How Bad Is Too Bad for Phoenix?
The Washington Wizards (7-27) are 20 games below .500 for the first time since Eddie Jordan's first season in Washington in 2003-04 -- when the team suffered because of injuries to Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes and finished 25-57. So the chances of Caron Butler or Antawn Jamison making the NBA all-star team are only slightly better than the team's non-existent playoff chances.
The fourth returns for all-star balloting were released yesterday and Boston's Kevin Garnett is barely holding off New Jersey Nets forward Yi Jianlian for the starting Eastern Conference forward spot. With 11 days left to cast ballots, Garnett has 1,375,814 votes -- just 159,466 votes ahead of Jianlian, who wouldn't be in the race if he didn't have the support of a country with 1.3 billion people.
Jianlian getting voted into the All-Star Game would be a traveshamockery of epic proportions, and it would likely ensure that Butler and Jamison have no shot at making the all-star team, even as injury replacements.
Fans don't care about wins and losses when they punch holes through the ballots -- which explains why Dwyane Wade made the all-star team when the Miami Heat was 9-43 at the break last season. But coaches generally like to reward winning, often leaving David Stern naming an injury replacement as the only opening for players from bad teams to make it.
But how bad is too bad for Phoenix? Jamison and Butler's all-star credentials were debated on this blog last month, but I wanted to know the worst teams to ever have all-stars. Wizards PR ace Brian Sereno asked Elias Sports Bureau and it came up with a list that gives the Wizards tandem some hope -- or at least some history to support their otherwise ineffectual efforts this season.
The infamous 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers -- the worst team in NBA history -- actually had a representative at the All Star Game. John Block averaged 17.9 points and 9.2 rebounds for the 76ers, who entered the all-star break with a 4-47 record -- a .078 winning percentage!?! They finished the season 9-73.
Nine all-stars in NBA history have come from teams with fewer than 10 wins at the break. The Wizards are currently on pace to have 11 wins at the all-star break but only eight all-stars have been on teams with a worse winning percentage than Washington's (.206).
Here's the list of the 10 worst team records for all stars at the break ever:
|9-36||.200||Dick Van Arsdale||Phoenix||1968-69|
Here's another list of the ten worst team records for all stars at the break since 1990-91:
|9 - 43||.173||Dwyane Wade||Miami||2007-08|
|10 - 40||.200||Zydrunas Ilgauskas||Cleveland||2002-03|
|13 - 41||.241||Tracy McGrady||Orlando||2003-04|
|14 - 34||.292||Vince Carter||Toronto||2002-03|
|14 - 34||.292||Dana Barros||Philadelphia||1994-95|
|14 - 31||.311||Latrell Sprewell||Golden State||1994-95|
|15 - 32||.319||Mitch Richmond||Sacramento||1993-94|
|15 - 32||.319||Brad Daugherty||Cleveland||1990-91|
|16 - 33||.326||Shareef Abdur-Rahim||Atlanta||2001-02|
|16 - 33||.326||Steve Francis||Houston||2001-02|
|16 - 33||.326||Dikembe Mutombo||Atlanta||2000-01|
Elias was unable to separate players who were voted by fans from the ones who were selected by coaches. But if you look at what has occurred since 1990, most of the players that made the All Star Game from awful teams were chosen by the fans, while the others were selected because they were really, really tall. Cleveland's Zydrunas Ilgauskas made the all-star team in 2003, when his team finished with 17 wins (and later won the LeBron James lottery).
The worst record by a non-center who wasn't voted by the fans belongs to Dana Barros, whose Philadephia 76ers were 14-34 at the break in 1995. In that season, Barros averaged 20.6 points, shot 46.4 percent from three-point range and had two unbelievable games -- a 50-point, 8-rebound performance against Houston and a 25-point, 15-assist, 10-rebound triple double against Orlando. Yes, Dana Barros.
Anyway, Jamison and Butler produce at a similar level whether the Wizards are winning or losing. Jamison is averaging 20.9 points and 9.4 rebounds and has 19 double-doubles this season, while Butler is the only player other than LeBron James averaging at least 20 points, six rebounds and four assists. Those are legit, all-star caliber numbers. Their production is almost identical to last season, when Washington finished fifth in the East, so you know they aren't collecting big-time numbers solely because they are on a lousy team. Should they suffer because their supporting cast was weakened by injuries, inexperience and, at times, incompetence?
If you assume that the East will send a starting lineup of Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson and Dwyane Wade, that leaves two guards, two forwards, one center and two wild cards. Jamison and Butler could easily cancel out each other at forward, but what if Butler is pushed as a guard, since he has started six games at that position and will likely play there for the rest of the season.
What Jamison and Butler have in their favor is that they play in the Eastern Conference, which has just six teams with winning records, meaning that some of the seven coach selections will come from losing teams. But again, the question remains: How bad is too bad?
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