
Some players just can't seem to catch a break. They are talented, they are sublime, but they are always stuck on a loser. Historically, a player like Walt Bellamy comes to mind. Bellamy was a Hall of Fame center who couldn't sniff the playoffs for the first half of his career.
Other players are supremely untalented and it's their own abysmal play that results in their teams always losing. These are the type of players that weigh a Walt Bellamy down into the miserable muck.
Currently, there are many NBA veterans who are facing yet another losing season like the legendary Walt Bellamy. Years and years of losing are unfortunately continuing unabated this season.
The reasons why each of these players has suffered continuous losing may vary. After all, there are many roads that lead nowhere. So, let us take a stroll down these many roads with the poor players who just can't seem to turn around their teams' losing ways.
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This photograph is a rare golden moment for Francisco Garcia. The 8-year veteran has spent his entire career with the Sacramento Kings and it's been a career filled with many hapless, losing seasons.
Arriving as a 24-year old rookie in the 2005-06 season, Garcia caught Sacramento at the tail end of its glory years. Chris Webber had already been traded. Vlade Divac was retired. Peja Stojakovic would be traded mid-season to Indiana for Metta World Peace. Coach Rick Adelman was in his final season at the helm.
The Kings won a respectable 44 games that year and made the only postseason of Garcia's career. He contributed fairly well in his limited playing time, but the Kings were run over by San Antonio in six games.
Over the next few seasons, Sacramento initially was mediocre (33 wins in 2007, 38 wins in 2008) and then just downright horrendous. From 2009 to 2012, the franchise suffered four straight seasons of under 26 wins. Furthermore, in the past seven seasons the Kings have had five different coaches.
Despite the turmoil, Garcia has proven himself a fairly good player who can do a little of everything.
From 2008 to 2011, an era where Garcia was a sometimes-starter, he averaged 26 minutes a game. In that playing time, he produced around 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and a block a game. His shooting percentages have always been respectably good as well: 45% FG, 81% FT and 38.5% from three-point range.
Now in his early 30s, Garcia is in the midst of yet another losing season with the Kings. The unfortunate thing is that with jack-of-all-trades skills, he would have been the perfect swingman off the bench for a contender all these years. Instead, he continues to wallow away.
The Francisco Kid gets no luck in this life.
The undersized PF/C has been in the NBA for eight years now with the same franchise just like Francisco Garcia. Also, like Garcia, he was around for some initial playoff work. From 2006 to 2008, Maxiell's Detroit Pistons reached the Eastern Conference Finals every season. Maxiell's role with the franchise steadily increased each of these years. His minutes rose from 6 per game in 2006 to 14 in 2007 to 21.5 in 2008.
However, that final Conference Finals defeat in 2008 spelled big changes for Detroit. Flip Saunders was booted as head coach and Chauncey Billups was traded for a recalcitrant Allen Iverson. New coach Michael Curry proved unsuited for the job and the Pistons limped to 39 wins in 2009 and a first round sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Following that embarrassing series, Rasheed Wallace signed with the Boston Celtics, Curry was fired and Detroit went completely over the precipice of failure. Disgruntled veteran Rip Hamilton set an awful example for the younger players on the roster by defying new coach John Kuester's authority.
The on-court results were predictable given such mayhem and turmoil: 27 wins in 2010, 30 wins in 2011, 25 wins in 2012 and 14 so far in 2013.
Maxiell's role hasn't changed much. He's still asked to give a muscular presence around the basket with his nasty dunks and surprisingly good shot-blocking for a player only 6'7". He also possesses a decent stroke on his mid-range jumper.
The problem is that Maxiell is what he is at this point. He's almost 30 years old and his 26 minutes a night this season are now stifling the development of Andre Drummond. Detroit conceivably can get out of their muck soon enough, but it won't be by playing vets like Maxiell over more promising and better youngsters like Drummond.
Maxiell's only hope to play for a winner again is to take a backseat to Drummond or move on to a new team.
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Shaun Livingston's career has been undeniably marked by playing for losing teams. Stops in Cleveland, Washington, Charlotte, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles with the Clippers clearly allude to that.
Of course, he happened to be around for one of those rare Clipper playoff appearances back in 2006. But that's as far as Livingston's winning seasons go. He's now played part of eight NBA seasons and has just that one playoff appearance to show for it.
The 6'7" Livingston (same height as the muscular and burly Maxiell) makes his living in the NBA from being an over-sized point guard who peers over defenders and makes outstanding passes. Notice the 5'9" Nate Robinson guarding him in the photo here.
