The 2009-10 NBA regular season is officially over. However, before the playoffs begin, it is important to reflect on the failed predictions and huge disappointments from the regular season.
The following list of teams and players were saddled with lofty expectations, and proceeded to miserably underachieve:
5.) The Los Angeles Lakers
Alright, so maybe they didn’t miserably underachieve.
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It is always hard to mention a defending champions and the word “disappointing” in the same sentence but, all things considered, this season did not turn out as planned for the purple and gold.
Laker fans were excited when they first heard they were getting Ron Artest in place of Trevor Ariza. Sure Ariza was nice, but Artest was a household name. After all, he was a former Defensive Player of the Year, a former All-Star, has countless All-Defensive Team nods, etc.
Then, as icing on the cake, Lamar Odom was resigned after a stressful contract negotiation period.
As Laker management was packing Ariza’s bags and sending him off, there were all kinds of crazy predictions for what 2009-10 would hold for the team. It was said they would definitely get the best record in the league. Maybe even break the 72-win record set by the Bulls...
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Not so much.
Instead, after starting strong, the Lakers offered a consistently inconsistent effort all season long. What started out as aiming for the best record in the league, quickly turned into hope that they would still be able to get the top record in the Western Conference.
Despite what felt like Kobe Bryant putting up 81 buzzer beaters in 82 games, the Lakers did not even get to 60 wins this year.
The postseason kicks off for the Lakers against the Oklahoma City Thunder this Sunday. Fans, management, and players can only hope the playoffs don’t end up as disappointing as the regular season has been.
4.) Hedo Turkoglu
In one season, Turkoglu managed to go from a respected veteran on a finals team, to a running joke on a team that got eliminated from playoff contention.
This past summer, the Toronto Raptors “won” a bidding war with the Portland Trail Blazers to get Turkoglu for a whopping $53 million over five years. The hefty price tag came as a result of a productive 2008-09 campaign during which Turkoglu led the Orlando Magic to within three wins of an NBA title. His clutch, smart play was a key reason the Magic were able to upset the Cleveland Cavaliers and emerge from the Eastern Conference.
This season observers saw a different Turkoglu. He put up his lowest output since the 2003-04 season with only 11.1 points per game on 40.9% shooting from the field. His assist and rebounding totals were at a two-year low, and his defense was repeatedly criticized by both coaches and analysts.
His on-the-court disappointments aside, Turkoglu’s biggest blunder came when he missed a game -- because of a “stomach virus” -- only to be seen at a Toronto nightclub later that night. The move was considered a slap in the face to both fans and franchise, and Turkoglu was subsequently benched for the next game.
The Raptors only missed the playoffs by one game this year. If not for Turkoglu’s lackadaisical play all year, they -- and not the Chicago Bulls -- would have earned the right to get destroyed by the Cavaliers in the first round.
3.) The Chicago Bulls
The Bulls officially won a date with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs. If they manage to win more than one game in the series, David Stern should grant them an automatic entrance into the second round.
Just one year ago the Bulls had the entire league buzzing after taking the -- injured -- Boston Celtics to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. Full of dramatic finishes and close scores, the series was seen as a major growing point for a franchise that was rebuilding around Derrick Rose. Everyone in Chicago was excited to see what they had in store for coming years.
Then, this season happened.
First, the Bulls lost their most proven and clutch scorer in Ben Gordon to the Detroit Pistons. A series of injuries to young stars Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah followed. At the trade deadline, a big piece of their puzzle from last year’s playoff run in John Salmons was shipped off to create cap room for this summer. Finally, to put the cherry on top: head coach Vinny Del Negro and VP of Basketball Operations Jim Paxon got into a physical altercation.
Yesterday, the Bulls beat the Toronto Raptors (see above) and stumbled into the final seed of the Eastern Conference Playoff picture. However, the Bulls are already looking ahead to this summer. They have a lot of cap room to work with, and they are hoping to score on the free agent market. The team can only pray its offseason does not end up as disappointing as their regular season.
2.) The Washington Wizards
This seems like a memory from many years ago, but there was a time during the summer when many thought the Washington Wizards could contend for homecourt in the Eastern Conference playoffs. With Gilbert Arenas returning, the three-headed monster (Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison) was supposed to make some serious noise. At the very least, the team was supposed to hover around the seven seed and eventually make the playoffs.
Hope was in the air.
Fast forward to today. Arenas is in a half-way-house for bringing guns into the Wizards locker room. Butler and Jamison were traded -- for next to nothing -- to the Dallas Mavericks and Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively.
Aside from one or two impressive young players who are putting up numbers partially because there is no one else to do the scoring, the Wizards really have nothing to look forward to past this disappointing season either.
1.) Richard Jefferson
What happens when you add the missing piece to a team that's well-coached and veteran-led?
The San Antonio Spurs thought they found the swingman they had desperately been searching for when they got Jefferson this summer. His athleticism, scoring ability and defense were supposed to give the Spurs a chance to challenge the Lakers for control of the West.
Instead, all the Spurs got was decreased production and a guy who just couldn’t seem to grasp the nuances of Greg Popovich’s system. Midway through the season, Jefferson was benched by the Spurs coach after achieving his lowest point, rebound, and assist totals since his rookie year.
Jefferson was expected to help Tim Duncan through his final years. Instead, the Spurs’ swingman has become a lost cause who hasn't added any real production that would justify playing time.
Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva -- To be fair, this is only a disappointment for Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons. Nobody else thought it was a good idea to pour in $100 million over five years into contracts for two career underachievers.
Allen Iverson -- There was a lot of hype surrounding Iverson this season. It was said this year would be his chance to re-establish his legacy, a chance for him to provide veteran leadership and timely scoring to the Memphis Grizzlies Philadelphia Sixers. Unfortunately, decreased productivity and a ton of off-the-court issues kept him from making any impact on either of the teams he briefly played for.
Rasheed Wallace -- Every season there is an over-hyped veteran free agent who contenders are climbing fences to sign. And every year, said free agent disappoints. Kudos to Wallace for staying true to tradition.