With the playoffs underway, it’s easy to forget that there are fourteen other teams conducting business as usual, albeit not practicing regularly anymore. While these teams’ players galavant around the globe, getting fat, and forgetting about whatever went wrong during the regular season, franchise employees work the phones, get ready for the draft, fire the bums, and just try to get the train back on track. If all goes well, these teams will still be playing at this time next year. If they aren’t? Well, then they’re probably the Golden State Warriors.
Jokes! Anyways, here’s a Week That Was that brings you up to speed on your favorite non-playoff teams (and, like, sixth favorite player-turned-commentator, somewhere between Chris Mullin and Jalen Rose). Let’s get to it.
1. Worst Retirement Party Ever.
This week, Michael Jordan, one of the worst owners in professional sports, made Paul Silas the fall-man for the worst NBA team of all time.
Paul Silas is a career NBA man. He played fifteen years in the NBA as a rugged power forward, and was selected to two All Star games. He won championships with both the Boston Celtics and the Seattle SuperSonics. After retiring as a player, he moved on to a coaching career. He built a solid reputation after leading the San Diego Clippers, Charlotte Hornets, New Orleans Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Charlotte Bobcats. He has the distinction of being LeBron James’ first professional coach, as well as the New Orleans Hornets’ first coach. In 875 games, he has a career winning percentage of .442 — not great, but not terrible — and has coached in almost 30 playoff games. This is not the resume of a Hall of Fame coach, but of an impressively accomplished and long-standing leader.
With that in mind, it’s sad that a respectable coach should have the Charlotte Bobcats as their swan song. Silas had coached the Bobcats for two seasons, and in that time, had done everything he could to erase the mistakes Michael Jordan made as an executive and an owner. He took over for Larry Brown, who Jordan had hired to lead a group of mismatched veterans to the playoffs. He did his best to relate to mercurial, high-maintenance vets like Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, Tyrus Thomas and Corey Maggette, all of whom Jordan had acquired to please Larry Brown. He did he damnedest to develop young role players of the future like Gerald Henderson, Byron Mullens, Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo, who were either drafted or acquired by Jordan, much to the chagrin of anyone who knows anything about team building. He worked hard to find positives in winning 39 games over the course of two seasons while Jordan found time to squeeze in 18 holes before dinner. He did everything asked of him, and then some.
Paul Silas seems like a good guy. 7-59 and .106 — the worst record and winning percentage in NBA history — shouldn’t be his ultimate legacy. This was neither his making, nor his charge. He didn’t ask to coach a mix of disgruntled vets and sub-talented young guns in an empty arena. He wasn’t given the same control of the franchise that Larry Brown got, nor did he get the same amount of support from Jordan as Brown. Silas was always set up to fail. It was just a matter of when.
So, as we bid farewell to Paul Silas, let’s remember him not as the coach of the worst team of all time, but the man who took over a mess, and was able to get out with his legacy still intact. Other greats in that organization may not be so lucky.
2. That’s Slick.
Behold, the Nets have become cool.
The Brooklyn Nets, who just last week were the New Jersey Nets, have unveiled their new logo, and have officially begun marketing themselves in a minimalist style. Jay-Z, who has a minority ownership in the franchise, reportedly played an influential role in the development of the Nets’ new logo as well as their new uniforms, which will be unveiled (leaked) sometime in late summer.
So far, change has been good for the Nets. Since unveiling the logo, as well as some select items of merchandise on the NBA’s online store, the Nets have enjoyed “top seller” status. That’s an instant victory for a new franchise, and one that achieves instant marketability for both swing-fans (that is, fans who don’t have a team, or will purchase merchandise from other teams) and hardcore fans. In many ways, the Nets are making the move from small-market to major-market, and these types of merchandising victories, notched before the Nets even play a game, are more important than the roster, coaching staff, and mascot. What will the mascot be, anyways? What type of mascot would Jay-Z even create?
Let’s hope Deron Williams pays attention to jersey sales (he should). This alone could be a reason to re-sign.
3. He’s Not That Kind of Doctor.
Let’s hear it for Dr. Shaquille O’Neal.
This past weekend, Shaq received his doctorate from Barry University. His dissertation is entitled “How Leaders Utilize Humor or Seriousness in Leadership Styles.” He boasted a 3.8 grade point average and completed all of his doctoral coursework and research in about five years.
Shaquille O’Neal has joined many others who pursued college education later in life. He left Louisiana State University (LSU) after his junior year to earn millions of dollars in the NBA. During summers, he returned to LSU to complete his undergraduate coursework, and completed his Bachelor’s of Arts degree in 2000. He earned an MBA from the University of Phoenix, an online college, in 2005. His PhD from Barry was also earned online, mostly through teleconferences and occasional meetings at Barry’s campus in Miami, Florida. And he did all of this while working full time in a very high profile job.
I know Shaq’s not a normal guy. He’s got a lot of money to spend, and a lot of people who work for him and his brand. But there are many out there who are attempting to further their educations later on in life, after they’ve accomplished (or, failed to accomplish) various other things in their late teens and early-to-mid twenties. They do so at night, online, in between jobs — whatever they need to do to get that degree.
Congrats Shaq. Er, Dr. Shaq.