In case you missed it, I gave my own season-end NBA award to the Most Petty Player. Which got me to thinking: which team was the pettiest in the league?
While personal petty has its own criteria, the team petty was on a different level. Because teams generally function according to the whims of the front office executives (owner/s, general managers, Presidents of Basketball Operations), there is a difference in how they can express their petty.
Team petty will be judged based on:
- Number of “WTF” occurrences
- level of “WTF” occurrences
- General regard by the public and/or the players
- Perceived competence (or lack thereof) of a team’s front office
- The way they relate to the players on their rosters
Make no mistake, the petty was on fleek (do the young folks still say that?) in the 2016-17 season. There was a large pool from which to pull, so let’s hop to.
The Orlando Magic get an honorable mention simply because their petty was accidental (and a result of cluelessness, which compounds the petty).
Magic forward Aaron “Air” Gordon didn’t know what hit him, since his name was on the board (in a potential swap for the Philadelphia 76ers’s Dario Saric). I mean, how are you going to find out you’re on the trading block by accident? We’ll ask one of the other nominees about this. Not to mention, giving other teams a look-see at your battle plans. Not a good look.
Then-GM Scott Hennigan tried to do damage control (“See, Aaron, what had happened was…”), but this was the last straw for the Magic organization and he got the boot. Bless his heart.
Los Angeles Lakers
If Shakespeare were alive, the Bard would have courtside seats at Staples Center while penning his next play.
From waffling on a self-imposed time to voluntarily leave the franchise before getting fired, to having to choose between family and the fans (and love), to bringing in a a non-family member to help clean house, to a failed takeover attempt, to a consolidation of power, the Lakers were the NBA’s most popular reality show. No one was more front and center than Jim Buss, the black sheep of the Buss family who was the most vocal at trying to make himself more important than he really was.
And no one was more ready to stand up to his shenanigans than Jeanie Buss, the president of the Lakers organization who was hand-picked by none other than her father, the late and legendary Dr. Jerry Buss, who helmed the Lakers franchise for over 30 years until his death in 2013.
The Lakers get an honorable mention by sheer virtue of the pettiness being one-sided, via Jim Buss (and, briefly, his brother Johnny, during the failed coup). Jeanie Buss deserves credit for taking the high road and not going HAM on her siblings. Instead, she kept a cool head and got her revenge the legal way. That’s why her daddy wanted her to make the big bucks and lead the franchise when he was gone.
Cersei Lannister would be proud.
Former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was supposed to be the root of all evil for the Bulls organization. Once that root was dug up and tossed aside, life was supposed to get better in the Windy City.
The hire/fire duo of Bulls general manager Gar Forman and VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson have been paid members of Team Bad Decisions for the past few seasons. Firing Thibs (and blaming him for the team’s woes) was the first path down a dark and twisty road that has not led to a good place for the Bulls.
They hired college coach Fred Hoiberg allegedly to run a speedier style of play for the Bulls. The general consensus was that, due to his longstanding relationship with Forman, Hoiberg would be more…friendly (read: malleable) with the front office–the anti-Thibs, if you will. When that didn’t work out (lack of team cohesion, Wade/Butler/Rondo brouhaha, barely making the playoffs this season), Gar/Pax refused to take responsibility for anything.
INJURY: he Bulls don’t firmly declare star guard/forward Jimmy Butler to be their franchise player, despite giving him max money last season and despite his dragging the discombobulated Bulls to the playoffs this year. They flip-flopped more than the fish my grandfather used to reel out of the lake.
INSULT: the questionable signing of Rajon Rondo (who is notorious throughout the league for not playing well with others) and Dwyane Wade (he of the barely functioning knees and high-dollar contract), plus trading Taj Gibson (who was only the heart and soul of the team, and a defensive threat) and Doug “McBuckets” McDermott to the Oklahoma City Thunder for…Cameron Payne (seriously?).
The way that the Bulls front office has been going about their business was petty, as is its insistence on blaming everyone else for its poor decisions. Fortunately for them, there are other teams in the league that are more dysfunctional (and team owner Jerry Reinsdorf values loyalty above competence). But there’s always next season.
It began with DeMarcus Cousins, and it ended with him…but not as it should have.
