Not long ago, the Nets stood on the other side of the ledger. In 2009-10, they couldn’t win and they barely competed, but management did not intend for them to accomplish either.
Fast forward four years, and the Nets’ Monday night opponent sits in exactly the same position. Philadelphia talk radio hosts affectionately refer to the 76ers as “team tank,” and no one really seems to mind as long as they play with effort and energy.
Fair enough since it’s a tried and true method in the NBA.
During the Nets’ 12-70 season in New Jersey, they compiled a roster with young talents and aging veterans, the kind of hard-luck group often portrayed in the movies. No Cinderella story there, though, as the team went through significant turmoil.
The despair ranged from Rafer Alston’s ousting following critical comments about the team to losing eighteen straight games to open the campaign. Three coaches took losses before Kiki Vandeweghe took over the helm.
Of the 17 players who suited up for the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets, only Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Courtney Lee, and Kris Humphries remain in the league.
The down-and-out Sixers who came to Barclays Center Monday night looked somewhat similar. In their defense, they know the goals and the lineup features no veterans.
It’s a strong bet that four years from now, some of these Sixers may not find a home in the NBA. The Nets organization knows that all too well.
Amazing what a difference a couple years can make.
Consider the contest in front of 16,733 fans a Nets’ homecoming of sorts. Even without Lopez, the Nets mangled the downtrodden Sixers, 130-94.
Joe Johnson made almost every three-pointer he attempted, scoring 37 points while adding seven rebounds and five assists. Johnson’s 10 three-pointers mark the most for any NBA player this season.
Despite the Sixers’ youth, they trailed by only 10 points at the half. Johnson came out of the locker room on fire, though, scoring 29 of the Nets’ 42 points.
“I have (seen players get that hot),” power forward Kevin Garnett said. “Not of recent, but yes I have. I’ve been in the league since, like, Moses. There’s not much I haven’t seen. It’s the best feeling in the world and you’re so happy for the guy.”
“It’s just a good feeling,” Johnson said. “You catch the ball with the seams just right and you know it’s going in. I can’t explain it.”
The Sixers have won a few games, though, so their spunky style caught seven teams by surprise. The defending-champion Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls (with Derrick Rose and Luol Deng), and the Houston Rockets make up three of the Sixers’ seven wins.
With that in mind, the Nets never took them for granted.
“No matter if you have your best player or guys are hurt, we’ve been in that seat, so you’ve got to come to play,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “They’re well coached and we knew they were going to keep playing... Watching them on tape, that’s what they do, they stay in the game and fight.”
The Nets took advantage of a porous Sixers defense that doesn’t protect the perimeter all that well. The Nets drained 21 three-pointers, matching the Sixers’ last opponent, the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Sixers yielded 269 combined points in the last two games.
The Nets continue the rest their week with the Washington Wizards Wednesday night at the Barclays Center. They then travel to Philadelphia Friday night to play the Sixers for the second time this week.
Next week, however, the task becomes far more daunting with the Indiana Pacers appearing twice on the schedule.
“We put ourselves in this position but we’re willing to work our way out of it,” Garnett said of the team’s early-season struggles. “Obviously, the emergence of having Deron back is a big plus to us. Getting Brook back will be another big plus and putting this all together.”