The season is approaching (but not quickly enough), so that means it’s NBA preview time. Starting with the league’s worst team and working our way to the top, we’ll preview one team per day.
New Jersey Nets
Last year’s record: 12-70
Head Coach: Avery Johnson
Projected Starters: Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Travis Outlaw, Troy Murphy, Brook Lopez
It’s impossible to discuss next year’s New Jersey Nets without talking about last year’s New Jersey Nets. Because the Nets were supposed to be decent, last year, but were instead bad. Hideously bad. Almost historically bad. After their 12-win season, pardon me if I’m no longer sold on the star potential of a Devin Harris-Brook Lopez combo. Still, shouldn’t there be improvement there? Shouldn’t the Nets be a lot better, just by default? Who knows. I’m just happy I no longer have to listen to Avery Johnson’s voice on TV.
Heart. Remember Vince Carter from his final days in Toronto? Mailing games in, milking injuries and generally acting like he didn’t enjoy playing basketball? Multiply that effort by twelve players and you get the ’08-’09 Nets. In my 20+ years of watching professional basketball, I’ve never seen a team play with less energy. Avery Johnson’s got a big job ahead of him.
Biggest Question Mark:
What the hell happened to Devin Harris last year? Talk about falling off the face of the earth. I know he was injury riddled, but damn. Look at the statistical drop:
’08-’09: 21.3 ppg, 6.9 apg, 43.8% field goals, 8.8 free throw attempts
’09-’10: 16.9 ppg, 6.6 apg, 40.3% field goals, 6.0 free throws attempts
Nagging injuries or not, 27-year olds NBA All-Stars aren’t supposed to jump off a statistical cliff. Harris’s return to form would go a long way toward repairing the Nets’ respectability.
Most important newcomer:
For this year, Troy Murphy. Any time you can add a 6’11″ player with three-point range who gets a double-double every night, that’s a nice addition. Even if it’s just Murphy. Another thing about Murphy? He plays hard and should be a breath of fresh air. Don’t sleep on Travis Outlaw, either. That man can play.
Can you possibly have a key loss from a team that won only 12 games? Almost any loss is addition by subtraction, right? If I had to choose somebody, I’d pick Courtney Lee. But only because I had to.
Most compelling storyline:
The Nets aren’t going to win 60 games. They aren’t going to be contenders. They aren’t going to pick the world up and drop it on its head. We all know that. Hell, they’re already talking about 2012 free agency. But I’m interested to see whether Avery Johnson can turn the attitude around. If he does, he’s a miracle man. I’ve always suspected that his work in Dallas was underappreciated.
Player to watch:
I could say Brook Lopez, but that’d be too easy. (And yes, I just went through an entire Nets preview without discussing Lopez once. Sue me.) Watch Derrick Favors, folks. The first post move he learns will be his first, but Favors can jump into the stratosphere. If I were a betting man, I’d wager on Favors becoming an All-Star before long. Then again, if I were a betting man I would have written the same thing about Kwame Brown.
Descriptive movie quote:
“I play for the Indians.”
“Here in Cleveland? I didn’t know they still had a team.”
“Yup, we’ve got uniforms and everything, it’s really great!”
- Jake Taylor and some other lady, Major League
Yup, the Nets still have a team. They’ve got uniforms and everything. And if you squint your eyes hard enough, they even have some talent. Squint a little harder and you’ll see a bright future. You know, as long as you use your imagination.
Projected Record: 25-57. But more wins wouldn’t surprise me. Jersey’s got a little talent. And I stress a little.