Forget the playoffs: Would any of these NBA teams even qualify for a bowl?
DEC 04, 2013 6:02p ET
Sure, the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers are tearing it up in the Eastern Conference this year. But have you glanced at that conference's Atlantic Division lately? It's pretty pathetic, with not one team playing anywhere near .500.
The Boston Celtics lead the way with a less-than-stellar 8-12 record, and it only gets worse from there. The Philadelphia 76ers are nipping at their heels with a relatively "impressive" 7-12 start. The Toronto Raptors appear to be a "bubble" team at 6-11. The woeful Brooklyn Nets are a lowly 5-13. And then we hit the bottom of the barrel, where the hapless New York Knicks reside at a miserable 3-13.
So that's 8-12, 7-12 and 6-11? Yikes. Only in the Atlantic Division will those kinds of records get you into the postseason -- unless of course you're a college football team! In that world, simply hovering somewhere close to .500 nearly guarantees you'll go bowling.
If the bowl system applied to the NBA, here's where we'd send the teams in the Atlantic Division ... assuming that any one of them can ever get back to .500 again:
New York Knicks: Belk Bowl
Carmelo Anthony and Co. are in a complete tailspin, and things look very ugly. Fortunately, Belk sells some nice-looking clothes. The Knicks could take comfort in that, and in an invitation to that bowl. In the real world, some projections have the North Carolina Tar Heels heading to the Belk Bowl, but even that team is 6-6 this year. New York would take Belk all day long, and they'd say thank you for making them look a little better than this "defensive" exchange. (Psst, Amar'e Stoudemire: Turn around.)
Brooklyn Nets: San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Rarely has so much been spent to achieve so little, so perhaps the Nets could learn a little something from a credit union. They aren't faring much better than their in-state rivals, and they've been decimated by injuries. Perhaps they could turn things around enough to reach the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 26. Real-world projections suggest Utah State and Buffalo could duke it out in this game, but at 8-4, both of those teams are powerhouses in comparison to Brooklyn. Also, it's harder to pull off moves like this on a football field:
Toronto Raptors: Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
How do you cheer up a team that just blew a 27-point lead to Golden State on Tuesday in one of the most epic fails ever? We don't have a definitive answer, but pizza parties seem to work out OK for everybody. At least one real-world projection has Pittsburgh playing in the Little Caesars game. But at least the Panthers are 6-6. So good luck with that, Raptors. On the plus side, help may be on the way next year, if you can believe what Kansas standout Andrew Wiggins has to say:
Philadelphia 76ers: Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl
Philly has some impressive wins this year, but hasn't been able to sustain any kind of success. Where's the beef, guys? Hint: You probably won't find any in your lineup, so you may have to wait until Dec. 23 for the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl. Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State are projected to be that game's potential combatants. Both of those teams are 8-4, so maybe the 76ers could learn a bit from them. Some of their players could definitely stand to brush up on social media etiquette. (Bad form to call your Instagram followers "lame."):
Boston Celtics: Pinstripe Bowl
Sending a team from Boston to a bowl game with the word "Pinstripe" in it may be the ultimate insult, but it may also be the ultimate motivator for improvement. Real-world projections have Notre Dame playing in this game anyway. And what goes together better than Celtics and Fighting Irish? Rondo knows what we're talking about. Or did he just take a look at the Atlantic Division standings?