You might have heard there’s an NBA lockout going on. And since the home page of NBA.com is currently celebrating the history of the game, Mark Ginocchio is going to be spend the next *insert length of lockout here* celebrating the history of the Nets. These weekly Nets Yearbook entries will take a look at some of the best and worst seasons since Mark started to follow the organization in November 1992.
Final Record: 43-39 (3rd in Atlantic Division)
Playoffs: Lost NBA Eastern Conference First Round (3-2) versus Cleveland Cavaliers
Offensive Rating: 106.5 (19th of 27)
Defensive Rating: 105.2 (5th of 27)
The 1992-93 season is one of great significance for me, in large part because it was the first full NBA season I ever watched from wire-to-wire. This was the season that turned me into a lifelong Nets fan, despite being a New York boy with the Knicks in my backyard. If I’m going to write an ongoing series reminiscing about the team I love above all other, I have to start here.
Despite the Knicks being one of the dominant teams in the Eastern Conference in 92-93, I still believe I chose wisely by siding with the Nets. I came to the team at a point of great promise and optimism. The organization was building around three bonafide star young players in Derrick Coleman, Kenny Anderson and the European import Drazen Petrovic. A year after surprising many and finishing with 40 wins and making the playoffs, the Net went out and hired future hall-of-fame coach Chuck Daly, who had earned his stripes leading the Detroit Bad Boys to championship glory.
Despite the 1-3 start, which included a loss to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves, the Nets looked to be a team poised to make a deep playoff run. Even after losing Anderson, the team’s starting PG to a devastating wrist injury at the hands of the hated Knicks, the Nets stood at 40-27 on March 24, a full month left in the regular season, and 50-wins and a possible first-round home court-advantage within reach. But another injury, this time to Petrovic, who banged up his knee against the Washington Bullets on March 22, led to a 3-12 tailspin to end the season, moving the Nets into a first-round rematch with the Cavaliers, who despite never being able to get past Jordan and the Bulls, were loaded with talent themselves, with players such as perennial all-stars Brad Daugherty and Mark Price and solid supporting players in Craig Ehlo and Larry Nance.
The Nets pushed the Cavs to a five-game series in the first round, even splitting the first two in Cleveland. But with Anderson out, Petrovic hobbled, the games evolved into Derrick Coleman versus the world. And in a win-or-go-home game 5, these injuries, along with injuries and issues with some of the team’s other role players like Sam Bowie and Bernard King, forced the Nets into playing guys like Dwayne Schintzius and Rick Mahorn critical minutes against Cleveland’s imposing frontline. The Nets season ended with a 99-89 loss in Cleveland.
It would sadly be Petro’s last season in the NBA, as he’s killed in a car wreck that June. Rather than repeat all of my thoughts about how inspiring Petrovic was as a player for me, let me just link back to what I wrote last Fall.
Key New Faces:
Rick Mahorn – A key role player on Daly’s championship Detroit teams, Mahorn appeared in 74 games and brought an appropriate amount of menace and toughness to an otherwise young and inexperienced team.
Jayson Williams – The future fan favorite and rebounding machine debuted with the Nets, playing in 12 games and even getting two spot-starts for an injured Coleman before an injury ended his season.
Rumeal Robinson – After losing Anderson, the PG situation looked bleak, but the Michigan graduate stepped in, averaging 15.3 points, 7.3 assists and 2.2 steals per 36 minutes.
December 4, 1992 – San Antonio Spurs 103, Nets 108 (OT): A true coming out party for two of the young Nets. Kenny Anderson finishes with 31 points and 17 assists while Drazen Petrovic has a team high 34-points, including 5-7 from three-point range. The Nets were down 9 at the half and needed a late surge in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime, including a critical basket by Petro who got the ball with less than 5 seconds to go and slashed his way to the goal to tie the game. Let it be said that this is the game where I officially fell in love with Petro as a player.
February 28, 1993 – New York Knicks 76, New Jersey Nets 102: People who think I have an irrational hatred for all things Knicks should note that my rage began on this February 1993 day, not because of some stupid trade involving Carmelo Anthony. The Nets were embarrassing the Knicks in a Sunday matinee game on national television and Knick-guard John Starks did what any thug would do: he tackled Kenny Anderson on a layup, shattering his wrist and knocking him out for the rest of the season. The Nets would go on to win a laugher, but the Anderson injury would come back to haunt the Nets.
March 13, 1993 – Nets 110, Phoenix Suns 94: Perhaps the pinnacle of the Nets season. With Anderson down and Rumeal Robinson running the point, the Nets absolutely stun the Suns, who have the best in Phoenix. The Nets scored 41 points in the first quarter alone, and 71 for the first half. Up 21 at the half, the Nets outscore the Suns 33-19 in the third. It was out and out domination of an exceptional team. If you ever want to hear what an absolutely stunned capacity crowd sounds like, try and find a tape of this game and listen to what the American West Arena (now U.S. Airways) sounds like at the end of the first quarter. Robinson made Nets fans think they were going to be just fine without Anderson, scoring 23 points and dishing 10 assists.
March 22, 1993 – Nets 92, Washington Bullets 97: How quickly things can change in nine days. The Nets go from blowing the doors off of Phoenix to losing to the lowly Bullets on the road, and losing Petrovic to a knee injury in the process. By this point, Rumeal Robinson’s fairy dust had started to disappear, as he scored 4 points on 2-7 shooting with 6 assists. Derrick Coleman proved that even when he’s uninterested in taking good shots (6-17 from the field) he can still put in 16 points and 15 rebounds. Whoop de damn do, I guess. This was the turning point of the season for the Nets as they went from a lock to be the four-seed to lucky to be the 6th seed and avoid a first round match-up against the Bulls.
News and Notable:
- Chuck Daly’s defense-first mantra paid immediate dividends as the Nets had the 5th best defensive rating in the NBA in 92-93 up from 14th best the year before under coach Bill Fitch.
- Derrick Coleman has always been the poster child of unrealized potential, but his 92-93 was still pretty spectacular for a PF. He averaged a career high 20.7 points, and also chipped in 11.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. His 21.2 PER (Player Efficiency Rating) would have ranked him 8th best at the PF position in today’s NBA, right behind LaMarcus Aldridge and ahead of Kevin Garnett. In the playoffs that year, he carried the Nets, averaging 26.8 points, 13.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 53 FG%, 42 3FG% and an ungodly PER of 25.6
- Maurice Cheeks and Bernard King, both borderline NBA Hall-of-Famers, ended their careers with the Nets in 92-93 after joining the team in the middle of the season. And both showed some flashes of their old brilliance. In April, King, filling in for Petrovic, went for more than 20 points three times and he put up a sturdy 15.1 PER in his bench role. Cheeks averaged 7.6 assists and 2.3 steals per 36 minutes, both right around his career averages.
- Dwayne Schintzius, one of Ahmad Rashad’s all-time favorite targets, only played 35 minutes during the regular season, but played more than 30 in a critical Game 5 against the Cavs in the first-round of the playoffs due to injuries to Sam Bowie and Chris Dudley.
- Not really a Nets moment, but notable; Shaquille O’Neal capped off a phenomenal rookie campaign and called into question the structural integrity of the Meadowlands when he ripped down the basket and hoop during an April 23 game against the Nets in Jersey. Watching it again … that’s still ridiculous: