Tip-Off Timer: Two Teams Start Season With 17 Losses
We have already discussed the historic indignity of 23 straight losses in an NBA season, a record shared by two awful teams, one of which was an expansion club. The story of the longest winless streak to open an NBA season is similar in that two squads share the misfortune. One had the built-in (but hardly comforting) excuse of being new to the league: the 1988 Miami Heat, who jumped in with 17 straight losses before earning a victory.
But the L.A. Clippers had been around decades when its commencement futility record sprung up. In the lockout season of 1998-99, the Clippers also began 0-17.
It was all the Clippers could do to avoid resetting the mark at 18 straight losses back in March of 1999. Most of the league was mediocre at best due to a shortened preseason and a long lay-off between meaningful games that summer as team owners dealt with a labor dispute by delaying the start of the season. The Clippers' 17th loss came, unfortunately, at the hands of the Kobe-Shaq Lakers.
After the game, when the next loss would have launched the Clippers past the expansion Heat into sole possession of the undesirable record, LAC guard Darrick Martin told the Associated Press that his team would "come out like a wounded animal fighting for its life" against the Webber-Divac Kings.
The Clips did just that, with Martin scoring 18 and L.A. defeating the Kings to bring their record to 1-17. The Clippers went on to win nine of 50 games, earning the fourth pick in the draft, in which the team selected Lamar Odom. Those '88-89 expansion Heat ended up at 15-67 after ending their season-opening losing streak at 17 games by beating -- who else? -- the Clippers, in Los Angeles.