The end is in sight for the Nets. The finale of another brutally lopsided season comes Wednesday in Chicago, where the Nets take a 24-57 record into the last game of a fourth straight non-playoff campaign.
But while so many see the negatives -- no playoffs, another losing season after a 12-victory monstrosity of a year ago, injuries that ganged up on the team with all the compassion of rabies -- coach Avery Johnson sees a future filled with hope, a future that can cash in on the positives of 2010-11.
And there were positives, Johnson maintains. He starts with the strides made in-season by young center Brook Lopez, the breakout year of Kris Humphries, the acquisition of Deron Williams, the wealth of owner Mikhail Prokhorov. And that's where Johnson starts his laundry list of positives.
"I think Brook, the way he's played the second half of the season. Humphries. The Deron Williams trade. Anthony's (Morrow) improvement, not just being a three-point shooter but a guy that can put the ball on the floor a little bit. I can only think of two bad practices we had this year.
"Guys practiced well. They were very coachable. So those are all positives. And I still think to do well in this league you've got to have great ownership and really good management and I think we're headed in the right direction. We have that in Mikhail and in Billy (general manager King)."
The Nets dealt their lottery pick draft choice this June to Utah in the Feb. 23 trade for Williams. But they still have a first round pick, a late first rounder, obtained from the Lakers in the Terrence Williams deal in December.
As Johnson has said all season, the whole campaign has been a work in progress. There were good moments amid the misery.
"I think you saw us getting better as the season progressed," said Lopez. "We're definitely a better team than we were at the start. Deron had a lot to do with that, even when he wasn't here."
Williams only played 12 games for the Nets before he was shut down and eventually went for wrist surgery which was performed Monday.
"I go back and look at games when we were whole. Not when the trade was first made but after a couple of games. I have some pretty good thoughts on how we looked and where we were but I understand clearly what we need," Johnson said.
"We feel overall with what we've inherited, we feel we've gotten some positives going into the off-season and into next year with a whole lot more room to grow."
BOBCATS 105, NETS 103: In a battle of shorthanded rosters where each team only had nine available bodies, the Bobcats outlasted the Nets as D.J. Augustin nailed an 18-footer with 1.1 seconds left after Sasha Vujacic tied matters at 103 with a three-point shot out of the right corner off an inbounds. The game was the home finale for the Nets, who finish their season in Chicago Wednesday. Brook Lopez led the Nets with 31 points for his 10th 30-point game of the season.
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