It's difficult right now to look at things with an unbiased eye, but let's try.
The Nets are 0-7 and losing by an average of 14 points game, once again losing a lead Saturday, this time in Milwaukee. Other than Brook Lopez who hopefully is healthy; Thaddeus Young and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (when he plays), they look pedestrian, and we are being kind. It IS early and a lot of things CAN happen, but whatever hopes the team had for a playoff spot this season seem farther and farther-fetched with every game. The prospect of sending a high lottery pick to a division rival looms large. So does the prospect of more and more empty seats.
On Friday, the Nets announced they're returning to the D-League, putting the "Long Island Nets" on the Barclays main court in 2016-17, then moving them to the renovated, high-tech Nassau Coliseum in two years. At the same time, workmen continue apace at 148 39th Street in Brooklyn, soon to be home to the HSS Training Center, a $50 million state-of-the-art practice facility. In fact, the D-Leaguers will practice on the HSS courts their first year. Both are big investments. The D-League team cost them $6 million -- plus whatever operational losses they incur. The practice facility another $50 million plus a hefty annual lease.
So is it, to slightly paraphrase Charles Dickens in the "Tale of Two Cites," it is the worst of times, it was the best of times?
It is, so far, not the worst of times. That would 2009-10 but at least then there was the prospect of a new owner, the richest one in sports, and three draft picks in the first 31. Now, the disparity between the present and the product on the floor and the future with its big investments in development couldn't be more obvious. Now, the question is, Will the management that led us to the current debacle be good enough to best utilize the tools ownership has provided? And will ownership hold them to account?
In other words, do they have a PLAN?!?
The Brooklyn Nets, as franchise, need a plan, a strategic plan ... and they need to articulate it NOW. No more opportunism. No more panic moves. No more throwing money at a problem. No more false bravado. Patience. Such a plan is up to ownership to institute and management to carry out. It's going to entail having everyone involved ... and committed. And it will require constant monitoring. If it's not working out, if everyone isn't on board, changes should be made, if necessary, to the personnel charged with carrying it out. At no matter what level.
The Nets do have some pieces. The two smartest things they did over the summer were extend Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young and take (realistic) chances on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough. The first two are 27 years old, proven vets and character guys. The other two, if they pan out, will be bargains over the course of their four-year rookie deals. With the cap and luxury tax threshold soaring into the stratosphere, their total combined salaries will amount to $13 million. Maybe others can be pieces going forward, but right now, they have to prove themselves. They could have $44 million in cap space in July, but as we've noted, so will everyone else. And realistically, it will be beyond difficult to sell anyone on joining the worst team in the league.
But there's something else, beyond "The Plan." Not only should those who run the team articulate their ideas for the future, the franchise's core values. They have to stand up and take responsibility for what has happened ... and what will happen, not talk about "sunk costs" or "what's past is past." It isn't about the past. It is about the here and now ... and the future. And it's not being addressed. It's time for a frank discussion.
As every Nets fan knows only too well, Brooklyn doesn't have their own pick in the first round until 2019 and in the second until 2021. They do have promising pieces in Hollis-Jefferson and probably McCullough ... a better than average record in finding, buying and developing second round picks.
Everyone can hope for the best. As fans, everyone SHOULD hope for the best, but hope isn't a strategy. Right now, the Nets need a strategy and they need to tell us what it is. Who should articulate it? The guys at 13/1 Tverskoy Boulevard., Moscow. It's the right time. Mikhail Prokhorov and Dmitry Razumov done some wonderful things for the Nets: move them to New York, built them one of the great sports arenas in the world; spent lavishly (if not always wisely) to win, but the Nets are right now an embarrassment.
It's time to step up.