Will LeBron James and John Wall help New Jersey Nets laugh in 2011?
Today, they’re the league laughingstock. Next season, they could be laughing.
Simply put, 2009-10 has been tough on the New Jersey Nets: they set a record with eighteen straight losses to start the year; respected coach Lawrence Frank was fired and executive Kiki Vandeweghe, who had little experience on the sideline, took over; building block Devin Harris, after a terrific 2009, struggled with injuries; a few fans at home games were yelled at by front office suits for donning brown paper bags; and the team barely avoided posting the worst record of all time.
There is, however, a bright light at the end of this dark tunnel. The Nets have several young talents and new owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, is willing to spend some of his billions to change the club’s defeatist culture.
It starts with Brook Lopez, a legitimate 20-10 guy. The second year centre uses his considerable size to establish deep position, which helps him shoot a high percentage. With height, length, and a wide frame, he’ll become a solid defensive anchor.
Harris is a year removed from averaging 21 points and 7 assists; numbers which convinced NBA coaches to vote him a 2009 All-Star. When healthy, Harris possesses the ‘quicks’ to fly past defenders, especially on pick-and-roll sets, and get to the basket at will.
There’s more than the inside-out combo of Lopez and Harris, though. Courtney Lee’s athleticism helped the Orlando Magic qualify for the 2009 NBA Finals, while Terrence Williams, thankfully, backs up his tweets and social networking with strong play and swing Chris Douglas-Roberts has upside.
Prokhorov won’t tolerate losing. Not for a moment. After all, he built his considerable empire in Russia’s cutthroat business climate of the nineteen-nineties and became part of an elite group called the oligarchs.
The Russian oligarchs are renowned Alpha Males who, because of their healthy egos, like to win. It’s what they know. It’s what they’re used to. For instance, Roman Abramovich, the most famous of this little club, spent the GDP of a small nation transforming Chelsea into an elite soccer franchise.
Prokhorov will have a similar impact in New Jersey. In fact, he already has. His deep pockets surely contributed to the much delayed and controversial Brooklyn stadium project finally breaking ground. And he’ll drop a fortune on a premier coach like Avery Johnson or Jeff Van Gundy this summer.
The real buzz is over the unknowns. Consider that the Nets have a one-in-four chance of winning the lottery and drafting University of Kentucky blue-chipper John Wall, which would only help convince free agents like Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade to take the club’s considerable cap space.
There’s no guarantee the ping pong balls magically align and they get Wall. Also, Bosh, James, and Wade probably have reservations about languishing in the swamps of Jersey for three years until the shiny, new Brooklyn digs is finally built.
However, the Nets, with their poor finish, will add a prospect via the draft. Carlos Boozer and Amar’e Stoudemire, the second tier of the 2010 free agent class, are open to joining New Jersey.
In a year, expect the Nets to factor into the Eastern Conference playoff race. And expect them to be laughing, too.
Will New Jersey turn things around in 2011? Get at us in the comment box below. Photo courtesy of RMTip21.