Most Miserable Partnerships in the NBA

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 21, 2014

Most Miserable Partnerships in the NBA

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    Not every partnership in the NBA works out. 

    I know it's hard to believe, but the general managers in the Association are not infallible. They often make mistakes and pair things together in a manner that isn't exactly going to lead toward success. For every LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, there's a group that doesn't work out quite so well. 

    Just as some partnerships—like the aforementioned one—stand out in a positive manner, so too do some catch your attention out of sheer ineptitude. 

    Sometimes these pairings involve two players. Maybe there's one player and a team or coach involved on the other end. Perhaps there's an abstract idea at the root of the problem, or even an entire city. 

    Regardless of the composition, bad partnerships exist in large quantities. 

    These are the worst of the worst. 

Josh Smith and the Detroit Pistons

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    The Detroit Pistons might not have publicly admitted signing Josh Smith to such a large contract was a mistake. Instead, they choose to fire Maurice Cheeks, treating him as a scapegoat so general manager Joe Dumars could escape the blame. 

    But they can't hide the ineffectiveness of J-Smoove, as he's been awful enough that even the casual NBA fan has been able to recognize the fact he's making negative contributions. 

    And, just as always seems to be the case, that ineffectiveness revolves around his atrocious three-point shooting. 

    Smith is taking 3.3 triples per game, but he's only shooting 24.9 percent from beyond the arc. Those are historically awful numbers that lend credence to any claims about the forward's status as arguably the least-valuable perimeter shooter of all time. 

    Not the worst, but the least valuable. 

    In NBA history, 52 qualified players have taken at least three downtown attempts per game and shot less than 30 percent from long-range. Among all of those guys, no one has ever shot a worse percentage than Smoove's current mark. Antoine Walker's 25.6 percent shooting is the runner-up to the current Piston, according to Basketball-Reference

    The problem? The Pistons are forcing Smith into a frontcourt that already features Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Playing the three is essentially giving the former Atlanta Hawk permission to fancy himself a perimeter shooter. 

    Newsflash: He's not one. 

James Dolan and the New York Knicks

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    You know things are bad when fans hold a rally to protest the involvement of their team's owner. 

    As Chase Johnson, one of the fans at the protest, said to ESPN New York's Ian Begley, it's James Dolan's hands-on approach that has been so problematic for the New York Knicks: 

    I'm not a huge Dolan basher. I understand he wants to win. He says he wants to win whenever he talks. Obviously, he spends money, which isn't the problem. But he hasn't really been hands off with players and personnel people. We all hope he lets Phil Jackson do his job, but we know that Dolan isn't going to like something and he's going to swoop in and overturn decisions. I’m not out here to get him to sell the team...but don't let him get involved in basketball decisions.

    If Phil Jackson, the newly hired president of the Knicks, is granted full autonomy, this will no longer be a problem. A basketball mind will finally be permitted to make basketball decisions without outside interference, and yes-men will no longer run the New York front office. 

    But the main reason the Knicks are currently engaged in such a futile season is Dolan. 

    His influence in the decision-making process has been problematic, and it's prevented the team from building upon the success of last season. Prominent coaches and players are less likely to join the organization, simply out of fear of what he might do to wreck the chances of success. 

    There's a strong, strong chance this all changes thanks to Jackson's presence. But if Dolan has taught us anything, it's to avoid counting those chickens before they hatch. 

Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters

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    This is another one of those relationships that seems to be getting better. 

    In early February, Kyrie Irving delivered a rather interesting quote about Dion Waiters, the shooting guard who often shares a backcourt with him. Per The News Herald's Bob Finnan

    Going out there and having one of your good friends out there, we can play off one another.

    He’s got so much talent. Me just going to the corner and let him go to work. Or me and him playing off one another, coming off the top of the key, playing pick-and-roll, just looking for each another and also trying to make plays for our teammates.

    But there's still reason to wonder how long the bromance will last, as Greg Swartz did in late February for Bleacher Report

    After all, they've had a rocky history. 

    Remember Chris Broussard's ESPN report that Waiters accused Irving and Tristan Thompson of playing buddy ball? Remember this quote from the reporter? 

    However, Waiters and Irving are not close. Waiters believes the Cavaliers have a double standard when it comes to Irving, sources said. Waiters feels that while Irving is allowed to get away with loafing defensively, making turnovers and taking bad shots, he is taken out of games for such things. Waiters has shared his views with Brown and Grant.

    It's easy to figure this out—winning changes everything. 

    The relationship may have been rocky when everything was going wrong for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but it's improved as the team has done the same. 

    Still, that should make you concerned about any rough patches in the future. 

Anthony Bennett and the No. 1 Pick

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    If Anthony Bennett were drafted just a few spots lower, the perception surrounding the reigning No. 1 pick would be far different. 

    Expectations are dramatically raised for players who get to stride across the stage before any other member of their draft class. The No. 1 slot historically carries enormous ramifications for a franchise, and those who fill it are generally expected to be franchise saviors, not just quality players. 

    There's not even a single player separating the No. 1 and No. 2 picks, but there's a chasm in terms of expectations. 

    This year, they've been expectations Bennett hasn't come close to meeting. 

    Heading into the Cleveland Cavaliers' March 20 loss at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the UNLV product was averaging only 4.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per game while shooting 35.2 percent from the field and 24.5 percent from beyond the three-point arc. And those numbers are actually improvements upon what he was doing earlier in the season. 

    Am I saying Bennett will never be a quality NBA player? 

