5 NBA Veterans Stuck on the Worst Teams of Their Career
NBA veterans generally know what winning feels like.
After they've been around the block a few times, they've typically managed to experience the thrill of victory and its stark contrast against the bitter taste of defeat. The knowledge makes being stuck in a bad situation all the more painful.
Young players can deal with losing, simply because they don't know any better. It's all the more painful for veterans.
Unfortunately, there are a few guys with plenty of seasons under their belts who aren't just losing; they're stuck in the worst situations of their careers.
That said, we're not just talking about any veteran. To qualify for featured placement in this article, a player must have at least five seasons of NBA experience and still either be playing at a star level or enjoying recognition as a household name.
You don't want your favorite player to be one of these guys.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, are from Basketball-Reference and are current as of Feb. 27.
Honorable Mention: Kobe Bryant/Steve Nash
Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash aren't used to losing.
Although the Mamba went through some rough patches earlier in his career, the Los Angeles Lakers always managed to rebound and restore the team's fortune. There were trading chips in place, leaving hope of an immediate turnaround.
This season...not so much.
The Lakers don't have any tradable assets, didn't make any significant moves at the deadline and are left counting on a pick in the 2014 NBA draft and then a rebuild in free agency the next offseason. The Purple and Gold could be returned to its former glory, but there's no guarantee.
As for Nash, this will be only the sixth time that he fails to make the postseason (1999, 2000, 2009, 2011, 2012). But even then, things were either on the way up or not all that bad because he was such a fan favorite.
So, why aren't these two Lakers stars earning featured spots?
Neither is really "stuck" because they haven't been a part of the futility. Between Nash's 10 games in the L.A. lineup and Kobe's six-game stint between his Achilles injury and subsequent knee malady, the two have combined to play in less than a third of the Lakers' outings during the 2013-14 campaign.
You have to play to be stuck.
Team: New York Knicks
Team Record: 21-36
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 28.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.7 blocks, 25.3 PER
"It is tough. You score 40, 44, 44, 44, and all losses. You kind of ask yourself, ‘Is it worth it?’ I’m not going to stop what I’m doing. So you believe that," Carmelo Anthony told Peter Botte of the New York Daily News after the latest gut-wrenching loss, this time at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. "But you’re losing. Scoring all of that and taking L’s — I’ll take the W with 10 points."
That's frustration in a nutshell.
'Melo has been playing fantastic basketball throughout the 2013-14 season. In some ways, you could argue this has been the best individual effort of his career, even if it hasn't been enough to prevent the Knicks from sinking well outside the playoff picture this deep into the year.
No matter what he does, the Knicks find a way to let him down. There's been utter dysfunction from the top of the organization to the bottom, and I wouldn't be shocked by any headline emerging from this team.
If any NBA team has joined The Tyson Zone this season, it would be the Knicks.
Raymond Felton getting in legal trouble? Par for the course. Metta World Peace being just crazy and ineffective enough to get bought out? Not surprised. Dirk Nowitzki's buzzer-beating attempt bouncing roughly 12 feet above the rim before dropping through? Of course.
Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if a shirtless James Dolan publicly announced he was a leprechaun and then rode an inflatable unicorn into the center of Madison Square Garden as "Hotel California" blared from the speakers midway through a tightly contested game.
We've reached that point. Although actually, it might be a stretch for that hypothetical game to be close.
Anthony has never missed the playoffs in his professional career. This season is one hell of an introduction to the lottery.
Team: New York Knicks
Team Record: 21-36
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 8.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.4 blocks, 17.3 PER
Go back and read the last slide one more time. Then you'll see how it's understandable for two members of the Knicks to be featured members of this article.
A lot of people in the New York organization deserve blame—James Dolan, Mike Woodson, J.R. Smith, Chris Smith, Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton, etc. But Anthony and Tyson Chandler should be exempt from this list, unless you want to blame the big man for getting hurt at the start of the year and sending the season into a tailspin.
"The Knicks are chasing a playoff berth they're unlikely to catch," writes B/R's Dan Favale, "And while plenty of others are at fault, Chandler's defensive regression is the nail in a coffin that's already six-feet under."
