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Most Hated NBA Teams of All-Time

Joel Brigham looks back at the most hated teams in NBA history and why they were despised.

Joel Brigham

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About a week ago, the Golden State Warriors threw a “Supervillain Party” at Stephen Curry’s place, which culminated in a group portrait by the pool taken via drone while in front of giant balloons spelling out the words “Super Villains” in giant, foil-wrapped mylar text.

It was weird.

Despite tapping into what would be the worst children’s birthday party theme possible outside of maybe “Broccoli Party” or “Vaccination Party,” the idea behind the gathering is pretty clear: the Warriors know that everybody outside of Oakland and San Francisco hates them this year.

That’s why Draymond Green is poking more and more bears, why Kevin Durant is wearing on-court stink-faces more often than smiles and why Curry is hosting a party at this house where, we can only assume, party favors included black capes, black licorice and laser rays powerful enough to blow up the moon.

The Warriors simply have decided to embrace the fact that they’re disliked this year, which is fine because, for the most part, they are. At least they’re accepting the disdain and using it as fodder for coming together.

Hated though they may be, the 2016-2017 Warriors are nowhere near the most despised team in recent NBA history. There have been others exponentially more odious, and the following list takes a closer look at the five vilest of them:

The Early 2000s Portland Trail Blazers

Everybody loves the Blazers today, mostly because Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are two of the most adored, likeable stars in the league, but it was only about 15 years ago that the team earned itself the “Jail Blazers” moniker that would stick with them for years after the offending players had retired or moved on to different teams. For a while there, it was difficult to remember that the nickname wasn’t the team’s actual moniker.

Those early-aughts Trail Blazers definitely pushed some buttons in their day. There were small, annoying things like Rasheed Wallace getting suspended for a game after throwing a towel in Arvydas Sabonis’ face or Bonzi Wells flipping off a fan, but then there were the more serious things like the seemingly endless string of league substance abuse policy violations or Zack Randolph punching teammate Ruben Patterson in the eye during a practice, breaking bones in Patterson’s face.

These were dark days for Blazers fans, and the non-stop string of questionable behavior made the team detestable to the rest of the league’s fans, too.

The Mid-‘90s New York Knicks

Without question, the New York Knicks teams that doled out punishment between 1992 and 1994 were some of the toughest teams in the history of the NBA, in large part because of how well they played defense. Patrick Ewing was a monster in the middle of the paint, defending the rim better than just about anybody in his generation, while guys like Derek Harper, John Starks, Anthony Mason, Charles Oakley, Anthony Bonner and Greg Anthony were just as tough on the guys they defended, perhaps integrating a few sneaky (and occasional painful) tricks to make that defense so effective.

Oftentimes, the toughness would lead to some pretty serious on-court scuffles. Here’s a quick rundown of “highlights”:

  • The time John Starks headbutted Reggie Miller.
  • The time Starks and Scottie Pippen got tangled up on a screen, ended up chest-to-chest, and then both teams’ benches cleared in the ensuing frustration.
  • The time Kevin Johnson set a hard screen on Doc Rivers, which sent Rivers stalking KJ to retaliate, which of course cleared both benches, including coaches, for a follow-up bona fide royal rumble. Even Pat Riley ended up in the fray, his suit getting torn in the fracas. Greg Anthony, who wasn’t even in uniform, flew in toward the end to cause a massive pile-up, forcing his ejection not just from the game, but from the arena.
  • The time Derek Harper and Chicago’s JoJo English threw down and fought directly in front of Commissioner David Stern during the Eastern Conference Semifinals, again clearing the benches and leading to several suspensions.

And all of this was just the worst of it. Those Knicks teams in the early-to-mid ‘90s were so physical that violence seemed to follow them wherever they went. No team liked playing them, and opposing fans couldn’t help but get nervous watching them in action.

The 2010-2014 Miami HEAT

When Kevin Durant made the decision to leave the team that drafted him, the team he helped lead to the NBA Finals but not a championship, the parallels between his decision to bolt Oklahoma City and LeBron James’ decision to “take his talents to South Beach” looked pretty obvious. But however upset Durant’s decision might have made fans this past summer, it was nothing compared to what James did to Cleveland fans back in 2010.

