Thursday, May 21, 2009

An Aura of Losing

I heard something pretty telling about one of the very worst franchises in all of sports on Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio this morning, and I just had to go search the web for the actual quote. Here it is, from Los Angeles Clippers Assistant GM Neil Olshey, right up at the top of that link in discussion of his team having nabbed the NBA draft's coveted first pick in Wednesday night's draft lottery. To make it easy I am going to reproduce the first four lines of the story here:

The Los Angeles Clippers didn’t need time after the draft lottery to decide who to take with the No. 1 pick.

They settled on Blake Griffin long ago.

“I’d say we made the decision June 2008,” assistant general manager Neil Olshey said Wednesday at the team’s practice facility in Playa Vista. “When he decided to go back to Oklahoma, that if we got the No. 1 pick in ’09, he’d be the guy.”

The Clippers earned the right to select the All-American forward in the June 25 draft Tuesday when they won the lottery, moving up from the third-best chance.

Now just think about that quote up there for a minute. This is the assistant GM of the team here, not some yokel Lakers fan who loves hating as much as they do out there in southern Cali. And he's talking about June of last year, back before the Great Recession began and before the Lehman brothers debacle and before AIG tried to pay itself $600 million of bonuses for a job well done. June of 2008, so we're talking about right around the NBA finals last year. So there we were, with the Celtics and the Lakers bashing heads in a clash of former league titans, while you can bet there were plenty of coaches and assistants already hard at work on scouting new players, drawing up new plays and looking for keys to beating their opponents in preparation for the 2009 season. And what is the Clippers brass talking about while everyone else is focusing on winning in 2008 or how they plan to win in 2009?

Who they'll pick if they get the #1 selection in next year's draft.

It's unbelievable, really. I mean, I'm sure the guy wasn't literally thinking that he already expected his team to have the literal worst record in the NBA, get the best shot in the lottery and then win the first pick in the draft. To read it that way would be unfair, especially in light of the fact that the ping pong balls are set such that even the worst team in the league only has a 25% chance of winning #1, a fact of which the assistant GM of the Clippers is surely aware, so it would make no sense whatsoever to tank an entire season just for a one-in-four chance of landing a guy who may or may not prove to be a great player. Sadly I don't seem to suck out nearly as much as many of you clowns out there, but for me a 25-75 shot isn't worth throwing an entire season over.

So I don't think he's sitting there planning on having the NBA's worst record in 2009. But I'll tell you what the Clips' assistant GM is thinking when he makes that statement: that he does not view his team as having a realistic chance of being any good at all in 2009. And that, given that fully half the league makes the playoffs in the NBA every year and is thus excluded from that year's NBA draft, is absolutely pathetic in my book. The 2008 season isn't even over yet -- there's a whole summer, fall and part of winter still to come, there's the then-upcoming NBA draft lottery back in late June 2008. There's months and months where the GM could pull off a big deal or land a big free agent signing. And yet, already way back in June, the LA Clippers' GM's office is thinking ahead to what the team will do in the next year's NBA draft. Planning, already, knowing in fact, that they will not even be in the top half of the league next season. Knowing that no changes are possibly in the works to help the team to get better, to possibly fuel a run to 8th place in the West. 8th place. No GM change, no coaching change, no strong draft, no free agent moves, no players on their own team getting better, nothing.

Imagine this. Phil Jackson of the Lakers and Doc Rivers of the Celtics are sitting around having dinner one night shortly after their teams are eliminated in their respective Conference Finals series. Doc Rivers asks Phil what his plans are for the 2009 season. And Phil Jackson responds to him, "Well if I get the #1 pick in the draft, I'm picking Blake Griffin!"

Or take it to another sport. Bill Belichik of the Cheatriots is having a friendly conversation here in the offseason with his buddy the ManGenius out in Cleveland. Mangini asks Belichick if he's planning anything big for the upcoming NFL season. And Belichik responds with who he plans to pick if his team gets the #1 pick in the draft after the upcoming season is over? Would ManGina or any other real NFL coach outside of Detroit ever say such a thing?

Winners -- teams and management teams with a true chance to win -- never think of losing in this way. Ever. To do so would be abhorrent, and counter to everything that makes them so successful every place they go. I solemnly guarantee you that there has never been a season in Bill Parcells' career where, four months before the season even begins, he is already planning on who his team will pick if they are the worst team in the league in the upcoming season. I guarantee it. Even when he went to the 1-15 Miami Dolphins just a couple of years ago. I guarantee you he never once had that thought, and you know I'm right. That's because Bill Parcells is a winner, and the people in charge of the hapless LA Clippers are abject losers.

Clippers, you have let losing become a habit. It's time for a change at the very top, plain and simple.

Labels: , , ,


Blogger Mike Maloney said...

I think Adrian Griffin should unretire and go #1 overall. It would make for some good comedy if nothing else.

9:17 PM  
Blogger DuggleBogey said...

It's not like that decision was binding. All he's saying is that we liked him then and nothing happened to change our opinion.

You read way too much into things.

1:28 AM  
Blogger 1Queens Up1 said...

He did qualify the statment with an "if". If they got the #1.

Lets be real though, in every sport, teams already know when they are going to be struggling in the season. Its not a big secret to anyone. For example, my Chiefs last year...when they announced Brokie Croyle as the star QB, you knew it was going to be a bad season.
Or look at the Royals every season, or the Raiders. I would bank on the Raiders planning already to draft Tim Tebow in the '10 draft #1 overall.

1:34 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...


Not one of those teams you mentioned can credibly know four months before the season begins that they will definitively be in the bottom half of the league in the upcoming season. That's what's so pathetic about this.

5:24 AM  
Blogger Bayne_S said...

Saddest thing in sports is that Elgin Baylor was one of the all time great players but unless you've watched some old black and white footage you think of himm as that GM that was always at the lottery.

The Clippers finally put him out of his misery but the aura remains the same.

7:02 AM  
Blogger 1Queens Up1 said...

I mean of course its silly for them at least say they know the team is going to stink, its just bad business.
But, again, with the chiefs after the 07 season the GM at the time, Carl Peterson, was afraid to use the term "rebuilding" when its clear thats where the direction of the team was going, cutting old vets and signing boatloads of rookies, with minimal (and by minimal i mean 2) offseason FA signings.
The owner, Clark Hunt, said in that same offseason that he hoped KC would make the playoffs in 08. Really? I mean you think you can start 10+ rookies on your team in this league and truthfully make the playoffs? Its professional fluffing.

7:16 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home