EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- If you're going to become the first team in NBA history to start 0-18, you might as well do it in style. Do it spectacularly, with some of the circus-like, bizarro moments that are the hallmarks of a franchise in freefall.
This historic night had it all. Kiki Vandweghe, who used to be the GM and wasn't quite the coach yet -- at least not for this historic occasion -- met with a crowd of reporters before the game. The man assigned to actually coach the game, Tom Barrise, was nowhere to be seen when Vandeweghe uttered the following words: "We realize we're not a championship team this year."
|Fans are used to the many shortcomings in the history of the Nets. (AP)|
"There are some things we can work on to do better," Harris said afterward. "It's not a hopeless situation."
Tell that to the generously announced 11,689 who had come to see history. In fact, one guy wearing a Bad News Bears jersey held a sign fashioned from a torn piece of cardboard that read, "Here 4 History."
"Where 0-18 Happens," read another.
"The Run for One."
"N-ever E-nding T-errible S-eason. 0-?"
And this gem: "Is anyone watching? LOL."
In the locker room after the Nets' historic achievement, Chris Douglas-Roberts played the mad-as-hell role from the movie Network, accusing the entire team of lacking heart. If his teammates aren't tough enough, Douglas-Roberts suggested, they should "fake it." It's the least they could do.
"Toughness, you cannot teach," he said. "It's like we're laying down, we're weak. It's a sign of weakness. Teams are going to be coming in and saying, 'We've got the Nets. All you've got to do is come out and punch them in the mouth and they'll give up and go off with their tail between their legs.'"
And the coaching change?
"Red Auerbach could coach us," Douglas-Roberts said. "It doesn't matter."
The locker room Douglas-Roberts was sitting in was like no other locker room in the history of the NBA. It was an 0-18 locker room. And there's no way around what a pathetic milestone this was -- at the hands of Jason Kidd, no less. After getting embarrassed by Kidd, who led New Jersey to back-to-back NBA Finals, the Nets go for 0-19 on Friday night against Larry Brown, who bolted on them for the University of Kansas so many years ago.
But as bad as it was, Douglas-Roberts and his teammates would be surprised to learn that it wasn't the worst thing ever to happen to this franchise. Oh, no. Not only are the Nets the only NBA team to start a season 0-18, but they're the only team that could possibly do that and still have a laundry list of equally cataclysmic moments to share.
So if it makes you feel better, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Nets fans everywhere -- wherever that might be -- we bring you the 18 Worst Moments in Nets History other than starting 0-18:
No. 1 -- Sale of Dr. J: When the ABA Nets were absorbed by the NBA, the team had to pay an $8 million admission fee. The only way to do that without going out of business was to sell its best player, Julius Erving, to the Philadelphia 76ers for $3 million. Perhaps going out of business would've been a better option.
No. 2 -- Jayson Williams: Mere months after agreeing to a six-year, $86 million contract, Williams breaks his leg on April 1, 1999 in a collision with teammate Stephon Marbury. Williams is forced to retire a few months later, and as we know, this is not even close to the most tragic situation to involve him.
No. 3: -- Skyhook Gets Away: The Nets get outbid by the Milwaukee Bucks for the services of a certain No. 1 draft pick out of UCLA in 1969. His name? Lew Alcindor.
No. 4 -- Losing Rick Barry: A year after leading the Nets to the 1972 ABA Finals, Barry loses a court case and is forced to return to the NBA and honor his contract with the Golden State Warriors. The Elizabeth, N.J., native goes on to enjoy a Hall of Fame career.
No. 5 -- Drazen Petrovic: We include this tragic event not to trivialize a man's life, but because the death of Petrovic on the German Autobahn in 1993 set the franchise back for at least a decade. The Nets had only one winning season over the next seven years.
No. 6 -- Micheal Ray Richardson: Only two years after leading the Nets to a first-round playoff victory over defending champion Philadelphia, Richardson is banned for life by commissioner David Stern for substance abuse.
No. 7 -- Pain Doctor: Only three seasons after selling Erving, his 76ers sweep the Nets out of the '79 playoffs in a best-of-3 series.
No. 8 -- Bernard King: During the 1979-80 season, the Nets trade King to Utah after King amid concerns over his affinity for the nightlife. He later winds up starring for the rival Knicks before his career is cut short by knee injuries.
No. 9 -- Larry Brown: The Nets coach quits with two weeks left in the 1982-83 season to take the University of Kansas job. The Nets are swept out of the playoffs by the cross-river rival Knicks.
No. 10 -- Rollie Massimino: Fresh off the '85 national championship with Villanova, Massimino agrees to take over as coach of the Nets. But he gets cold feet, forcing the team to cancel a news conference to introduce him. Five coaches and eight seasons later, the Nets finally finish above .500 again.
No. 11 -- Circus Act: In their very first year of existence as the New Jersey Americans of the ABA, the team was forced to forfeit a playoff game against the Kentucky Colonels. A circus had rented the Teaneck Armory, where the team played, and an alternate site was deemed unplayable.
No. 12 -- The John Calipari Era: The Nets gave Calipari a five-year, $15 million contract in 1996, and within three years, he was gone -- having alienated players, coaches, and the front office on the way to a 3-17 start in lockout-shortened '98-99.
No. 13 -- 'All Alone': Marbury, acquired three days before Calipari was fired, complains incessantly about not having teammates who were good enough to play with him. At one point, he takes the court with the words, "All Alone" scrawled on his ankle tape.
No. 14 -- 'Whoop de damn do': When Kenny Anderson goes AWOL and misses practice early in the 1994-95 season, Derrick Coleman launches into an infamous tirade punctuated by the immortal words, "Whoop de damn do." The Nets limp to a 30-52 record under coach Butch Beard.
No. 15 -- Lottery Curse: All this badness resulted in the Nets having the No. 1 pick only once in their first 14 years in the NBA, and they used it to select the aforementioned Coleman, who came to symbolize all that was catastrophic about the franchise.
No. 16 -- Kidd's cell phone: Since wives scrolling through the cell phones of cheating husbands is in the news, we include this gem from the end of the Kidd era. Wife Joumana sent the couple's 8-year-old son into the locker room to find the point guard's cell phone before a game on Dec. 27, 2006. After locating some suspicious numbers on the device, she took her courtside seat and proceeded to shout insults at Kidd throughout the game, according to the Kidds' divorce records.
No. 17 -- Vince Carter Traded: In cost-cutting mode in advance of a planned move to Brooklyn -- and trying to clear cap space for a free-agent spending spree next summer -- the Nets trade their best player to Orlando on June 25, 2009. According to John Schuhmann of NBA.com, the Nets haven't won a game without Carter since Dec. 22, 2004.
No. 18 -- Brooklyn, Here We Come: We end with a reason for hope. For this meandering franchise that has been looking for a permanent home for 42 years, there's a chance it may actually have found one. With a key court victory last month, the path was cleared for tax-free bonds to help fund the construction of a new home in Brooklyn. The bond ratings were established this week, and they're expected to be sold before Christmas. So Happy New Year, Nets fans. Your years of pain may soon come to an end.