There’s No Nice Way to Say This: Philadelphia 76ers 115, New Jersey Nets 90

Avery Johnson must have thought his game plan sounded good on paper last night. Then again, that's what people said about New Coke.

Box ScorePhiladunkiaLiberty Ballers

You know it’s a bad day for the Nets when you look at the box score afterwards and say to yourself, “well, hey, at least Brandan Wright and Mario West showed us a little something tonight.”

After Tuesday’s drumming at the hands of the Houston Rockets, Devin waxed poetic about the old “mercy rule” for little league/pee wee sports. I say, let’s take the mercy rule a bit further and just forget these next seven games, give the Nets seven more losses and call it a season, because the way the Avery Johnson has his squad playing right now, there’s not going to be a better outcome than that. Why should anyone put the remaining few Nets fans through the torture of more performances like last night’s 115-90 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers?

In a lot of ways, the past two weeks have felt worse than last season. Maybe not worse than 0-18, but certainly as bad as Nets basketball in January and February 2010. The team has bottomed out so miserably after that five-game win streak, punctuated by the crazy young fan in the pink shirt against Boston, they don’t even resemble an NBA squad. While there’s a lot to be optimistic about going forward – a hopefully healthy Deron Williams, a new arena in Brooklyn, a wealthy billionaire owner – watching luminaries like Johan Petro, Travis Outlaw, Stephen Graham and co. is reminding me that for this team to be competitive again next season, for them to convince D-Will to stay beyond 2012, the Nets front office is going to have to blow this whole roster up AGAIN. It is just a total and utter indictment of the braintrust who put this roster together (interestingly enough, the guy who is now the GM of the Sixers – Rod Thorn – and a head coach in Avery who apparently ran him out of town) when a guy like Kris Humphries misses a game and the next best option in the starting five in a seven-footer who’s afraid of the painted area around the rim and whose interpretation of defense is to stand in one spot with his hands in the air, regardless of where the ball is. I don’t mean to come across as a whiny, negative nellie, but I’m just tired of what the Nets are trotting out there as a team these days.

Let’s start with the silver lining of this roster and present a rain cloud. After another poor shooting night, can we all just agree that Deron Williams (2-8, 4 points in 22 minutes) is better served sitting out the remainder of the season to rest his wrist? In addition to the fact that this team is playing for nothing, there’s also some validity to the argument that he’s not helping this team much. The devastation of his crossover is negated when he can’t step back and reliably drain a jumpshot. So while he can still find other members of the team with more efficiency than Jordan Farmar or Ben Uzoh, I don’t see how trotting out Williams for 20 minutes a night in games where the Nets are still losing by more than 20 points is really doing anything for anyone.

Second – enough with Avery’s pet projects. I don’t care how thin the roster is – Stephen Graham is not an NBA player. Period. He played 22 minutes last night which featured such electric plays as dribbling a ball off his knee while leading a fast break and missed open corner threes – because why would anybody from the opposing team be guarding Stephen Graham? He’s anemic on offense. He can’t play defense. I get that he’s a live body, but there’s got to be somebody in the D-League who can give the Nets what Graham has given them all season. The fact that he’s lasted on the roster this long is a joke and I sometimes feel like Avery is trotting them out there on games like this out of spite. The Sixers shot 56 percent last night and were close to 60 percent through the first three quarters. Graham wasn’t stopping anybody. Enough with this stupid experiment.

Ibid for Johan Petro. Apparently, Nets fans are supposed to be warm and fuzzy about Petro because he grabbed 8 board against the Knicks on Wednesday. No mention of the fact that I grabbed 5 boards against the Knicks on Wednesday from the comfort of my living room. Petro’s highlight last night involved taking off from the blocks and dropping the ball while attempting a tomahawk jam in the first quarter. Maybe the French can’t palm the ball? I’m not stupid enough to think Brandan Wright is the answer – he shoots way too much and I don’t think I’ve seen him make a proper rotation and provide help on defense since he’s become a Net – but do you know what? In a game like yesterday, Wright should be starting and playing until his legs fall off. And when you need to get Brook Lopez off the court (he of 11 pounds and 6 rebounds, which is mildly impressive considering its Brook Lopez), throw Dan Gadzuric out there more often, because while his offense leaves a lot to be desired, he can at least play a little help defense and he’ll hammer someone trying to take an easy lay-up. Johan Petro shoots 17-footers. That is all Johan Petro does. That and grab 8 rebounds against the Knicks.

Think I’m being over the top here? Good. Because that’s what happens when the team looks like a lifeless sack of slugs for the past two weeks worth of games. I find it dubious that the only competitive game the Nets have played of late came against the Knicks – on national television when the team’s owner has had bloodlust for that team since taking the reins last May. Did Brett Yormark give these guys a pep talk before Wednesday to let them know about all of the potential season ticket packages at stake if they flopped at MSG? Because every other game since the team went down flailing in Milwaukee two Fridays ago has been a flat-out disgrace. Even the team’s lone win against Cleveland was a joke – and hey, at least that organization got out of their slumber long enough in the past few days to notch a win against LeBron and the Heatles. If I’m Avery Johnson, I’m pulling the starting lineup out of a hat on Sunday, because it’s not like the players deserve to be treated any better. And it’s not like that randomization would do any worse than some of Avery’s intentional rotations of late.

Now where’s my paper bag?