Rather than just making a decision about his widely-publicized free agency and announcing it in normal fashion, James scheduled a half-hour television special called “The Decision” to break the news. There, in front of millions of people and after 28 minutes of stalling, James let his home state know that he’d be jilting them for greener (and significantly warmer, state-tax-free) pastures.

It stung, but when it became known that Chris Bosh also would be leaving Toronto so the two of them could team up with Dwyane Wade in Miami, many fans threw an absolute fit about how unfair the trio would be for the rest of the league. When James, Bosh and Wade were introduced in the most garish, audacious way possible, hinting that they’d win six or seven championships together while the flashbulbs popped, the collective dry heave of the nation was practically audible.

They didn’t win their first NBA Finals series together, but they’d win the next two titles, with fans outside of Southern Florida hating every minute of it.

The L.A. Lakers, Generally Speaking

There’s just something about the Lakers that people tend to dislike, in large part because they win so many championships. They’ve always been the New York Yankees of the basketball world, though a handful of Lakers rosters have been more detestable than others.

For example, when the Lakers acquired Wilt Chamberlain in 1968 the expectations were massive, but he ended up showing just how arrogant he was on basketball’s biggest stage, all while making the league’s largest salary. He didn’t get along with his teammates or his coach, which culminated in Chamberlain, arguably the greatest player alive, getting benched in the final six minutes of an NBA Finals Game 7 – which the Lakers lost by two points. Chamberlain was an easy guy to hate because he was just so dominant, but on that team in those circumstances, he was even worse.

The 2001-2002 team was even more universally abhorrent thanks to the Shaquille O’Neal signing and the way that all played out for Orlando Magic fans. Pairing him with an arrogant young Kobe Bryant and a cast of role players that knew every dirty trick in the book didn’t help, and the fact that they could have been helped along in the 2002 playoffs by a crooked ref only made everything worse.

A couple years later, when that same crew convinced Gary Payton and Karl Malone to come aboard, the general distaste of the nation grew even louder. It’s hard to get excited about a team that manufacturers that much talent in hopes of buying a ring. The same could be said about the summer they acquired Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.

Arguably the most hated franchise in NBA history, the Lakers have a storied history of annoying opposing fans, but even they weren’t the most disliked team ever.

One team was nastier than all the other most hated teams combined. True supervillains in their time.

The “Bad Boy” Pistons

For starters, there’s a seven-minute video on YouTube chronicling only the fights and altercations that Rick Mahorn got into during the 1989 NBA Finals. It’s just one guy in one series, and there’s seven minutes’ worth of it, so consider that just the tip of the iceberg.

Mahorn, Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer really were the three guys responsible for Detroit’s “Bad Boy” persona in the late 1980s, and it had everything to do with how physical they were, which often included way beyond just tough, hard-nosed defense. Mahorn was a cartoon character, doing things so over-the-top that they almost looked scripted, while Rodman would throw an elbow whenever he could and Laimbeer went full-goon more than a few times over the course of his career. Isiah Thomas wasn’t the most likeable of superstars either.

The fights, the arguing with refs and of course the overwhelming success over beloved Celtics, Lakers and Bulls teams of the era all combined to make them the most hated team of all time.

***

The Golden State Warriors may feel like villains this season, but in the historical context of the league they’re Dr. Doofenschmirtz following a long line of Jokers and Magnetos and Doctor Dooms. They have a long way to go to be truly hated, as these five teams rather conclusively prove.

And anyway, real villains don’t advertise with balloons.

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NBA Draft Watch: Should You Expect a Flurry Of Trades?

Should you expect a flurry of trades during tonight’s NBA Draft? History says yes!

Lang Greene

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Draft Day. The event that rebuilding teams have been planning months for is finally upon us. The next wave of NBA stars await their opportunity to play under the brightest of all lights on the biggest of stages. But outside of the rising and falling status of the prospects, each year draft week is filled with a flurry of trade activity and there’s no reason to believe things will be different in 2018.

On Wednesday, the trade market kicked off with the Charlotte Hornets shipping former Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for veteran center Timofey Mozgov. The move isn’t all that surprising considering one of the biggest advocates for the Hornets in acquiring Howard from Atlanta last year, Steve Clifford, was fired back in April. In addition to a new head coach, James Borrego, Charlotte also hired a new president of basketball operations and general manager in Mitch Kupchak.

