The Nets are now officially off to their worst start in franchise history, which says a lot considering the nefarious history of this organization. However, even with the 0-7 start and half of the roster injured – including having the first player in NBA history to be diagnosed with the “Swine Flu,” I think it’s always good to put things in proper context. So, with that in mind, I have developed the “Nets Misery Index.” I’m going to take a look at some other miserable seasons in Nets history and rate each one of a scale of one to five Dwayne Schintziuses – one equaling not so miserable, and five equaling misery comparable to building your roster around Dwayne Schintzius. For each season we’ll look at three factors: expectations for the team, overall performance and long-term impact on the franchise. The caveat here is I’m only looking at seasons that I’ve personally experienced as a fan. We’ll then see how the start and ultimate outlook for the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets compares on the Misery Index.
Check out the misery after the jump.
Expectations: I find myself talking about this season a lot, but for good reason. Coming off their 1997-98 season where the Nets made the playoffs as an 8th seed and were pegged by Slam Magazine as a team of the future, expectations were riding high in New Jersey. They were returning most of their players from the year before, including Jayson Williams, Kerry Kittles, Sam Cassell, Keith Van Horn and Kerry Kittles. Also returning was head coach John Calipari, who despite his demonstrative ways, seemed to be one of those “college coaches” who was adjusting well to the NBA. In the strike-shortened 98-99 season, there were some pundits that thought the Nets could make serious noise in the Eastern Conference.
Performance: This season is a perfect case study of a team underachieving. Not only did the team not make noise in the playoffs, they finished 16-34 for the season, including a 3-17 start that led to the firing of Calipari. Sam Cassell was lost early in the season to an ankle injury, and was eventually traded for the enigmatic Stephon Marbury. The three-ring circus surrounding Calipari only added to the misery. The coach managed to make enemies with the press and alienate his players, to create a very drawn-out firing process that Coach Cal details in his newest book “Bounce Back.”
Long-Term Outlook: The disintegration of this team and a collection of injuries, including a broken leg that ended Jayson Williams’ career, had the Nets looking to start from scratch after the 98-99 season. Stephon Marbury became the focal point, and the results for the team, at least immediately, weren’t much better. On the plus side, the Nets were able to parlay the poor play into the number one pick in the 2000 draft to grab Kenyon Martin, a cornerstone of their back-to-back finals teams, and Marbury was eventually used in a trade to acquire Jason Kidd. So good times were ahead in the wake of this season.
Index Score: I still haven’t totally gotten over this season. The Calipari stuff was terrible and having to reliving in 10 years later in “Bounce Back” where Calipari, true to form, blames everybody but himself, makes the wounds feel fresh. However, happier times were ahead for this time, in large part because they hit rock bottom so hard here. Lets go the full monty with five Dwayne Schintziuses:
Expectations: The Nets were looking good. They had one of the best coaches in basketball in Chuck Daly, a young core with Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson, and a breakout star in Drazen Petrovic. They had made the playoffs the previous season and lost in the first round to the Cleveland Cavs. While the Knicks and Bulls were considered the class of the east that season, the Nets were capable of getting enough wins to have home-court advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs.
Performance: Overall, the team finished 43-39, good for 3rd in the Atlantic Division, and 6th in the Eastern Conference, but there was still a bit of a letdown surrounding this team. Kenny Anderson was quickly becoming one of the better PGs in the league until New York Knick John Starks – in a move that was oh so typical of those dirty Pat Riley-led Knicks team – tackled Anderson in a late February game and ended his season. The team still showed resiliency and worked its record to 40-27 by the end of March, but an injury to Petrovic led to an eventual seven-game skid and a lower-than-expected seed in the playoffs.
Long-Term Impact: This is where things get really painful for this season. Petrovic heads back to Europe that summer threatening to leave the team to play in Greece because of perceived “envy” by his teammates and ends up dying tragically in a car wreck in Germany. The Nets still made the playoffs the following year built around Coleman and Anderson, but this felt like the beginning of the end for this collection of players after the death of Petro.
