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Happy one-year anniversary to… Burnergate? Collargate? 91mania? Did we ever actually come up with a name for this thing that we didn’t hate? Probably not, but you know what I’m talking about: The Ringer publishing the only legitimately consequential piece of Sports Internet journalism focused on fraudulent social media accounts and self-censorship of the word “butt.” Within a week, Sixers Twitter had solved the case, Bryan Colangelo had thrown his wife under the quadruple-decker bus on his way out of town, and the guy who was the team’s top free agency target for the upcoming summer was using pre-finals press conferences to workshop zingers at our expense.
That was embarrassing! Really, really embarrassing. Perhaps the most prominent stitch in the Sixers Shame Quilt of the post-Hinkie era, which certainly includes no shortage of ill-conceived trades, misdiagnosed injuries, and poorly managed personnel. For a team that’s won more games across the regular season and playoffs the last two seasons than all but a handful of teams in the NBA, it’s truly impressive how high the Philadelphia 76ers have managed to remain in the league’s Franchise Dysfunction power rankings.
But exactly how high are we talking? Which teams have behind-the-scenes situations that are even harder to make eye contact with at a party than ours? Let’s examine the cases of ten of the contenders.
CHARLOTTE HORNETS / DETROIT PISTONS
Rap Sheet: For both teams, their rap sheet is their cap sheet: Poor salary management has resulted in each being locked into the East’s most middling rosters, with no hope of significant relief or improvement on the horizon. They haven’t made headlines for front office embarrassment because they haven’t made headlines period.
Worse Than the Sixers? No, but definitely more mediocre than the Sixers.
Rap Sheet: Stuck for several years between building and rebuilding, shaped some of the most incoherent rosters the NBA has seen in recent history, then fired their coach for not being able to do much with them. Replacement interim coach immediately took great pains to establish himself as a hardass, installed a much-mocked “Leadership Committee” in his young roster, and was eventually given an extension by the franchise’s long-maligned but seemingly unkillable front office tandem. Oh also one guy punched another guy a couple years ago. They’re both gone now.
Worse Than the Sixers? Yep, though give them Joel Embiid and it would probably be closer than we’re comfortable with.
Rap Sheet: Traded away ⅓ of their championship-winning star trio in what turned out to be a hilariously one-sided deal -- which ownership still recently took a victory lap over -- while over-extending the overpaid and oft-injured third wheel, and failing to build a proper team around the main guy, resulting in him leaving in free agency (for a second time!) Then hastily tried to feign competitiveness with the barren roster that remained, and fired the coach when competency proved a bridge too far.
Worse Than the Sixers? Somehow no, mostly because it’s hard to really get too condescending towards a team that’s missing the finals this year for the first time since Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” was the most popular song in the country.
Rap Sheet: After failing to give franchise North Star Dirk Nowitzki any chance of a final playoffs appearance in his career twilight and somehow maybe getting the worst of the awful Nerlens Noel deal, the Mavs were most notably dishonored by a Sports Illustrated article revealing the toxic workplace culture around the organization. Things might get even worse there before they get better, as the team’s star deadline acquisition Kristaps Porzingis was accused of rape before season’s end -- which the team may or may not have known the details about before swinging the deal.
Worse Than the Sixers? If not yet, they very well might be by the time the dust settles on the KP allegations.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Rap Sheet: Read any good ESPN stories lately? If you’ve been within half a mile of a Twitter timeline in the last 24 hours, we probably don’t need to rehash the long list of hilarious humiliations the Lakers have suffered in the past few years as a result of their Dream Team roster of front office fuckery. And if you haven’t, just click here and CTRL + F for “Adam Silver” and “Dark Knight.”
Worse Than the Sixers? Combined with six straight years comfortably outside the playoffs and now a corroding LeBron James on the sidelines? Unnnnnnquestionably.
Rap Sheet: After missing the postseason for well over a decade, swung a trade for a veteran star, then immediately after making the playoffs (and winning a game!), alienated said star to soon-unprecedented levels of trade demanding and practice mutinying. Also made a variety of poor decisions in the draft, in free agency and on the trade market, and let Jonah Bolden hit nine threes against them across two games.
Worse Than the Sixers? Maybe not, but if you just compared the way their season with Jimmy Butler ended to the way our season with Jimmy Butler ended, it’d be pretty hard not to conclude that we appear to be in a slightly more stable place than they are. May need to see how the rest of the latest Summer of Jimmy goes before rendering a final verdict here.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Rap Sheet: Let’s just say that trading Kristaps -- their first homegrown star in three decades and the only reason Knicks fans have had for hope in recent years, who was still on his rookie deal -- may still end up being the best move the team has made in the past half-decade. Like, by far.
Worse Than the Sixers? Absolutely, particularly because as much of a Meddling Mildred as he’s been for us thusfar, Josh Harris hasn’t yet rivaled James Dolan for narcissism, obstinance or general buck-stops-here ignorance. If Knicks fans’ grand plans for this offseason end up coming to fruition, the balances could end up shifting here somewhat -- but considering how Phase I of that plan went, maybe not best for anyone to bank on it.
Rap Sheet: No amount of high draft picks or free agency splashes have been able to convincingly dig this team out of the cellar in the past half-decade, over the course of which they’ve gone from employing about a half-dozen starter-level point guards to employing zero starter-level point guards, and cycled through coaches and front-office heads like the Process Sixers flipping between ten-days in March. And maybe not even Dolan has proven as much of a consistent roadblock to championship-level success from the owner’s box as Robert Sarver.
Worse Than the Sixers: Before the story about the goat shit, it might’ve been a debate.
Rap Sheet: No team -- maybe not even ours -- has been as amusing in their tragedy their decade as the Kings, with fond memories ranging from “NIK ROCKS” to The Vladfather to, of course, the Pickswap trade. This year may have turned things around for them, as Sacramento convincingly competed for the playoffs nearly all season, but the 2013-’14 Suns are a cautionary tale for any messed-up franchise getting too excited about one season’s overperformance. And given that the team still fired coach Dave Joerger at the end of their bounceback campaign, and that their new guy is already in some pretty hot water, old habits may end up dying hard for the #KANGZ.
Worse Than the Sixers: Don’t make me start breaking out the Looking Glass here.
Rap Sheet: Like the NC-17-rated version of the Hornets or Pistons, the Wizards locked themselves into a version of cap hell that would even make Billy King and Mikhail Prokhorov wince -- headlined by a John Wall contract supermax extension that hasn’t even started yet. The roster began to decay both on and off the court last year, and somehow trading for Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker didn’t seem to fix what ailed them. Dwight Howard is still (technically) on this team for another year!
Worse Than the Sixers? At this point, probably -- especially because despite (finally) firing GM Ernie Grunfeld, the Wiz still appear about as ready to replace him as the Sixers were to fill Colangelo’s collars a year ago.