In the deal, Charlotte was able to avoid paying the luxury tax while also creating immediate salary cap flexibility to be players in this year’s market should they choose. For Brooklyn, the team acquires a veteran presence for their youth movement and a consistent double-double anchor on the interior.

The trade also marks consecutive years that Brooklyn was active on the trade front during draft time. Last year, the team acquired former lottery pick D’Angelo Russell from the Los Angeles Lakers. Since the Nets haven’t had the luxury of prime draft assets in recent years, the team has had to resort to trades (Russell, Howard) and free agency (Allan Crabbe) to reshape the roster.

Transitioning to the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the question can be asked whether this will be the third straight year involving a draft day trade. At the top of the Warriors’ lineup max players reside which means the team has had to find talented gems in the back half of the draft to contribute to their success.

In 2016, the Warriors acquired the rights to the No. 38 overall pick, Patrick McCaw, from the Milwaukee Bucks for cash considerations. In 2017, Golden State acquired the rights to another No. 38 overall pick, Jordan Bell, from the Chicago Bulls for cash considerations.

Notice a trend?

With the Warriors needing to lock NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant into a long term deal this summer and future free agency looming for All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the franchise will need to continue finding young role players to complement their collection of stars.

There could also be a deal involving All-Star level talent.

The Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Victor Oladipo back in 2016 in a draft week deal with the Orlando Magic. While Oladipo didn’t emerge as an All-Star caliber until the following season (after being dealt to Indiana), there are usually a couple of big names in play come draft night.

Consider the 2017 draft day deal that saw the Chicago Bulls send Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for talented two guard Zach LaVine.

This year, the most prominent name potentially on the market is San Antonio Spurs All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard. The rumor mill reports Leonard is frustrated and wants a trade to the Lakers. The Spurs are, of course, attempting to keep their franchise player with a series of meetings. Leonard could become an unrestricted free agent next summer and his public trade demand limits what San Antonio could demand in return. Teams will be hesitant to give up prime assets for a player that won’t commit to their franchise long term. While San Antonio doesn’t have to make an immediate deal their leverage hasn’t been compromised with Leonard’s specific trade destination request.

The NBA Draft can best be described as a crapshoot with prospects being hit or miss. There are teams that make their bones via draft day acquisitions, or working between the lines, which is a storyline to watch during the draft tonight.

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NBA Draft Watch: Storylines Heading into Thursday’s Draft

With the NBA Draft just one day away, there is plenty of uncertainty on how things will play out, writes Dennis Chambers.

Dennis Chambers

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From now until the conclusion of Thursday night’s NBA draft the landscape is subject to shift and evolve at a moment’s notice.

As of right now, the only thing that we can be most certain about is DeAndre Ayton going first overall to the Phoenix Suns. After that, it’s basically a crapshoot in regards to what might go down.

With media day commencing in New York City on Wednesday, the players that will be present during the draft’s greenroom got the chance to address the droves of media from all over the land about where they might end up, how they might fit in those places, and a few off-the-cuff questions thrown in here and there.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the league and their selection extravaganza on Thursday night, many people who are usually in the know this time of year seem to be approaching the event erring on the side of caution, more so than in years past.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer echoed that feeling Wednesday afternoon.

One of the large looming clouds heading into draft night is the Kawhi Leonard situation. As it stands, Leonard appears to want out of his relationship with the San Antonio Spurs and would prefer to wind up in Los Angeles, with an emphasis on the Lakers being his new employer.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard met with Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich on Tuesday night in order to discuss the situation between San Antonio and their franchise player.

While Wojnarowski has also reported that the Spurs are in no rush to move Leonard, draft night could potentially serve as a motivator in the opposite direction should Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford receive a tempting offer that involves some draft capital. With the likes of the Philadelphia 76ers reportedly interested in acquiring Leonard, on the clock with the 10th overall pick, perhaps they can entice the Spurs into sending their star forward packing.

Regardless of if Leonard is traded Thursday night or not, there were certainly be many eyes on his situation over the next 24-plus hours.

