A small matter of orderly fear about order
Hello, and welcome to FreeDarko's Heavenly Host of Objective Conditions. Today, we will be dealing with a simple and yet ageless question: what makes an NBA franchise sorry? Specifically, at what point can we definitively state "that franchise stinks?"
This uncharacteristically useful question comes to you courtesy of Houston Sports Talk Radio, who the other day informed your boy that the Rockets were dismal and vanished. Not having much interest in the state of any other Houston team, I got stoned on the idea that the team of T-Mac and Yao could indeed be worthless. In fact, I was still stuck on this riddle when I finally read this latest gaping expert survey on ESPN, the first in a long train of soothsaying. To save you the trouble of reading it (I told DLIC and the Recluse that it was like FreeDarko done badly), I'll spill the beans: the Rockets have two All-NBA'ers, the Raptors are getting a bunch of foreigners, some weirdo thinks Wade and LeBron are headed to the Knicks, and Garnett is technically seven feet tall. Oh, and the Bobcats will win games using the Hawks' formula.
None of this is the least bit interesting, except for how it relates back to this city's feelings of NBA despair. Did I somehow miss the bulletin that heartily announced "NBA'S BEST CENTER AND ENDLESSLY SKILLED TWO-TYPE SCORING CHAMP: WORSE THAN ZERO?!?!?!!?" I am well-acquainted with the Rockets' mess at every other positon, but how little of a difference this has made is well-documented stillness. What's more, Achilles-upon-spear is not quite the same as dog fried with mud, which is a nice way of saying that the Rockets are in a position that hosts of teams would envy. As much as the myth of the star might've crumbled, you'd be hard-pressed to find a GM who didn't want to build around an inside/outside air raid in its prime. Frustrating, yes, but never, ever pathological.
For a fan to throw up his arms and jump under these circumstances spells out for me the difference between short-fused, Pavlovian stooge and man knee-deep in the sport. I don't care how poorly the Rockets fare this coming season—complementing Yao and T-Mac should be one of the easiest jobs in management, and thus this team's fans should accept that they're usually only inches away from legitimacy. Hell, give or take a bit of front office error and sacrosanct predictability, they're already post-season heavyweights.
This might be the most ordinary thing I've ever written, but there are basically three kinds of bad teams. Those that are cesspools of ruin (Knicks, Hawks), those not obviously deformed and simply incomplete (Bobcats, Raptors), and those that, for all intents and purposes, are good and are just coming off of an empirical fluke (Rockets). For the pneumonically-inclined set: couldn't, could, and should. Granted, at some point "disappointment" becomes "disappointing" or "underachieving," yet certainly there must be an irreovcable, scarring pattern of failure there. Note to those who choke on their gums to hear me talk so sensibly: these categories are based on past work together. "Good on other teams" means little to this discussion, as does that nasty "potential" term.
I wonder, though, if the Rockets aren't such an unusual case as to be more or less forgettable. Could this last miserable campaign be up there with the time the Spurs took the low road to Duncan? Of course, there will be no such silver rewards for this franchise, but the historical goofiness is its own accomplishment. For a team such as this to have so floundered bears out not the importance of role players or coaching acumen—really, it's just one of the worst bolts from above that basketball could imagine.
Some internet accomplishment far more illuminating than this: Corey from Black Marks on Wood Pulp has been compiling a list of bloggers' favorite writers. If you were ever interested in seeing some combination of major influences on myself, DLIC, and the Recluse, or the taste that makes Henry Abbott tick, this installment is your most important meal. A free day of reckoning to anyone who can correctly identify whose picks are whose.
And finally, The Wire may be the flagship official FD television opus, but early The West Wing holds down second. . . and this went flying out the gate on Monday with an emergency bid for #3.