    Absolutely not. There's still plenty of time for him to develop and justify such a lofty selection, even if he got off to a ridiculously slow start. 

    But the expectations have made it a tougher process. 

Kobe Bryant and Mike D'Antoni

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    While on The Dan Patrick Show, Kobe Bryant was asked whether he thought Mike D'Antoni had done enough to keep his job as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    "I don’t know," the Mamba responded. "It’s been tough on him."

    Not exactly an endorsement, huh? 

    As Grant Hughes wrote for Bleacher Report, this isn't the first time such feelings have risen to the surface: 

    Bryant's never been one to mince words, and he's certainly been critical of D'Antoni when asked about him in the past. It's tempting to read some kind of agenda into Bryant's comments, especially with the way he's been so outspoken about his allegiance to Phil Jackson—both now and at the time D'Antoni was originally hired.

    It's tough to imagine how this relationship would have developed if the Mamba had actually stayed healthy throughout the 2013-14 season. But Kobe has played in only six games, plagued first by an Achilles injury from last year and then a tibial fracture that eventually led to him being ruled out for the season. 

    He's been a firsthand witness to the struggles of this organization, and there have been a lot of them. 

    Unfortunately for the Lake Show, it doesn't seem like much is going to change next season. With a weak free-agent class and only one incoming rookie from the top of the class (unless things change dramatically between now and then), the 2014-15 season is going to be a stopgap year before the 2015 offseason allows L.A. to make a bunch of big-name signings. 

    Well, there will be one significant change. 

    Unless Kobe publicly endorses MDA, it's highly unlike the front office will avoid making a switch on the sidelines. The star player must be appeased. 

Steve Nash and the Los Angeles Lakers

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    Steve Nash is a good guy. A great one, even. 

    The legendary point guard is a lock for the Hall of Fame as soon as he's eligible, and he's been one of the more easy-to-root-for players in the NBA ever since he broke out as a superstar with the Dallas Mavericks. His entertaining style of play, no-nonsense attitude and relentless toughness all seemed to rub people the right way. 

    Well, they did until he joined the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    Nash's first season with the team saw him decline rather dramatically. Mike D'Antoni using him as an off-ball guard and a pile of injuries both kept him from looking as effective as he was with the Phoenix Suns, and this 2013-14 campaign hasn't been any different. 

    The Canadian floor general has averaged only 7.6 points and 4.7 assists per game, and he's suited up in just 10 contests throughout the entire season. Even though Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports he'll be returning soon, it's too late for him to make a meaningful impact. 

    Problem is, Nash is still being paid by the organization, and it's led a large portion of the fanbase to call him selfish.


    Nash is being called selfish, and you only need to look at comment sections and forums dedicated to the Lakers for evidence. 

    It's safe to say his tenure with the Lakers hasn't gone as planned. 

Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Kevin Love won't bash the Minnesota Timberwolves in public. In fact, he even used the Los Angeles Lakers to boost them up earlier in the season, back when the rumors of his eventual partnership with the Purple and Gold were particularly pervasive. 

    "People think it's so far-fetched that I would stay in Minnesota," he told GQ back in early March. "And I'm not s----- on the Lakers, but we have the better team, the better foundation. I'm having fun."

    He may be having fun, but his mentality isn't in question. Neither are his future decisions, which may not involve him leaving the 'Wolves for a destination more conducive to championship-caliber basketball. 

    All that matters here is the partnership between Love and Minnesota, and it's one that hasn't produced any sort of success. The power forward has posted ridiculous numbers for years, but he's still seeking his very first postseason appearance. 

    Drafted back in '08, the UCLA product has yet to play past the 82nd game of the regular season. In fact, this is the closest he's ever come to the postseason, and Minnesota is still barely over .500 and sitting at No. 10 in the Western Conference standings. 

    Don't blame Love for this. 

    Instead, blame the partnership, as the front office has been completely unable to surround Love with a supporting cast that, well, supports him. 

Philadelphia 76ers and NBA Players

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    It's time to play a game. 

    Take to the comment section and name the player you can see pictured up above. The first person to correctly identify the member of the Philadelphia 76ers will receive $1 billion loads of pride and recognition from other commenters. 

    At the beginning of the season, the Sixers actually had a handful of NBA players on the roster. 

    But they dealt Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes right before the trade deadline, which left them working with Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young and...a whole lot of players who are struggling to maintain roles in the Association. 

    Before the season started, head coach Brett Brown told's Keith Pompey he only had six NBA players on the team. 

    What would he say now?

Bad Teams and Attendance Figures

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    This shouldn't come as a surprise, but it's hard for bad teams to have good attendance figures. 

    With ticket prices skyrocketing and the overall cost of attendance doing the same, it's hard for fans to come out and support their team when the on-court product isn't anything special and seems sure to rack up yet another loss. 

    The Detroit Pistons, for example, have filled up only 66.5 percent of The Palace of Auburn Hills during the 2013-14 campaign, according to's attendance figures. That's the worst mark in the league, and it's especially obvious since the arena boasts such a large seating capacity. 

    But the Pistons aren't the only team with struggling attendance figures. 

    Last season, only three teams finished the season with less than 80 percent of their home arena filled up during the average outing. This year, the Pistons are one of five: 

    • Atlanta Hawks (77 percent)
    • Minnesota Timberwolves (76.3 percent)
    • Milwaukee Bucks (70.8 percent)
    • Philadelphia 76ers (67.3 percent)
    • Detroit Pistons (66.5 percent)

    Say hello to the ramifications of allowing teams to tank.