Up until about the time a player is selected by their new club, the situation for drafting remains fairly fluid. When the basketball community congregates to New York the day before the event, rumors and confirmation of shifting ideals begin to flourish.

With a lot of the players in this year’s lottery surounded by reasonable question marks, we may see last-minute rising and falling of the prospected hierarchy in prospects. Michael Porter Jr., with questions surrounding his health, and Trae Young having questions about his slight frame and defensive capability, seem to be two subjects of that shuffling just a day before the Thursday night festivities.

Conversely, the final moments leading up to the time to make a selection, teams can shuffle their opinion based off of their need to bring in star power possibilities — especially high up in the lottery.

Real Madrid star Luka Doncic has been the subject for criticism throughout this year’s draft process. While the 19-year-old has posted some of the best numbers for a player his age in the ACB and Euroleague, NBA evaluators are rightfully questioning if his athleticism can hold up in the league.

Originally figured to slip past the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks, who hold the second and third overall picks, respectively, Doncic appears to be gaining last-minute steam within the ranks of the Georgia-based basketball club.

Even though prospects are surfacing Wednesday in the Big Apple to meet and greet with reporters, and get settled for their big moment on Thursday night, some teams and correlating players are having final sit-downs to profess their admiration for each other.

More specifically, New York native and projected high-end lottery pick, Mo Bamba, reportedly met with his hometown Knicks on Wednesday. Corresponding reports tell the story that the Knicks are exploring the option to trade up in the draft, in hopes to acquire a franchise-caliber center to put alongside Kristaps Porzingis.

DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony added context to further confirm the Knicks’ hope of scoring their first franchise center since Patrick Ewing roamed Madison Square Garden.

Whatever does wind up happening Thursday night, those watching can be assured that this year’s NBA Draft will contain the necessary amount of chaos to continue the conversation throughout the league while free agency quickly approaches.

Although, if you were anticipating being able to see those draft picks come in a few minutes early on Twitter like in years past, think again.

It looks like those draft night Wojbombs will be reserved for any unforeseen trades, and not who your favorite team will be picking 10 minutes later.

Either way, embrace the insanity. Draft night is upon us.

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NBA Daily: What is Cleveland’s Next Move?

Plenty has been made about where LeBron goes this summer, but not much has been made about what Cleveland will do if he leaves.

Matt John

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Usually, when you make the NBA Finals, it’s a good thing. Especially if it was the fourth consecutive time you’ve made it.

For Cleveland though, this season, which would have been deemed a success in any other case, was overshadowed by what can only be compared to a hostage situation. Many speculated that this season was going to be LeBron James’ last as a Cavalier, as rumor had it since last summer that he already has his eyes on his next team.

So the pressure was on in Cleveland, to say the least. They did everything to accommodate LeBron given how shaky the circumstances were. From shipping disgruntled star Kyrie Irving out of town to trading half the team mid-season, this past season has been a bumpy ride. In spite of all the hardship, Cleveland managed to make it to the Finals anyway.

Still, it wasn’t enough. For Cleveland to have a realistic chance at re-signing LeBron this summer, they had to beat Golden State, which wasn’t in the cards. The Cavs may have gotten to the Finals, but the Warriors predictably took them out all too quickly.

All in all, the Cavaliers were so close, and yet so far.

That brings us to now. LeBron’s going to test the free agency waters again. Cleveland will certainly do what they can to bring the King back for another season, and for all we know, LeBron could return to Cleveland, but the odds aren’t in their favor.

Cleveland has to deal with the very real possibility that LeBron will leave this summer, because if and when he does, that leaves the current roster in a flux. Without LeBron, Captain Obvious says that Cleveland’s not going anywhere near the Finals and could also see themselves on the outside of the playoff picture. All signs point to it being time to rebuild, but how exactly do they approach the re-building stage?

It all starts with the Nets pick.

No matter what you think of how Cleveland did when they shuffled half their roster around at the trade deadline, one thing should be universally agreed upon: They made the right move not trading the Nets pick they acquired from the Celtics for Kyrie Irving.

