5 NBA teams that got coal for Christmas
1. Brooklyn Nets (9-18, 49-33 last season)
The Brooklyn Nets came into the 2013-2014 season with a roster that was built to win a title this season. With the additions of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, and some bench depth, some thought (including myself) that the Nets could battle the Heat for an Eastern Conference title. Instead, they come into Christmas day with a 9-18 record, a banged up roster, and a rookie head coach who is unsure what he is doing.
Jason Kidd’s transition from a player to coach has been an absolute disaster. First, he told Tyshawn Taylor to hit into him so the soda in his hand could spill, and buy them time to draw up a play with no timeouts left. He was fined $50,000 by the league for that. Then a week later, he decided to demote his best assistant coach in Lawrence Frank because his former coach was doing too much, despite having head coaching experience and getting to the playoffs before. The Nets have not played with a healthy roster all season and now Brook Lopez will miss the remainder of the season with a broken foot. With the next first round draft pick not until 2020, expect Billy King to make a move for a big man before the trade deadline. This team should still be in win-now mode and have time to write the ship, especially with how horrid the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference have been so far.
2. New York Knicks (9-18, 54-28 last season)
The Knicks have been a disaster on and off the court since before the season even started. They signed J.R. Smith to a three-year deal and then he proceeded to get suspended five games for a positive marijuana test. They got off to a horrid 3-13 start and have had not looked anywhere close to a playoff team. Tyson Chandler return from injury, but Raymond Felton got hurt again. As soon as Chandler returned, Carmelo Anthony sprained his ankle. This team doesn’t have the talent around Melo to be anywhere close to a contender. Iman Shumpert continues to be on the trading block. Without a first-round draft pick until 2018, the Knicks future looks bleak.
All the talk of Melo leaving when he becomes a free agent after the season continues to heat up after every loss. Speaking of heating up, Mike Woodson’s seat is getting hotter by the minute. This team may need a new voice to lead them, especially without the veteran leadership they had last year in Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas, and Rasheed Wallace. This team has no leader, and their best player can’t carry the team on his shoulders. Knicks management is going to have to make a trade to get a point guard or a big man. They can’t win with a shoot-first point guard that is out of shape and can’t stay healthy. Amare Stoudemire is on his last legs and Andrea Bargnani only plays offense. Without another interior defender who can dominate the glass, this Knicks team is bound for a seventh or eighth seed in the East.
3. Chicago Bulls (10-16, 45-37 last season)
The Bulls have had some awful luck the last two years. Derrick Rose missed all of last season with a torn ACL. He returned this season, only to tear his meniscus and be out for the rest of the season. The Bulls superstar will have another year on the sidelines, leaving Chicago without their most prolific scorer and playmakers. They are also without Luol Deng, who should return in the next week. It’s still early to panic, but a 10-16 start has not been promising. They have been inept on offense, averaging just 91.8 PPG, which is the worst in the NBA. This team doesn’t have enough firepower without Rose to compete with the likes of the Heat and Pacers. It really has been those two teams and then everybody else in the Eastern Conference. There doesn’t look to be a team that could top those powerhouses, especially with these key injuries. The Bulls should still get in the playoffs, but this team has no shot to beat the big boys.
4. Memphis Grizzlies (12-15, 56-26 last season)
The Grizzlies were one of the premier teams in the NBA last season, led by their dominant frontcourt. With Marc Gasol out until mid-to-late January, the Grizzlies are off to a 12-15 start. In the East, that might make you a top five seed. In the West, they have the third-worst record. Zach Randolph could also be on the trading block with his big contract, but he can also opt for free agency in 2014. This makes him a trade piece for a Grizzlies team that doesn’t appear to be an upper echelon team in a tough conference. Trading him could get them some good young pieces and draft picks. Once Gasol returns to the lineup, the Grizzlies should turn it around. The issue is that they don’t have a big-time scorer from the outside. They can’t rely on their interior presence when they have to face teams with bigs like the Rockets, Spurs, and Thunder. Until the Rockets get a legit scorer, it wouldn’t be surprising if they trade Randolph and try to rebuild through the draft.
5. Los Angeles Lakers (13-15, 45-37 last season)
The Lakers 13-15 record isn’t that surprising. They weren’t expected to be a playoff team this season. Why they really got coal for Christmas is the ridiculous deal they gave an injured Kobe Bryant. The Lakers signed Bryant to a two-year, $48.5 million extension before he even return from his achilles injury. He returned for six games, only before injuring his knee. He will be out for six weeks, but who knows when he will ever be 100 percent again. At 35, Bryant seems to be nearing the end, especially with horrid injuries to his broken down knees.
With Steve Nash still out and his career looking to come to an end this season, the Lakers don’t have much talent. Nick Young has been their leading scorer at 15.6 PPG. That is saying something about this team. The future doesn’t appear too bright for this team and paying an injury prone guard at the end of his career will keep their salary cap strapped the next two years. They may be able to bring in one more big-name player in the offseason, but that won’t make much of a difference. It’ll be shocking to see the Lakers sneak into the playoffs this season, but even if they do, they will get spanked in the first round.