'Mad Dog' Carter Wants to Keep Intact 1972-73 Sixers Futility Mark
En route to 9-73 mark, the worst in NBA history, the 76ers had a quite an assortment of characters. One was John Trapp, a forward who wanted to make sure he got plenty of playing time when he 76ers played in his native Detroit.
On Dec. 29, 1972, with the 76ers 3-30 and on their way to a 141-113 loss to the Pistons, Philadelphia coach Roy Rubin was ready to take Trapp out of the game. Trapp wasn't too excited about that so he motioned for Rubin to look up into the stands. One of Trapp's buddies opened up his coat and exposed a gun.
Trapp stayed in the game.
It's safe to assume no Nets or Timberwolves player will resort to such measures. But, as far as breaking Philadelphia's futility record, that's not out of the question.
The Nets, who Sunday fired coach Lawrence Frank, are 0-17 and Wednesday against Dallas can break the NBA record for the worst start to an NBA season. The Timberwolves were 1-15 until stunningly beating Denver 106-100 Sunday at the Pepsi Center. A reprieve? Yes. But, at 2-15, they're still on pace to win just 9.6 games.
Usually members of the 1972-73 76ers aren't put on high alert that their record could be in jeopardy until after All-Star Weekend. But the very early badness of the Nets and Timberwolves has led them to start checking the standings closely.
"It's very unique that it's happening at this early stage of the season,'' NBA television analyst Fred "Mad Dog" Carter, the leading scorer on the 1972-73 76ers, told FanHouse about attention coming the way of that team. "But I certainly hope they don't break it. I want to keep that record. I want to maintain my immortality. I was no superstar who won seven titles so I want to be known for something.''
Carter averaged 20 or more points three times in his NBA career. But he's mostly known for being a member of that woeful outfit in 1972-73, when 19 players, mostly over-the-hill veterans or clueless young players, shuffled in and out of Philadelphia.
After averaging 20.0 points, Carter was named team MVP in 1972-73. Yes, they really did hand out such an award that season.
"I wasn't sure whether it was for me leading us to nine wins or 73 losses,'' Carter said.
As the longtime primary spokesman for the 1972-73 76ers, Carter has been sizing up the Nets and Timberwolves. But he doesn't believe either will break the record.
"It's very difficult to lose 73 games,'' Carter said. "We found a way but there were only (17) teams back then. There's 30 teams right now, and you're going to run into some you're going to beat. You're going to see teams playing their fourth game in five nights... I hope they don't get it so I can keep the distinction of being the best player on the worst team.''
Carter's attitude is similar to that of forward Scott Hastings, who was on the 1988-89 Miami team that initially set the NBA record for a 0-17 start. Hastings recently told FanHouse he's hoping the Nets don't break the mark so he can keep his place in history.
But not feeling that way is Darrick Martin, a former NBA guard who is assistant director of player development for Minnesota. He was on the 1998-99 Los Angeles Clippers, who tied Miami's record during the lockout season with a 0-17 start before Martin scored a team-high 18 points in leading them to a 106-92 win over Sacramento on March 11, 1999.
"Yeah,'' said Martin when asked if he's hoping the Nets will knock his Clippers out of the record book. "That's definitely a record you don't want to have. You don't want to be a part of that ... You lose a lot of sleep. That's just something you don't want to experience.''
Few people know more about losing streaks than Martin. Fourteen months earlier, the Clippers had lost at home to Denver, enabling the Nuggets to stop a 23-game skid and prevent them from breaking the NBA mark for most consecutive losses in one season.
And who shares that mark with the 1997-98 Nuggets? The 1995-96 Vancouver Grizzlies, a team Martin started the season with, also lost 23 straight. While Martin was traded before that skid began, he was part of a 19-game Vancouver losing streak earlier that season.
Now, Martin is in his first year with the Timberwolves. He's already received some blame from a Minnesota assistant coach for the team's rough start.
"Bill Laimbeer said to me, 'We're going to call you 'Schleprock,''' said Martin, referring to The Flintstones character known for bad luck.
But Martin was on hand Sunday in Denver when Minnesota, a 15-point underdog, scored one of the biggest upsets in recent NBA history. So does this mean the Timberwolves believe all the talk about futility records being broken should be about the Nets?
"Let them have that,'' said forward Damien Wilkins, whose last-second putback shot on Oct. 28 at the buzzer beat New Jersey in the first of two Stupor Bowls this season between the teams (the next is Dec. 23 in New Jersey). "We don't need any of that anymore.''
Then again, Wilkins did caution the Timberwolves can't relax after their big win or it "can get ugly again quick.''
It's already very ugly in New Jersey, which will go with Kiki Vandeweghe as the replacement for Frank, fired Sunday hours before the Nets fell 106-87 to the Lakers for their 17th straight defeat. Assistant Tom Barrise was the designated coach for that game, and could still be on the bench for one more game as the Nets try to prevent getting into the record book by themselves Wednesday.
"I don't want to be associated with it," guard Devin Harris, one of many New Jersey players this season who has had injury problems. "That's one record you don't ever want to be a part of."
If it really starts getting bad for the Nets, it should be mentioned the mother of all NBA losing streaks is 24 games. Cleveland dropped its final 19 in 1981-82 and its first five in 1982-83.
At least first-year Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis won't be going the way of Frank any time soon. He knew it would take a long time to rebuild the Timberwolves, which is why he wouldn't have taken the job had he not been offered a four-year contract, with a team option for a fifth.
Rambis didn't envision the Timberwolves getting off to this bad of a start, but he also didn't figure on star center Al Jefferson being slow to come back from a knee injury and forward Kevin Love being lost for the season's first 1 ½ months due to a broken hand. Still, Rambis isn't worried about making a run at any futility records.
"There's no doom and gloom in my mind,'' Rambis said after the Denver win. "I understand it's still a process. Does this alleviate everything? No ... Hopefully, (the players) take the good things that they did and see what happens when you do the right basketball things, that good things will come from it.''
Rambis sure knows about good things in the NBA. He won four rings with the Lakers as a player in the 1980s and picked up four more this decade while dividing his time between the front office and being an assistant coach.
But winning a title with the Lakers isn't always a guarantee of future success. Take the cases of Trapp and Leroy Ellis.
Both were on the 1971-72 Lakers, who went 69-13 for what was then the best record in NBA history. Both were then traded to Philadelphia early in the 1972-73 season, which Carter called truly going "from the penthouse to the outhouse.''
Carter experienced a bit of a fall himself, having played in the 1971 NBA Finals for the Baltimore Bullets before ending up with the 1972-73 76ers. But Carter doesn't seem too torn up about his fate.
"I couldn't be on the Chicago Bulls who won 72 games (to establish an NBA record for wins in 1995-96), so I'll take the 1972-73 76ers,'' he said.
Why does one think the Nets and the Timberwolves might not have that kind of enthusiasm if they make a run at 9-73?
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @christomasson.