Index Score: The death of Europe’s first great NBA player and the Nets leading scorer was incredibly tough to swallow. Also, this team was well on pace to have at least a 4 seed in the playoffs if remained healthy, though making the playoffs is still an accomplishment when it comes to the Nets. Three Schintziuses:
Expectations: Chuck Daly had just resigned as head coach and was replaced by Butch Beard, but the Nets were bringing back their all-star duo of Coleman and Anderson. A similar core of players won 45 games the year before and made the playoffs, so that remained in the realm of possibility headed into the 94-95 season.
Performance: Butch Beard clashed with his players right away, most notably Derrick Coleman who ended up giving him a blank check for all the fines he was expected to receive. The team was the definition of chaos and became poster children for what was wrong with the NBA when Coleman was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline “Wahh!” Other notable highlights included long-time Net Chris Morris walking around with the words “Trade Me” and “Please” on the back of his sneakers. And yes, this roster featured Dwayne Schintzius. The team finished 30-52 and was impossible to root for.
Long-Term Impact: The core from the once-promising Chuck Daly era would soon be broken up after this season, setting the franchise back a number of years. Coleman was shipped out for Shawn Bradley, which is just a terrible idea in its own right, and Anderson was eventually traded for Kendall Gill. Beard would be fired a year after and replaced with John Calipari, which managed to keep chaos in New Jersey.
Index Score: This was the first collection of Nets that I grew up watching so seeing them fall apart in this way was personally crushing. This team was unlikable and Butch Beard made Lawrence Frank look like the greatest coach in NBA history. Still, 30 wins isn’t THAT bad in the grand scheme of things. Whoop-de-damn-doo, four-and-a-half Schintziuses.
Expectations: Coming off an Eastern Conference Semifinal loss to the Detroit Pistons, the Nets dumped Kenyon Martin and Kerry Kittles in cost-cutting moves and Jason Kidd spent the first month of the season recovering from knee surgery. It wasn’t until the addition of Vince Carter in December that this team was capable of accomplishing much of anything.
Performance: This was really a tale of two-seasons. Prior to the Vince Carter trade, this team was about as bad as I’ve ever see a Nets team. On opening night, the Nets ran out a lineup that featured Richard Jefferson, Ron Mercer, Eric Williams, Jason Collins and Jacques Vaughn. For those who thought last week’s loss to the Charlotte Bobcats was bad, on the fourth game of the 04-05 season, the Nets beat the Trailblazers 64-60. The low point was a 3-12 start. However, the Nets had a fantastic April that helped them capture a 42-40 record and the 8th seed in the playoffs.
Long-Term Impact: Coming back from knee surgery, Jason Kidd never seemed like the same player, though he still went on to have some great season in New Jersey. The acquisition of VC, a mea culpa from owner Bruce Ratner who was in cost-cutting mode for his planned Brooklyn move until he realized that he need to put some version of an NBA team on the floor to sell a few tickets, ushered in the “Big Three” era, which looked good on paper but never truly clicked for this team. The Nets still seem to be recovering from the moves made the summer before this season started, and obviously Ratner’s Brooklyn move is still more of a concept than a reality.
Index Score: The ending of this season was exciting and is certainly a redeeming factor for this season. Still, the Nets seemed to lose their identity during the course of this season, transforming from the run-and-gun, tough defense team that made it to back-to-back Finals, to the “Big Three” which was really four guys watch Vince Carter hold the ball in crunch time. Two-and-a-half Schintziuses.
Expectations: Unlike some of the other teams on this list, this collection of Nets players was pegged from the get-go as a certified bottom-dweller. While Devin Harris and Brook Lopez are nice cornerstones, there’s too much uncertainty throughout the rest of this roster.
Performance: The team is off to its worst start in franchise history, and what’s even more disappointing is a collection of injuries has limited the playing time of the team’s young players, pushing retreads like Rafer Alston, Bobby Simmons and Trenton Hassell into major playing time.
Long-Term Outlook: Obviously this remains to be seen. However, if young players like Devin Harris, Courtney Lee or Yi Jianlian can’t stay on the court long-enough to grow as players, this season should be considered an epic failure.
Index Score: The overall rating of this team hinges on some activity away from the court – if this team fails to move forward on its proposed move to Brooklyn, the promise of Russian Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and free agent cap space used to lure a top-player goes up in smoke. However, it’s still too early, and given the expectations of this team going into the season, a few key injuries early on probably wasn’t going to make that much of a difference in the final standings. Four Schintziuses.