70-loss nightmare finally over for the Nets
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -The nightmare season is finally over for the New Jersey Nets.
The demolition won't take long and the task of rebuilding might be easier than expected for a team with at least $23 million in salary cap room heading into a free agency. They also have a 25 percent chance of landing the top pick in the NBA draft.
One thing is certain - recognizing the Nets roster is going to be a challenge early next season.
Not only will they have a new owner, coach and a temporary new home in Newark, N.J., the Nets may have only have four or five players returning from the team that posted the fifth 70-loss season in NBA history.
Center Brook Lopez, guards Devin Harris, Terrence Williams and Courtney Lee and inconsistent power forward Yi Jianlian are the only players under contract for next season.
Forwards Josh Boone, Bobby Simmons, Trenton Hassell, Jarvis Hayes, center Tony Battie and guard Chris Quinn all had expiring contracts and probably won't be back. The Nets hold options on swingman Chris Douglas-Roberts ($854,000) and backup point guard Keyon Dooling.
Douglas-Roberts showed flashes early but then struggled and wasn't happy most of the season. He is a question mark.
New Jersey probably will pay Dooling $500,000 to buy out his option year.
Forward Kris Humphries has the option on his contract. He might decide to go elsewhere if his agent thinks he can get more than the $3.3 million due him next season.
"It's going to be an exciting summer,'' Lopez said. "There's a lot of uncertainty. I'm just going to go about my business. When I look in the paper in the morning and see if something happens that's how I'll find out probably.''
The Nets have other decisions to make if proposed new owner Mikhail Prokhorov is approved as expected and takes over from Bruce Ratner. The NBA has vetted the Russian tycoon but its board of governors has delayed a vote on Prokhorov's proposed deal until after the state of New York takes possession of land in Brooklyn, N.Y., that will be the site of a new arena. The Barclays Center is scheduled to open in 2012.
The Nets will play in the Prudential Center the next two seasons under a new coach before heading to Brooklyn.
General-manager-interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe won't be on the sidelines and he might not even be in the organization if Prokhorov decides to hire his own people.
Jeff Van Gundy and Avery Johnson top the list of former NBA coaches who might be considered, and who knows how much money Prokhorov will throw at a big-name college coach to make the jump to the pros.
Nets president Rod Thorn apparently is coming back and will direct the free-agent shopping spree in a market that might include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Rudy Gay.
It's a market that might be costly with the New York Knicks and a couple of other teams also having plenty of cap room to bid.
New Jersey will draft no lower than fourth in June and they have the best chance of landing the No. 1 pick, which appears to be Kentucky point guard John Wall.
If they do draft Wall, do they keep Harris or trade him?
"We don't know what management is doing or anything like that if they get the No. 1 pick,'' Harris said. "Will they take Wall? Who knows, but I'm going to prepare like I'm going to be here and that's all I can do at this point.''
No one wants to talk much about the season, which ended with a double overtime loss to Miami on Wednesday night. Everyone knew it would be a down year after the Nets finished a house cleaning that started with the earlier trades of Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd and ended with New Jersey shipping high-priced Vince Carter to Orlando in June.
Still, fans expected something better than 12-70.
The positive was New Jersey did not break the NBA record for fewest wins in a season (9-73), set by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1972-73.
The only other teams in NBA history to lose 70 games are Dallas (11-71, 1992-93), Denver (11-71, 1997-98) and the Los Angeles Clippers (12-70, 1986-87).
The Nets did break the league record for the worst start to a season, opening with 18 straight losses. The sad run cost coach Lawrence Frank his job and had players constantly dealing with the ignominy of whether they would end up being the league's worst team ever.
A late streak of five wins in nine games helped save the team from a humiliating record.
Harris said it was a relief that the season was over.
"It was an abysmal season, a disappointing season,'' he said. "We have a lot to reflect on as we move forward. It was a tough season for everybody and it is over now so we have a lot of time to reflect and correct the things that we need to correct.''
There were some positives to a season that opened with the Nets blowing a 19-point lead against the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves.
Lopez had an outstanding second season, averaging team-highs of 18.8 points and 8.6 rebounds. Harris averaged 16.9 points and 6.6 assists, while Lee chipped in with 12.5 points and Yi averaged 12.0 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Williams, the Nets top draft pick, was a solid catalyst the final two months and finished with an 8.4 point average.
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