Back in 2009-10, after the Nets lost their first 18 games, there were legitimate fears that the Nets could break the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers record for inepitude. The Nets escaped the record, winning their 10th game in an upset of the Spurs on March 29, only eight games from season's end. It was that close.
In the past, we've taken a look at the 1972-73 Sixers and wondered whether the Nets would follow their upward path from the depths. Indeed, a look at the three years since 12-70 (and Mikhail Prokhorov's takeover of the team), there is enough of pattern to look closer and hope it continues.
Just as the Nets made minimal progress in the first two years after their nine-win season, winning 24 and 22 games, so did the 76ers. In 1973-74, with their overall No. 1 pick, Doug Collins, they won 25 games. A year later, they won 34, more than the Nets did in their second year, but the Nets won 22 in a 66-game, lockout-shortened season. Then in year three, get this: the 76ers won 46 games, made the playoffs for the first time since 9-73 and promptly lost in the first round to the Buffalo Braves, now the Clippers.
If you believe the pattern will continue, then there's reason for optimism. The Sixers went 50-32 in 1976-77 and made it to the NBA Finals where they lost to Blll Walton's Trail Blazers in six games. What was the difference? The collapse of the ABA helped the 76ers enormously: The Nets, forced to pay the Knicks $4.8 million for "invading" their territory, traded Julius Erving to Philly. The Sixers also signed George McInnis, an inside presence who had dominated the ABA, as a free agent. They also had depth (including Joe Bryant, Kobe's father.)
Can the Nets match the Sixers this season, make it to the Finals? With their salary cap situation, it's highly unlikely that the they could acquire someone of Dr. J's stature. McInnis was a six-time all-star in the ABA and NBA and the ABA MVP in 1974-75. Not likely to acquire someone like him either. So if the Nets want to take the next step in following the 76ers path, they will have to improve internally.
Following the Sixers model for the first few years after an historically bad season was easy, compared to the rest of the way forward. Between 1977-78 and 1982-83, the tenth anniversary of 9-73, the 76ers went to the Finals three more times, finally winning it all in the tenth year, sweeping the Lakers in the Finals after winning 65 games in the regular season. Can the Nets dominate the East like the Sixers did back then, after hitting rock bottom? It's why they play the games.
Philadelphia 76ers Franchise Index - Basketball Reference