It’s true that the Nets pick this season didn’t pan out as well for the Cavaliers as it had for the Celtics over the last two seasons, but it still wound up being the eighth overall pick in a loaded draft. A valuable asset like that should only be traded for someone who puts you over the top and going to stay long-term. With all apologies to any star who was rumored to be on the market back in February, the Cavs didn’t have that option.

So now, Cleveland has the eighth overall pick, and it’s clear who they should take: The best player available. No matter who that is, the best player available for a team that is most likely starting from scratch is the best option.

Of course, the simpler way of getting young talent is by getting it through the lottery. Getting that Brooklyn pick in the Kyrie Irving deal was a great failsafe for if and when LeBron skips town.

Next is addressing who should be traded.

Cleveland’s uncertain draft pick situation from now until 2020 should also push them towards a rebuild. The team traded their first-round pick this year to the Lakers at the deadline when they acquired Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. Next year, they will have to forfeit their first-round pick to the Hawks if they finish outside of the bottom ten. Those protections will roll over to the next year if the Cavs finish in the bottom ten.

Given that the roster isn’t all that impressive outside of LeBron, that would be the best way to go. While the Cavaliers aren’t going to get any value out of Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and Jordan Clarkson, there are two players who definitely could: Kevin Love and George Hill.

Let’s start with Love. Love will not get back the same value that Cleveland gave up to acquire him, but he’s still a proven commodity at 29 years old who should fetch something back if Cleveland decides to trade him. Love has made the All-Star team over his last two seasons and has done all that Cleveland has asked of him since being traded to the team back in 2014, like him or not.

How much he can fetch back is another story. Rumor has it that the Cavs have dangled Love along with the Nets pick for a star, but no one has bitten on it. Love won’t fetch a star, but he could fetch young assets from a team looking to make a win-now move. He won’t bring back a King’s ransom, but he can bring back something.

Then there’s Hill. If Hill has any interested parties this summer, it may stem from his contract rather than his services. Hill will be on the books for $19 million next season, but the following season, his contract is only guaranteed for $1 million. Now, Cleveland could just wait until next year then waive him, and no one would fault them for that. It would heavily reduce the payroll for a team that, even without LeBron James, is playing with fire with the luxury tax this summer.

Or, they could get an asset(s) out of him. Teams that may want to avoid the luxury tax next year or go after a marquee free agent would salivate for a contract like Hill’s. If the Cavs play their cards right, they could sell Hill’s contract to the highest bidder.

Whether or not they keep Hill will all depend on how Cleveland sees its roster’s future. The team still has Rodney Hood’s restricted free agency this summer, and the team reportedly hopes to keep Nance Jr long-term. If avoiding the luxury tax is what they want more than anything during the rebuild, then keeping Hill is the best option.

That transitions to the final aspect of Cleveland’s potential rebuild: Organizing the roster for the foreseeable future. Cleveland is not completely devoid of youth. They have Hood, Nance Jr., Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, and even Clarkson, all of whom are young and may have their best days ahead of them. Hood and Clarkson did not pan out well in their half-season in Cleveland, but perhaps that could change if they’re put in the right situation.

It all starts with coaching. Tyronn Lue has done what he can since taking over as head coach in 2016. However, Lue was made head coach because that’s who LeBron wanted running the show. With the King out of the picture, perhaps it might be best to replace Lue with a coach better-suited to nurture youth.

One such name that comes to mind is David Blatt, who has worked with Zizic. Blatt was originally hired in 2014 because of his reputation as a developmental coach, but once LeBron came back, he and Blatt’s tense relationship led to Blatt’s firing half-way through his second season. If LeBron doesn’t return to the team, Blatt could use the strategy he planned to implement when he first arrived.

That is just one idea. The Cavs could keep Lue or they could look at other options, but Blatt would be intriguing. Skeptics would question why Cleveland would bring him back after such a bitter break-up not too long ago, but consider this: The Cavs hired Mike Brown back three years after firing him following the end of LeBron’s first run in Cleveland, so anything is possible.

Re-building is a bridge that Cleveland will have to cross when they come to it. Koby Altman must have known that it was a possibility when he took the reins as general manager last year. The situation he’s found himself in isn’t as hopeless as many have pegged it out to be, but the young GM will have plenty of work to do this summer.

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