In other sports, fans will talk about "playoff droughts." As in, the Pittsburgh Pirates have gone X many years without a playoff appearance. This is a notable indicator of organizational futility. In other sports, squeaking into the playoffs means, that with some lucky bounces, a team might enjoy a long playoff run.
Not so much in the NBA. If you squeeze into the 7/8 seed, you are all-but-certainly going nowhere. It happens from time to time, but rarely enough to be memorable when it does. In other sports, a bottom seed makes a major run almost every season.
So the real indicator of a team's poor fortunes isn't the years since a playoff appearance; it's the years without a playoff series victory. No Blazer fan needs to be reminded that the Blazers' last playoff series win came 13 years ago. Here's a trivia question: can you name the team/teams that have gone longer without a series victory?
(I suspect many of you can.)
I looked at the NBA playoff trees of recent years in reverse order. I remembered the second-round teams from the past few seasons. Around 2010 is when my memory gets hazy. That's the last time Orlando, Utah, Phoenix, and Cleveland won series -- when Cleveland had LeBron, Utah DWill, etc.
2009 was Denver's last win, which is why George Karl just got fired. Houston's, too. Was Yao still functional back then?
Detroit and New Orleans won in 2008. Brooklyn is new, but the New Jersey Nets won in 2007. After that, you start dredging the depths of pain. It's like watching lottery envelopes get opened. We'll narrow down the contenders . . .
Washington actually won a series in 2005. So did the late Sonics, under soon-to-be-poached coach McMillan. The now-Seattle-now-they-don't Kings won in 2004. And Cassell/Sprewell/Garnett with the Wolves. Before horrible ownership ran them out of town, the Charlotte Hornets won in 2002.
Yep; fans in Charlotte have enjoyed a playoff run more recently than the Blazers. We're down to our final three teams! Excited yet?
In 2001, Vince Carter and the Raptors reached the second round. The Bucks, under George Karl (again!) made it to the conference finals, losing in seven games.
Your playoff futility winner is, of course, the Portland TrailBlazers.
2000 was so long ago, in basketball terms, that one of the key players on that squad is in the NBA Hall Of Fame, another in the international version. There's only one player from that roster still playing today. Remember his name?
Jermaine O'Neal, who is mentioned often here as a possible free-agent target. Now, wouldn't that have a nice symmetry? Trading O'Neal didn't curse the Blazers -- they've made far more unfortunate decisions since -- but it was a dumb move. Bringing him back wouldn't solve anywhere near enough of the Blazers' problems to make them a title contender.
It would be fun, though, if Jermaine could help the Blazers, for the first time in 14 years, get past the first round.