He can be blamed, but not too much.
Chandler hasn't been quite as involved as normal on the offensive end, but he's still shooting over 60 percent from the field. It's not like he's hurting the team by over-involving himself in the point-scoring efforts.
And, somewhat surprisingly while surrounded by offensive defenders, Chandler has continued to play solid defense.
82games.com shows that the center has allowed opposing centers to post a 17.2 player efficiency rating against him, which is actually an achievement given how much off-ball work he has to do to cover for the other four men on the court.
Even though he's constantly under assault and placed in unfortunate situations, Chandler is also holding opponents to 50.5 percent shooting at the rim on 6.7 attempts per game, according to NBA.com's SportVU databases.
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Team Record: 23-36
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 14.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.1 blocks, 14.4 PER
The Chicago Bulls are a model organization.
Even when they don't have enough talent to make much noise and injuries are taking their toll on the team, Tom Thibodeau is still going to keep everyone competitive. Desire and drive define the day.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are a little bit different.
Throughout 2013-14, dysfunction and discontent have ruled the roost, and there has been a never-ending stream of negative headlines emerging from The Q. In-fighting and losses have kept the Cavaliers from going on many lengthy stretches of solid play, a six-game streak sandwiching the All-Star break notwithstanding.
Deng has seen how a team mired in losing since LeBron James left town wrongly caters to its young star players, even as they continue to undermine head coach Mike Brown at almost every turn. In Chicago, where Deng broke in and played nine-plus seasons, there is a winning culture where players are expected to act like professionals and understand that they will suffer the consequences if they step out of line.
As Deng recently told one close friend, “the stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It’s a mess."
The small forward has made the postseason each of the past four seasons. There's still a chance that could happen this year, but an early exit seems virtually guaranteed.
Cleveland must continue trying to impress him if there's any chance of Deng staying past the last game of his first go-round with the Cavs.
Good luck with that.
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
Team Record: 19-39
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 17.0 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.4 steals, 1.5 blocks, 19.2 PER
The thing I just don't appreciate...You just keep it in-house. It's very easy just to come over and talk about your frustrations. We'll try to work something out. We'll figure something out.
But to go to (the media) and to do it in the papers, that's disturbing. I just don't think that's the way to go and people should understand that we're all trying to solve the same problem, so let's just put our heads together and do the best we can.
So in other words, MDA is responding to criticism by saying to keep it "in-house." Except he's going out of the house himself.
Regardless of the brewing war of words, it's clear that Gasol and the Lakers have reached their wit's end with one another. The non-stop trade rumors and constant losing have taken their toll on the Spanish 7-footer, who is putting in a throwback season while surrounded by subpar talent.
It's time this partnership came to an end, even if it's been so successful in the past.
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
Team Record: 15-43
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 17.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.2 steals, 0.4 blocks, 17.6 PER
The Philadelphia 76ers are essentially a D-League team.
Seriously, just look at their current depth chart, courtesy of Rotoworld:
- Point guard: Michael Carter-Williams, Eric Maynor, Lorenzo Brown (injured)
- Shooting guard: Tony Wroten, Elliott Williams, Jason Richardson (injured)
- Small forward: James Anderson, Hollis Thompson
- Power forward: Thaddeus Young, Brandon Davies (injured), Arsalan Kazemi
- Center: Byron Mullens, Arnett Moultrie, Henry Sims, Nerlens Noel (injured)
There aren't many NBA-caliber players on that roster.
You almost have to feel bad for Thaddeus Young, although his ability to rack up stats and earn millions throughout the rest of the season are certainly helping ease his pain. Still, he felt left out after the trade deadline saw general manager Sam Hinkie move two of his most talented teammates—Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes.
"This situation, I don't know how much worse it can get, but there's a lot of great guys in this locker room who can play," Young told reporters after the trade deadline, via Philly.com's Bob Cooney. "Hopefully, we can just go out there and get better as a team and continue to play hard."
I'd say that's just about the definition of feeling like you're stuck in a bad situation.