The Nets are on the Brink of Infamy Tonight

For Nets fans who have been under a rock for the first 16 games of the season, it’s worth noting that a loss tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers would move the Nets to 0-17, tying the worst starts in NBA history currently held by the 1988-89 Miami Heat (an expansion team) and the 1999-2000 Los Angeles Clippers (might as well have been an expansion team).

In practice yesterday, Nicholas Lozito of the Star-Ledger, and the New York Post’s Fred Kerber, spoke with players about the historic implications of tonight’s game.

Here’s Lozito talking with Lawrence Frank, who win or lose could be coaching his last game with the Nets tonight:

“It’s just a different test,” Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. “It’s a different type of test, and you have to embrace the challenge, and there are certain things we have to do in order to win games and that’s what we focus on.

“There’s no doubt that it wears on you, but I think what you try to focus on is just today. You know don’t let the past determine your future.”

Meanwhile, Kerber talks with Devin Harris, who’s return to the team last weekend, and return to the starting lineup on Friday, has done little to stem the tide of losing:

“Guys were angry,” said Devin Harris, who played far more aggressively after halftime in the Nets’ 109-96 loss — he got to the line 14 times in the second half alone of the 109-96 defeat, their 16th in a row, equaling the franchise-worst streak.

“It was the way we played,” Harris added. “We’re not playing like a team desperate for a win. We talked about we’ve got to will ourselves to win. . . . We’re not going to get certain calls. We’ve got to do it ourselves, and we weren’t playing like that type of team.”

It’s a bit astonishing to me that this team could possibly be playing like they’re not “desperate” for a win. There’s been a certain shift with this team since their heartbreaking one-point loss to Miami on November 14. The undermanned team that was laying it all out there but just coming up short against teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, the Boston Celtics and the Heat, started to get blown away by the Indiana Pacers and the Denver Nuggets, and playing only one half of competent basketball against the Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings. Meanwhile, the team now has a rotation of 10 players, though Courtney Lee only played 3 minutes on Friday night against the Kings.

Harris is right, there’s no desperation and urgency with this team right now, outside of maybe Chris Douglas-Roberts (who Devin joked was on “suicide watch”) and Brook Lopez. If this team wants to be known as a bunch of all-time losers, I guess it’s their prerogative.

As a fan, this whole experience has been surreal. Both Sebastian and I thought the Nets were going to struggle this season, and we understood that the November schedule was especially brutal for even a fully healthy team. However, I never contemplated this Nets team being historically bad – just bad enough to not warrant any attention from the general NBA population.

Personally, I don’t see how this team doesn’t break the 0-17 mark and then some. They’ve already lost games against some very beatable teams (the Knicks, the Kings, the Timberwolves, the 76ers, the Bobcats), so who knows who they’re capable of beating – especially if there’s a cloud of inexplicable complacency hovering over this team.