(Rant updated, November 12th, at the bottom of the page)
new city? Check! New arena? Check! New temporary arena? Check! New coach? Check! New GM? Check! New owner? Check! Same Ol' Nets? Ya, you betcha!
The music stopped. The teams scrambled. When the dust settled, only the Nets were left without a chair. While the Mikhail Prokhorov and Jay-Z were skewing the Knicks with a giant billboard in Herald Square, LeBron James, the NBA's most coveted free agent ever, was busy taking his talents to South Beach. The chances of landing King James were always a long shot but no one expected the type of ineptitude that the Nets put forth over the past three months. No one but Nets fans that is. The best that the soon to be Brooklyn Nets could do was hire new GM, Billy King, and draft new small forward, Damion James. Wrong King, wrong James. And that was the highlight.
Even before the King hire, new coach, Avery Johnson, convinced outgoing GM, Rod Thorn, to go on a mini spending spree which would have left the fans of most other teams baffled. For the club that thought it had once hired Rollie Massimino and later Jim Valvano as coaches, this past summer was just another ho-hum chapter in a less than ho-hum book. What makes this bit of embarrassment slightly different than previous fiascos is that this time they did not go into it humbly. This time the club which spent the past 35 years chasing the Knicks, came into the summer with Lakers-sized bravado. Once again things ended with Clippers-sized futility.
The offseason (offseason for clubs not named Lakers and Celtics) began with Prokhorov's whirlwind tour of New York. Between one liners at a Four Season's press conference, a sitdown with Mayor Bloomberg, a walk through at the new Yankee Stadium and more one liners with legendary talker Mike Francesa, Proky promised a championship within the next five years. While their 12-70 record would make the prediction of even having a winning season within the next five years questionable, the billionaire oligarch did have an array of assets on his side. The 12-70 record provided the team with the best chance at winning the 2010 Lottery, and thus securing the league's top college pick. Money saved during the previous owner's financial decline also left the team with the league's most cap space. Landing the draft's top pick and best available free agents were once again proven to be easier done on paper than in the myopic world of the Nets.
The team did not win the lottery. They didn't even finish second. Instead of landing point guard sensation John Wall, they were left with the rights to talented but raw power forward, Derrick Favors. After losing out on a chance to draft a point guard who LeBron James knows personally, the team traded shooting guard, Chris Douglas-Roberts for virtually nothing. Although a good, young scorer, CDR was not good enough to offset his addiction to Twitter and Tweets which often criticized the team. Losing the chance at college's best point guard and the NBA's chattiest internet user was nothing for what was to come.
In what can only be deemed as the Mother of All Free Agent Busts, the Nets lost out on "Plan A" during LeBron's media driven, Miami bound frenzy. Earlier they had lost out on "Plan B" when restricted free agent small forward, Rudy Gay decided to re-sign with the Memphis Grizzlies. They then lost on "Plan C" when lowballing power forward, Carlos Boozer. "Plan D" was lost when David Lee, the one free agent who openly spoke about wanting to sign with the Nets, was sent to the Golden State Warriors. The "Plan E" of doing nothing but making a few tweaks to what is still a young club was lost when Avery Johnson convinced Rod Thorn to leave the organization with "Plan F."
By blowing their load on absolute stiffs like, Travis Outlaw, Johan Petro, as well as the erratic, Anthony Morrow, and mediocre Jordan Farmar, the Nets made sure that the entire NBA world would remember what "F" stands for. By closing the summer with a trade that sent solid young shooting guard, Courntey Lee, for washed up power forward, Troy Murphy, the team managed to even add a "minus" to their failing grade. The one and only bright spot was in dropping Yi "Yikes" Jianlian for nothing. Usually losing a player for nothing isn't worth bragging about, but that's only for those who've never seen Yikes at work. Losing the Chinese "power" forward, as well as some of the other dead weight is indeed addition by subtraction. Still, for a team trying to win now, the Nets needed more than that.
Next year should bring improvement. Simply having Avery Johnson patrolling the sidelines, a new beautiful arena to operate from, and Proky's money for any in-season trades should keep them from posting another 12-70 record. That said, even if they double their win total next year, the Blueprint for Greatness has just gotten more complicated. Thankfully, "Plan F" has kept most basketball fans from caring.*
UPDATE - November 12th, 2010: After starting the season with two straight wins, "Plan F" has taken full effect. The PhotoShop above comes thanks to a fellow fan who has realized the shortsightedness of last summer's spending spree.