In a few years from now, this may all be just a cloudy memory. Down the road, the Nets could very well be playing in front of a packed house with an enthusiastic Brooklyn crowd wearing number 23 jerseys. But then again they could be stuck in the same swamp they are now without any potential All-Star players planning for the annual lottery.
While the future is undecided, the present certainly is. The current group of Nets may be in the mix all season long for dubious distinctions and they have come out of the gate swinging by dropping their first 15 games. The latest was a 10-point road loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Thanksgiving Eve.
They are two losses away from being lumped into the record books by matching the expansion 1988 Miami Heat and 1999 Los Angeles Clippers. They face the Kings, Lakers and Mavericks next.
“You walk into that locker room and it’s like a morgue in there,” Nets head coach Lawrence Frank said to reporters.
With his head on the chopping block, Frank may need a win in one of those three contests to save his job. He has been teetering for a while and although management realizes that they didn’t leave him much to work with, having zero wins and getting blown out of the building on a nightly basis may be too much to stand pat with.
Since being named interim head coach in January of 2004, Frank has experienced both ends of the spectrum. He set an NBA mark by winning his first 13 games of his coaching career and was named NBA Coach of the Month on four separate occasions (February 2004, April 2004, March 2006 and April 2007). The second longest tenured coach in the Eastern Conference had led the team to four consecutive playoff appearances before the roster began to be broken up by management.
Point guard and team leader Jason Kidd was traded to Dallas in February of 2008 and the Nets were a lottery team for the first time in seven years (34-48). That June, Richard Jefferson was moved and it became apparent that a youth movement was in the works. After missing the playoffs again with the same record, the final straw came when Vince Carter was dealt to Orlando last June.
There is so much hanging in the balance with the Nets. The vagabond franchise hopes to once again pack their bags and make Brooklyn their permanent home. The project at the Atlantic Yards has run into some red tape but the Barclays Center is scheduled to open for the 2011-12 campaign. Owner Bruce Ratner has brought in Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian businessman with deep pockets, so funding should not pose any problems.
The team is obviously clearing salary cap space to make a run at LeBron James and the rest of the 2010 free agent class. But for any of the elite players to even give the Nets a sniff, ground will have had to be broken in downtown Brooklyn.
Until then, this season cannot end fast enough and it has barely started.