It could be worse.
As the seconds ticked away in last night’s Celtics/Houston game, I kept reminding myself this. It was Boston’s fourth consecutive loss (and, after a second viewing, hands down the worst loss of the season — at least until tonight when the Celtics take on the Spurs), but no matter how rough this season gets, Boston’s season is far from the most depressing.
We don’t have to look far for evidence (Boston plays in the Atlantic Division, after all). We could be Brooklyn. We could be deluding ourselves into thinking that we have a chance against the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference which, at this point, consists of Miami and Indiana and then…oblivion. We could be convinced that if things go badly, our owner can just spend his way out of it. There’s no need for concern when an owner is willing to spend above the salary cap like he’s giving away tokens at an arcade…right?
Well, no. There’s lots of room for concern when your best players are all old and/or injury-prone and when you’ve given away every last inch of your cap flexibility (and then some) and when you’ve traded away all of your draft picks to a division rival in exchange for two of said old and injury-prone players. There’s lots of room for concern when your defense is ranked 27th in the NBA, allowing 0.91 points per possession, and when your best-ranked offensive possessions (per MySynergySports.com) are traditionally inefficient plays like Isolations and Post-Ups. There is plenty of time to turns things around, but Brooklyn has dug itself into a significant hole and Mikhail Prokohorov’s pocketbooks can no longer dig the Nets out.
But all of that pales in comparison to what fans of the more popular New York franchise are enduring.
Oh dear lord, the Knicks. Don’t pity the franchise (which, run by legendary douche canoe James Dolan, deserves whatever misfortune comes its way), pity the fans who have been forced to sit through years of not only incompetence, but an Orwellian front office incapable of putting together a team full of connecting parts, instead opting to pluck big names from free agency and — once again — trade themselves utterly out of any draft of note. The Knicks do not have a pick this year. They must win. But unlike the Nets, they have a roster that makes very little sense. It’s probably good enough to back its way into the playoffs, but the future is pretty murky after that.
This excellent recap, from Kevin McElroy of Knickerblogger, is simultaneously one of the best pieces I’ve read on the True Hoop Network this year and also enough reason for any Knicks fan to hit the booze cabinet harder than David Ortiz hits a baseball.
The Knicks are a ten-million-dollar beach house without reinforced windows or an emergency generator or flood insurance. And every time there’s a hurricane warning, the architect just springs for a new paint job.
And that’s the point.
Woof. The comments section, somehow, is even more raw. Typically, readers of True Hoop blogs are fairly intelligent fans who follow their teams regularly, and Knickerblogger is no exception. The general mood is a bunch of despondent half-drunk fans sitting at a bar post-game, wondering why they are so compelled to devote their energies and interests and hopes to this team. After reading McElroy’s words, it’s hard to blame them.
The Celtics, for all of their many (many many many) flaws this season, have a plan. It’s identifiable, flexible and reasonable. They do NOT have an Orwellian owner, and their general manager has not only won before, but he has a blueprint of sorts to follow, and he seems to be following it closely.
There is hope for the future, despite the despair in the present. Boston is going to lose. A lot. We saw it last night, we will probably see it tonight, and we will probably see it Friday (Indiana) and Saturday (Atlanta) as well. We will see it throughout November, and we will likely continue to see it when Rondo returns.
But there’s a point to the losing, a point to the few wins which will slip through the cracks, a point to the “process,” as Stevens likes to say.
Unlike the Knicks, there’s a point to this season. Sometimes, there’s a lot of comfort to be taken knowing, simply, that it could be much worse.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.