Trevor Booker, Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza

Could 0-12 Wizards reach NBA record of 0-18 start?


It is the NBA record for early-season futility — in 2009 the Lawrence Frank coached Nets started the season 0-18 (Frank was gone after 16 of those, Kiki Vandewighe came in). It was ugly and bested the 1988-89 Heat and 1998-99 Clippers who had started 0-17. It was just part of the history the Nets tried to leave behind when they washed off New Jersey and headed with a clean start to Brooklyn.

The Washington Wizards are 0-12 to start this season and poised to make a serious run at ignominy.

With injuries robbing the Wizards of any offensive firepower to speak of (they miss Nene and John Wall) they have gotten off to a horrific start. What are the chances they could lose six more and tie the record? Seven and set a new one?

Not really that great. They likely get their win. But it won’t be easy.

First, let’s look at their schedule. The next seven games for the Wizards are hosting the Trail Blazers, at the Knicks, hosting the Heat, at the Hawks, at home against Golden State then on the road against the Hornets and Rockets.

The most likely shots for a win in that group are the Blazers (this Wednesday), hosting the Warriors (although that is the second night of a back-to-back) and at the up-and-down Hornets and Rockets. Certainly the way the Wizards are playing there are no easy wins — now teams come into Washington thinking, “we don’t want the embarrassment of being their first win — but those are the more beatable teams.

What Washington needs is some offense. Nene can help provide that — he was back in limited minutes for two games and was a +31 in them, but the plantar fasciitis that has bothered him dating back to last season and through the Olympics is still there, so he sat out Monday night against the Spurs. With Nene in the lineup the Wizards lost by one point in overtime to the Hawks and then in double-overtime to the Bobcats — both losses but they were in the games.

And they need to play desperate. They need guys to step up. They did that against the Hawks and Bobcats and did for the first quarter Monday night against the Spurs, until the relentless execution of San Antonio wore them down (as it does most teams).

The Wizards need Trevor Ariza to have a game like he is getting paid for. They need Bradley Beal to find his stroke. They need someone like Kevin Seraphin or A.J. Price or Martell Webster to step up with a monster night. The Wizards defense hasn’t been great this season but it has been pretty middle of the NBA pack, it’s the offense that has lagged at a level close to last-season’s Bobcats. The seven-win team. To be fair, that Bobcat squad was just as bad on defense as offense. But they also won two of their first six (they didn’t really round into form until a little way into the season.)

I expect Washington will find a way to get a win before they set a record — they have been close before and just didn’t get the bounce they needed. One will go their way, soon.

That win will not answer questions of roster construction or team leadership, but it will at least keep them out of the record books.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


It has seemed like this was it for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Bulls’ Dunleavy to see specialist after suffering setback with back injury

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
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CHICAGO—Over the past few weeks, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has seemed to be making progress in his back rehab. Dunleavy underwent back surgery shortly before the start of training camp and was initially given a timeline of 8-10 weeks. Recently, he’s been increasing his workload, and he traveled with the team on their recent west coast road trip.

However, his recovery may have hit a snag.

“Mike is going to see a doctor again tomorrow and then we should have a better update after that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after practice on Sunday. “He had a little bit of soreness. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

An update to Dunleavy’s status is coming, but given Dunleavy’s age (35) and the frequency of back injuries to reoccur, this news certainly isn’t encouraging. Between Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor on the wing. Getting Dunleavy back, whenever that happens, will be a huge help. But nobody knows when that will be.

Stan Van Gundy calls out Andre Drummond’s effort after loss to Thunder

Andre Drummond
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After a promising start to the season, the Pistons have lost three of their last four games and seven of their last 10. And although he’s been outstanding for most of the season, Andre Drummond has not been above receiving criticism from Stan Van Gundy. The coach called out Drummond’s effort on Friday night after a loss to the Thunder.

Via Sportando:

“I didn’t think he brought much energy to the Milwaukee game, and I didn’t think he brought much energy tonight,” Van Gundy said of the two beatings the Pistons received this week. “Why that is, I don’t know. But we need a lot more from him than we got tonight.”

Calling out your best player in the media is bold, but Van Gundy has enough of a track record and a reputation, going back to his days in Orlando with Dwight Howard, that he can get away with it. It also sends a message to the entire team that Van Gundy isn’t going to hold his star to a different standard than the rest of the team.

Despite a couple of poor performances, Drummond is having a career year, leading the league in rebounding at 17.1 per game while also averaging 17.9 points.

Lopez twins don’t live together because their cats don’t get along

Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez
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The Lopez twins have always been close. They were teammates at Stanford, they’re both heavily into comic books (and even write their own together), and they both have Instagram accounts for their cats (here’s Brook’s cat, Poupin, and Robin’s cat, Prince Edward Zephyr). So naturally, this summer, when Brook re-signed with the Nets and Robin signed with the Knicks, the logical thing to do would be to live together. Apparently that isn’t happening, because their cats don’t get along.

Via Kirsten Fleming of the New York Post:

“Brook’s cat is very two-faced,” Robin tells The Post. “Everybody loves Brook’s cat. To everybody’s face, he’s such a nice cat. And it may sound like I’m joking, but I am dead serious. He acts like a lazy, sweet cat when everybody is looking. But when their heads turn, he’ll try to chase after [my cat] Edward. The second I lay eyes on him, he’ll act like, ‘I’m a cherub. I’m innocent.’ I’m not buying it.”

Brook agrees that it would be a bad idea.

“We thought about it,” Brook tells The Post. “But the cats really wouldn’t get along. They just wouldn’t allow it.”

This is an extremely valid reason, even though it’s a disappointing. The Lopez twins are two of the most entertaining people in the NBA, and them living together would have had off-the-charts reality TV potential.