Roundtable: Just how bad are Nets, Knicks, Grizzlies and T-Wolves?
Chris Paul's unhappiness with coaching change could affect future with team
LeBron James' effort to retire No. 23 fails to acknowledge earlier Hall of Famers
Latest spat with Monta Ellis indicative of Don Nelson's poor relationship with team
Four SI.com writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the NBA each week. (All stats and records are through Nov. 16.)
1. The Nets, Knicks, Timberwolves and Grizzlies have combined to win four games in three weeks. Do any of these clubs have a chance to match or best, so to speak, the 9-73 record of the 1972-73 Sixers?
Ian Thomsen: No (and don't laugh when I say this), each of those teams is too talented -- in the coaching staff and/or the roster -- to finish that badly.
Jack McCallum: I always take the "no" on these kind of questions, whether they're about all-time winning or all-time losing. When the Sixers achieved 9-73 immortal ignominy, there were only 17 teams in the league. The next-worst team, the Portland Trail Blazers, won 21 games that year and weren't that bad. These days, in a 30-team league, there are simply too many bad teams from which to cobble together a dozen wins.
Chris Mannix: Minnesota has a shot. The Wolves have a rookie coach (Kurt Rambis), a rookie point guard (Jonny Flynn) and an offense no one understands. Factor in an early injury to Kevin Love and Al Jefferson's slow return from a knee injury, and we're talking about a seriously inept club. New Jersey is going to win some games when it gets healthy, the Knicks' offense will probably help them to a couple of three-game winning streaks, and now that Memphis is past the Iverson controversy, it should be OK. But Minnesota is really going to struggle.
Arash Markazi: I don't think any team will win fewer than 10 games this season, so the '72-73 Sixers record is safe. If there is a team that will give them a run for their money, though, it's the Timberwolves. They are just plain lost in Rambis' triangle offense. After beating winless New Jersey by two in the season opener, the Timberwolves have lost 10 straight, including a 41-point blowout to a Warriors team that is in disarray (see above). It's one thing to be in a rebuilding year, but it's another when your players use that as an excuse, as Jefferson did when I spoke to him this season. "No one expects for us to get it quickly," he said about learning the offense. "It might take the whole year for us to get the triangle down the way he wants it."
2. Chris Paul made no secret of his unhappiness with the manner in which coach Byron Scott was fired last week. Did the Hornets make the right decision and will Paul's unhappiness affect his future in New Orleans?
Thomsen: As angered as he was about Scott's dismissal, Paul will really be frustrated by a continuing decline in the team's performance overall. But his feelings are a secondary issue for that franchise. The Hornets can't afford a bad year mainly because their financial success in New Orleans depends on winning enough games to keep the ticket buyers coming back again and again. The decision to fire Scott so early in the season had a last-stand feeling to it. All-Star forward David West backed the firing in hopes that new coach Jeff Bower (who also maintains his oversight role as general manager) can make the offense less predictable. But now that Paul is sidelined by a badly sprained ankle, there may be nothing any coach can do to right the Hornets in the short term.
McCallum: On more than one occasion over the last few seasons I came upon Paul and Scott working out together at the Hornets' practice facility, before any other player or coach had arrived. They were kindred spirits, each viewing the other as essential for professional survival, so it was not at all surprising that Paul reacted as he did. This is the oldest situation in the sports book -- coach succeeds, expectations rise, team doesn't, coach gets fired. Sometimes a change works, sometimes it doesn't, and I'm not nearly smart enough to know what will happen here. But Paul will remain an unhappy camper unless a better supporting cast arrives.
Mannix: When you strip your team of its defensive linchpin (Tyson Chandler) and don't get much from a lottery pick expected to fill a major role (third-year swingman Julian Wright), you're going to struggle. Period. Scott was just the fall guy. Never mind that he extracted water from a stone last year when he led an injury-ravaged team to 49 wins. Never mind that he has played a key role in making Paul the MVP candidate he is. Never mind that he is one season removed from being the NBA's Coach of the Year. The Hornets had it out for him from the first day of training camp. Now they have to deal with Paul, who is under their control through the 2011-12 season but can make some noise if he feels the team isn't headed in the right direction. And by the looks of it, the Hornets not.
Markazi: I don't think the Hornets made the right decision. If Scott was hanging on by such a thin thread, he should have been fired after the Hornets lost by 58 points at home to Denver in the first round of the playoffs last season. What could they have learned about him in nine games this season that they didn't already know? Further, I don't see how Bower and new top assistant Tim Floyd are an improvement over Scott. But as wrong as the decision may be, more troubling for the Hornets is the manner in which it was handled, without consulting the players, especially Paul. Sure, Scott appeared as if he had lost the team, but for management to fire Scott without talking to Paul was a mistake that may come back to haunt it when the franchise point guard becomes a free agent.
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