The following are phrases taken out of their original context, but are telling the same story. They’re a stitched-together compilation of descriptions used for the Eastern Conference’s ineptitude this season, culled from around the basketball internet.
It’s called the Eastern Conference, with membership confined to mostly poor, huddled masses yearning to wheeze free. You will run out of cliches before you run out of bad teams. Yes, it sucks. No we shouldn’t abolish Conferences. The NBA’s Eastern Conference stinks. Not you, Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat. You’re OK. If you’re an NBA fan, you’ve probably run across “worst-ever” headlines about the Eastern Conference teams, which include such fabled franchises as the reigning champ Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, and Chicago Bulls. This group really is bad enough to warrant all that abuse. It’s a pattern you’ve probably noticed, too. A well-documented, oddball pattern—the NBA’s Eastern Conference sucks. Like, it’s really bad. Horrible. Spit-in-your-face disgusting. After everyone ignored the warning signs in the Los Angeles Lakers last season, slow starts in the Atlantic Division in particular are leading to predictions that the sky might be falling on the East in general. Only time will tell us if that’s true.
The drastic disparity between the Eastern and Western Conferences has been a hot topic throughout the 2013-14 NBA season, and unless the gap between the two shrinks, it will continue to be a source of discussion. (Note, I stumbled on a reference to Hickory-High in this one) No matter how poorly they are currently playing, no team, not even the New York Knicks or the Milwaukee Bucks, can say they are completely out of contention, at least not in the Eastern Conference this season. What we cannot say, incredibly, is that anyone else has established itself as the next-best team in this woebegone conference. This year, however, that appears to be out the window and the Eastern conference is not only having one of the worst years in recent NBA history, it’s also having one of the worst years in the history of any modern sports conference. Based on the conference’s current winning percentage, the average Eastern Conference team is projected to finish with 35 wins. Meaning the average Western Conference team will finish with 47 wins. That’s nuts.
Things have gotten so ugly that now, some Western Conference teams are taking shots on Twitter.
In the NFL this season, the NFC East was more like the NFC Least and now it appears the NBA has the Leastern Conference. It’s not uncommon for an Eastern Conference playoff team to finish below .500, particularly since the 1999 lockout. The West has usually been the better conference in that time; no sub-.500 Western Conference team has made the playoffs since the turn of the century. Most of the teams out East are engaged in teardowns and compensating for deep flaws. We’re not watching exhibitions of elite NBA ball; we’re watching a disaster relief effort. They should just let the entire West make the playoffs, except for Sacramento and Utah, and then take the Pacers and the Heat. How can you have so much bad basketball in one part of the country? It has been a strange start to the NBA season, especially in the Eastern Conference, where Indiana jumped out to a 9-0 start while everyone else floundered.
The Eastern Conference is a wreckage of bad luck, poor stewardship, and strategic losing. If the season ended today, the Toronto Raptors, who aren’t even sure if they should be trying to win this season, would “earn” the no. 4 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference by capturing the Atlantic Division. Thank the (L)Eastern Conference for every opportunity the Cavaliers have this season to work through a new lineup, style and coaching issues. The Eastern Conference has turned every NBA fan into a comedian this season, and Monday night gave us even more material. With the Cavs currently sitting behind both the Pistons and Knicks, both teams soon could find themselves looking up at another team in the Eastern Conference race if they don’t get their acts together. Might as well just have the Heat and Pacers start their Conference Finals series now instead of wasting everyone’s time the next 4 months.
There is no guarantee they will get there given the sorry state of the Eastern Conference. With only three teams holding winning records entering Tuesday’s games, perennial losers and underachievers still have hopes of making a playoff run even though the notion of tanking is at full throttle in the NBA. It’s one thing when a conference has maybe one or two teams in the 7 and 8 spot under .500. But when 13 out of 16 teams in the conference are below the .500 mark, something is going horribly wrong. And it’s even worse than that, because even playing 22 extra games against each other, the East is so bad that teams are making the playoffs with way worse records than you need in the West, which screws things up again. That’s crazy. Literally half the league has a big advantage in that race. Some Eastern Conference teams are stuck in basketball purgatory. Compared to the West, where two teams with winning records are not even eight seeds, the competition in the East is abysmal. Unless the East improves, Indiana and Miami will inevitably meet in the Conference Finals, and the West will be the only conference worth watching in April.