99 PROBLEMS BUT A RICH (OWNER) AIN'T ONE: 2011 NEW JERSEY NETS PREVIEW

By wes lilliman

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Head Coach: Avery Johnson
Projected Rotation:

PG – DEVIN HARRIS
SG – TERRENCE WILLIAMS
SF – TRAVIS OUTLAW
PF – TROY MURPHY
C – BROOK LOPEZ
G – JORDAN FARMAR
G – ANTHONY MORROW
F – KRIS HUMPHRIES
F – DERRICK FAVORS
F – DAMION JAMES
C – JOHAN PETRO


Imagine a lifetime Nets fan who has just come out of a year-long coma.

“How’d we do last year?

We won 12 games.

“Oh God. Did ownership clean house?”

Actually, ownership has changed. Your team is now run by a Russian billionaire with big plans and the money to back it.

“Wow. That sounds great! So, did we get Lebron?”

No. Travis Outlaw, though.

“Oh. How about D-Wade? Dirk? Amar’e?”

No. Troy Murphy. Johan Petro. Anthony Morrow. Locked those guys in.

“Uh…”

But you did pull off a blockbuster trade for Carmelo Anthony.

“Melo?! Seriously?!”

No. Everyone said you did. But in wasn’t true.

“Can I go back into the coma now?”


Here’s the good news: it probably won’t be as bad this year. In fact, you might be able to argue that the future looks bright for the Nets.

Alright… maybe not “bright.” But better. There’s, like, a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s faint and you have to focus to see it, but it’s there.

When you go 12-70, some big changes obviously need to take place. That starts at the top, and what better way to make a brand new start than with a new owner?  Not just any new owner, either. Of course, by now, we all know about Mikhail Prokhorov and his assets. He’s got money, business-sense, and no shortage of confidence. He’s talking playoffs THIS YEAR and and a championship in 5. Crazy? Of course, but there’s something about him and his proclaimations that you can kinda get behind. Let’s put it this way: if the choice is between Mikhail’s projections and Dan Gilbert’s “title in Cleveland before Lebron gets one,” I think we’re all taking the former. I’m also thinking we’d all rather ride around on yachts and dine with Prokhorov and his stable of Russian supermodels than eat cheese and crackers with Gilbert as he tries to convince us that “… Cleveland really is pretty nice if you just give it a chance.”

Additionally, new GM Billy King will step into the void left by the recently-departed Rod Thorn, and the completely revamped coaching staff is led by everyone’s favorite ESPN analyst, Avery Johnson. Johnson has a challenge on his hands here, but his coaching record speaks for itself (194-70). Honestly, though, I will miss Johnson speaking for himself on national TV on a nightly basis, as his pronounciation of words that have a lot of “E’s” in them is just so very fun.

Roster-wise, the talent that Johnson had in his previous coaching venture ain’t here, but it’s not like he has zero to work with. Everything indicates that Brook Lopez is set to be on the scene as one of the game’s top centers for years to come. He is the team’s future, essentially they only “untouchable” when the Nets were in the hunt for Melo. Barring injury or being summoned back to whatever planet he and brother, Robin, came from, Lopez looks to be on his way to averaging 20 and 10 in the very near future. It won’t hurt that his new coach knows a thing or two about the importance of getting good production out of a center. Lopez is set to explode.

The other key component to any success that the Nets may have is former All-Star guard Devin Harris. Here’s hoping that Johnson and Harris really have had that “can we try this again” conversation, because the two didn’t exactly get along when they had their first dance in Dallas (although, lets be clear, it wasn’t on a “Jim Jackson/Jason Kidd” level or anywhere close). Harris needs to play the way that he’s capable of and stay healthy in the process (he’s missed several games over the past couple of years). Fortunately, he’ll have a suitable backup in Jordan Farmar, whom I’m guessing was bombarded by the Nets roster on the first day of training camp so they could ask him about mystical things like “winning streaks” and “the playoffs” and such.

Other than Terrence Williams (who, according to his Twitter account, prefers Sk
ype to uStream for computer-based communication), the rest of the regular rotation will by primarily comprised of new additions. The Nets failed to land any of the big names in this summer’s mammoth free-agent pool, but they did add pieces and get younger while doing so. Of course, I don’t need to tell you that nothing screams “new life” quite like the name Travis Outlaw…



… okay, so he’s not exactly a guy who’s jersey you see being worn by anyone outside of his immediate family. Plus, they had to pay him $35 million dollars over 5 years to get him to come to New Jersey. Regardless, he’s better than the parade of players they tried at the small forward spot last year. The Nets also picked up Troy Murphy and Anthony Morrow, both of whom can light it up and provide some support that takes some pressure off of the more high-profile members of the roster. There’s no reason why this team shouldn’t be a much better shooting team and a better defensive team but, then again, it’s not like the bar was set high by last year’s group.

One of the few benefits of being atrocious is that you get a decent draft pick out of it for the following year. The Nets used theirs to take Derrick Favors, who is one of those teenage, freak athletes that Jay Bilas loves because he “has an unbelievable upside” and is “long.” He’ll have the luxury of having time to develop without being rushed, and I personally hope he lives up to his potential because I want a “Nets player named Derrick” to think about other than “Coleman” (who needs to be kept away from influencing Favors by ANY MEANS NECESSARY). Texas forward Damion James also shows promise and will likely see some time this year.

IF THEY GET LUCKY: Johnson and Harris work better together than they did last time and Harris returns to All-Star form. Lopez continues his development and establishes himself as one of the top centers in the league. Prokhorov’s bravado and Jay Z’s swagger somehow organically infect the team, they gel as a unit, and sneak into the playoffs as Mikhail predicted.

IF THEY DON’T: Johnson quickly finds out that coaching can really suck without a ton of talent. Harris gets injured and/or disgruntled. Lopez gets injured or has to return to Mars to deal with family issues. Outlaw becomes the focal point of the offense (not good). Prokhorov gets desperate and starts signing the best players from teams like the Severstal Cherepovets and TEMP-SUMZ Revda from the RUSSIAN BASKETBALL SUPER LEAGUE. 

REALITY: They have to improve, but enough improvement to make the playoffs seems like a bit of a stretch. For a young team coming off of such a horrible year, 25-30 wins would be an admirable feat in itself. That seems more realistic, and Mikhail will likely have to wait until they get to Brooklyn before this squad sees the postseason.


BONUS SECTION: THE MEADOWLANDS ARE THE DEAD-O-LANDS


After nearly 30 years, the Nets haved moved to Newark to temporarily play before the big move to Brooklyn goes down. Judging by the video below, people were ready to leave:





Need help tearing the old place down one last time? Call Shaq:





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