Every year there are teams that disappoint.
Sometimes it’s because of injuries. Last year’s Philadelphia 76ers organization thought they’d built themselves something (marginally to very) competitive, until Andrew Bynum’s knees said otherwise. This year, injuries to Derrick Rose and, to a lesser extent, Russell Westbrook have altered what NBA fans thought they were in for when they re-upped for the 2013-14 season.
Sometimes it’s because of off the court issues. In 2010, Gilbert Arenas, fresh off a season lost to injury and only a year removed from signing a massive $111 million six-year contract with the Wizards, was suspended, along with Javaris Crittenton, for the remainder of the season for bringing handguns into the team’s locker room. The suspensions caused the Wizards to officially write off the rest of what had already been a disappointing season. It was already disappointing because the team had just traded the sixth pick in the 2009 draft for Mike Miller and Randy Foye (rather than have a chance to select Steph Curry … which, don’t worry, the T-Wolves didn’t take advantage of either) to make a (final?) run at playoff success with their Arenas / Antawn Jamison core. Arenas still scored (over 22 points a game) that year, but his efficiency had been eviscerated. In 2010, Wizards fans saw a team who no longer could function on a winning level, then they saw the suspensions, then they saw the team trade Jamison to the Cavs for Zydrunas Ilgauskas (only to, then, see the Cavs get Ilgauskus back … and watch Jamison get torched by Kevin Garnett … and – well, you know the story) and they finished in full-blown tear down mode and a 26-56 record.
Sometimes it’s because of on court issues. In 2004-05, the Indiana Pacers rode the “Malice at the Palace” from a legitimate shot at the championship to 128 total games suspended for Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal. That team was still able to ride Reggie Miller’s final league go-around to 44 wins and a playoff spot, but was never again (until now, anyway) the threat to win it all that it was when 04-05 tipped off.
And sometimes teams just aren’t as good as NBA fans and pundits alike thought (or hoped) they would be. This year’s Pistons, for example, have yet to figure out how their collection of disparate pieces can work. Right now (surprise!) they don’t. And, of course, this year’s Cavaliers, for many of the same reasons.