For the past two seasons, the Kings (read: majority owner Vivek Ranadivé) was adamant that Cousins would not be traded, despite the general negativity (and technical fouls) that he brought to the organization during his seven-year tenure. They parroted this party line up to the days before the 2017 All-Star break began.
INJURY: Then the All-Star Game happened, and Cousins learned while on his way to the airport that he didn’t need to leave New Orleans because he’d been traded to the Pelicans. During the game. Without his knowledge.
WHO DOES THAT?
Cousins and his camp (including his manager, Andrew Rogers), were naturally confused:
INSULT: The Kings could have gotten a better deal for Cousins (rookie Buddy Hield and veterans Tyreke Evans and Langston Halloway were shipped to Sacramento, which also gave up a first round AND a second-round pick to New Orleans in the trade), but Kings general manager Vlade Divac and the rest of the front office were afraid that Ranadivé would change his mind, so they pushed the trade through ASAPtually.
I agreed with Cousins when he said that the way the Kings handled the trade was cowardly. The least the front office could have done was tell him the news personally; that would have been more respectful (or, as my grandmother would say, too much like right). This was some backstabbing ish on par with Caesar and Brutus, or Jon Snow and the other men of the Night Watch on Game of Thrones.
Let’s not get into the alleged hiring of someone more experienced over Divac in the front office, and the subsequents denial thereof. Or the simmering coup d’etat that has been allegedly happening amongst the minority owners who are not pleased at Ranadivé’s leadership.
And the Winner Is…
This was a hard call due to the level of overall fuckery among the nominees, but I had to give the 2016-17 Most Petty Team Award to:
New York Knicks
The Knicks are on par with the Bulls and Kings with regard to front-office dysfunction and lack of accountability, but it’s the rampant passive aggression that permeates that organization that puts them above the others.
The handling of franchise player Carmelo Anthony has just been mean. Anthony, like Cousins, is of the mindset that if you want to say something to him, then say it with your chest; none of this behind-the-back nonsense. Specifically: if you want him gone because you want the franchise to go in a different direction, then say so. Anthony has a no-trade clause, so it’s not like the Knicks can move him without his say-so, but he may be more willing to leave if Phil Jackson and majority owner James Dolan (who granted Anthony the no-trade clause in the first place) were straight up about their vision for the team going forward, and then worked to help Anthony land in a place to his liking.
But that would be too much like right.
Instead, they tried to use the media to force Anthony’s hand, leaking rumors and scenarios and possible trade talks. Guess what? Anthony didn’t fall for the okeydoke and doubled down on his desire for Jackson and/or Dolan to either make it plain to his face that they wanted him gone, or to just shut up about it. Anthony has the upper hand and everyone knows it. Now, Anthony may be willing to move, but it will still be on his terms. He seems resigned to the fact that his New York days may be soon behind him.
The most petty thing the organization did this season, though, was the handling of former Knicks great Charles Oakley.
INJURY: Dolan, who seems to like arguing with spectators for sport, had the audacity to have Oakley forcibly removed from Madison Square Garden like he was a common criminal. I’m not saying Oakely was correct in his behavior toward Dolan (he allegedly baited Dolan into an argument), but his ten-year, All-Star service on behalf of the Knicks surely deserved more respect.
INSULT: Not only was Oak banned from MSG, but the Knicks organization put out a press release implying that Oakley was mentally unstable (and an alcoholic), and hoped “he gets some help”.
Mind you, they had no facts to back any of this up (#AlternativeFacts). Shortly after that, Dolan invited former Knicks, including longtime nemesis Latrell Sprewell, Vin Baker, and Bernard King, to sit courtside with him at the Garden in an attempt at positive PR.
On Monday, Oakley was recently arraigned on assault charges stemming from the incident, so this stench is still surrounding the Knickerbockers.
Despite NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Bulls great Michael Jordan brokering a tentative peace between Oakley and Dolan, the fact remains that the evidence continues to portray the Knicks as a shoddy, trifling organization whose petty was on full fleek this season. For this, they get the MPT Award. They deserve it, and the next five years of irrelevance.
[sidebar: The injuries to Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose–both of whom have bloated contracts–plus the Knicks missing the playoffs, shows that God don’t like ugly. Pray for Kristap Porzingis, y’all. He deserves better.]
Amen, Reggie. Amen.
Thanks for stopping by.