Despite the losing, seeing Livingston on any basketball court right now is amazing. Anyone who remembers seeing his excruciating knee injury in 2007 knows it's a modern marvel this man is able to compete at all in any NBA games. He missed nearly two years recovering from the injury and subsequent surgery.
Even having played for so many losers, Livingston is truly a winner in practically every sense. Sorry for that syrupy line, but it's true.
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Ramon Sessions has been in the NBA since the 2007-08 season and has played for a winning basketball team for exactly 23 regular season and 12 postseason games. His brief stint with the Los Angeles Lakers last season provided him with that brief taste of sweet victory wine.
That partial season aside, Ramon has been mired in mediocrity.
His career began in Milwaukee with the Bucks where he backed up Mo Williams. At the very tail end of the 2008 season, Ramon finally got significant playing time with the Bucks thoroughly out of playoff contention. He responded with a string of well-played games including a 20-point, 24-assist juggernaut against Chicago.
Nonetheless, he didn't get the full-time starter's job in Milwaukee until the end of the next season. Milwaukee showed little faith in Sessions and therefore he was gone in the 2009 offseason.
Sessions new home was Minnesota. Even with Sessions on board, the Timberwolves opted to start the woeful and awful Jonny Flynn ahead of him. Minnesota won a sorry 15 games in 2010. Sessions didn't stick around for any more losing in Minnesota, though.
That summer he was traded to Cleveland. As a Cavalier, Sessions only became the starter when Mo Williams was traded and Baron Davis was hurt. Of course, no good thing for Sessions lasts too long. His time as a starter was ended the next season (2011-12) when Kyrie Irving joined the Cavaliers. Then came Sessions' brief time as a starter on a winning ball club in Los Angeles with the Lakers.
But again Sessions' good fortune doesn't last long and now he's off losing again in Charlotte as a backup. Such is the life and luck of Ramon Sessions. A decently good point guard who can't seem to land on a contender or even a simply average team.
Amir Johnson and Jose Calderon
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Amir Johnson started his career in Detroit at the same time as Jason Maxiell (2005-06 season). However, Amir played a scant 11 games over his first two seasons. Finally, he got some run in the 2007-08 season, the last successful season Detroit has seen.
Following the demolition of Detroit by Cleveland in the 2009 1st Round, Amir Johnson signed a lucrative free agent deal with the Toronto Raptors.
Johnson has since been the teammate of longtime Raptors' point guard Jose Calderon. Although six years older, Calderon amazingly has been in the league the same number of seasons as Amir Johnson. Nonetheless, they've shared some dreary misery as teammates in Toronto.
The Raptors put together a perfectly average 40-42 season in their first year together. Then Chris Bosh jumped ship to Miami and the veteran Raptors have suffered through an atrocious 22-60 season in 2011 and a 23-43 record in last year's lockout-shortened affair.
Amir was hailed as a savior in the frontcourt. He's had flashes of brilliance, but he's not worth his price-tag of $6 million. Calderon meanwhile has time and again been supplanted by new point guards only to beat them back and reclaim his starting job. He's certainly a good point guard, but probably needs to be the steady hand for a title contender when their starting PG gets in foul trouble or is injured for a few weeks.
Alas, his contract is too big and the Raptors are stuck with him. Toronto has shown more life this season following the injury to Bargnani, but they're still ten games below .500. So, it's yet another losing season in the works for Amir and Jose.
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The University of Connecticut won the 2004 NCAA Title.
Since then, former Huskie Charlie Villanueva hasn't done much winning of any kind. Here are the win totals of his teams since he joined the NBA in the 2005-06 season:
2005-06 Raptors: 27
2006-07 Bucks: 28
2007-08 Bucks: 26
2008-09 Bucks: 34
2009-10 Pistons: 27
2010-11 Pistons: 30
2011-12 Pistons: 25
2012-13 Pistons: 14
At least he grabbed a rookie of the month award back in December of 2005. Of course, he grabs little else. His rebounding isn't that good for a power forward. He doesn't play defense particularly well. All he does to help his teams is display an offensive touch that is often hard to sustain.
Yet, he'll be making over $8 million this year and has a player option next year worth $8.5 million. Looks like Detroit is stuck with Villanueva for one more season, which will in all likelihood be a losing one despite potentially prosperous youngsters like Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, and Brandon Knight.
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Few people will remember, but Corey Maggette began his NBA career back in 2000 with the Orlando Magic. Orlando wasn't long for Maggette, though. After his rookie year, the small forward was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.
