Worst ever? Neither the season nor the trip
And the answer is, no.
This is not the worst season ever, not sure it’s even close.
I’ve been around this organization for as long as it’s existed – it’s always been a better story than a team – so I do think I have some gravitas and context when you start talking worst, or even best.
This was the worst, bar none, never to be matched, as bleak a moment as I can recall.
It was the third year, 1997-98, and it was horrid from start to finish and, I swear, there were legitimate concerns about the viability of the franchise.
There was a 17-game losing streak that put a bullet in the temple of the season by the first week of December.
The team’s best player – Damon Stoudamire – worked his way out of town in a February blockbuster.
Coach Darrell Walker strolled through the lobby of the Sheraton Meadowlands singing “free at last, free at last; that God Almighty, I’m free at last” on the day he was fired.
They’re 15-56 going into a four-game road trip that starts in Atlanta. During a game there, Oliver Miller is goofing around with the Hawks mascot. Cris Carter, brother of then-coach Butch, kind of wants to beat up Oliver after the game.
We move on to Washington, where a few of us are going to have a relaxing night at Camden Yards only to be told they’ve suspended Oliver for a game and the trip is delayed a bit for work. We go, we’re cranky, have some Boog Powell barbecue and leave in about the fourth.
On to Philly and for some reason we’re flying there instead of taking the train. And we’re flying with one stop!
We get up in the air, land somewhere and it’s teeming rain. We’re in a plane with seat on one side and one on the other and it’s leaking. Seriously. Leaking. I look two or three rows ahead and see a flight attendant toweling off fellow grunt Bill Harris of the Sun and she’s saying, ‘oh, sir. Sorry. This shouldn’t be happening.”
We get to Philly after a loss in Washington and half an hour before the game, they’re taking Oliver Miller out of the locker room on a stretcher because he’s having some heart issues, he says.
The All Time Great Phil Jasner says to a group of us that we needn’t worry, Philly has some great heart institutes, to which one guy says: “If they find a heart in him, take it out.”
Then we went somewhere else (Milwaukee maybe?) and, of course, they lose.
No, folks, this is not the worst and that trip last week was a picnic comparatively.
And I’ll give you another that I think was more bleak than this.
Lenny’s last year
They’re coming off a playoff appearance the year before and 2002-03 is pretty promising.
It goes off the rails almost immediately, Lenny’s semi-retired, everyone gets injured and they don’t dress 12 men for the same game even once all year and they finish 24-58.
They lose the last game in Cleveland, the First Lady Of The Beat and I have to get up before the crack of dawn to drive back because we know Lenny’s getting fired and to add to the mess, they go on to lose the lottery to the Cavs, who draft this LeBron James fellow.
Yeah, it’s been a long strange trip, indeed. And I’m sure in the dark recesses of my mind there are even more.
This team is not going very well at all right now, there is no doubt about that, and the season, at the moment, is swirling in the toilet bowl.
But this team, I contend, has some pieces. I honestly think Jonas Valanciunas is going to be very good, I think Terrence Ross is a player and there is still promise in DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis.
This is not nearly the worst it’s ever been, for the organization or the fans or, of course, me.
Maybe I’m not that old.
Sure, I gave to Band Aid as a look back at star-driven benefit shows following that somewhat epic 12-12-12 doozy the other night. But after a couple of gentle reminders, I now recall the Concert for Bangladesh.
You should too; can’t imagine why I didn’t remember it this week with the passing of Ravi Shankar.
Hey, Vince is coming?
Mail. Got room for some but, folks, you’re getting a bit to game-specific and it’s not really timely. Just a reminder.
Want some perspective?
You know how we should all be a bit more careful with the words we throw around nilly-willy sometimes?
Like we should never equate “war” with sports, the men and women who play the games are not “warriors” and there are things that should probably not be said in the context of sports given their context in real life.
Well, Andrea Bargnani, totally unbeknownst to him and without any ill feelings or mocking tones, mentioned yesterday that he was “depressed” with the way things are going for him and his team.
Totally throw-away line with no harm intended, something we all say all the time, right?
Well, it rankled just a little bit and Dwane Casey put the whole thing in a much clearer picture.
“Depressed is a strong word to use in today’s society and the way it is … I have that in my family and it’s a tough word.
Down is okay; but depressed is pretty strong.”
He’s right, of course. And a nice little reminder; a “teaching point” if you will.