Losing is a part of sports. Teams won't be good or even competitive every year, that's just part of the game. But, the futility of professional basketball in New Jersey right now is staggering. In fact, with a record of 0-17, if the Nets lose another game they will set an NBA record for the most losses to begin a season. They will get their chance Wednesday night against Dallas. Their struggles have not received a huge amount of attention, partly because of their lack of a fan base.
The Nets first problem is that they are barely fielding an NBA roster. They have a solid second year center in Brook Lopez, a shoot first ask questions later point guard in Devin Harris, and a bunch of players who would be struggling to sit the bench on many other NBA teams. Former coach Lawrence Frank was fired on Sunday, an easy scapegoat for all the losses.
It's difficult to blame Frank. I'm not even sure how many wins Phil Jackson would have coaching this team. New Jersey wields out a starting lineup of Harris, Lopez, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Trenton Hassell and Josh Boone. At times, it's difficult to fathom who thought this team would even stand a chance.
Perhaps more than any of their NBA counterparts, the Nets are a franchise in flux. For years they have been talking about moving to Brooklyn because of a lack of fan support. This winless start will not bring fans to the Meadowlands. So the Nets have had to get creative in order to sell tickets. They offer 10 game packages, which come with a reversible Nets jersey. What makes this original is that one side of the jersey is a Net player, and the other is a superstar player from another team such as Kobe Bryant or Dwayne Wade. While I admire the originality of the Nets marketing department, it's frankly embarrassing that any professional franchise should have to sink to these depths.
Much of the reason for the Nets depleted roster is a plan by management to have as much money as possible for the 2010 summer free agent market. This free agent class headlined by marquee stars like Wade and LeBron James could end up being one of the best in league history. The Nets will have a ton of cap space and are hoping to draw at least one player, specifically James, to the swamps of Jersey. What they clearly don't understand is that most of these players aren't just looking for the biggest payday. Guys like James and Wade will get paid anywhere they go, so if they leave their current situations, they're looking to win. This disastrous start will not convince anyone that the Nets are close to winning any time soon.
There will be no quick fix for the Jersey boys. They don't score well, they don't pass well and they certainly don't defend well. Whoever they hire to replace Frank will certainly have their work cut out for them. While there is a possibility that one of the big stars could land with the Nets next year, with every mounting loss it becomes more and more doubtful. Rather than focus on an unlikely future, the leadership in New Jersey needs to work with the talent they have available. They don't have to be world-beaters, just start with being competitive. Hopefully for the sake of their fans, and fans of the NBA in general, they figure it out soon.