For eight seasons, Maggette plied his trade with the Clippers with little on-court success. That trade was predicated on careening drives to the basket that resulted in a robust eight free throw attempts per game during those seasons. He ended up averaging 18.5 points per game as well. The Clippers ended up with just one winning season during Maggette's time in Los Angeles. Fittingly, that one winning season came in 2006 when Corey missed all but 32 games of the season.
After his Clippers tenure, Maggette became a journeyman. He became a power forward in Don Nelson's mutated small-ball lineups. A supposed pinch of instant offense for the Milwaukee Bucks. A preposterous source of veteran leadership in Charlotte. Finally, he's a gigantic expiring contract for the Detroit Pistons this season.
Every one of these stops has included hamstring problems for Maggette and horrific losing for his teams. He may never go down in history for much, but at least he can proudly look back on playing for the 7-win Charlotte Bobcats last season.
In case you haven't noticed by now, there are a lot of Detroit Pistons represented in this list of veterans losing. None of these Pistons has it worse than Tayshaun Prince, though.
He has spent his entire career with Detroit. He was a big part of their title team back in 2004 and appeared in every one of their six conference finals appearances last decade. As has been seen with Jason Maxiell, Charlie Villanueva, Amir Johnson and Corey Maggette, the Pistons have since slid into a canyon of gloom and doom.
Tayshaun's numbers haven't slipped much over the years, though. And at one point, he was a perennial member of the All-Defensive team. However, his defense has taken a step back as he's aged. Watching him on offense these days often involves a painful series of one-on-one moves that raise the ire of anyone who loves ball movement.
Prince will be 33-years old in February and doesn't appear to be headed to a contender anytime soon. In December 2011, the small forward signed a 4-year deal worth $28 million to stay with Detroit through the 2014-15 season. That kind of price tag for an old Prince is basically a royal scam.
Despite the odds, one hopes Tayshaun Prince's time in Detroit ends more like Purple Rain than Hamlet.
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Kwame Brown has appeared in the playoffs four times in his career. Even more stunning is that he actually played halfway decently in the 2006 playoffs for the Lakers averaging 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.
However, there's a reason why this is all stunning.
Brown has mostly played for some pretty awful teams throughout his career. Mistakenly taken #1 overall by Michael Jordan in the 2001 NBA Draft, Brown has struggled to live up to misbegotten expectations. The Wizards took off to moderate playoff success after Brown was traded for Caron Butler.
In his new home of Los Angeles, Kwame was the man in the middle for two pretty unappealing Lakers teams that lost in the 1st Round in 2006 and 2007 to the Phoenix Suns. Again, his old team found major success when he was traded. He was part of the package Los Angeles sent to Memphis in exchange for Pau Gasol in early 2008.
From there, Brown has journeyed to the Detroit Pistons, the Charlotte Bobcats, the Golden State Warriors, and now the Philadelphia 76ers this season. Without fail, minus the Charlotte Bobcats, these teams have gotten better once Brown left and worse once he arrived.
(It is bizarre the Bobcats would be the one team that actually got better when Kwame came to town).
The only thing keeping him in the league at this point is that he can be qualified as "Former #1 Overall Pick" Kwame Brown. There's no other explanation since he's mediocre at every thing expected from a big man.
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Michael Beasley is just in his fifth season, but he's shaping up to have a Kwame Brown-type career.
In retrospect, it's apparent he was taken much too high as the #2 overall pick in the 2008 Draft. Especially considering that Kevin Love, Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook were all available in that draft.
On the strength of Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley was afforded two playoff appearances as a member of the Miami Heat in his first couple of seasons. However, Beasley himself was unremarkable in Miami's playoff defeats.
Traded to Minnesota in 2010 to make room for the signings that landed LeBron James and Chris Bosh for Miami, Beasley had his best pro season with 19 PPG. Unfortunately that PPG average was higher than the total number of wins Minnesota had that year (17).
In 2011, new Minnesota coach Rick Adelman took over for Kurt Rambis and shelved Beasley. The Wolves still stunk but their smell was a bit better as they put together 26 wins. With Adelman's dislike for his inefficient scoring apparent, Beasley signed with Phoenix in the summer of 2012.
So far this year, Beasley is again playing for a woeful team, and he's hit new lows on the court. Currently scoring a mere 9.5 PPG on a terrible 38% FG is Beasley's offensive contribution to Phoenix so far.
Beasley's been so bad that he currently has more field goal attempts than points. That used to happen regularly back in the 1940s and 1950s, but in this day and age? It's a rarity that is also a red flag that a player is terrible at offense.
Given that Beasley is pretty bad at everything else concerning basketball, this doesn't bode well for his career. The chances that he's picked up by a winning team after his current contract seem to be slim and/or none.
Stranger things have happened though.